Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Winter Harvest

It’s mid-February.  Temperatures are frigid, Fresh Grocer’s most ‘local’ produce items are grown half a continent away, and the farmers’ markets that dot the city during the warm months are closed (rationale: see aforementioned climate comment).What’s a girl (or guy) to do?

Fear not, fellow foodies, for the Winter Harvest Buying Club is here to quell all your locavore anxieties.  Winter Harvest, a buying club organized through Farm to City, the Philadelphia-based program that brings locally grown and produced food items to city residents and restaurants, allows Philadelphians to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of the labor of nearby farms. 

Winter Harvest allows you to pre-order your food online in two-week intervals, and then weekly, Penn students host a buying club pick up site (On Thursday evenings from 5:15-7:15 PM in Hill College House). 

The list of products is tremendously expansive, spanning from Pink Lady apples to kohlrabi, to pickled kimchee, to locally raised meats and eggs, to organic baby spinach, to Yukon Gold potatoes, to goat cheese spread, to dried herbal teas—and everything in between.  You can get anything you want—as long as it is in season.  Buying from Winter Harvest teaches consumers an important lesson of which we Americans are all too often remiss: what it means to eat in season.  You won’t find any red bell peppers being grown by farmers in the Northeast United States in the middle of winter. Or peaches. Or bananas.  So, despite the plethora of items offered by supermarkets such as Fresh Grocer, be well aware that many of summer-time foods you see during this time of  year are quite unnatural.  They were grown thousands of miles away, picked while still green, boxed, flown thousands of miles, gassed with ethylene to speed the ripening process, and then presented delicately on a stand in grocery store. What's "fresh" about that?

Seek solace in Winter Harvest and know that you can do a world of good by eating food that’s less well traveled than the expanse of positivity emanated out from your food choices.  By participating in Winter Harvest, you support local, small-scale farms and their families, a diminishing breed in America's large scale economy.  You reduce greenhouse gas emissions because your food has only been transported short distances to get to you, not crossed oceans and traversed national boundaries.  Local, small-scale farmers are more likely to utilize eco-friendly agricultural techniques, and they allow their fields to exist in harmony with the environment and climate.  Lastly, it’s important to note the ultra high quality food that the farmers of Winter Harvest produce.  Think you’ve tasted fresh yogurt? Try the black cherry yogurt of local Pequea Valley Farm and you’ll find yourself wondering why you’ve settled for anything less.

Food is something to get excited about, and Winter Harvest lets you do that! Andy Warhol once said, “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.”  Luckily, there’s only a short lag time between when you order food through Winter Harvest and when you can pick up your order, but whether it’s the “idea” of the Winter Harvest experience, or the knowledge that you’re supporting local farmers, or just how absolutely delicious the food products taste, Winter Harvest certainly is “more exciting” than an exhausted stroll through the supermarket. Join Winter Harvest today at, click on Buying Clubs, and Philadelphia Winter Harvest.  If you have any questions, please contact

- Debbie Schub

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