Thursday, April 30, 2009

Homegrown Happy Valley is Moving!

Hi everyone,

Homegrown Happy Valley is official.

We’ve been busy making changes, figuring out the best way to stay in touch with you.

The latest:
We’ll use some of those photos—and give you the credit, of course—for our blog posts.

Please help us spread the word. Join in and keep it local.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Buy local, save the world!

Spring has finally arrived in State College. (And so has summer, apparently.) Grass is greening, flowers are blooming, and everyone is sneezing. My own long awaited milestone: sandal day. This record day usually begins with a fresh coat of toenail polish and ends with a new pair of sandals. It’s my favorite time of year!

This year Appalachian Outdoors  is helping me shop with a purpose. From now until May 5th, you can trade a pair of gently used shoes for a 20 percent discount on a new pair of Chaco footwear. Appalachian Outdoors in partnership with Soles4Souls will distribute the donated shoes to those in need. Since 2004 Soles4Souls has donated more than 4 million pairs of shoes worldwide.

As I head off to search for a used pair of shoes (or five), I’m reminded why I support this great local store. Join me by cleaning out your own closet and finding something to donate.

Buy local, save the world!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Every morning when my kids eat breakfast, we watch an amazing show outside our window. Squirrels fly from tree limbs, flowers sway in the breeze, and birds dart back and forth, working harder than a employee on an assembly line. It's more interesting than anything I've seen on TV and I don't have to fight Comcast to watch it. 
Earth and all it encompasses is free. Hopefully, we celebrate it every day, whether by watching the show out our window or appreciating our surroundings on a walk to work, but today we observe it as a holiday.
A few days ago the Sustainable Agriculture Club in conjunction with the Center for Sustainability (both at PSU) started the celebration a bit early by opening an Organic Community Garden for its inaugural season. The folks who run the community garden, located by Beaver Stadium off of Porter Road, tell Homegrown that they filled it just one week after releasing the application. (Could it be the Michelle Obama effect?) For a $30 membership fee, the 98 members--a mix of students, PSU faculty and staff members, and community members--get a 10X15 ft plot, as well as tools and discounts on organic gardening workshops. 
On Earth Day or any day, the garden is a reminder that the tastiest, healthiest food comes straight from Centre County soil. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Local gets national love

The May issue of Country Living magazine echoes what we already knew: Tait Farm carries the best locally made products in the region.

A one-page spread asks Liz Thorpe of the famed Murray's Cheese in NYC to recommend some artisanal cheddars handcrafted in America. Among her picks is Goot Essa's Mountain Valley Sharp Cheddar, aged for at least three years. And Tait Farm Foods is listed as the source.  

Goot Essa (German for "good food" or "good eating") is a group of Amish dairy farmers in Howard, Pennsylvania who have been turning their milk into high-quality cheese since 2001. While the rest of the country orders online, we'll turn down 322 for this block of creamy goodness. 

The remnants of my own purchase, which I paired with some dried figs for today's afternoon snack, can currently be found on a Spiderman napkin on my desk. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

5 Questions for the Co-owner of Spela

5 Questions for Regina Brannen, co-owner of Spela Children's Store and Cafe, which opened a few months ago:

1.) Name one product you can't find at Target.

PeaceLoveMom T-shirts. The company advertises to moms who don't have pregnant bellies. The most popular tee says "Happy Mom."

2.) What's your hottest selling item?

Resa Design birthday tees (the tiny tees feature a groovy applique of a number, which corresponds with the tot's age).

3.) How many kids comprise the Spela clan?

We have 6 right now; in August we'll have 7.

4.) Spela features an enclosed play area, where parents can watch their kids while drinking coffee, perusing magazines, or taking advantage of your wireless hookup. Is Spela the new Starbucks for the locally minded stroller set?

Yes, absolutely. I can't tell you how many times people say, "we met here because it was cold, I hope that's ok." That's totally ok, that's what we want. Bring your playgroup; bring your music class. On Fridays through April we have a story time at 10:30. On Fridays in May we're having a toddler movement class.

5.)  Both you and your co-owner are State College natives and you feature locally made items. How do you hope Spela will impact the community?

This month we're starting classes so moms can attend a workshop while their kids play. And we support community groups associated with children. We try to choose an item every month and donate a portion of the proceeds to a local charity.

Check out

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dunkin' Donuts Invasion

Does downtown really need another Dunkin' Donuts? Here are 5 local alternatives for breakfast food:

* The Cheese Shoppe and Webster's: I dare you to find better beans. If you can't afford coffee out, just walk by the Cheese Shoppe and inhale--you're guaranteed to feel better. At Webster's, pair a cup of the Three Eyed Buddha with a vanilla scone and prepare for culinary zen.

* The Diner: If you really want to OD on empty carbs rolled in sugar, pick up a package of Stickies. Bonus points if you grill them in butter.

* Waffle Shop: You gotta love a restaurant that serves up two pancakes as a side dish.

* Irving's: The egg sandwich on an energy bagel is the cheapest and healthiest way to feed a toddler--or cure a hangover.

* The farmer's market. Coming soon--although you'd never know it by the snow falling in Happy Valley--it's like a picnic prepared by your favorite farmers. Honey scones, whoopie pies, homemade doughnuts--all served with the satisfaction that comes from supporting your community.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Local trumps organic

I'm a careful food shopper. I scrutinize labels and stickers, hunting for clues about where a product comes from and how it was made. I once stood in front of a pile of avocados for ten minutes, trying to choose between the conventional fruit from Mexico and the bruised organic version from California--and wishing my husband's grandmother would just send more from her tree in Santa Maria. I probably put more thought into those avocados than the car my husband and I purchased a few years ago.
Buying local is an altogether different experience. When I pick up my CSA share from Tait, I don't stress about pesticides or pathogens. I don't need a label to tell me anything about the beets, kale, and potatoes in my basket because I know the farmers who grew them. I see them twice a month. They entertain my 4-year-old while I'm picking up my produce; they hold my baby while I load the bags into the car. Imagine having that kind of relationship with the farmer who grew the avocado in Mexico? And while the employees at Wegmans smile at my baby, they can't vouch for the food I'm putting in her mouth.
I feel more fortunate than ever for the options in my backyard. When the word "salmonella" appears in the New York Times food section as often as "organic," the only label that really matters to me is "local."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Welcome Homegrown

Like many ideas, this one grew from personal experience.
When I moved to State College two years ago, I set out to find the businesses that would turn this community into a place I could call home. I chose a coffee shop that doubled as my new and used book supplier. I met a farmer, joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and turned my husband into a kale eater. And I found a baker whose cupcakes and chocolate mousse cake are more than worth the drive to her house. My quest for quality took me to independent, locally owned businesses from Bellefonte to Boalsburg and Millheim to Port Matilda. 
Now, along with a few other community-minded women, I'm trying to turn my passion for all things local into something bigger. Our goal: to promote local businesses and entrepreneurs. To safeguard the character and charm of this community, while maintaining a strong local economy and encouraging the growth of local business. 
How will we do that? To be honest, we're still working out the details. But we envision events and initiatives that increase awareness for consumers, elementary school students, and parents. Imagine a monthly Eat Local Night in which all area restaurants feature menus with local ingredients. Or a fundraiser at one of the region's amazing farms in which a local chef cooks a candlelight dinner prepared from ingredients plucked from Centre County soil.
In the meantime, we're launching this blog to build some momentum. Click back here for updates on our initiative, as well as articles on businesses and products in our own backyard.