From our pork shoulders to our toes, love is in the Market!
This week Squirrel is traveling, but he let us know that he is going nuts over hydroponically-grown lettuce from Great Lakes Growers, tortilla chips from Shagbark Seed & Mill, and sauces from Pope’s Kitchen, all of which are new products by our latest producers! Learn more about them in the New Producer Spotlight below.
New Producer Spotlight: Great Lakes Growers
Great Lakes Growers, located 95 miles away in Burton, Ohio, are a year-round hydroponic lettuce and herb greenhouse. By growing hydroponically, their operations require less overall water usage than traditional agriculture due to its ability to be purified and recycled. There is also little to no risk of contamination by harmful bacteria such as E. coli since there is no dirt or fertilizer, and everything is packaged with the utmost care in the greenhouse.
New Producer Spotlight: Pope’s Kitchen
“It’s How You’d Make It If You Had Time” is the motto of Pope’s Kitchen, a from-scratch sauce and cocktail company from Lyndhurst, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. Always a from-scratch kind of chef, owner Clark Pope began making his homemade sauces for his and his wife’s yearly BBQ fundraiser for breast cancer research. After much interest and an urge from a local CSA to “make use of some local tomatoes,” the caterer began selling his goods commercially in 2015.
New Producer Spotlight: Shagbark Seed & Mill
Shagbark Seed & Mill is an Athens, Ohio mill seeking to fill the growing gap in Ohio’s local food movement where beans and grains belonged. Since 2010, they have been focused on not only offering locally-milled products, but also on tackling food insecurity in their local communities and connecting with others in the local food industry. There are over 10 farms that grow for Shagbark Seed & Mill, and all of their grain and beans are heirloom varieties and certified organic.
Food for Thought: From Field to Freezer with Maple Leaf Farms
In an effort to connect our community with the work and people behind the Market’s products, staff member Livia will be conducting interviews with our producers. This first feature is on Maple Leaf Farms, a pork producer from Greenville, PA. Thank you to B.J. and Kristy for taking the time to tell us about all they do!
How do you start your day? With a cup of coffee and some morning news?
For B.J. and Kristy Mozes and their three children, they start their days at about 5:30 A.M. to feed, water and pasture their 50+ pigs before going to school and work. When everyone is back that afternoon, the stalls are cleaned, the pigs are fed again and brought in for the night during colder months. This is the winter rhythm at Maple Leaf Farm in Greenville, PA: just a few hours of chores bookending their days.
During the summer much time is spent outside with the animals, farming cash-crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat, or hay, and maintaining the fences surrounding the pastures where their pigs forage and graze. Despite several hundred acres of land to tend to, the Mozeses are the day-in, day-out workers (other than help from a few family friends during the busy season.)
As rewarding as farm life can be, it can also be idealized. Behind each healthy pig or crop are hours of hard work. As Kristy sated, “For as many great things that happen [on the farm], there’s death, struggle, and a lot of things that aren’t ‘cute.’” But at the same time, raising their pigs is a true labor of love, as they ensure their animals have happy, healthy lives. “The way we raise these animals; they only have 1 bad day– the day they’re slaughtered– and they don’t know it’s coming,” said B.J. Occasionally, the family even names the pigs and will shed a few tears when their date comes, but understand it’s all part of the process.
Maple Leaf raises Brookshire pigs, a heritage breed, which means that they are among the first breeds of pigs used for agriculture before industrialization, much like heritage plants. Their liking of the rocky and muddy pastures the farm sits on helps the pigs develop strong, healthy muscles, which in turn makes the meat firm but tender. They do not farrow, and instead purchase piglets from a local breeder to limit cross-contamination and diseases which can arise from mixing pigs raised in different environments.
However, if the litters don’t do well, that means production is behind– a current challenge facing the farm. Upon getting their piglets at 8 weeks, it takes another 6-8 months for them to grow to full size. Slaughtering them too soon before or after they are fully grown can both yield financial losses. Between the rate at which pigs naturally grow and the challenge of acquiring a USDA butchering date by the time the pigs are ready, a lot rides on this uncontrollable aspect of raising livestock.
The Mozeses consider their pigs to be teachers of patience, both in their slow-growing process and their intelligence. “They are a lot smarter than cows, so learn to just let them take the lead and then you follow,” laughed Kristy.
In order to sell at retail outlets such as Edinboro Market, meat producers have to have their product slaughtered and butchered at a USDA inspected facility. There are few facilities like this in Western PA, which means that farmers have to book their butcher dates months in advance, despite the variability in growing times. Slaughterhouses being backed-up became such an issue during the Covid-19 pandemic that Maple Leaf decided to begin processing for other local farmers who were struggling to get dates. This was made possible due to PA’s “Custom” exemption, which means that meat can be processed at a non-inspected facility as long as it is slaughtered at a USDA inspected facility and is only being sold off the farm that raised it. Maple Leaf considers this extra work “worth it” because it contributes to a stronger local food system, and makes the connections between the farmers more visible to the public.
The majority of profits made from the Edinboro Market and other retail ventures go right back into the farm to better their operations. This includes purchasing feed, sawdust, or straw locally, as well as materials for barn repairs.
Maple Leaf Farm also deeply values putting their money into community efforts such as 4-H, donating money and half/whole pigs to their food pantry and most recently, helping their children’s soccer team purchase a new scoreboard. “We definitely want to pay it back to the community that supports us,” said B.J.
They encourage and invite people out to see what they do on the farm, and even offer customers to meet and pick their pig. For more information, follow them on FB or visit their website, http://mozesmapleleaffarm.com/
If you wanted to know or see more about Maple Leaf Farm, check out this awesome video interview conducted by Allegheny College Biology Major and Video Production Assistant Mary Dosch, as part of our “Farm Behind the Food” series.