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Posts Tagged ‘Snowville Creamery’

Chris and some Spicebush branches

Integration Acres’ Chris Chmiel is a passionate promoter of the cultivation and use of native plants. Known as the Pawpaw guy, he advocated for its designation as Ohio’s official native fruit, turned it into a cash crop, inspired the creation of many value-added products, and, for the last 13 years has hosted the Pawpaw Festival.  On June 23rd, he held the 2nd annual Summer Solstice Spicebush Celebration at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Spicebush is found throughout all of Ohio, and is an understory shrub of moist to wet woodlands. Its twigs and branchlets, when scraped, emit a spicy fragrance. Bright red fruits appear in late summer and early autumn on female shrubs. Its dark green, glossy foliage (like that of Pawpaw), is unusual for woody plants thriving in full shade. As a native of the Eastern United States, Spicebush can grow to 12 feet tall and 15 feet wide and is a member of the Laurel Family, related to Sassafras and other Spicebushes.

Michelle and Eric doing some scoring

Prior to Saturday, my only experience with Spicebush was as a tea, having purchased the dried leaves and twigs from Chris at the Athens Farmers Market. So I was delighted when Chris asked if I’d be a judge for the Cook Off event. Upstairs in the Dairy Barn, I joined Michelle Wasserman (a worker-owner from Athens’ much beloved Casa Nueva) and Eric LeMay, a food writer and OU professor – both dazzled me with their ways of describing food, over the next few hours). With our rating sheets at hand, our cameras nearby, we were ready to discover the tastes of the Spicebush. Kristen LaMay helped coordinate the tasting and kept a steady supply of Spicebush infused items coming our way.

Iced Spicebush tea in cups made for the Celebration

We began with the beverage category. The first entry was iced tea, served up in a cup with the Spicebush Celebration logo – a perfect beginning since it delivered a clean and uncluttered taste of the Spicebush, and educated my palette to the plant’s unique taste.

Lovely Kristen pours our Arnolds.

Next up, a Spicebush Arnold Palmer (a combination of tea and fresh lemonade), created by Stephanie Katterhenrick, also a worker-owner of Casa.

So pretty, so tasty and refreshing

Lastly, a shot glass of Dancing Tree Distillery’s Spicebush gin. Entrant Kelly Sauber explained that his gin contains wild harvested, dried Spiceberries, certified organic Juniper berries, organic rosehips, non-GMO and organic corn from the nearby farms of Kim and Larry Cowdery and Matt and Angie Starline, and some Briess Organic 2-Row Barley from Wisconsin. Wow! If you like gin, you’re going to love Dancing Tree’s clean taste and aromatic woodsy nose. The gin took home the first prize in this category.

How’s that Spicebush gin, judges?

We still had room for this artful bread

Onto the appetizers – dips, cheeses, and more, but the prize went to Michelle Gorman’s (Integration Acres) Smoky Goat Chevre rolled in salt, black pepper and freshly ground spicebush berries. In the savory bread category, the judges selected Patty Nally’s (Avalanche Pizza) Fougassee with a Spicebush pesto.

Savory Spicebush entree

Our favorite savory dish was Stephanie Katterhenrick’s mashed potatoes, but it was quickly overtaken by her entree presentation. The potatoes (from Cowdery Farms) were boiled in water infused with Spicebush berries and leaves – a clever move! A summer and zuchinni squash dish seasoned with ground Spicebush berries complimented an English beef chuck roast from Sunny Mead Farm, cooked with ground Spicebush berries and steeped leaves, fresh minced garlic from Yankee Street Farm, onions from Cold Comfort Farm, and fresh thyme from HerbaVore Gardens. I never tasted such tender and lovely meat. As we licked our lips, we decided to give her a spontaneous accolade – the Spirit of the Spicebush award.

Then it was on to dessert…Who doesn’t love Snowville ice cream, this one with a creamy vanilla with a hint of Spicebush? But Carole Schloss literally took the cake (award) for her Spicebush German chocolate cake. So delicate, yet infused with that allspice-like, maybe peppery-ness, hard to describe, Spicebush flavor.

The final bite of Carole’s cake

Like the entire Spicebush Celebration, the Cook Off  brought together a mix of local ingredients that satisfied the belly and the soul. Thanks, everyone. I hope you’ll let me do this again.

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Sunday afternoon I traveled to Amesville. This small Ohio village of 185 people has a colorful past that includes serving as an Underground Railroad stop and the unusual way its library was funded more than 200 years ago. In 1803 settlers wanted books, but had no money to buy them. Used to a barter economy, residents collected pelts from the surrounding forest’s fur-bearing animals (mostly racoons) and sent two townspeople east to secure the much desired reading material. Fifty-one books – mostly on religion, travel, biography and history – were purchased for $73.50 and in 1804, the Coonskin Library opened.

My destination was Green Edge Garden’s 2012 Open Farm Day potluck lunch at the Amesville Grange Hall. For those not familiar with the Grange movement, it is the nation’s oldest agricultural organization with a long history of encouraging farm families to band together for their common economic and political well-being.

March Magnolias at Green Edge Organic Gardens

Green Edge Organic Gardens is the passion and livelihood of Becky and Kip Rondy. Their 120 acre farm employs 13 people, with four interns arriving in a few weeks, making the Rondys the largest employer in Amesville Township. Their farm, primarily tended by hand, offers a wide selection of vegetables, including micro greens and specialty mushrooms. When I visited their farm in late January, I was stunned by the volume of vegetables they were growing in unheated high tunnels and their skill at making their operation year-round.

Example of a winter CSA share from Green Edge

 

 

Sunday’s event was an opportunity for their Athens Hills CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members to share a meal, meet the farm crew and take a tour of the farm to see, as Kip and Becky say on their website, “how and why we grow your food the way we do.” CSAs bring together farmers and individuals who pledge support to a farm operation to share the risks and benefits of food production.

CSA members invest in advance to cover the anticipated costs of farm operation and, in return, receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season. Through direct sales to community members, growers receive better prices for their crops, secure money up front for seeds and other production needs, and are assured of a market for these crops.  Athens Hills offers both winter and summer shares and attracts members nearby and beyond our 30 Mile Meal region.

               

Snowville bounty

I spoke with a mother and daughter from the Columbus area. Both were delighted to meet the people growing their food and planned to tour the farm after lunch. They love the freshness and diversity of the food they pick up each week in Columbus. The Rondys partner with other 30 Mile Meal producers, expanding what members can opt to receive. These include Christine Hughes and Bob O’Neil who offer Village Bakery bread, Warren and Victoria Taylor’s Snowville Creamery milk, Neil Cherry’s Cherry Orchards fruit, Michelle Gorman and Chris Chmiel’s Integration Acres cheeses, Jack Cantrell’s honey, and Sticky Pete’s maple syrup made by Laura McManus-Berry.

Neil Cherry

After plenty of time for socializing, the crowd headed for the kitchen where the counter was overflowing with delicious food. The desserts required their own table. Soon every seat and plate in the hall was claimed.  Special Green Edge Farm coloring books and crayons kept the little ones amused. Becky and Kip shared their story of growing Green Edge Gardens and Athens Hills CSA.

Becky and Kip talk about the farm

Leaving Amesville, driving past the fields and Bartlett pears, redbuds and forsythia glowing in the afternoon light, I felt the goodness of a place where food production, people and community are co-mingled and remind us of the power of mutual support.

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For the past few months I’ve talked with a lot of restaurant owners about their menus for 30 Mile Meal Restaurant Week (30MMRW). Today I got to start eating! I headed down East State Street to the Market on State mall, bound for Kiser’s BBQ Shack.

Sean and the sign

 

Before I even got inside, I could see that owner Sean Kiser was actively marketing his participation in 30MMRW. Each of his sources for local ingredients got their own shout out…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now it was time for lunch. I ordered the 1/4 pounder BBQ’d pork  (King Family Farm) with the sweet and hot sauce (Cantrell Honey and Patterson peppers), cole  slaw, and a Mint Green (Herbal Sage Tea Co.) iced tea. Yum! The pork was incredibly tender and juicy, the sauce a perfect blend of heat and sweet, and the slaw well seasoned and crunchy. The tea was wonderfully refreshing on a day verging on 100 degrees.

Sean came by with one more thing for me to try – mac and cheese. Whoa – excellent execution of a favorite comfort food – this one made with Snowville Creamery milk.

Sean is an Ohio University grad. Originally from Chicago, with  experience in the restaurant trade, and a family supportive of his desire to fill the BBQ niche in Athens, he started Kiser’s in the spring of 2009.  His father helped create their recipes.

Today the place has a substantial and affordable menu, and has lots of regular customers. The service is really fast – great if you are in a hurry to get back to work or too hungry to wait. Kiser’s is also a business with a conscious – all of their food containers and silverware are biodegradable and any tossed food is composted. Sean says he’s “loco4local,” whether it’s 30 Mile Meal Restaurant Week or not. Sounds good to us!

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One of my intentions for 2011 is to shine light on our many 30 Mile Meal partners. Meet Leslie Schaller, known to hundreds of food entrepreneurs in the Athens region as well as local food activists across the country.

Leslie in L.A.

Some background on this amazing dynamo. First, don’t be fooled by her diminutive size. This woman thinks BIG when it comes to sustainable economic development. She’s often on the go, responding to increasing demands for her expertise. Cleveland, Madison, Youngstown, D.C., Memphis, rural Iowa, Asheville – she could be in any of these places right now, assisting organizations and communities wanting to grow their food businesses and local economies.

For the last nineteen years Leslie has worked at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) where she is the Director of Programming, overseeing and delivering training and technical assistance for entrepreneurs. She played a lead role in the founding of ACEnet’s Food Ventures program, leading to the development of their 12,000 square foot kitchen incubator facility.

Launched in 1996, the shared-use kitchen incubator includes a licensed commercial kitchen, thermal processing, packaging, food service and warehouse space for over 240 food processors and area farmers. The program has pioneered non-traditional strategies to develop infrastructure, market programs and distribution channels for family farmers and local food processors in southeast Ohio, while also responding to the growing demand from rural consumers for fresh, local foods.

When she isn’t on the road consulting, she’s securing funds to create regional brands, launching marketing strategies, and mapping out business plans and financial management systems within the various sectors of our region’s local foods economy.

She is also a leader in the larger local foods realm, serving as Board Treasurer for the national Farmers Market Coalition, and as a member of the Ohio Food Policy Advisory Board, the Ohio Market Connections Task Force and the Athens Food Policy Council and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Leslie at Casa's 25th birthday party

Her food roots go back to the early ’80s when she operated an organic market garden and raised livestock, selling at the Athens Farmers Market and to area restaurants. Since 1985 she has served as the Business Director of the Worker-Owned Restaurant Corporation that operates Casa Nueva, Casa Cantina and Casa Manufacturing in Athens, Ohio. The cooperative currently employs 60-70 worker-owners and associates and was projected to have annual sales of $2.5 million in 2010.

In 1992, she founded a food security organization, Community Food Initiatives, which now engages in a number of food access and security projects in our region, including food and produce donations from Athens Farmers Market vendors for area pantries and food banks.

A few weeks ago Leslie and I met with Jane Black, a food writer (formerly with the Washington Post and whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, Food & Wine, and other publications), and her husband, Brent Cunningham, also a journalist. Last fall they moved from Brooklyn to Huntington, WV – the town that Jamie Oliver made famous with his Food Revolution reality TV show.  Jane and Brent wondered what would happen once Oliver’s cameras and lights disappeared. Black notes in her blog, “I am off to (WV) to write a book about one town’s effort to change its food culture and whether the “food revolution” can cross geographic, cultural and class boundaries.”

When Leslie and I met them, they were on a regional tour of local foods hotspots, research for their book. After a stop at the Athens Farmers Market, we headed to Casa Nueva for lunch and some talk about the efforts underway to grow and promote our local foods economy. By the time Jane finished her homemade ginger ice cream (made with Snowville’s heavy cream), it was clear that she and Brett would be back and that their connection with Leslie would yield plenty of story leads for the future.

Earlier this week Jane interviewed Leslie for her Smart Food radio show on Edible Radio. You can listen to the interview here.

 

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Always a popular event, last Thursday’s WellWorks Winter Gathering drew hundreds of people. At least 30 local foods businesses and health-related organizations were on hand with plenty of treats. The event included food samplings, live music, a raffle (we were proud to provide a 30 Mile Meal bag brimming with local foods, thanks to Leslie Schaller and her many ACEnet clients) and plenty of socializing.

I sat next to a woman sharing info on the 2011 Appalachian Health Summit. Her table display included a large plate of fresh vegetables (broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, red peppers, and cherry tomatoes). They looked pretty, but I figured they didn’t stand a chance of being eaten, given the food/sweets competition in the room. I’m happy to report, I was wrong. The biggest eaters from her veggie platter were kids! Some of them came back for seconds. Good job all you mothers, fathers and anyone else who is encouraging children to eat healthy foods.

Now for a few photos from the event…

Got Snowville Milk?

Salaam serves up peanut stew

The crowd enjoys music and food

Eclipse Company Store's Chef David Lopez and helper serve up fruit pancakes

Jonathan Milo Leal's Gourmet to Go

Shagbark Seed & Mill Company's Michelle A. talks spelt

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The ARTS/West building, formerly a church, seemed an appropriate venue for Monday night’s talk by Warren Taylor, Meigs County dairy evangelist and co-owner of Snowville Creamery. The pews were packed with the faithful, both young and old (later referred to by Warren as the AARP contingent or Athens Area Radical Progressives).

colorful posters

Just inside the doors on the right were cookies and, yes, samples of Snowville’s ‘the way it used be’ milk. On the left was a donation jar for the Art Gish Peacemaking Fund (more about that below). Anyone donating could take posters, Snowville T-shirts, and other paraphernalia.

Will Perkins

The evening began with some rousing folk songs and fiddling by Will Perkins, with The Answer My Friend is Blowing in the Wind setting the stage for the evening’s topic, Food Sovereignty vs. Corporatism: The Battle for Personal Choice and Freedom in the New Millennium.

Angie Starline

Angie Starline, co-owner of Starline Organics welcomed everyone on behalf of the evening’s sponsor, the Ohio Ecological Farm & Food Association, and then introduced Warren and Victoria Taylor. Warren asked Peggy Gish to say a few words.

Peggy Gish

Peggy’s husband, Art, was known locally and internationally for his work as an activist. He died this summer in a tractor accident at his Athens County farm. He devoted much of his life to peace and social justice issues, as has Peggy. She told the crowd that the Art Gish Peacemaking Fund will provide small grants to youth or adults who want to develop new peacemaking projects or who want to take the first steps in getting involved in work to foster peace and justice. She noted that they are focusing on groups and individuals in Athens County, Ohio, with limited access to other sources of funding. Donations will support this work.

Warren

Warren began his talk (or walk since he never once stood behind the podium, preferring to pace the stage as he spoke) by describing his recent trip as one of ten delegates from Ohio participating in the 4th gathering of Terra Madre (Mother Earth) in Turin, Italy. The five-day meeting brought together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who share a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations. Here are some clips from the conference.

Citing a NY Times article on USDA support for Domino's Pizza chain

Warren described the sorry state of the dairy industry and government regulations that favor large producers. He led the crowd through the labyrinth of the Federal Milk Market Order System (FMMOS) and its actions that penalize the smallest dairy processors. Did you know that one half of the milk produced in the U.S. comes from 3% of the country’s dairy (mega) farms? That dairy farmers have no control over what they are paid for their milk? Last year America’s milk makers were paid as little as $12 per 100 pounds of milk while their cost of production was $17 a pound. This meant they had to borrow and take on new debt, with their collective debt greater than the worth of all the dairy cows in the U.S. At the same time, Dean Foods, which processes, packages and sells nearly 40% of America’s drinking milk, made their greatest profits ever. Warren asked is this capitalism or corporatism?

Answering questions

And what about the issues that aren’t even on the table yet? Like requiring that dairy workers at least receive the minimum wage or the need for “honest and informative” labeling?

How fortunate we are here in southeast Ohio to have the Taylors’ Snowville Creamery. Milk you can feel good about – good for the cows, the land, the workers, and the taste buds!

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Like an eight course meal (local, of course) 30 Mile Meal Week (September 17-25) was packed with tasty offerings – something for everyone to enjoy! True, our week had more than seven days, but that’s how much time we needed to showcase the depth and breadth of our local food-ness. Here’s a look back.

 

Power to the Pawpaw!

 

Held on the shore of tranquil Lake Snowden in Albany, Ohio , the 12th Ohio Pawpaw Festival gave us a celebratory three day start to the week. The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) was declared the state’s official native fruit in 2009, thanks largely to the efforts of Chris Chmiel and Michelle Gorman, owners of Integration Acres. The festival draws thousands from near and far and features all things Pawpaw – music, food, contests, art, history, sustainable living and other workshops, and activities for kids. Vendors abounded, many of them offering appropriately themed concoctions – everything from Pawpaw beer (Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery) to Pawpaw ice cream (Snowville Creamery).

 

The crowd lines up at Crumbs Bakery's stall

 

The Athens Farmers Market is more than 35 years old, the largest Farmers Market in the state, and a much loved part of Athens’ food and social scene. The market is open from 10 AM to 1 PM year round on Saturdays, and on Wednesdays, from April to December. Many of the Market’s farmers are 30 MM partners and provide an amazing array of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, baked goods, condiments, plants and flowers, herbs, and much, much more! Three market dates fell within our30MM Week. On Saturdays, you’ll find music, demonstrations, and the Market Cafe, a great place to catch up with friends while enjoying local fare! And some Saturdays, there are Junior Chefs workshops for kids.

 

Making spring rolls

 

 

auction abundance

 

Another reoccurring event during the week (Monday and Thursday) was the Chesterhill Produce Auction. This seasonal market offers produce, often in large quantities, to a range of buyers. Produce is usually brought in on horse drawn buggies and laid out on pallets for customer inspection. The auction is fast-paced and exciting and draws many who enjoy the atmosphere and sense of community while purchasing the high quality farm products.

 

An Athens Favorite

 

The week was full of ‘local eating’ opportunities, as the some partners featured menu items incorporating local foods throughout the week: Catalyst Cafe, Della Zona, The Village Bakery, Casa Nueva, and Busy Day Market. During our Friday 30 Mile Meal Day in Nelsonville, Rhapsody and Fullbrooks Cafe offered locally sourced fare. Heaven’s Oven participated on Saturday during the 30 Mile Meal Day at Eclipse Town in The Plains.

 

Fran preparing a 30 Mile Meal

 

There were two opportunities to learn about how to make delicious food with local ingredients. Community Food Initiatives sponsored a homemade sour cream and cheese cheese workshop, led by Liz Florentino, the Village Bakery’s dairy expert. At the Grover Center Atrium Cafe (and sponsored by Wellworks), Fran McFadden and his team from the Ohio University School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness presented a hands-on local food cooking class and meal.

 

the farmers keep the harvest coming

 

On Wednesday, September 22nd, the Athens Farmers Market pulsated with the oranges and yellows of fall, pumpkins and squashes among the bounty offered by over 25 vendors. Over at the 30 Mile Meal tents, the crowd gathered for our public event. Leslie Schaller, representing ACEnet welcomed the crowd and introduced Jack Cantrell, Athens Farmers Market president and co-owner of Cantrell Honey and Candles.

 

Frances Strickland, Leslie Schaller and Paul Wiehl

 

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl delivered a proclamation declaring 30 Mile Meal Week and then introduced Frances Strickland. The First Lady, a long time supporter of local foods and Ohio agriculture, spoke about the importance of this project as a model for other parts of the state. She was delighted to receive a huge canvas bag of local foods. You can watch a brief clip of Strickland’s comments here.

 

Sarah Slater

 

 

Christine Hughes

 

Other speakers included local business owners, Christine Hughes, co-owner of The Village Bakery, Della Zona and Catalyst Cafe and Sarah Slater, a Casa Nueva worker-owner.

 

Angie Starline

 

 

Chris Chmiel

 

Two farmers shared their support for the project: Angie Starline, co-owner of Starline Organics and Chris Chmiel, co-owner of Integration Acres. Paige Alost from the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau concluded the program.

Nelsonville's Public Square

On Friday, 30 MM activities were evident in two towns – Trimble’s Township Farmers Market took place and in Nelsonville, several shops on the Public Square offered local foods tastings during their final Fridays festivities.

 

Eclipse Company Store

 

The week concluded with Saturday’s Local Foods Dinner at the Eclipse Company Store, drawing 130 people to enjoy chef David Lopez’s fabulous meal and live music.

A big thanks to all who made the week so much fun and to those that joined us for the launch of this exciting initiative!

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