But if you have these farmers who are stuck in a bind….
Well, they don’t waste it.
They’re still able to find an outlet then?
They may have to preserve a lot of it to eat themselves or what have you. For me, I’ve done my part as far as trying to teach as many Amish and Mennonite people not to ever do that.
Not to ever have to get to that point.
Yeah. Or don’t be so trusting of someone who drives into your driveway and says, if you grow this, I’m gonna buy all of it. I’m being honest, I say. I can’t guarantee I’m gonna sell every last ounce of everything that you will grow. What I tell them is that I will do everything in my power to sell as much of it as I can. There’s produce auctions all over Lancaster County. Because we do only pick up once a week, it’s hard for them. Zucchini for instance, ripens pretty much every day. The auctions help. One of the guys who grows stuff for me also grows stuff for Wegmans.
You hear from chefs and owners that they want to source as locally and sustainability as possible, but they say cost gets in the way.
I don’t agree with that—that cost is prohibitive. I don’t know what other farms are charging for their stuff. I just know where my margin is and where I need to be and it’s very reasonable.
I’m going to capitalize on being one of the only guys in the area who has heated greenhouses in the middle of winter. I’m not gonna be a dick about it. If you cut basil, basil struggles a lot in short daylight. Even if my basil plants are healthy, it might take 2-3 weeks [in the winter] for my basil to grow back once I’ve cut it. I gotta make that money in that one week [when cutting it] because in the summer time, it just grows back right away. I have to factor that in. It’s a law of averages, so to speak.
I’ve talked to Sean Magee at Heritage who says his place is all about letting local produce shine, especially heirloom varieties. He’s one of your customers [Magee also taps Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative]. Can you differentiate between a client like Heritage and Taproom? Heritage buys much more, right?
Yeah. It’s two different—I don’t play favorites though. I don’t differentiate between those places in terms of which one I like more. Taproom on 19th is a different beast from Heritage. Heritage, they’re putting probably 200-250 people through their doors every night and that’s probably a low estimate. They’re a roughly 60 seat restaurant with a full bar that may sit close to 30 people. And you’re also talking about a place in Northern Liberties versus a place in deep South Philly. But what I really admire about Taproom on 19th is how they really understand their clientele but they’re also willing to test the boundaries. They’ve gotten some of the locals there to kind of expand their horizons a bit. I’m equally excited to work with one as the other and I really love taking fun and interesting things to Christina because she gets to play around with them and find a use for them.
What are some of the things that Sean Magee has been getting from you?
Sean, he’ll order large quantities of each type of thing. Like, we had brassica rabe (the sprout head of Brussels sprouts in the spring). He was getting twenty to thirty bunches of them every week they were in and pickling them or roasting or grilling them. Asparagus, he was getting twenty pounds per week. He’ll also get fun things like green coriander blossoms or mashua leaves. He gets a pig’s head from us pretty much every week.
He told me he was getting all the potatoes he could from you.
He was before we ran out. We’re about to dig some more. That was the last of last year’s potatoes. We’re going to dig this week. We do potatoes and there’s two other farms that do potatoes as well that we source from. It’s Peruvian blue, Yukon, New Orleans Redskin, Kennebec, Russian banana finger potatoes, Leroy finger potatoes—it changes from year to year based on what we want to grow and what they [people he works with] wants to grow.
[To Chef Christina De Silva] So, is this like Christmas for you?
Christina De Silva: Dude, Thursdays are the best. Sometimes, Tuesdays are hard for me to remember to put my order in [laughs], but if I remember, I always always get an order from Green Meadow and then Thursdays, yeah, it’s like Christmas because you can get such cool things that Giordano’s doesn’t carry. I look at their list and I’m looking at all this cool stuff and things are popping into my head. Seeing lemon verbena, I’m thinking I can make a really nice summer ice cream.
Farmer Ian: Christina’s really creative, so she’s always looking for those things.
[Ian To Christina]: I don’t think you ever placed the same order two weeks in a row.
There’s always something that peaks her interest. If there’s something on the list that chefs have never worked with before or is new to all the chefs that buy from me, she’s going to try it. We give little descriptions of things with flavor profiles. She’ll get something and, like many chefs, will figure out a way to use it—it’s like a challenge.
CDS: I didn’t know what chervil was and now it’s one of my favorite things.
Farmer Ian: You used it on the—I forget what dish it was.
CDS: The brown butter gnocchi [with chervil mascarpone].
Farmer Ian: Yeaahh! That was really good on there.