Thank you Deb and Stan Latta for your dedication to volunteering for Friends & Farmers!
I sat down with Deb at The Meetinghouse to learn more about her role with the OLM
How did you get involved with Friends & Farmers?
Deb: I was with the State College School District and the CDT ran an article about F & F back when it was first starting and I had no idea we could order online so I pulled up the website that was listed in the article so I began ordering with my husband. I said to him when we retire I think I would like to volunteer for this organization. I love the products, I love the farming community and helping out and I’m a people person. So I decided it would be a nice fit for when we retire.
I started first and kept ordering and later on they needed drivers so Stan joined and we’ve been doing it every Tuesday since.
Why do you love F & F products?
Deb: For me this is what I love the most. I love that I can sit down at my computer and I can look at a lot of different farms and products. I don’t have to drive to Bellefonte for my soap or to Pleasant Gap for my pasta but even sitting in my p.j’s I’m able to put together a really nice order and not have to go to the grocery store. So I like the convenience, a one-stop shop is what I really like.
What are some of your favorite products?
Deb: Belle Naturals! I love the soap, I think I have bought every single bar that she makes. They’re just absolutely wonderful especially in this winter weather.
I love Clover Creek Cheeses they really came in handy over the Holiday season my company really raved about them.
I really like the micro-greens because that’s not something I can find in any kind of a store. We have a couple different suppliers for micro-greens and they’re just wonderful added to salads.
It depends on the season and if I’m doing a lot of entertaining. I’ll buy some things from Tait Farm like their mustards or their jams.
I like all of The Pipers Peck salsas except the ones that are really super hot!
I’ll buy a lot of greens, carrots, and radishes that kind of thing. I love Jade Family Farm because not only do I know the family so I feel this kinship but they are truly one of the suppliers that are totally organic by definition absolutely organic. I love their products and I can really tell the difference when I get their products verses something I’d buy at the grocery store.
Friends and Farmers has then opened the door for me to go to Farmers markets. I go to the Boalsburg Market and the Indoor Market during winter and that is really new for me. So now I’m going every week. It has really opened my eyes to this entire world I never knew existed.
Before I was just going to the grocery store and I couldn’t figure out why I was throwing away so much. The lettuce never lasted, I tried different types of lettuce and my radishes were always getting yucky. I eat a lot of salads. Friends & Farmers produce is so different it’s so fresh and it’s not any more expensive. That was the big fallacy for me the big “ah-ha” when I see what I’m getting and the amount I’m getting verses what I used to buy. I can have this organic lettuce in my fridge for three weeks! You have to treat it kindly but it will last.
Another favorite is Fasta Pasta. My favorite is the Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli. It is the best and you can’t get it anywhere else. I love that it comes frozen and I will tell you Stan and I usually eat the whole pack!
Tell me more about Stan’s role with Friends & Farmers.
Stan has really embraced volunteering much more than I thought. He looks forward to getting all the deliveries and since he knows the State College area so well he divides up all the deliveries that we have. Say there are two drivers he’ll be the one that says, “Okay these seven go here and these six go with this person.” So he enjoys that and then he competes with himself to see how fast he can do all the deliveries. He does them very nicely and he really likes the challenge. He has met so many people that order every week and some people that he has known! They’ll say, “Stan I didn’t know you were delivering with Friends & Farmers.” So he’s reconnected! I think he enjoys making people feel good. “Here’s your delivery, is there anything else I can do?” He likes going over and beyond. He’ll drop it off and if he doesn’t see a cooler he always calls the person and makes sure that everything is taken care of so when he gets home he can feel really good that he has done a good job. He really enjoys from start to finish the whole process.
Deb’s Tips for Keeping Lettuce fresh in your refrigerator: I keep it in the exact bag I buy it in and keep it open and I wash and tear as I use it and it stays really well. I also don’t put it in the bottom of my refrigerator I put it in the middle of the crispers. If it gets too cold it doesn’t keep well.
Honestly, I should call this the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quiche-guide. Because of the options on the online market, I’ve made several quiches each a unique combination.
I look at building my quiche in three segments: 1) The crust, 2) the vegetables, cheese and meats and 3) the eggs. and I never have an exact recipe and I’m not a professional cook—just an armature who loves the ease of throwing leftovers into a pan with eggs and making a gourmet meal. The following are not exact recipes, but hopefully will give you some inspiration to create your own masterpiece!
Option #1: Low carb or just not a fan? Go crust-less! Who says you need a crust for a good quiche?
Option #2: Personally, I think the crust is the best part! Your second option is a classic all-butter crust. The recipe I use is one I’ve been using since college that was passed on to me from my roommate, who shared an equal passion of pastry crusts (and carbs, in general).
1-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup of chilled butter, cut into 1-tablespoon cubes
3 tablespoons of ice water (or 3 tablespoons of chilled vodka)
Add flour, salt and chilled butter into a food processor and pulse until a meal forms. Gradually add ice water, a teaspoon at a time until it becomes moist and clumpier. Gather dough and roll into a ball. Chill up to overnight for use.
Option #3: Potatoes! First, grease your pie tin so you can easily remove your quiche after baking. Next, thinly slice the potatoes and lay them across the bottom and up the side to form a “crust.” Make one layer, two layers, or three! You are the chef.
Option #4: Mashed potatoes! Oh my, this has to be my favorite option. Recently, my roommate made a plethora of potatoes (thanks, 5lb option on the Online Market!). I used leftovers as a crust by mixing in one egg and approximately ½ cup of panko breadcrumbs until it created a dough-like consistency. Using my hands, I formed the crust in the pie pan.
Vegetables and other delicious additives
Here is where it can really get crazy! Because I hate food waste, my quiches usually end up being the last of the vegetables from the week that are just on their way out… but with the online market, you can come up with a ton of delicious combinations. Here are a few of my favorites.
—Emily’s Greens Pie: Sautee your greens down until they are a little wilted and layer them into the pie pan or crust. Don’t layer them to tightly because you’ll want to make sure that the eggs can still properly soak through. Add something salty (cheese, bacon, sausage…) and Voila! The perfect late summer quiche when you are sick and tired of eating salads.
—Sausage, bacon, beef, lamb, salmon… there is so many options on the online market! Cook your meat thoroughly and layer it into the pie pan or crust. Add any other veggies or cheese, as desired.
—I find that you can’t go wrong by copying “The Waffle Shop” omelets. My boyfriend and I treat ourselves some mornings to a visit to the West College Waffle Shop and always seem to order our two favorite omelets: The Greek (spinach, feta and tomatoes) and the Eastern (no, not the Western, folks—bacon instead of ham!). Recreate your favorite omelet in pie format and you cannot go wrong.
Plain and simple — the better quality the egg, the better quality of quiche. That is why the only option for your eggs is to purchase them from the Online Market.
Options #1: The light and fluffy classic— mix ½ dozen to 1 dozen of eggs (depending on pan size) with milk, salt and pepper. The milk will give it a fluffy texture.
Option #2: Creamy and delicious—mix some soft cheese (think goat cheese or sheep cheese) in with the eggs to make it extra creamy.
Option #3: Herb-city— Add all sorts of herbs to taste. My favorite combination is thyme, sage, pepper and garlic.
Option #4: Pesto!— Add a spoonful of pesto to the eggs (to taste) and mix it thoroughly. Your quiche may look green and something from out of a sci-fi movie, but it will taste out of this world.
Once you have your ingredients prepped and ready for the bake, layer your veggies, cooked meats, cheese, etc. in your pie crust to get an even distribution and pour the egg mixture over the top. bon appetit!
The recipe is very basic, with only five ingredients—three of which can be found on the Online Market!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Stove Top Time: 10 minutes
Oven Time: 10 to 15 minutes
1 lb Whole Hog Sausage, ground (or ground lamb depending on preferences)
1 cup of panko bread crumbs
2 cloves of organic garlic, diced finely
1 Tbsp of Garam Masala Spice
Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix with your hands until fully incorporated. Turn your stove top onto low, add 1 Tbsp of oil or butter to a sauce pan. I used a cast iron skillet. Make meatballs the size of a tablespoon or a little larger.
Once all meatballs are shaped, place them on the sauce pan and brown them on all sides, rotating them frequently.
After the meatballs are browned on all sides, place them onto a baking sheet (or keep them on cast iron skillet, if this is the method you used) and bake them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until fully cooked. Time will depend on size of meatballs and amount of time spent browning outside.
After spending much of my life as a vegetarian, I recently made the switch to include small amounts of meat into my diet. Purchasing meat from the Friends& Farmers Coop online market is the perfect opportunity to incorporate fresh, local and guiltless meat from farmers whom I know and want to support.
Emily Newman has been a member of Friends and Farmers since early 2017 and now serves on the Board of Directors as the Secretary. As a member, she enjoys the opportunity to support local farmers and buy delicious food. She enjoys scrolling through the Online Market dreaming up what she will be making the following week for her friends and family.
What I heard and said at the Annual Membership Meeting in November focused on improved member-board dialogue, and a desire for increased member input regarding the future of Friends and Farmers. Addressing those topics is essential for the success of the co-op. This is the most crucial year to date for F&F, and the relationship between the Board (BOD) and the membership could not be more important.
It is, in my opinion, unproductive to evaluate past board-member interaction, and simply to say that the BOD has guided the co-op to this point, accomplishing much. The demands have changed, and the current BOD is dedicated to moving F&F closer to a grocery store. We strive to perform our duties with the same professionalism and care of the previous BOD.
I make the above observation because in December six new board members took seats at the table, creating a small information vacuum. Much of the time until now has been spent evaluating the current position of the co-op and how it relates to our objectives going forward. The Board is committed to establishing improved communication with members concerned about finances, the future of the Online Market, and the overall goal of this board and the organization. Members want a venue for their opinions and ideas to be heard and we are attempting to streamline a process for that interaction. This letter is a first step.
I am writing as a member, and am expressing my opinions on the current state of the coop and its projected future. These opinions have been voiced at BOD and Executive Committee meetings, and there has been spirited, far ranging discussion on the state of F&F. Board members understand that member input is critical, and, as large decisions are looming, the need is immediate.
It is my opinion that the Online Market should continue operation, but that:
- Product type and selection should expand, including dry goods, and the co-op should be looking more broadly for vendors who can help us achieve reduced costs.
- The co-op must rethink its cost structure and work with vendors who are willing and able to help facilitate a strategy of larger scale purchasing. This should include vendor deliveries, and could incorporate contract buying for select items. Vendor contact should be made in January in anticipation of spring purchases.
- The co-op must pursue a marketing strategy for increased membership from the ‘undecided’ demographic. Even the ‘unaware’ sector. Use of PSU marketing classes or part-time marketing help is necessary.
- F&F must ascertain the reasons many members do not shop and why non-members who do, don’t join.
- We must recognize and partner with employers and student groups who will function as conduits to prospective members.
- The organization must precisely define paid employee roles and expectations so they mirror current co-op needs; and closely monitor progress.
- We formalized lease agreements for the coming year, with expansion in mind. (This has begun)
- Business plan and financing discussions with SPECU should begin. The bank’s input is important.
The Online Market is a means to an end. The co-op’s ultimate goal has never changed or wavered; but if we cannot operate the market successfully, we have little chance to recover and/or operate a store, which is exponentially more difficult and complex. We have until September, when the USDA grant expires to show marked improvement. The Online Market certainly needs large increases in revenue, and ways to reduce cost must be found. Indeed, improvement must be evident earlier, and changes to the current model must be conceived, communicated, approved, and acted upon. Now. Which brings us to the hard decisions, and why we need to hear from our members. Do we continue to spend equity? How much is acceptable? Do we expend more energy on the Online Market? Or shift gears?
I will not speak for the entire board, but I assure the membership these issues are being discussed. The Executive Committee, which met on December 22nd, supports many of these concepts.
What the co-op needs from its membership is manpower. Volunteers for committee work, for outreach events in which F&F may be involved, for work shifts, to transcribe minutes and reports for dissemination, and more. To be effective any BOD must focus on the future, but the F&F reality is that the Board spends large blocs of time running the present. The co-op needs volunteers, and the BOD wants member voices to speak. We are hoping to streamline and speed the mechanisms of contact and communication, but please, give us a little more time.
I am certain of the following: if the F&F organization calls for volunteers and cannot entice enough participation, what does that say about our co-op? I think I know.
I can be reached at email@example.com. However you decide to contact the Board or other members, use your voice. The F&F future depends on it.
For owner-member Julie Meiser, pie is the way to go anytime of day! She shared with us a little essay depicting her love of pie.
By Julie Meiser
I do. I really do love pie. Any day of the week, practically any time of day, I could go for a warm, gooey slice of pecan pie, a la mode. I know I’m not alone in this general sentiment either; whether you are a savory taker or sweet, a fondness for tender, flaky layers of butter and flour wrapped around some jewel of a filling is, some might say, universal. Considering the sheer proximity and rich bounty of our local farms, orchards, and berry patches here in central PA, one can’t help but fall for one pie or another. Sour cherry or shoofly, chicken or mince, there truly is no better place to grow, make, share, eat, and love pie.
Certain foods connote certain occasions, and for a community with such great agricultural heritage as ours, nothing says holiday, family, and friends, like pie. But even more than that, this simple (yet elusive in its perfection) dish is a symbol of giving. Pie’s ancient beginnings as a means to preserve a meal for sailors, soldiers, and miners, tells the story of food being made by someone back home, for someone far away—working, fighting, suffering. It is the original comfort food, and is not made (easily) on the road or over a fire. It requires a hearth, an oven, and thoughtful, caring hands.
There’s something to be said about a food, often with a fairly short list of ingredients, that our world of grocery-shelf short cuts can’t come close to in quality—and even I will admit that some boxed brownies aren’t half bad. And while there are a few tricks and techniques that can improve the end result, pie making is for everyone. I remember watching, and assisting when called upon, my Nana make a peach pie when I was about 7 years old. There weren’t any fancy gadgets or special tools, and in fact, she didn’t even use a cutting board for the fruit; a paring knife in one hand and a peach in the other, the juice just dripped into a bowl she’d then pour over the top before baking. There wasn’t anything fussy about her crust either, which I recall needed some patching up once it got to the dish. However simple her method, her peach pie was perfectly luscious. She always joked that her secret was using the ugliest, most bruised peaches she could find! I tend to think it was the odd-shaped cuts of fruit that came from her unconventional style of knife work, each one a perfect bite.
As someone who has made food for a living, desserts in particular, I can honestly say there is no more satisfying (or therapeutic!) act than rolling out pie dough, and there is no more delightful gift than a pie for someone dear. I count myself extremely fortunate to be part of a community that values our farms and farmers, and treasure the fact that everything I need to make a pie can be sourced locally. That’s awesome. It also means more pie, which I love, and want you to love, too. So go make some, share some, eat some pie!
This recipe from Real Simple magazine calls for gruyere, but you can use any of the delicious cheeses from our Online Market.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Steam two large bunches of fresh broccoli, roughly chopped, until tender.
Melt 1/2 stick of butter (4 T) over medium heat.
Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and cook, stirring for two minutes, ensuring it does not turn dark.
Whisk in two cups whole milk and simmer until slightly thickened, 3 - 4 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in one cup of the cheese, 1/2 t kosher salt, 1/4 t black pepper.
Toss with the broccoli.
Transfer the broccoli mixture to a shallow 3-quart baking dish.
Sprinkle with the remaining cup of cheese.
Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 35 - 40 minutes.
Leading Food Co-op Firm Reports Enough Sales Potential in State College to Support a Full-Line Natural Foods Co-op
When our "founding mothers" first began discussing a food co-op in State College, they knew in their hearts that there was sufficient support in the community to succeed. After all, nearly every University town already had a member-owned food co-op (Ithaca; Madison; Champaign-Urbana; South Bend; Pittsburgh and Harrisonburg, Va. - to name a few).
We did not have a firm empirical basis for this belief. True, an unscientific online survey conducted in July 2013 obtained results from 651 people. It showed hundreds of people who wanting a store that featured local products and supported local farmers. The Keystone Development Center pulled from this survey in the feasibility study it conducted for Friends & Farmers in November 2013. It confirmed that a co-op in State College was indeed feasible.
Now we have further basis to report that we can indeed open a successful co-op here. Our $10,000 "Seed Grant" from Food Cooperative Initiative funded a market study that drew on a proprietary database of existing food co-ops throughout the United States. The report's bottom line:
"Based on the population size, demographic composition, and the competitive environment of the State College market area, combined with the experiences of other natural food co-ops in similar market situations, it appears there is sufficient sales potential to support a full-line natural food co-op."
The market study will be an essential component of a loan application package for banks and other financial institutions, and will help the co-op in its efforts to sign a lease for a future location for its store.
Momentum toward the opening of a physical store is accelerating. The co-op now has more than 400 households signed on as members, and is poised to double its membership to the 800-member "tipping point." It isn't that hard for each member to recruit one more member.
Friends & Farmers are broadcasting its message far and wide. It received a $92,000 grant from the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service to grow its retail Online Market and to start a Wholesale Online Market where local producers can offer products to restaurants and institutions. The board has hired a grant administrator and a marketing manager, paid for by the grant, to grow both Online Markets. We have established working relationships with local vendors that few existing co-ops can match. And Friends & Farmers played a major role in organizing a successful food summit on November 20.
The co-op has made important strides, and the market study gives us reason to believe that the hard work will be worth it. This is Big News folks. It confirms what our membership thought was true. We can do it!
Some key findings of the recently completed study:
- Growth in the natural food market has been occurring at a rate of 5 to 10 percent yearly, and is expected to continue.
- The co-op store will serve a relatively large-sized trade area in terms of geography, extending between 15 and 25 miles.
- The demographic composition of the proposed co-op's trade area is fairly comparable to the co-op database store average with respect to the key demographic characteristics that correlate positively with natural food co-op sales performance levels.
- The Market Study suggests a store comprising 10,000 square feet, with 6,250 square feet of retail space in the store. Recommended features include a relatively "broad selection" of natural and local foods, including pre-packaged fresh and frozen meat, poultry, and seafood; a deli counter with made-to-order sandwiches, prepared foods (including a selection of value-added meats), self-service hot/cold food bar, grab and go foods, a specialty drink bar, and an indoor cafe/seating area; a bakery; classroom/meeting space; and a demonstration kitchen.
Feel free to contact the Board of Directors with questions regarding our Market Study. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd be happy to share our excitement with you!
They said YES!
And by that, they meant-
- we believe in your co-op
- we think an online market is a smart way to manage a local food supply chain
- we want you to show us how to get more local food into restaurants and institutions
We demonstrated our potential and explained our rationale and approach. And we won a tremendous investment in our co-op and our community from the most influential funding source in agriculture:
$92,000 from the USDA's Local Food Promotion Program!!!
I outlined our plans for this grant when we applied in May (see original post). Unfortunately, money doesn't spend itself (much as you may think it does based on personal experience!)
It is going to take a tremendous amount of work, primarily by volunteers, to accomplish the ambitious goals described in our grant proposal and to maximize the growth of the co-op made possible by this grant.
It's a great time to become a member. If you are already a member - recruit another by inviting them to one of these meetings, increase your investment by contributing to our event budget (not funded by this grant) or start volunteering.
There's never been more life in this movement. Take a moment to feel great about this milestone! Let your mind run wild with infinite possibilities for local food in central PA! Then decide what you can do to help. : )
Here are the results from the FarmFest 2nd Annual Pie Contest!
We had a wonderful turnout for the Pie Contest during the Pennsylvania Certified Organic FarmFest. 2015 was the 4th year for FarmFest and the 2nd year for the F&F Pie Contest.
Sixteen pie bakers donned their aprons and baked 22 pies. Stacey, Mairi, Mike, Sara, Suzanne, Michele, Sarah and Catie volunteered to serve pie slices to 113 pie tasters!
We had the most entries in the Sweet category. They ranged from Classic Apple Pie to Wineberry Pie (last year's winner) to Peach Melba Pie to Derby Pie.
The Savory Pie category had 3 entries: Vegan Pot Pie, Caramelized Onion, Spinach and Cheese Quiche and Beet, Carrot, Apricot Pie. Our newest category, Gluten Free Pie had 2 entries this year. There was a Peach Pie and an Avocado Pie.