Tag Archives: toigo orchards

Steve Badt Miriam's Kitchen

Every year at our Farmland Feast, we usually have a farmer as our keynote speaker. This year, we decided to try something a little different. We asked Steve Badt, Senior Director of Meals and Volunteer Engagement at Miriam’s Kitchen, one of our gleaning partners, to speak about the profound impact FRESHFARM Markets farmers have had on his clients. Below are his remarks.


Thank you Mark for your generous introduction, but back at you. Toigo Orchards is a perfect example of what makes the great meals at Miriam’s Kitchen possible, and what makes our greater vision to End Chronic Homelessness in Washington, DC possible.

Recently Toigo donated 600 pounds of awesome peaches. The volunteers at Miriam’s made peach sauce, peach pie, peach fruit smoothies and yes, simply offered our guests a beautiful local peach. This is just one example of the incredible weekly donations from farmers that Miriam’s Kitchen receives. Barajas Produce, Quaker Valley Orchards and others are just as generous. Thank you!

That is what I want to emphasize tonight. FRESHFARM Markets and its farmers make it possible for Miriam’s to prepare a healthy, delicious breakfast or dinner for less than $1 per guest for the 300 guests who come into Miriam’s for a meal every weekday. A meal that might look like this seasonal spread: squash and bison lasagna, garlic bread, vegetable salad, kale-fruit smoothies and apple cake.

We are not serving bologna sandwiches.

Some items might be initially be mocked — like the kale fruit smoothies. But this is what happens.  A quarter of the guests will try the kale smoothies the first time and then they will say to their friends, “Damn, you should try this.  It’s great.” And the next time, half the guests take it, and later most.

I grew up with a mom born and raised in Italy.  She had a massive garden in New Jersey, one that I was forced to work as little kid.  And though I hated work when I was little, I quickly appreciated how all the fresh ingredients came together to make a delicious meal. It is the approach the chefs at Miriam’s take. My fellow chefs at Miriam’s, John Murphy and Emily Hagel, are here as well. The meals they come up with out of the donated basket of ingredients is incredible. Ask them.

Last year, Miriam’s received $20,000 worth of ingredients from gleaning from the farmers. That’s a big basket to work from.

I have been at Miriam’s for 12 years and for 8 of those years we have been gleaning from the Foggy Bottom market. I love how close the market is to Miriam’s because the farmers see our guests – the people they are helping feed. When you can look into the eyes of someone in need and you know you are going to have a direct impact, it is powerful.

It was and is because of gleaning from farmers markets that we have been able to transform a stereotypical feeding program away from canned, frozen, processed ingredients and generally unhealthy meals towards what one could find in a good restaurant. What does it take? Great fresh ingredients and careful preparation by hundreds of rocking volunteers. It’s not brain surgery, as a fellow chef once told me.

But this is why volunteers come over and over again. Because when they step into the kitchen they receive a brief hello and thanks, very brief.  Then the chef on duty barks out orders. “We are going to make that vegetable lasagna. Get moving and go through the bounty the farmers donated.” The volunteers get energized. I call it good stress.

And here is the most important part. Our guests in the dining room also get energized by the meal they are getting. They’re energized by seeing the stressed out volunteers working their tails off to make the meal that day. They’re energized by seeing, smelling and later tasting the incredible local vegetables. It feels like what a home should feel like. In fact, one of the biggest compliments I often get is that someone outside on the street, a guest or passerby, comments on how great it smells. That it smells like a kitchen should smell. Like mom’s kitchen.

Imagine what it is like for you, when you are feeling sick or simply having a bad day, to wake up or come home to a homemade meal made with love and care. It makes you feel better, physical and emotionally. But it is more than a meal at Miriam’s. At Miriam’s that meal starts the process of creating meaningful change in their lives.

Miriam’s Kitchen emphasizes three things in everything it does: dignity, belonging and change. A person coming to our dining room will feel DIGNITY in the quality meals and services he or she finds, a sense of BELONGING with other guests, volunteers and staff; and a tireless commitment to CHANGE — to replace the temporary home we create at Miriam’s for a few hours each day with a permanent home.

Because that is the Vision Miriam’s has: to End Chronic Homelessness, to get those who have been on the streets for months or even years into a home – no matter what issue they are dealing with. Miriam’s will help provide the support to keep them housed successfully.

We are going to work our butts off to guide our guests home. In fact, 15 of our guests have been placed in housing already this year. And without the support or FRESHFARM Markets and the farmers that would not be possible. Great food is the start, nourishing the mind and body – home is the ultimate goal.

Thank you FRESHFARM Markets for making this possible.

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Harmony Creek soaps

Three FRESHFARM Markets are open the next few weeks before the Winter Solstice, Christmas and Kwanzaa, so you have plenty of choices for holiday gifts that could include baskets of fresh fruits (Gold Rush or Pink Lady apples and Asian or Bosc pears), veggies (Broccoli Romanesco, Kale, Carrots, Watermelon Radishes) and cheeses (Blue Ridge Dairy’s burrato to Clare’s camembert to Firefly Farm’s fresh chevre to Everona Dairy’s sheep’s milk Piedmont). Add Toigo Orchard’s bourbon peaches, organic fruit preserves from Country Pleasures or spiced apple butter from Black Rock Orchard or Quaker Valley Orchards for a market holiday sampler!

Give a weekly home pick up subscription to Compost Cab for only $32 per month. Your gift will include a counter top collection basket for kitchen scraps like veggie peelings, banana peels and coffee grounds plus an airtight bin with a sturdy compostable bag to fill with those scraps. Every week Compost Cab picks up the bin bag, leaving behind a new bin and bag. Your kitchen scraps become part of the composting at urban farms like Eco-City Farms or the Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum, helping these farms to improve their soil and grow more healthy food.

For the organic food lover on your list, consider a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) membership to Spiral Path Farm. 2013 marks the 20th year of Spiral Path Farm’s CSA deliveries which include a wide variety of fresh, 100% organic produce delivered weekly to our Silver Spring FRESHFARM Market. A family-size full share for 36 weeks mid-April through December is only $28.25 per week; a medium share is $20 per week.  Their June Sampler for 5 weeks of food is available in full and medium shares ranging in price from $100 to $141.25 for the season. Spiral Path also offers gift certificates for the holidays. Contact the farm here or call 717.789.4433 to find out more Mon.-Fri., 8am to 2:30pm.

Handcrafted soaps are perfect gifts for family and friends and Harmony Creek Farm makes it hard to choose just one! Every batch of soap is made by hand in small batches using the finest olive oil, essential oils or fragrances and herbs and flowers from the farm. Find classic soaps such as French Lavender and Sandalwood to whimsical soaps like ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and ‘Gladiator Exfoliator.’  You can find a soap to match every personality on your holiday list. Harmony Creek also has soaps for your cats and dogs! Beautifully packaged or individually sliced, you will also receive free gift bags with purchases at our Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Markets.

More sweetness this holiday season from S&S Maple Camp of Corriganville, MD and farmer Leo Shinholt who learned maple sugaring from his grandfather.  You will find their Grade A and B maple syrup and maple candies at our Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Markets.

Banner Bee’s honey was rated by Maryland Life magazine as one of the finest products in the National Capital Region. You can find their honey and 100% beeswax candles including festive holiday shapes and tapers at our Silver Spring FRESHFARM Market.

You may decide that the gift of choice is best, so purchase our “Market Dollars” gift certificates here.  Sold in $5 increments, these “Market Dollars” can be used on any purchase at any FRESHFARM Market during 2013.

Happy holidays from the staff and farmers/producers at FRESHFARM Markets!

~ Bernadine Prince, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director






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Mark Toigo

It’s official. The National Weather Service has determined that the winter of 2011 – 2012 is Washington’s warmest on record. To those in the DC area, mild temperatures meant light sweater weather and not having to bundle up for year round farmers’ markets. But to our Chesapeake Bay region fruit growers, it meant lots of worries about what the weather was doing to their trees.

To find out how the mild winter has affected farmers and to learn what shoppers can expect to find at market this Spring, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Executive Director Ann Yonkers talked to Mark Toigo of Toigo Orchards. Mark and his family grow apricots, apples, peaches, plums, cherries and nectarines as well as field fruit such as raspberries and strawberries on their 400 acre farm in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Toigo Orchards sells at 4 FRESHFARM Markets: Dupont Circle, By the White House, Penn Quarter, and Crystal City.

Tell me how this warm weather has affected the trees and the farm?
While Shippensburg is north of DC and had slightly cooler temperatures, it was the warmest weather I can remember. It wasn’t good for much, but operationally it had some good effects. We could catch up on all the seasonal farm work such as pruning the trees. Our crew was happy because they kept working and earning money all winter. Without a snowfall, we had no trouble getting into the orchards and taking care of the trees.

It’s so rare to be able to get through the pruning process systematically due to cold, rain, mud and bitter conditions. Pruning is usually a rush job in early spring because of the conditions. We prune the trees to open them up to sunshine and air circulation. This promotes healthy trees, less subject to a myriad of diseases and to insect damage. Pruning also promotes healthy fruit set and beautiful large fruit that our customers love at farmers’ markets.

What happens to the trees when you don’t have a real winter?
The trees never go into dormancy, which prepares them for another year of the hard work and stress of bearing fruit. This winter our fruit trees never got this rest. So, they are a little like teenagers. All raging hormones, and unsure what to do next. Bud? Flower? Grow? In short, they’re confused and agitated.

How much earlier are the trees flowering?
We had apricots blooming before St. Paddy’s Day. Now that’s a record.

How does early flowering put the trees in danger?
The trees are exposed earlier and longer to cold nights. When flowering trees get hit with a spring frost, the fruit never develops. That means the tree has no or a very limited quantity of fruit that season. Frost could happen anytime between now and May. Around here, fruit growers think of the first moon in May as the safe date when the danger of frost is passed.

Fruit growers around here can talk of little else but the warm weather. Should they prune the trees harder and risk less fruit damage or leave more branches in case the frost damages more fruit? Farming is a usually a dance with Mother Nature, but this year it’s more like a jig.

What does this mean for farmers’ market shoppers this Spring?
It’s really hard to predict, but if current trends continue spring vegetables such as English peas, Spring onions, asparagus and green garlic will be coming in earlier. They’ll also be in abundance much earlier too.

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