Plovgh is a cooperative of farmers, growers, and ranchers that sell directly to their customers.
As we near the end of March and creep ever slowly towards spring, it can grow weary stocking onions and the last of the hard winter squash. But take note: Farmers across the country are making plans, buying seeds, reviewing field plans and trying to figure out what you, their customer, wants to buy this year. Here, applying insights from our retail members, we’ve identified a few steps to help you plan your purchases for the coming season, forge more effective relationships with the farms that supply you, and provide your customers with the best of the harvest.
1. Determine the priorities for your store’s farm purchasing program.
Are you committed to local purchasing? Organic or other on-farm practices? Purchasing from small farms? Getting fresh, unique products into your store? Price? Determining the focus for your farm purchasing program will help immensely as you identify which farms to work with, and which crops to purchase from those farms.
2. Review your sales data.
- Pull previous years’ monthly sales from your point of sale system
- Enter that data into a monthly breakdown
- Determine your sales goals for this year
- Estimate the quantities of each item you will purchase this year
3. Consult farms’ production plans.
Perhaps local farmers have stopped into the store to alert you to their existence, their radishes, their CSA. It can get overwhelming when your phone is ringing and your pricing and merchandising still isn’t done. Consider all of the key factors you want to know about a product and discuss this with the farms early on so that when the time comes that you’re ready to start setting up orders, you have - in clear and concise terms - what those farms can reasonably supply you with.
At Plovgh, we’re using a similar approach to help streamline this process for farmers and buyers. Run through the things you want to know about a product you would like to stock. How much does it cost? How was it produced? When will it be ready? How long can I get it for? Farms know these details, they’re just not always included on an availability list. We’re working with the farms in our network to organize all of this data in a clear way so that purchasing can be more easily coordinated.
4. Make your wish list.
What on your list of previous years’ purchases or what crops from a farm’s production plan do you want to see in your store? Over the course of the season this fluctuates, but some things we’ve taken note of are that kale, pastured eggs, and heirloom tomatoes are staples with more seasonally specific items like ramps, morels and artichokes also holding up as crowd pleasers. Use this stage to identify any new products you want to introduce your customers to based on trends in the market or requests you’ve gotten from your clientele.
5. Review your purchase plan.
Compile the items you’re interested in purchasing this season and estimate quantities and frequency for your orders. It can be helpful to break this down by season, for instance early/late spring, early/late summer. Also, be sure to touch base with the farmers you are interested in working with this season and verify price ranges, anticipated delivery dates and harvest duration with them.
6. Place purchase requests.
And make them early. By placing your purchase requests in advance of the season you are helping the farmers to gauge a better sense of demand and to plan ahead in these earlier months. You’ll also be in the loop for when the first sugar snap peas of the season are ready for market.
We work with the farms in our network to keep track of how the crop is progressing and send buyers updates on what stage it’s at or if abnormal weather has knocked its anticipated harvest date off course. Building relationships like this with your farmer not only gives you more of an appreciation for the capricious nature of farming but also helps you plan, so you know if you need to find that additional supplier to supplement in the time you wait for that crop.
Why join Plovgh?
To get started as a member, go to Plovgh. And spread the word about Plovgh farms and their harvest! The more people who join in, the more we can do for the farmers who are reinventing food and agriculture in this country.
If you’d like to recruit local farms, businesses, and neighbors to increase direct trade crops available in your area, please drop us a line!
Why join Plovgh?
Bluefish go by many different names including tailor, snapper, baby blues, choppers, and elfs. Their scientific name is pomatomus saltatrix.
Bluefish are a trophy species, that are pursued by anglers because of their reputation as a champion battler and voracious predator. When a Bluefish is hooked, they are known to put up a fight more impressive than some larger species. They are native to both the American and European coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. Along the US coast, Bluefish are highly abundant. In the mid-Atlantic, Bluefish scored a 4 out of 4 in the 2013 Summer Fish Stock Sustainability Index (FSSI), which is a perfect rating and indicates that there is no overfishing. Bluefish have a a mouthful of sharp pointed teeth and tend to eat a variety of small-bodied animals such as copepods, shrimp, small lobsters and crabs, larval fish and larval mollusks. Adult Bluefish are opportunistic feeders, going after schooling species such as menhaden, squid, sand eels, herring, mackerel, and alewives, as well as scup, butterfish, and cunner.
Bluefish are rich and oily, with moist and delicate flesh. They are also high in heart-healthy “good fats.” While they have a more assertive flavor than other fish, when prepared their meat can have a mild, flaky taste.
Despite what their name might elude to, Bluefish are most commonly a sea-green color on top, fading to a silvery shade on their lower sides and belly. Bluefish rarely exceed 20 lbs. and 40 inches in length, and they generally run between 10-15 pounds. The are moderately proportioned fish, and have a broad, forked tail.
Bluefish don’t hold up well when frozen or canned, and the Bluefish coming off the boats of the fishermen that work with Village Fishmonger are the freshest available. Village Fishmonger recommends storing your fish on ice and refrigerating it for the best results. By keeping fish at the coldest temperature possible without freezing, you can help extend its usable life, keeping it firmer and fresher tasting for longer.
Though they are a respected gamefish, most people tend to overlook Bluefish as table fare due to their “fishy” reputation. These fish have strong digestive enzymes that can lead to quick spoilage, so it’s recommended to put them on ice soon after catching. As with most fish, Bluefish are best when fresh and when properly prepared they are delicious.
Olive Oil Poached Bluefish Crostini [Katie O’Donnell of Frankies 570 Spuntino]
Broiled Bluefish with Citrus Dressing [Village Fishmonger]
Bluefish Tacos [Hungry Native]
Smoked Bluefish Rillettes [Six Course Dinner]
Samascott Orchards - Kinderhook, NY
Harvesting date: October - November 2013
There are more than 7,000 varieties of apples that come to harvest at different times over the course of a season.
Apples can be categorized by their harvest schedule which include an early-season crop (mid- to late summer), a mid-season crop (mid-summer to early autumn), and a late-season crop (early to late autumn, and sometimes running into winter). Harvest times may vary a week or more from year to year, depending on when the tree is in bloom and the climate conditions during the growing season. Cloudy, cool conditions or drought conditions also tend to delay fruit maturity.
Late season or winter apples are great for cooking and are also the best keepers. Here are some of the varieties you can find growing at Samascott Orchards this season.
A very old-fashioned American variety that is well known for its winter-hardiness. Good for baking pies, these apples are crunchy and have a thin skin. They’re juicy, crisp and mildly sweet with a rich, aromatic tart flavor.
First introduced in 2006, this variety is savory and sweet, with a slight tartness and rich overtones. When it’s cut it takes a longer than usual time to turn brown which makes them ideal for eating fresh with cheese plates or salads.
Also known as Pinova or Piñata, Sonata apples are a cross between a Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin and a Duchess of Oldenburg. It has a crisp taste that is both sweet and tart.
A small, sweet variety that is similar to a McIntosh. It has bright crimson skin and white flesh. When picked right off the tree, Spartans are very crisp and juicy, but they tend to soften a bit within a week or so of picking. They are a great variety for juicing.
A cross between Northern Spy and Golden Delicious, these apples are tender and have a fine-grained, firm, crisp flesh. Similar to the Northern Spy variety, these apples hold their shape well when cooked making them a good choice for baking.
Apples are still living even after they are picked which means they are using stored nutrients as opposed to those received from the tree prior to harvesting. During storage, they gradually use up their nutrients causing the sugar, starch, and acid content of the apple to change. This is why some apples become mealy. Storage varies depending on the cultivar, but most apples store well at low temperatures (as this slows the respiration rate and preserves good quality) and at high humidity (to keep them from dehydrating & shriveling up). You can find more detailed storage tips here.
Whether you’re baking or making cider, finding the right apple cultivar for the right dish can be a science. Or you could just take the easy route, and check out this list.
When baking…(Some Kitchen Stories)
When grilling…(Serious Eats)
When poaching…(The Hungry Giant)
When sautéing…(Oh My Veggies)
A growing coalition of producers are signing up around the country. If you’re interested in finding out how your farm might participate, get in touch with us and we can let you know about exchanges that are being activated near you.
Acorn Hill Farm - Walker Valley, NY
Adirondack Grazers Cooperative - New York/Vermont
Black Horse Farm - Athens, NY
Campanelli’s Poultry Farm - Kenoza Lake, NY
Catskill Native Nursery - Kerhonkson, NY
Cowbella - Jefferson, NY
Ferndale Farms - Cannon Falls, MN
Fitzgerald Farms - Kerhonkson, NY
Fieldstone Farm - Delhi, NY
Fitkin Popcorn - Cedar Falls, IA
Forest Mushrooms - Saint Joseph, MN
Glebocki Farms - Goshen, NY
Good Fence Farm - Ft. Edward, NY
Greener Pastures (aka Union Square Grassman) - Brooklyn, NY
Hand Picked Farm - Flemington, NJ
Laughing Loon Farm - Northfield, MN
Lucky Dog Farm - Hamden, NY
Neversink Farm - Claryville, NY
Oasis Valley Orchard - Overton, NV
Rexcroft Farms - Athens, NY
Rusty Plough Farm - Ellenville, NY
Samascott Orchards - Kinderhook, NY
Seeds Farm - Northfield, MN
Slope Farms - East Meredith, NY
Slow Roots Farm - Kingston, NY
Sprout Creek Farm - Poughkeepsie, NY
Stoney Brook Farms - Foley, MN
Ah, the food system. It’s a mess, huh? Seems like farms, trucking companies, commodity brokers, even retailers that get to gargantuan scale really muck things up for everyone else. That’s why we’re excited to bring small businesses like Matthew Clancy’s into the Plovgh network. Have a look at this local transporter who got your crops into your neighborhood this week.
Transporter’s name: Matthew J. Clancy, Clancy’s Transportation Solutions
Homebase: Rotterdam Junction, New York
Years in operation: We are a newly formed business.
What do you drive? 2010 Chevrolet Express van.
What do you do? We offer the best solution to people and businesses that need something moved across town or across country. We provide our clients with a low cost alternative to the big name companies (emphasis added) with the care only a family owned small business can offer!
Why did you start this business? What’s unique or compelling about how you operate? I started this business to find a more fulfilling way to provide for my family’s quality of life. After years of working for the State of New York as a manager, the time spent away from my wife and children coupled with the fact that I felt uninspired by my work led me to leave it behind in order to focus on making Clancy’s Transportation Solutions (CTS) a success. CTS is a family owned and operated small business aimed at helping our local community and beyond. We are focused on providing custom transportation solutions to our clients that result in the highest levels of customer satisfaction.
Welcome, Matthew! The maiden voyage was a success and we look forward to many more.
We’d like to extend a hearty welcome to Mark, who drives his first Plovgh route today, connecting farms’ harvest with New York City. We met Mark through Slow Food NYC and we’re excited to fuel the movement of harvest from source to city.
Transporter’s name: Mark Jaffe, The Fresh Connection
Homebase: New York City
Years in operation: 1
What do you do? The Fresh Connection is an NYC-based company that provides transportation and logistics services for food producers who are independent, artisanal, and environmentally and economically sustainable.
Why did you start this business? What’s unique or compelling about how you operate? Through talking to people and through my own previous experience in the local and sustainable food world I saw that the groundwork has been laid in New York City for a strong local food system with many small- to mid-size farmers producing high quality product and customers eager to receive these goods. There are also many groups and individuals working to build networks for the local food system. However, these networks often do not fully address the needs and challenges of actually transporting product from Point A to Point B (emphasis added). I started The Fresh Connection with the aim of creating an efficient model for product delivery in and around NYC and providing the local food system with an affordable transportation and delivery service.
The Fresh Connection is unique in that we combine practical knowledge of the food distribution industry and the logistics surrounding it with an ideological belief that we must create a food system that supports independent producers whose products are environmentally and economically sustainable, with an emphasis on locally produced goods. We offer a flexible model and are not looking to simply replicate the traditional distributor model but to help in creating a new distribution system that addresses the needs of a local and sustainable food system.
Say hello to Mark when you see him along his route. This kind of collaboration is the beginning of the change we want to see. To get your farm on one of the Plovgh routes, or to order from the farms on Plovgh, get in touch here!