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INTRODUCING THE FARM AT RED HILL

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / March 19, 2019

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

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newsletter 2019-03-20 FINAL-1

Virginia local food

SHARE VIRGINIA LOCAL FOOD LOVE

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / March 13, 2019

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

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newsletter 2019-03-13 FINAL-1

ORGANIC vs SUSTAINABLE vs LOCAL … Which is best?

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / March 5, 2019

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

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newsletter 2019-03-06 FINAL-1

Truly Scrumptious conveneint local food

THIS ARTISAN MAKES CONVENIENT LOCAL FOOD

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / February 27, 2019

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

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newsletter 2019-02-27 FINAL-1

Truly Scrumptious convenient local food

This artisan makes convenient local food

You won’t find this “Truly Scrumptious” local food in the grocery store but it’s just as convenient

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

There’s more than one way to eat your local veggies — and you don’t necessarily have to go to the trouble of cooking them up yourself. That’s because local produce is also a big part of many of our locally made artisanal foods, like Truly Scrumptious in Richmond, Va.

Truly Scrumptious specializes in frozen, ready-to-heat prepared foods that are locally sourced whenever possible and bursting with flavor. Freezing freshly made, handmade food makes it convenient to serve, and also makes it more flavorful and nutritious than most other convenience foods. (For more on that, read our post on the benefits of freezing fresh food.)

For the inside scoop on convenient local food, we talked with Mela, the British chef who grew up on the west coast of Scotland and now makes Truly Scrumptious so scrumptious in Richmond, Va. And she’s too modest to tell you this part herself, so we will: Back when she lived in London, she worked for a company that held the Royal Warrant — catering events at Highgrove, Charles and Diana’s private residence, and Buckingham Palace garden parties. Cool beans!

Truly Scrumption convenient local food

VEGGIE FAIRY:

The flavors of everything you make really stand out! How do you do it?

MELA:

I don’t make the typical soups you find in the grocery store. Having traveled a lot in the Far East I like my food to have big flavor. I’m inspired by Indian, Thai, and Morroccan flavors and then I make it my own — so it’s always full flavored but not too spicy. I use local produce whenever it’s available, and that’s going to taste so much better, too. Plus you know where it comes from, how they grow it, that it’s fresh picked. Then freezing it gives me the ability to offer a much greater variety. Everything’s been tested, so I know it will be fine when it’s reheated.

Truly Scrumption convenient local food

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Did you go to culinary school to learn all this?

MELA:

Actually my degree was in engineering! But what I really loved to do was cook, so I was always cooking for the guys in the class and on field trips. Then I came to the U.S. on a work exchange program. I wound up working for top notch restaurants in Colorado and on Martha’s Vineyard, where I met my husband Robert, and my love of food took over.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So how did you wind up Virginia?

MELA:

Robert is from Roanoke and he wanted to come back to Virginia. So I moved to Richmond without having ever visited it. Turns out I’m very happy here! Once my children were a little older, I started Truly Scrumptious in 2007, and I focused on serving businesses and private entertaining. Then in 2010 the farmers market scene in Richmond exploded. I noticed the quality and variety of produce I could pick up in the markets and I knew I could use it as the basis for prepared ready-to-eat foods. One of the family farmers I work with is G Flores Produce, on Virginia’s Northern Neck.

(FAIRY NOTE: The Flores family has been part of our home-delivered farmers market almost since the beginning! That’s their produce below, which went into Mela’s Roasted Virginia Winter Vegetable Bisque, available in the market this weekend.)

G Flores Produce convenient local food

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Do you have a set menu?

MELA:

No, that’s the best part. Everything’s seasonal. I create different entrees to utilize what’s being harvested. It’s creative and exciting to be doing something new all the time. One week one of the local farmers had beautiful bok choy, so I turned that into a delicious bok choy and mushroom soup. I want to let that local produce shine. That’s the most important thing.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What’s been the biggest challenge?

MELA:

Applying to the health department and the agriculture and consumer services department for a license seemed scary. It’s intimidating as a person who doesn’t have a big team of business advisors. But once I did it, it turned out it was straight forward and easy and gave me a sense of satisfaction of having done it myself. Then there were the logistics of figuring out the best place to sell what I was making and a place to make it. You have to have an inspected kitchen. I’m lucky enough to use a lovely large commercial kitchen in Bon Air United Methodist Church. They let me rent the kitchen and I cater activities for the church like Wednesday night dinners. I’ve been working out of that kitchen for 12 years now. So creating it all from the ground up by myself and then seeing it take off has been the biggest challenge but also very satisfying.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So you’re running a business and also doing the sourcing and cooking. How do you get it all done?

MELA:

Robert helps at in-person farmers markets. Our son Jack, who’s 21, handles deliveries. And our daughter Molly, who’s 17, is my righthand lady. If I need cupcakes decorated, she’s on it. She’s also a good calming influence for me! I count on the farmers, too. I love meeting and getting to know local farmers and seeing them week by week. They’ll ask me if I want such and such… It’s all very rewarding. I’m so lucky to be involved in something I enjoy 100%. It’s my interest, not just my job.

Truly Scrumptious convenient local food

VEGGIE FAIRY:

For some of us, cooking is a chore. What is it about cooking for others that you enjoy so much?

MELA:

For me, it’s providing families with something that’s nutritious, flavorful, locally sourced, and convenient. I love knowing that people really appreciate being able to have my home-cooked food in the freezer to pull out, heat up, and then sit down and eat a scrumptious meal. Some of my customers buy five soups and take that to work each day instead of buying fast food for lunch. It’s gratifying to know I’m making life easier for other people with food that’s locally sourced, locally handmade, and nutritious. I do try to make it as healthy as I can. I use high quality olive oil, spices, and a lot of my soups are vegan. Not because they have to be but because the recipes lend themselves to using coconut or almond milk.

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You can find Mela’s convenient local food in the Extras section of our home-delivered farmers market. You can also visit Truly Scrumptious on Facebook, or check out the Truly Scrumptious website.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pasture-raised dairy, eggs, and meat, plus wholesome artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

how to shop home delivered farmers market

HOW TO SHOP THE HOME DELIVERED FARMERS MARKET

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / February 20, 2019

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

How to shop

Read the newsletter below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

newsletter 2019-02-20 FINAL-1

Harmony Hill Farm grassfed beef

HERE’S WHY GRASSFED BEEF IS WORTH THE MONEY

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / February 13, 2019

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

Here's why grassfed beef is worth the money

Read the newsletter below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

newsletter 2019-02-13 FINAL-1

grassfed beef harmony hill farm

Here’s why grassfed beef is worth the money

Plus tips on how to cook it up — it’s different from grainfed beef

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

All our family farmers are transparent about the way they farm. They do it the old fashioned way: slow and natural.

harmony hill farm grassfed beef

That’s how Earl, his wife Robin, and son Jesse raise their animals (cows, pigs, chickens, and more) at Harmony Hill Farm in Scottsville, Va. We talked about it with Earl, and we’ve got the whole conversation below, plus info how to cook grassfed beef without ruining it!

The motto of Earl and his family is: “Farming in harmony with nature.” It’s not the cheapest way to farm. But here’s why it’s worth paying a little extra money to benefit from what they have to offer.

grassfed beef

Before the days of industrial corporate farming, the typical American family spent 30% of their income on food… about the same as what they spent (and still spend) on housing.

Nowadays, thanks to industrial agriculture, most Americans spend less than 10% of their family budget on food. But it’s true what they say: You get what you pay for. Treating plants and animals like widgets on an assembly line has made them cheaper in every sense of the word. Today’s food has fewer nutrients, less natural flavor, and more unhealthy stuff like pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and bad fats.

To minimize cost while maximizing profit, industrial agriculture harvests produce before it’s ripe from soil full of chemicals, then ships it long distances. Industrial ag crams animals into confined spaces, stuffing them with unnatural feeds, antibiotics, and hormones to fatten them fast during their short, often miserable lives. The result is food that’s much less nutritious and flavorful than what your grandparents ate, and worse for the environment.

To get the food our bodies were meant to eat, you have to turn back the clock to the old ways of doing things. You have to take your time and grow your produce in soil that’s naturally rich and fertile, not chemically enhanced. And you have to leave your produce there until it has absorbed all the nutrients and flavor it was meant to absorb from the earth and the sun.

You have to raise your animals the way nature intended — out in the pastures and woodlands and sunshine, eating what they were meant to eat. For cows, that means grass. Grassfed beef contains more healthy things like vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and cancer-fighting fats.

Yes, it costs more to make food this way. But better health is worth it. The better flavor that comes with it is icing on the cake.

As a farmer, it’s not easy to go the unconventional all-natural route. The American industrial food system is designed to support conventional farmers. We asked Earl about it.

harmony hill farm

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How long have you been farming?

EARL:

We’ve been farming full-time here in Fluvanna County for two and a half years. Before that I was a landscape contractor for 30 years in Hanover County. We’d gotten a few cows and hens and broilers, raising them on the side as hobby. But our hearts became more involved with that than the landscaping. So we left the landscaping business, found a farm, and moved up here and started farming full-time.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

That’s a big change! Any regrets?

EARL:

None so far. We moved away from our family and friends, so we don’t have that everyday interaction anymore. We thought it would be more of an emotional strain. But it really hasn’t been. It was time for a new season in our life and where the Lord was leading. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t been difficult or we haven’t had our struggles. But any new venture you’re always going to have those things.

The other day I was talking with Sam (Seasonal Roots’ Farmer Connector) about mindset and emotional things. You’ve got to turn a profit and make a living and support your family. But for us it wasn’t all about the money. It was about a lifestyle change and the direction we wanted to head.

harmony hill farm grassfed beef

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How’d you pick up the hobby and then turn it into a second career? Do you come from a farming family?

EARL:

We’re first-generation full-time farmers. My grandfather always did it on the side. But he never did it full-time. We were the first to do it as a career. Some new farmers do their research early and get started really young. But financially it can be really hard. Getting in when we did later in life, we had a monetary base we could fall back on because of the landscaping business.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Why did you get into all-natural farming? Was that your grandfather’s influence?

EARL:

No, my grandfather’s methods were more conventional. We call our type farming unconventional because we’re out of the mainstream, unlike industrial farming. My wife was the driving force. Robin started the research to learn about healthy food and healthy eating, where we bought our foods from and how it was raised. She wanted our family to have healthier food. As we started doing it on the side for ourselves, we thought we might be able to make a go of this.

harmony hill farm

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Healthier eating motivates a lot of us. What else motivated you?

EARL:

Our faith — our belief that things are created a certain way, and they need to be allowed to perform in a manner in which they were created. Cows were created to be herbivores and eat grass, not meat byproducts and grain. Our society has changed that, wanting to get away from how something was designed to live, and that’s how we cause a lot of our problems. No animal was designed to live in an industrial situation, crammed in together.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So how did you learn how to farm unconventionally, as you call it?

EARL:

Our learning has been schooling with folks who have been in our type of farming. We were reading Wendell Berry and Greg Judy. We’ve been to classes with Polyface Farms, falling back on their wisdom and experience. And of course trial and error — you learn by doing.

grassfed beef

VEGGIE FAIRY:

What’s been the biggest challenge of becoming an all-natural farmer?

EARL:

That hardest part is that here in America, because of the industrial, commercial way that we do things, the food is so cheap. Our food is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. That’s hard to overcome. The food we grow is more expensive because our animals are so much more healthy and better for you. It’s more work and takes longer to grow a quality product.

But still, it has to turn a profit. So it’s been hard because that’s the biggest thing you hear: “Why is your meat so much more expensive?” We have to do a lot of educating. It’s better for you and tastes better. We do what we can to be transparent. We invite folks to come out and see how we do it. Our customers visit our farm and they can see our animals out on pasture or in the woods. With a local family farmer like us, you know where your food comes from. You’ve got no clue when you pick something up from one of the big box stores.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

So what kind of response do you get?

EARL:

Usually folks, if they want to eat healthier, once they get it, they’re sold for life. And those folks are everywhere. You’ve just got to be able to find them. That’s where Seasonal Roots fits in — you help us connect with those families who want to eat healthier food.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

We’ve mentioned already why grassfed meat is healthier for people. Is eating grass healthier for cows, too?

EARL:

Grassfed is so much better. Because our herd is out on pasture, like nature intended, they stay healthier. They don’t get sick as often as they would crammed into a crowded, dirty feedlot eating grain. And their ruminant stomach can’t digest grain, so if you feed them grain, well then they need antibiotics. The meat we provide has no antibiotics and no GMOs.

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Grassfed vs grass finished

Not only is the beef from Harmony Hill Farm grassfed — it’s grass finished, too. Many farmers who claim to be grassfed actually switch their cows to grain at the end to fatten them up faster. The cows of Harmony Hill eat grass their whole lives.

grassfed beef grass finished beef

There’s more on that, plus the environmental benefits of grassfed on Harmony Hill Farm’s website.

Their site is full of great information, including their favorite books on these subjects, so be sure to check it out. You can also visit them on Facebook.

How to cook grassfed beef

To get the full benefit of lean, healthy, grassfed beef, you have to cook it right. Fortunately, it’s easy to cook right. You just have to know how. So don’t let anyone tell you grassfed beef is tougher than grainfed.

The biggest culprit is overcooking. Grassfed is made for rare to medium-rare cooking. If you prefer beef well-done, first sear it over high heat to seal in the juices, then cook it at very low temps in a sauce to add moisture, like in our beef bourguignon recipe. The reason: grassfed is high in protein and extremely low in fat.

However you like your beef, be sure to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before you cook it, so it’s closer to room temperature. Like your muscles, it’s more relaxed (and tender) when it’s warmer. As it warms, it also releases moisture that you can pat dry ahead of time. That prevents the meat from steaming itself into a gray lump instead of searing nice and brown. Rub it with extra virgin olive oil, salt it, and if you like, coat it with your favorite dry rub seasoning.

For grassfed steaks cooked indoors:
1. Preheat your broiler to 450 and place a heavy, oven-proof skillet in the oven to preheat along with it.
2. When the skillet is sizzling hot, turn a burner on high, grab an oven mitt and move the hot skillet from the oven to the burner. Turn the fan over your stovetop on high and place the steaks in the skillet. They will smoke like crazy! But be strong and let them sear for a minute, then flip them to sear on the other side for another minute.
3. Put the skillet back in the oven. One-inch steaks will take 4-6 minutes to hit medium rare (120-130 degrees inside). Since it will continue to cook even after it’s removed from the heat, take it off when the internal temp is still 10 degrees below the target temperature. Using tongs (not a fork — don’t poke holes for the juices to escape), place the steaks on a cutting board and loosely tent them under foil for 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat while it finishes cooking, making for juicier steak.

More tips for grassfed cooking, plus recipes, are on our Pinterest beef page.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

Oberweis glass bottles milk

NEW GRASSFED DAIRY FROM OBERWEIS

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / February 6, 2019

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

New grassfed dairy from Oberweis

Read the newsletter below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

newsletter 2-6-19

zucchini cheese crisps

ZUCCHINI CHEESE CRISPS & AVOCADO BACON AND EGGS

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / January 30, 2019

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

Zucchini Cheese Crisps and Avocado Bacon and Eggs

Read the newsletter below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

newsletter 2019-01-30