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News and blog

Keep up to date with the latest news on the farm and at your market!
Posted 8/7/2013 12:03pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Cheers for L.E.A.F!


It took a lot of work, sweat, blood, and tears to bring this family farm into its seventh generation of stewardship.  In respect of that fact and the privelege I feel, as a seventh generation grower, to have a farm to inherit, we try to give back whenever we can.


And in so doing, we find the rewards come back to us threefold!  A fine example of this was our participation in the first season of Project LEAF.  Friend of the farm Heidi Witmer has been putting years of effort into getting this project off the ground and, in our opinion, she hit it out of the park.  The kids were outstanding and asked terrific questions - they were so engaged when they came to visit us.  They worked hard and learned a lot - making cases of value added products from a wide range of our "secondy" farm products.  The dinner they served and prepared for the final LEAF Feast was epic and delicious.  


I've always said, more than the food, more than the lifestyle, more than pride I feel - the community I work in nearly always wins out as "top perk of the job". 


Cheers, LEAF!




Posted 8/1/2013 10:33am by Ben Wenk.

We were honored to host the preeminent International group of tree fruit professionals to our farm this July, 2013.  Here's a slideshow of some photos documenting the tour!

Posted 7/9/2013 4:54pm by Ben Wenk.

Tart Cherry Bonanza!Our first ever farmers markets in Philadelphia occurred way back in July of 2007.  At the time, one of the few things we had for sale were tart cherries, a crop we've grown in high volume since I was about three years old.  We were blown away with how excited people were to have these fruits, 28 acres or so of which comprised my "back yard" growing up.

 

But never in my wildest dreams did I expect these humble, yummy nuggets to receive such fanfare!  Perhaps the word is out on their nutritional benefits, perhaps folks just learned to eat them fresh as snacks as I did as a child.  Regardless, check out just a few of the noteworthy uses and destination for this, the 2013 crop of tart cherries.

 

  • How about Baltimore's pioneering, phenominal, every-bit-as-good-as-advertised Woodberry Kitchen? <one of my all-time favorite, must-eat-here restaurants>
  • Zagat Survey in Philadelphia touted our crop of tart cherries to be the best thing they that weekend!
  • Philadelphia's Ritz Carlton "10 Arts" chose our cherries for their menu this year
  • Through our partnership with Zone 7, Three Springs produce made their NYC debut at such establishments as Print in Hell's Kitchen, Angelica Kitchen in the East Village, Light Horse Tavern in Jersey City plus a slew of cool-looking joints in Brooklyn too numerous to mention (which, truthfully, might be where I'd like to taste these cherries).
  • Chef Brian Ricci at Kennett (more destination dining/big friend of this farm) made a big batch of cherry mustard which must be tried the next time I brunch there after Headhouse!
  • Chef Valerie Irwin at Geechee Girl Rice Cafe in Mt. Airy (Philly) will be out of her cherries quickly seeing as how they won't open until Wednesday dinner service and there were already mobbed by swarms of hungry would-be diners when I made my delivery today (Monday), thanks to the feature on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  
  • Talented South Philly Brewmaster Sean at Mellody Brewing Company has his cherries pitted and ready to brew in this year's vintage of the highly appetizing Sour Cherry Patersbier!
  • The @3springsfruit #cherrytour in #Philly proudly made stops at the storefronts of some old friends (Weaver's Way Coop, Greensgrow Farms, Fairfood Farmstand at Reading Terminal market) and some new ones too (Swarthmore Coop, Teens 4 Good, Oyster House, Christina Maser Co., and Sweet Elizabeth Cakes).
  • As always the bulk of our tart cherries were sold to Knouse Foods Cooperative here in our backyard to make Lucky Leaf and Musselman's brand cherry pie filling, using this handy method:

 

  • tart cherry juiceThe Cooperative provides us the means by which we can provide you with another year's supply of this customer favorite:

 

So, now that we've plumped the ego of one of our favorite fruits, we'll have a hard time living with them until next June/July when they'll bask in the glow of the superfruit spotlight once more.  I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. Demille!

 

-FB

Posted 6/6/2013 2:17pm by Ben Wenk.

 

Pratt Street Farmer's Market

 

In 2008, Three Springs was a vendor at the inaugural year at the short-lived Harbor East farmers market.  When that market was shuttered, we promised our good customers there that if we had the chance to return to the area, we would.

 

When that opportunity arose in 2011 to join the Fells Point Farmers Market, we jumped on board.  When circumstances necessitated our exit from that market before THIS season, we vowed to return to Baltimore for the right opportunity.

 

The opportunity has finally come around!  Starting this Thursday, 6/13/2013, Three Springs will be back in the Land of Pleasant Living for the opening of the Pratt Street Farmers Market.  This market is producer only, a quality missing in many other Baltimore markets.  We'll be selling our tasty, farm-grown wares on at the plaza at Pratt and Light Streets from 11am-3pm each Thursday until September 26th!  We can't wait to see you there.

 

And LET'S GO O'S!

Posted 5/30/2013 1:06pm by Ben Wenk.

... said the farmer/music guy quite nerdishly:

 

I was at the Guster show in Lancaster and thinking to myself how I hoped our agriculturally rich Central PA area would represent well and provide some delicious local farm nourishment for these folks, a few of the most environmentally conscious touring musicians there are - speaking of Guster.  In an idle moment after Jukebox the Ghost's opening set, I fired off this tweet:

 

To which I receive the following response from Ryan Miller himself:

 

Leading to many pork belly/quail egg references during the show (for the record, it's one of my favorite John J. Jefferies small plates as well).  Thanks for an awesome night of music, and thanks for the kind words about our "so damn charming" area

Posted 2/7/2013 11:46am by Alana.

tart cherries next to our blueberries at market.

It's hard not to be overwhelmed by health fads-every other minute some new detox or diet appears in magazines, blogs, and government PSAs. Many times, a company capitalizes on the new research and the entire health hemisphere is whipped into a frenzy-remember POM Wonderful-the pomegranate based company, or the acai berry craze? I have nothing against either fruit, they do have fantastic health benefits, but for people on the East Coast, those fruits aren't local, they can be incredibly pricey, and the carbon footprint on them is mind-boggling.

I would suggest that you substitute tart cherries for the tropical fruits. If you have escaped the tidal wave of information about tart cherries in the last 3 years, you impress me. It seems like every month a new piece of information on the nutritional qualities of tart cherries is published-so hats off to the tart cherry industry-you are doing work.

Adams County natives have always relied on tart cherries as staples for classic pies, jams, and beverages. Sadly, with the advent of processed foods, many Americans across the country lack the know-how to preserve their own fruits and vegetables thus making produce like tart cherries, hard for customers to purchase because of their sour taste. It isn't commonly eaten raw like sweet cherries, and if you are going to bake with them, you have to wash and pit them. In a generation that wants instant gratification, why would they bother to add more work into their schedules?

Well, here's why you should bother:

You can find tart cherries (TC) locally on the East Coast. Pennsylvania produces a small amount (3.3 million pounds in 2011) of TC in comparison to Michigan (157.5 mill lbs), the biggest producer of TC in the US, but that still means that your local farmers' market is very likely to have a TC grower. Expect them in early summer, generally mid to late June. As sweet cherries are more widely consumed, many growers sell most of their TC crop to processing plants like Knouse, where they become pie filling. If you know that one of your farmers' market vendors grows TC, call and ask them about ordering ahead and the growing season. If you live in an agricultural area, ask a grower if you can glean from his orchard after harvest. (Always ask first before going into someone's orchard. Would you want an unannounced stranger in your flower bed cutting roses for their person use?)

Besides PA on the East Coast, NY also grows TC, 7.8 million pounds in 2010. If you live in the Midwest, Michigan and Wisconsin are your go to TC states-again, Michigan is firmly in the lead with 135 million pounds grown in 2010. On the West Coast: Oregon, Washington, and Utah are the states to find tart cherries. Now, I am sure you remember the hullabaloo from last year's crazy warm weather and then terrible frosts during spring-it decimated the nation's cherry crop. Michigan had 157.5 million pounds in 2011, and only 5.5 million in 2012. PA went from 3.2 in 2011 to 2.5 million in 2012. The only states that escaped unscathed were the West Coast-they had the best year of their life in terms of cherry sales.

Now for the news that you've been waiting for, the nutritional benefits to consuming TC.

According to the Self.com nutrition data analyzer, TC are "very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Copper, Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin A and C." Per pitted cup of fruit, you can receive 40% of your DV of vitamin A, 26% of vitamin C, 8% of Potassium, 8% of Copper, and 9% of Selenium. You get 10% of your DV of Dietary Fiber in one cup. The analyzer then scores the fruit based on its nutritional results. The TC was given 4 out of 5 stars for weight loss, 4 out of 5 starts for optimum health, and 2.5 stars out of 5 for weight gain. You should remember that most of the calories (of any fruit) do come from sugars. If you are interested in more info, visit the site yourself! 

Furthermore, TC are being touted as possessing the "highest anti-inflammatory content of any food" and has been linked to assisting people suffering from osteoarthritis to manage their pain. Researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco studied 20 women ages 40 to 70 with inflammatory osteoarthritis and found that "drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers – especially for women who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study.

"With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it's promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications," said Kerry Kuehl , M.D, Dr.PH., M.S., Oregon Health & Science University, principal study investigator. "I'm intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults."

The antioxidants in TC are called anthocyanins and have been compared to well known pain medications in their ability to reduce inflammation. A small study even showed that drinking the juice could "improve the antioxidant defenses of older adults." This is big news for anyone suffering from joint pain, especially athletes, who know that wear and tear on joints can be both excruciating and halt a career. Visit the report here.

If you'd like the comprehensive report on tart cherries go to this website. Click on the Red Report.

If you are leery of reports published by marketing boards-hold the phone. These organizations exist because small and large growers alike need to fund research in our defense. Instead of spending your time on contesting negative media, why not commission scientists to see if what we grow has nutritional worth? That's the thinking behind creating marketing boards, and for me, without the PA Apple Marketing Board and US Apple, the apple industry would not be where it is today. People wouldn't know about the benefits of apples-you'd only hear one side of the story-so please, consider that.

If you still want a second opinion, then you are in luck. Joe Cannon has a Masters in exercise science and a BS in chemistry and biology. He has a blog called the Supplement-Geek where he reviews hype surrounding health issues. After Dr. Oz covered tart cherries, Joe Cannon did his own research. Visit his site for the full she-bang. What I like about this website is his scientific commitment to the truth. Whereas Dr. Oz freely advises millions after small studies are published, Mr. Cannon begins researching. Mr. Cannon freely admits that there is a lot of possibility for TC, but more studies should occur for definitive results. The really interesting part of this particular post, though, is the comment section. Lots of readers wrote in about joint pain and its reduction after taking TC pills or drinking the juice. As a woman behind the stand on many occasions, I can truthfully say that many of customers who suffer from gout drink our tart cherry juice passionately. I cannot speak personally for the sleep aid suggestions, as I fall asleep regularly. But I have spoken to a couple customers who drink a little before bed. I have found that drinking cherry juice can reduce cramps ladies, and that makes it a Gift from God.

So here's what I am taking away from this information, TC are a local fruit that contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties; you get a good dose of vitamin A and C in one cup, it has a decent amount of dietary fiber, it tastes great, and current research shows that its benefits will grow as the number of studies increase.

I eat fries, which have none of the good things listed above-so I feel a lot better physically and mentally when I choose to eat local tart cherries rather than fries, or cherry flavored candy and soda. That alone makes it worthwhile for me to eat.

So if you are interested in adding tart cherries to your diet, raw and in juice form, stop by our stand at any of our farmers' markets in June and pick up a pint or two!

 

Cheers,

Alana

Posted 1/14/2013 2:47pm by Ben Wenk.

Nicaragua Bound


National Volcano Park, NicaraguaSo!  In addition to greeting you all at your favorite farmers markets, I also participate in an organization that has helped shape me and make me the person that I am today.  This organization, which I am proud to chair at present, is called the Young Grower's Alliance.  Many of you have heard about YGA through Alana's Nicaragua blogs last year - a few other might have noticed that we've been selling apple schntz at market on the group's behalf. 


You can get the $0.50 description of what YGA's mission is on the website and that's a very accurate description of our group.  However, before we get into this Nicaragua trip specifically, I wanted to address what the group has meant to me.  I grew up on a farm - a reality that brings along with it a number of interesting points.  While the exposure to farm life and the apple industry provided an indispensable benefit for my current occupation, it can also be prohibitive for those unwilling to expose themselves to new and different things.  What I'm trying to say is, if you aren't willing to get off the farm and learn from others and ask stupid questions, you'll never learn everything you could.  That's what YGA has provided me.  I've met and networked with inspirational folks my age with the same hopes, dreams, ambitions, and stumbling blocks; becoming friends with many of them.  I've travelled locally and beyond our borders to New Zealand to gain both specific, applicable knowledge and valuable perspective on what my vision for our farm might be.


By in large, this Nicaragua trip is just part and parcel of this idea - that travel is a great teacher and I'll come home with a richer perspective.  However, there is part of this trip that, for me, is a little more meaningful.  More notable than my familarity with fruit growing as a result of my upbringing is the good fortune bestowed upon me as I started out in agriculture.  I have two capable, experienced mentors in my father and uncle; two willing facilitators who give me some autonomy to pursue many of my goals, but also rich, fertile, well-preserved soils to grow in.  I have access to most of the things required to do my job as best I can.  I have tools and equipment to do my work (so long as they aren't broken and misplaced, another story)...


I'm very fortunate to have had a farm to come back to out of college.  I try not to take this for granted.  I see many of my fellow vendors at markets and many other young people in agriculture without access to good land, capital, resources etc.  Moreover, the people in Nicaragua don't have access to the basics in many situations, not the least of which is suitable land for agriculture, water for irrigation, and the resources to produce food in enough supply to support their families.  And since our YGA group started as an organization populated by folks who grew up on our family's farms (though we'd like to welcome all would be/new & beginning farmers into our group), I look forward to using some of my time and expertise to try to make life a little easier for some people who weren't blessed with the advantages I had growing up.


To learn more about YGA, check out our website.  To learn more about Project Gettysburg Leon, for whom the YGA is the current Ag Delegation, check out their website here and don't be shy about becoming involved in these great organizations. 


From Our Farm, to Your Home,



Farmer Ben










 

Posted 12/6/2012 2:36pm by Ben Wenk.

Winter Buyer's Club

 

"I've read about your Buyer's Club and I don't think it's for me.  What I like are farmers markets!"  No worries*, we've got ya covered (ok, so Baltimore and Philly... we've got nothing for ya, see Buyer's Club blog).  You still with me?  Cool - here is where Three Springs can be found in the Winter Time - in our normal, fresh-faced, standard display, standardized hours farmers market format that we've all come to enjoy so much!

 

Silver Spring Farmers Market - Saturdays 10-1pm

We'll be at our standard spot (as far as I know right now), between Copper Canyon Grill and FroZenYo on Ellsworth from January thru March before the "Year Round" Market begins again in April, at which time we'll show up an hour earlier again, 9-1pm.  That's right, every Saturday morning in DC, we've got your apple/potato/value added goodness supplies covered

January 5th - March 30th, 10-1pm

 

Central Pennsylvania - Twice Each Month!

Both of our awesome Central PA markets have added monthly Winter Markets to their schedules and we're happy to be attending both!  Sure, we wish they were spread out bi-weekly, but this is how the chips fell, folks!  Farmers on the Square will tend market every third Saturday in the afternoon while Farmers on Walnut will tend every third Friday in the late afternoon/eveningtime.  So!  To clarify, Three Springs will tend market on the following dates in the following locations:

FOTS/Carlisle:

12/5 3-7pm

12/12 3-7

12/19 3-7

1/19 9-1pm

2/16 9-1

3/16 9-1

4/20 9-1

 

FOW/Camp Hill in the First Presbyterian Church:

12/21 3-7pm

1/18 3-7

2/15 3-7

3/15 3-7

4/19 3-7

Posted 11/16/2012 2:27pm by Ben Wenk.

Buyer's Club!

The market season is rapidly coming to a close!  While we will certainly miss all of our customers, we don't want to miss you!  I don't want you to sign our yearbook, like we're parting ways - we just want you to be aware that you don't have to settle for inferior produce in the lonely months when the market is closed.  So we're taking this opportunity to let you know how to join our winter buyer's club and recieve monthly deliveries of items of your choosing to somewhere right in your backyard!

 

The Buyer's Club is a fairly straight forward, easy thing to join!  You'll recieve two emails per month - just two reminders about ordering deadlines.  Then, at a date and time listed below, you will arrive and pick up your order with your receipt and take your morsels of culinary bliss along with you!  Simple as that!  Just sign up through our mailing list. (Drive the Cold Winter Away, part II for Winter Market purists)

 

Greenbelt Buyer's Club - every 3rd Sunday, 10am

cooperating farms/suppliers: Two Oceans True Food (salmon and fish), more announced soon

ordering deadline:  the previous Friday by noon

dates for Buyer's Club Delivery in Greenbelt:

January 20th

February 17th

March 17th (me lads & lassies)

April 21st

 

Philadelphia Buyer's Club - every 1st Sunday, noon

cooperating farms/suppliers: Hillacres Pride (dairy, cheese, meat)

ordering deadline: the previous Friday by noon

dates for Buyer's Club delivery:

February 2nd

March 2nd

April 6th

 

Baltimore/Towson Buyer's Club - you tell me!

So, we'd love to provide this for our customers but we need to hear from you!  Please shoot us an email in the website's contact form specifying your preference for weekend or weekday deliveries, morning or afternoon, and preferred location - downtown Baltimore or Atwaters in Towson.  We'd love to get you involved!

Posted 7/31/2012 9:29am by Ben Wenk.

Ben & Mom at The White House!No two weeks are the same on our farm - not on any farm.  However, the thing that will differentiate last week from the rest is particularly noteworthy.  In case you didn't catch it (on this Facebook post), Mom and I were special guests at a National Endowment for the Humanites event at the White House which included a preview of the new Ken Burns documentary "The Dust Bowl", followed by a great panel discussion! My mother and I, a daughter and grandson, respectively, of a Dust Bowl survivor will remember this unique opportunity for a long time to come.

My maternal grandmother, Dorothy Hiestand Cogley, rarely talked about her youth growing up in Ayr, Nebraska - a tiny farming town South of Omaha.  It was certainly an impactful beginning to the amazing life she's led, the remainder of which will have to wait for a future blog entry.  However, when I sit down to visit with my grandmother, still with us and healthy at 92, she shys away from her agricultural upbringing - her father's farm in Dust Bowl era Nebraska where she lived until 15 years old.  It was at that age the family pulled up their roots and moved back east with family to Lancaster County PA - fleeing the dust clouds, like so many other Dust Bowl refugees.  After viewing the excerpts from the stirring Ken Burns documentary, set to air this November, I'm learning more about her apprehension - more than she was willing to share with me or her children.

Fast forward another 75 odd years to once upon a time called right now!

They say that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.

As the demands on agriculture mount in the face of worldwide meteoric population growth and other nations with less oversight become bigger players, the timing of the new Ken Burns Documentary "The Dust Bowl" couldn't be more appropriate.  Moreso, the airing date of this documentary, November 18th and 19th on PBS, should be right about the time our country's current drought situation (the worst since the 1950's) should begin to affect food prices.

Watch The Dust Bowl Preview on PBS. See more from The Dust Bowl.


By in large, the US has learned the lesson of the Dust Bowl, but it's no time to be resting on our laurels - much still needs to be done to increase soil conservation in our country.  The point that rang truest in the terrific panel discussion after the screening was how important it is to acknowledge that the decision to plow all that badland ground to feed our soldiers was, at the time, made with altruistic goals and what was thought to be sound reasoning at the time.  We can't become so haughty as to assume we've got mother nature figured out and we can use her for our own devices.

great panel discussionSo you're here reading the blog of a small family fruit farm in Central Pennsylvania, so it's safe for me to assume you've already recognized how important agriculture is to this nation.  Also, how important GOOD agriculture is to this nation - how important it is that we, as farmers, do right by the lands that we proudly nurture.  I've struggled with the thought of me, as an American Farmer, being responsible for feeding the world.  I'd prefer to feed you guys - my friends and neighbors.  But to hear our excellent panel (author Timothy Egan, genius Lester Brown (he truly is), farmer/conservationalist Clay Pope; moderated by FRESHFarm's Ann Yonkers) speak about the short-sightedness exhibited by the agriculture of other nations (not to keep singling you out, China)... I've been reinvigorated by this notion.  Don't expect us to double our acreage or anything like that; if anything, we'll likely get smaller as we go along.  But!  The world needs America to keep farming, not just our friends and neighbors.  And while much of our food remains in our friendly 100 mile radius, great vision is needed to balance future food demands with proper soil health and water conservation, especially in consideration of energy and fossil fuel demands.  It's a hefty task, but someone's got to do it.

It was the worst man made natural disaster in the world's history.  It was the biggest real estate scam in our country's history.  It killed children and displaced families all over the midwest, almost turning the entire region into an uninhabitable desert.  It also served (in my opinion) as the impetus for the first great agricultural reform, the formation of what would be the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), thank you Hugh Hammond Bennett, in The New Deal.  If you find this compelling (as well you should) or you desire the kind of inspiration this topic provided me, Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl" airs on PBS November 18th and 19th.