Driving really far for local food (and beer)

arches national parkHello, Haute Pasture, I’ve missed you! The HP family recently returned from a multi-month road trip, seeking to experience as much local food and drink (and scenery and hiking and culture) as we could. We drove about 7,500 miles over 99 days, stayed at 42 campsites across 17 states, and enjoyed some fantastic local food and beer (we visited 78 breweries along the way). I had big plans of writing up descriptions of our favorite local discoveries as we went, but real life (as real as day after day spent hiking countryside and exploring towns can be) got in the way and I only got a few posts up from the road. Rather than writing individual posts for the remaining highlights, I’ll give an overview here, in the hopes of a quicker return to focusing on Central Virginia’s local food and drink scene.

Local favorites, not local to Virginia

The following food and drink establishments are restaurants, shops, and breweries which we especially enjoyed on our 17-state journey, that grow their own ingredients, source ingredients from local farms listed by name on their menu, or sell products created by local farmers and artisans. The local animal products sold by these businesses are from nearby farms that treat animals humanely, and the environment ethically. (See “Why should I care?” for more on that topic.)

bluff - 6 james ranch food cart durango

In Colorado, we loved
The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm in Fort Collins: Jessup Farm is a cluster of restored farm buildings housing a bakery, coffeeshop, brewery, a few boutiquey non-food businesses, and a quaint and cozy farm-to-table restaurant, The Farmhouse. Food and cocktail ingredients come from the small backyard garden (with a larger plot in the works) and chicken coop, and from nearby farms. Everything we tried was phenomenal.
James Ranch in Durango: This gorgeous family farm welcomes guests to purchase prepared foods, meats, and other farm-made products at a small market, or stroll the grounds admiring the happy animals. I wrote about our stop at the ranch here.
Farm Bistro in Cortez (near Durango): Farm Bistro is both a cafe serving locally-sourced food and a market selling locally-produced meats, honey, prepared foods, and body care items. We ate there a couple times, as detailed here.
Roan Creek Ranch Grocery in Fruita (near Grand Junction): Roan Creek Ranch raises grass-fed cattle and lambs, and pigs with no hormones or antibiotics. The animals have a peaceful, natural life and are humanely slaughtered. The little shop sells the ranch’s meat along with local produce, eggs, honey, cheese, and other handmade goods. Roan Creek Ranch is owned by a veterinarian who purchased the business so that she could feed her children meat she had raised herself, in the ethical way she desired.

hells backbone grill dinner hiking with cricket bars and 59in59

In Utah, we loved
Comb Ridge Bistro in Bluff: What luck to roll into dusty little Bluff and find a bustling bistro featuring local foods and humane meats! Plus, the food is delicious. Read more about our visits here.
Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder: This was our favorite local-food find of the trip. In the middle of the incredibly gorgeous Scenic Route 12 in Southern Utah sits this lovely, upscale restaurant featuring produce from the restaurant’s own farm and meats from the same tiny town. We loved dinner so much we went back for breakfast, as I wrote about here.
Moonflower Community Cooperative Natural Foods Store in Moab: I love a co-op grocery store, and this is a nice, big one where we stocked up on a ton of local produce. The highlight for me, though, as an entomophagy enthusiast: Moonflower carries Chapul cricket protein bars! Chapul is based in Salt Lake City, so I figured I’d run into them somewhere in Utah, but Moonflower was the only place I hit the cricket jackpot, and the crickets powered me through some tough hikes. (Exo helped friends and me hike in Texas, too; kooky friends pictured above.)

brewery terra firma lake michigan sleeping bear dunes

In Michigan, we loved
Brewery Terra Firma in Traverse City: Terra Firma grows some of the ingredients for its beers on its own farm, which employs innovative sustainability concepts to reuse and recycle: spent grain is spread on fields to improve soil, waste water irrigates and fertilizes crops, and excess heat from the brewing equipment is harnessed and used to heat the taproom. Bonus points for a dog-friendly patio and a scrumptious basil beer.
Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock: Like I said, I love a good co-op. This one is big, full of local and organic produce, and has a deli where you can pick up a sandwich made with local veggies for a day of exploring the Keweenaw Peninsula. We stayed across the river in Houghton and did a big restocking of our food supplies at the co-op.

diablo burger sedona hiking

In Arizona, we loved
Diablo Burger in Flagstaff: This small chain of burger joints sources all its beef from partner ranches in the Diablo Trust, a collaborative effort to produce grass-fed, humanely-treated cows on farms that protect the watershed and wildlife through land conservation programs and sustainable agriculture. Read about our dinner here.

We were thrilled to discover so much delicious local food and drink along our travel path, sometimes seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. To me, searching out places to try local food is an important part of experiencing an unfamiliar town or region. You may encounter an ingredient you’d never eaten, or an interesting twist on an old favorite. I can’t wait for the next adventure; until then, I’ll happily keep exploring the food of Charlottesville and Central Virginia!

Boston Public Market

Lucky Boston: earlier this year the city got an indoor, year-round farmer’s market housing local and regional vendors of food and farm products in the North End, right next door to the Friday-Saturday Haymarket produce market. HP hit the road a few weeks ago to visit Boston Public Market and we wanted to share a little tour with you here.

Boston Public Market

At the Boston Public Market, farmers, fishermen, and food producers from Massachusetts and throughout New England offer the public a year-round source of fresh, local food and an opportunity to taste, buy, and understand what our region has to offer.


Chestnut Farms raises grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, pork, lamb, goat, poultry, and eggs, in Central MA.

Meat counter at Boston Public Market

Inside Boston Public Market

Stillman Quality Meats is unique in that they have their own meat processing and butchering facility on-site, which spares the animals a stressful truck ride to the slaughterhouse. That translates to more ethical meat, obviously, but also more nutritious meat: the stress of transport and rough handling before slaughter cause the animals to release fear-induced adrenaline, cortisol, and steroids into their bloodstream, which humans then ingest. Yum!

Happy poultry at Boston Public Market

Happy farm at Boston Public Market

More happy beef, pork, lamb, and poultry from Lilac Hedge Farm, also in Central MA.

Happy meats at Boston Public Market

There’s much more than meat at Boston Public Market: produce, nuts, flowers, cheeses, honey, ice cream, doughnuts, beverages, chocolate…

Boston Public Market

Boston Public Market

Boston Public Market

The Kitchen at the market hosts cooking demonstrations and discussions, and non-food health offerings such as yoga and a run club.

We’d already had lunch (lobster rolls at Warren Tavern in Charlestown, a required stop when we’re in Boston), so did not try any of the prepared meals also sold at the Market, but we had a doughnut from Union Square Donuts and it was so good that it was gone before I could take a picture.

Boston Public Market is a phenomenal addition to the community and I look forward to visiting again with an empty stomach!

Yoder’s Country Market, Madison VA

Yoder's Country Market

Coming home from a recent work trip to DC, I stopped (as I am wont to do) at one of the big Mennonite country stores on Rt 29 north of Charlottesville. Yoder’s Country Market moved into a huge new location earlier this year, now with more than twice the space for baked goods, bulk items, groceries, gifts and gadgets. I hadn’t been to the new location and was wowed by the variety of local products available, including meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, beverages, prepared foods, and body/health/home goods. It’s a great stop on a road trip for a snack, or to pick up some groceries on your way home.

Here’s a quick tour of some of the happy meats and local products Yoder’s carries:

Local trout from Madison Rainbow Trout, which is also sold at the Charlottesville City Market!

Madison rainbow trout

Natural chicken from Sunrise Farms, producers of grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken (and eggs), turkey, and pork. They also sell non-GMO feed and honey at their farm store in Stuarts Draft.

Sunrise Farms chicken

Happy beef from Wolf Creek Farm: born at the farm, raised on pasture only, antibiotic and hormone free, and not exposed to chemicals in fertilizers or pesticides.

Wolf Creek Farm beef

Salsas, tzatziki, dill dip, and pesto from The Farm at Red Hill, a small organic produce farm in North Garden:

Salsa, pesto, dips from The Farm at Red Hill

A huge selection of local honey of all sorts of types and flavors, including their own Yoder’s honey:

Local honeys

Gray Ghost Craft Soda, all natural, caffeine-free sodas in creative flavors (cotton candy?) from Madison.

Gray Ghost Craft Soda from Madison

Sugar scrub made with essential oils, from Raindrops in Virginia, a Charlottesville company:

local sugar scrub

And, of course, bulk goods as far as the eye can see.

so many bulk goods

Bulk goods

Yoder’s is worth a stop on a trip through Madison on Rt 29 whether you need car snacks or want to stock up on local meats and other goodies. I’ll be back on my next DC trip later this month!

Yoder's Country Market

Left Bank Butchery in Saxapahaw, NC

Last month I visited a few fantastic local sustainability resources in the Burlington, NC area: Burlington’s food co-op Company Shops Market, Piedmont Feed and Garden Center in Chapel Hill, and Left Bank Butchery in Saxapahaw.

Left Bank Butchery

Have you been to Saxapahaw? It’s a magical oasis of local food, drink, art, music, and nature in the middle of rural Central North Carolina.

Food and drink: Saxapahaw General Store, The Eddy Pub, Haw River Farmhouse Ales, and of course Left Bank Butchery

Art, music, nature: Haw River BallroomPaperhand Puppet InterventionHaw River Canoe & Kayak Co.

Combining all categories: the weekly farmers market and outdoor concert series Saturdays in Saxapahaw, running from May through the end of August; and this coming weekend (May 2) is the annual Haw River Festival!

On the gloomy March day of our visit, we stopped only at the General Store for a delicious lunch (I wrote about our first visit there here), and Left Bank Butchery for some treats for dog (pig ears) and human (grass-fed local steak from Braeburn Farm).

Left Bank Butchery believe in using sustainable farming practices to raise healthy, happy animals. They start with whole carcasses from cows, pigs, and chickens pasture-raised (or, for the pigs, pasture- and forest-raised) on local farms, and butcher them in-house to ensure the highest-quality cuts of meat possible.

Our arrangement with local farms is simple- we buy from farmers that use the highest standards in regards to animal welfare, ecologically sound farming techniques, and quality of meat.

The day we visited our only planned destination in Saxapahaw was the General Store for lunch; we were thrilled to see Left Bank Butchery a few doors down. Next trip to NC we’ll have to go back on a summer Saturday for Saturdays in Saxapahaw… or to see a band at the Haw River Ballroom… or for dinner and beers at The Eddy… or to paddle the river. So many reasons to return to Saxapahaw!

The New York Times and Washington Post love Saxapahaw too. If you go there and don’t want to leave, here’s who you should talk to about real estate.

Have a Saxy day!

Burlington NC’s local food co-op

Company Shops Market

My sister lives in Burlington, NC, a town just off the interstate between Greensboro and the Chapel Hill-Raleigh-Durham area. While it may often be overshadowed by its better-known neighbors to the east and west, Burlington is the anchor of a fast-growing local food scene in North-Central NC. On Saturday my sister and her family treated Mr HP and me to a tour of local food resources in the Burlington area, starting with breakfast at the Company Shops Market, Burlington’s food co-op. Their slogan: Local Food for Local People.

Company Shops Market

Burlington food co-op aisles

Burlington’s food co-op sources as much as possible of what it sells from local farms and producers, and charges members a fee in exchange for discounts at the store and the opportunity to participate in elections. Membership is a bargain one-time payment of $100 for individuals, or $150 for a two-adult family. The Burlington co-op is a strong supporter of the local community:

For every dollar you spend, 68% goes back into the community through donations, purchases, taxes and payroll. We’re helping to support the local small farms, businesses and producers and offering our customers all-natural, free-range, fair trade, organic and REAL food products!

I particularly appreciated the bulk eggs: fill your own container! Genius!

Our breakfast was fantastic, with more variety than the Charlottesville Whole Foods breakfast bar, for about half the price.

Burlington is lucky to have the Company Shops Market. I’ll definitely be back.

Co-op breakfast bar

Local food for local people

Downtown Burlington’s Saturday morning farmers market is also getting ready to open for the season on April 4:

Did you know that all of our vendors grow, raise, and create everything they sell at market within a 60 mile radius of Downtown Burlington? Now that’s what you can call local!

Next stop in our tour, Piedmont Feed and Garden Center in Chapel Hill!

Foodopoly reading and signing with Wenonah Hauter

Author and activist Wenonah Hauter visited New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville on February 13 for a discussion and signing of her new book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America. Ms. Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch, comes from a farming family, and is a long-time strategist and organizer for sustainable energy and food production.

Foodopoly reveals the behind-the-scenes lobbying, politics, and corporate power directing our food systems, and argues that consumers and farmers alone cannot fix the problem; a fundamental shift in food politics is required, as well. From the Foodopoly site:

In Foodopoly, she takes aim at the real culprit: the control of food production by a handful of large corporations—backed by political clout—that prevents farmers from raising healthy crops and limits the choices that people can make in the grocery store.

This talk was also timely for me, as I just got an overview of US food and farm policy from my Intro to the US Food System course. Read my notes here.

Wenonah Hauter signing copies of Foodopoly

Wenonah Hauter signing copies of Foodopoly

What I learned from Wenonah Hauter

The Past:

  • The Reagan administration changed antitrust laws, made it easier for monopolies to form
  • In 1996 US joined WTO and NAFTA; those partnerships lead to pressure to deregulate farm policy
  • The 1996 farm bill led to drop in corn and soy prices, saving the big food producers billions
  • ’98 price collapse
    • Congress began subsidies for commodity crops to support farmers
    • Half of small/medium farmer income is from subsidies, so if we get rid of them, we need to fix antitrust policies that keep prices low
  • Subsidies are a symptom of a dysfunctional system, not a cause of it

The Present:

  • About 20 food production companies control most of the grocery store brands
  • They need cheap ingredients, so lobby strongly for reducing and maintaining the low price of inputs
  • Big 4 groceries: Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger, Target
  • 1/3 of our grocery money goes to Wal-Mart. They may be making an effort to work with smaller, local producers, but logistically, it’s difficult for any suppliers but the very large ones to work them
  • United Natural Foods, Inc is largest US distributor of organic foods
    • Since corp went public, it has focused mostly on Whole Foods and no longer delivers to small buying clubs and co-ops
    • Possibly colluding w/ Whole Foods to drive consumers there?
  • We need to vote with our forks, but also with our votes: keep elected officials accountable

The Future:

  • Need to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement
    • US would “harmonize” laws with other (less-regulated) countries, like the EU did when the US and the EU made trade agreement, and the EU’s laws were weakened to harmonize w/ the US’s
  • Tyson and Perdue are trying to change the rules: to raise poultry in Asia, and increase speed of slaughter to 200 birds/min
  • Can’t fix food system without fixing our democracy
  • Need to undo Citizens United (Read more about that here: Overturning Citizens United)
  • Need to be citizens, not consumers

Local Food Hub supplied local apples from Crown Orchard to thank guests for coming

Ms. Hauter was an excellent speaker (even with laryngitis); passionate, knowledgeable, and fluent in the topics discussed. If she comes to your area, I highly recommend you see her. I look forward to reading Foodopoly, and will surely post lessons learned from it on this blog.

For more information, visit the sites below:

Food and Water Watch

Food and Water Watch’s page about Foodopoly

Foodopoly site

Buy the book (or better, go to your local bookstore and buy it)

Cheenius in Missoula: The Good Food Store

Special guest post from Cheenius! Thanks, Cheenius!

Good Food Store

Cheenius recently found herself in Missoula, MT and was curious to learn the ways of the Northwestern Locavore.  This rare species, while quite common in cities like Portland, is seldom glimpsed in the wilds of Montana. Luckily, Cheenius got a tip that they might congregate at The Good Food Store; so, armed with a camera and a shopping cart, she went hunting.

Good Food Store bulk bins

Lots of bulk foods!  Cheenius was happy that Montanans are trying to reduce their packaging use.

Good Food Store local eggs

Local eggs, eggcellent.  Well, 78 miles away isn’t exactly local, but it’s better than Iowa.

Organic meat in Missoula

The prices are pretty high, but c’mon!  It’s BUFFALO, how unique is that??  And, you gotta love the “Buffalo Gals” label.  The song connection is probably lost on some of the younger locavores, but still, points for cleverness.

Silent Creations Buffalo Jerky

Speaking of buffalo: Silent Creations Buffalo Jerky, a local company which works with ranchers to ensure the “majestic animals are treated properly throughout their lives, with plenty of room to roam and never subjected to hormones, steroids or antibiotics.”

Larabars in Missoula

Cheenius gets a little scared of new things, so it was nice to see lots of Lara Bar choices (which she first learned about from HP, thanks!).  They’re made in Colorado, so while not exactly local, buying them in Montana felt slightly better than buying them in Virginia.

Good Food Store mission

So, if you find yourself in Missoula, just saddle up and head on over to the good people at The Good Food Store for first-rate locavoring.

Local snack: CCNO Bars

I am embarrassed by, and sorry for the poor quality of this picture:

I walked around my office trying to find some decent lighting for my old iPhone’s camera, to no avail. Fortunately, this blog has a lovely photo of a CCNO Bar.

I needed an afternoon snack, and my favorite workday food shop doesn’t carry my usual quickie bite, Lara Bars. I like Lara Bars because they’re just fruit and nuts smashed together, without chemicals and additives and preservatives like Clif, etc. So I was very happy to find the box of CCNO Bars by the register. They’re along the same lines as Lara Bars, but made locally, and with an extra kick of flavor from cononut oil. They’re vegan, gluten free, and all-natural. And LOCAL. And REAL FOOD. Give them a try, if you can find them!

New neighborhood grocery in Charlottesville: The Farm

Saturday was sunny and warm, a perfect day for HPup and me to walk (yes, walk! hooray!) down to Belmont to check out The Farm, a new grocery promoting local products.

The outside area is cute, with gourds and pumpkins for sale, and a picnic table for lunching. The inside is small but beautiful! I didn’t expect it to have such an upscale feel. I ordered a latte (the coffee is local, from Shenandoah Joe) and had a look around.

Local produce, local bread, local wine and beer! Local tofu, local eggs, local hummus and salsa and pesto! Yay.

They get produce from Horse & Buggy and The Farm at Red Hill, which also supplies salsa, pesto, hummus, and other dips. Tofu from Twin Oaks, breads and pastries from Albemarle Baking Co, and The Farm sells sandwiches. I didn’t try one, but they looked delish, and were cheap!

I plan to frequent The Farm, and hope they’re very successful. Two paws up from HPup!

HP in HK

Greetings from smoggy Hong Kong!

In my wanderings, I stumbled upon ThreeSixty, Hong Kong’s largest organic/natural foods store. I headed straight for the egg section to see the egg choices available to responsible Chinese consumers (and zillions of ex-pats, and many tourists, from the looks of the clientele). The eggs were all free-range, pastured, happy eggs, from Washington State and New Zealand. (Too bad they have to be shipped in from so far away.)

Interesting that the New Zealand eggs are sold in 10-packs!

From ThreeSixty’s site:

We are committed to sustainable consumption. We believe in relationships based on trust, honesty and integrity. We will partner with organisations that share our vision and demonstrate a similar commitment to our planet and its inhabitants.

Prices weren’t bad, and there was a food court upstairs with many different types of cuisines on offer. Cheers to ThreeSixty!