The Piedmont Virginian's Blog

Serving and Celebrating America's Historic Heart

Category: Local Products (page 2 of 59)

Meat We Know: Available at Croftburn Market

By Meghan Scalea

IMGP2166It’s no secret that over the years the American public has grown increasingly interested – even skeptical – about knowing exactly where their meat comes from. So it made sense in 2011 for a young man from a Culpeper farming family to help guide his community to meat they could feel good about eating.

Several years ago, Andrew Campbell was fresh off the slopes of Colorado’s ski resorts when he returned to his family’s Croftburn Farm with a vision to help his neighbors in their quest to eat locally raised food. He had seen people lined up at the weekly farmers markets to buy naturally raised meats and knew there had to be a way to make these products available more than once a week.

Campbell opened Croftburn Market as a retail location in 2011 to sell locally raised meats direct to customers Monday through Friday. The Market, located just off route 29 on Braggs Corner Road, was chosen for its proximity to other retail outlets and those traveling to central Virginia from Washington, DC.

“A lot of downtown Culpeper is built on people coming in to visit and in for dinner and overnight, getting away from their lives in northern Virginia just as a little close vacation. That spills over to the retail side – people coming down once a week to their vacation house, or once a month they send me an email and pick up a freezer full of stuff to be filled up for a bit,” explains Campbell.

But opening a store that sells only meat seemed too limited in an age where people are used to one-stop shopping at big box stores. He stocked the Market with cheese, wines and beers, and limited local produce – the staples that complement a meat-based menu. All the elements are there to prepare a gourmet dinner or summer picnic.

Inside, a large glass display showcases beautiful cuts of red meat and sausages, and upright freezers are packed with products from local farmers and USDA cuts. Campbell and the staff behind the counter serve as meat ambassadors, helping customers fumble through questions about how much meat to buy, which cut best suits a recipe they’ve chosen, and how to prepare it.

“Meat can be intimidating,” Campbell acknowledges. “We try to create a pretty hospitable atmosphere that isn’t pretentious, and you can ask questions without feeling silly.”

baby lambsThe bulk of his business is pork, poultry and beef, although they also sell rabbit, goat and other novelty type meats. Campbell sources from farmers within three to four surrounding counties where he knows exactly how the animals are being raised.

“We are giving people a better product than what you can find elsewhere, and that varies product to product. For example, the local beef is not certified organic, but it’s local, so it’s coming from a place X miles from here. The animals aren’t being fed antibiotics or growth hormones like you’re finding in U.S. feedlots out west. Being exclusively organic is very, very difficult, so we tend to go for products that simply aren’t fed with additives and are as natural as possible, which means it’s not fed and finished in the normal commercial way.”

IMGP2196-001.PEFDozens of varieties of sausage, for example, are cured in-house at Croftburn Market. They aren’t loaded with preservatives and cooked, which means it doesn’t keep as long as grocery store sausage, but the quality is better. Customers tell Campbell they like knowing it was made right there, and that’s what keeps them coming back.

The same goes for the local beef he sells. “You can see this wasn’t a steak cut a week ago and hit with gas so it will stay cherry red. People are interested in where things come from, and that’s why they come to see us.”

While the store sells some products from his family’s farm, Campbell also stocks products from more than half a dozen other local farms. He understands how little time farmers have to market their own products or attend farmers markets. He wants Croftburn Market to serve as a point of sale for the full-time farmers who have a great product but need help sharing it with others. His inventory is balanced to cater to a broad spectrum of customers ranging from those who only want locally raised grass-fed meats to those who simply want a great cut at an affordable price.

Some people still can’t fathom leaving the grocery store meat department behind to explore a privately owned butcher shop. Campbell advises first-time customers to come in and start small. “Buy a steak or ground beef we make fresh every morning before you commit to half a beef. I’m always encouraging people to cook different products side by side and see if you can taste the difference between our dry aged products and the wet aged beef you get at the grocery store. Part of the fun is finding something that works for your tastebuds.”

His no-pressure approach to meat education is something that sets customers at ease. “Meat is an investment, and you don’t want to mess that up. I try to be cognizant of whether someone wants to be told what to do and how to do it. Other customers want to do it their way, which is fine, too. We are here to help.”

Croftburn Market is located at 16178 Rogers Rd, Culpeper.  www.croftburnmarket.com.

Edible Fest in Orange this weekend…and more!

efest2015_1

By Meghan Scalea

The Orange Downtown Alliance presents its fourth annual Edible Fest on August 8th in a celebration of food and those who produce it. The day-long event features cooking demonstrations, local food vendors, kids’ activities, and artisans producing kitchen- and meal-friendly products.

Back by popular demand, but with an expanded roster, the festival features cooking demonstrations by ten guest chefs from favorite kitchens across Virginia. Audiences get close-ups of knife skills and preparation techniques with the help of overhead cameras and large flat-screen TVs projecting each chef’s handiwork. Guest chefs include those from the acclaimed Ivy Inn, Clifton Inn, the Inn at Willow Grove, and more.

New for this year is a do-it-yourself tent where attendees can talk one-on-one with experts on topics like beekeeping, growing food and preparing it, raising chickens, and other culinary topics.

The festival was designed to be more than just a place to buy cool food, according to Jeff Curtis, Executive Director of Orange Downtown Alliance. “We’re taking it to the next level with the food message. You’re talking to the people who are raising the beef or growing the vegetables. Then you’ve got the chefs telling you how to prepare the product. We complement that with the food court where you can get some food and listen to music. Then you can look at nice accessories to buy for your kitchen or dining table. So we’ve covered all aspects of finding the source, how to prepare and present it.”

Curtis notes that more attendees are traveling from Richmond and northern Virginia to learn about where their food comes from. “We’re seeing a greater appreciation from those areas of the state,” he says. “Now folks are finding their farmers’ markets — they’re buying their food and learning how to prepare it from these farmers and vendors. That’s what the spirit of the festival is all about.”

Edible Fest is August 8 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., rain or shine. Admission for adults is $7. Children 12 and under are free. Learn more at www.ediblefest.com.


And Elsewhere in the Piedmont

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Growing Food and Community

By Andrea Chandler

Back in the 19th century and even into the early 20th, before mechanization made it possible for one person to harvest an entire field of corn in solitary splendor, heavy farm labor was often a social affair. The community was built at dances and potluck suppers held in conjunction with corn shucking,  making syrup from maple sap and sorghum crops,  shearing the sheep, and an assortment of other farm events that were relatively time-sensitive and needed to be done quickly. These days the tradition persists on small farms like mine, where the tiny size means mechanization isn’t an efficient option. It also offers a chance for people who possibly can’t afford to pay cash for premium heritage foods to barter their labor instead, benefiting the farmer, the livestock, and the families who come to help out.

I’m lucky to have good friends who are willing to barter their labor in this fashion. They show up to help dig over garden beds, clean the goat barn, move hay, trim hooves, harvest small livestock, and soon they’ll get to show up to help with the shearing. In return, I’m able to offer them products of the farm: meats, vegetables, fleeces, feathers, hides. They are a hard-working group of dedicated helpers, essential to my ability to be productive, but also beloved friends.

Young rabbits in the grow out pen

Young rabbits in the grow out pen

 

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A Generation of Sourdough Bread

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I would tell a lie if I told you I eat a lot of bread. I actually eat very little bread. However, when I have it, and when I make it, I devour it in a heartbeat. You could say that bread is my weakness when it’s available. But it must be fresh, hot out of the oven bread.

It’s only natural that my very first job was working in a little Mennonite store in Remington, Virginia. I’ve always said that my cooking and baking skills came from that stage in life rather than from my mother or grandmother. I never got many opportunities to cook “with” my mom or grandma, or maybe I simply wasn’t interested in it at the time. But as I have grown and now have a family of my own, I often think of cooking and baking with grandma now. The sad fact is that I now cook and bake for her, instead of with her. Slow down, time….you’re taking the people we love away from us much too quickly.

A few years ago a friend of my mothers sent me a sourdough starter through the mail. I was terrified that the white powdery substance would be inspected as some chemical war of terror, but it made it safely to my mailbox in just a few short days — from North Carolina to good ol’ Virginia.

Sourdough was a brand new thing to me. I loved eating sourdough, but I never understood the complex science behind it. I’m a fermenting queen now, but back then? No way.

The history of sourdough is simple. People needed an option to preserve and make something on a regular basis. Fermentation was one of the very first ways of preserving food for our ancestors. Yes, it came long before canning.

But with something so simple, I failed. I failed miserably the first time. I even had to ask for more suspicious white powdery mailed substance so that I could start all over again — and then I failed again. Eventually I gave up because I didn’t have the time for this complex science. Recently, however, I discovered it’s not science at all, but an art.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

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When you say the name, you think one of two things — the 1991 movie, or the southern food staple. I can’t say I remember much of the movie, but I can assure you, I remember the taste of that bitterly sweet and fried goodness on a muggy Summer night. Front porches and sweet tea have never been complimented so well — and you’re not a true Piedmont food enthusiast if you’ve never eaten fried green tomatoes.

So many of our Piedmont restaurants offer this appetizing treat, but it’s the season of tomatoes, and as we do well here in the Piedmont, we like to make things ourselves when the opportunity arises. Most of our local Farmer’s Markets now offer hard green tomatoes for frying. So, even if you don’t have a garden of your own, there’s still hope for you.

There’s been an ongoing debate for the past few decades as to where fried green tomatoes actually originated. Is it even a southern food at all? Some believe that the method came from the Northeast with Jewish immigrants. While others believe that it was always a preferred way to use up unripened tomatoes before the autumn frosts hit, all across the United States.

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