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Party with the Locals (Foodies, That Is)

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It really bugs me the way weeks can go by with no great social activities to look forward to, then all of sudden, everything fun is happening all on the same day.

Take this weekend, for instance. I was so looking forward to this “amazing” local food event, Down to Earth: Our Cup Runneth Over, sponsored by the Chester County Chapter of Buy Fresh, Buy Local on Jan. 24. Not only is it a guaranteed good time and an important cause—particularly since the recession has hit so many socially conscious organizations like the under-funded Food Routes Conservancy—the annual event is also a melting pot of talented, creative, proactive and just-plain-old-nice people of all ages, ways and means.   

As it happens, though, my little niece is turning 1, and of course, there is NO WAY I would miss her birthday party—which, by the way, is in New York, making it virtually impossible to squeeze in both events.

So instead of broadening my mind with some very insightful and informative conversation about “Abundance and Need in Our Local Food System,” I will be broadening my waistline with pasta, birthday cake and likely a sampling of some very good wine and craft brews. (My cousin has been brewmaster at several breweries, including Yuengling in Pottstown, where he was until just before Philly Beer Week last year; he’s always got something new for us to try.)

The good news is that the aforementioned “conversation” is free and open to the public. The start time is 3 p.m., and it’s estimated to run until about 5 p.m. The CliffNotes version is a discussion about the disparity between local food resources (both realized and unrealized) and their availability to consumers. Bet you didn’t know that Chester County was once called the “bread basket of Philadelphia.” You might know, though, that the soil in these parts is grade A—and underutilized due to a dearth of both newer, younger farmers to keep up the family farm and funds for these would-be farmers to buy up big bunches of land before the developers do.

The afternoon’s panelists are a savvy bunch:
• Facilitor Marilyn Anthony, Southeast Regional Director for the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, pasafarming.org
• Erin Herz, Director of Education and Outreach for Greener Partners, greenerpartners.org
• Rich Power Hoffman, Filmmaker (Fridays at the Farm), Coyopa Productions, coyopa.com (You can read about Hoffman in an upcoming spring issue of Main Line Today.)
• Tim Schlitzer, Executive Director, Food Routes Conservancy, foodroutes.org
• Fred De Long, Director of Willistown Conservation Trust’s Community Farm Program, Rushton Farm, wctrust.org
• Larry Welsch, Chester County Cares, chestercountycares.org
 

Continued on page 2 …
 

And if that isn’t enough intellectual stimulation, short presentations will also be made by:

• Victoria Webb and Duncan Allison, Chester County Greenhouse Gas Reduction Task Force, Agriculture and Forestry Subcommittee, chescogreen.org
• Suzanne Milshaw, Chester County Economic Development Council’s Agricultural Loan Coordinator, cceconomicdevelopment.com
• Hillary Krummrich, Director, Chester County Agricultural Development Council, dsf.chesco.org
• Denise Sheehan and Yvonne Post, Cooking for Real, cookingforreal.net 

Handmade cups and mugs (above) donated by regional artists will be for sale (cash or check only), and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Chester County Gleaning Program (chestercountycares.org), which supplies healthy food to individuals and families with the greatest need. (You know how I feel about hunger: it shouldn’t be a problem in a country that prides itself on excess.)

Hoots and Hellmouth, musicians with a mission (Photo courtesy of Down to Earth's Lyla Kaplan)Along with a new venue—the first two events were held at The Arts Scene in West Chester—this year’s “Down to Earth” will have a part two: Mugs and Music. Billed as a “concert, beer tasting, food sampling and mug sale,” the no-heavy-thinking-required portion of the day begins at 7 p.m., and features the music of Missing Palmer West and Hoots and Hellmouth, plus beer from Victory Brewing and nibbles prepared by members of Buy Fresh, Buy Local. (Tickets are $24 per person, and free for kids 12 and under.)

Other food donors include hand-crafted, raw milk cheeses from Birchrun Hills Farm (see our August 2008 Dining Guide, “You Are Where You Eat”), Cooking For Real, Cucina Verde, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative (my new CSA), Shellbark Hollow Farm (yummy goat cheese; also in the August ’08 issue), Sovana Bistro, Talula’s Table (yummy everything), and Terrain At Styers’ Café (good food and good Zen).

Both events will be held at the Chester County Historical Society. For the concert, doors open at 7 p.m. and music starts at 8 p.m. Reservations are recommended for both events: Call or visit the reception area during the museum shop hours, Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; (610) 692-4800, 225 N. High St., West Chester. For more information, visit cchs-pa.org.

You can also check out downtoearthexhibit.org/cup.

If you go, please send me an e-mail or throw up a post. I would love to hear about your experience, and whether or not you came home with a cool, new mug to sip your fair-trade coffee in.

Now, a note about that CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative: The other day, I got this fantastic e-mail giving me a detailed account of preseason activities at the different farms in the cooperative. Apparently, some of our (the other members and me) seeds were planted—5,000 romaine lettuce seeds and approximately 100 heirloom tomato seeds—in the greenhouse at Riverview Organics. It was great to see so much green (the e-mail included lots of photos) on a dreary, gray and very chilly day.
 

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