Farm Truck offers mobile access to local food and art

If there’s one characteristic indispensable to anyone in the food business, it’s patience. Eliot Coven and Kris Pepper, owners of the food truck/mobile art gallery Farm Truck, know that all too well. The duo is often up into the early hours of the morning prepping locally sourced ingredients, like herb-roasted tomatoes for their Artichoke Pesto Mozzarella Sandwich and jalapeno cream cheese to pair with a fresh-baked LeBus bagel. The hours clocked are well worth it as their menu of homemade soups, sandwiches and salads boast a delicious sampling of what’s in season.

Coven and Pepper, both Philadelphia University graduates, are equally thoughtful about their truck’s carbon footprint. Their food is served in recyclable or biodegradable food containers, and a recycling bin travels with the truck. During the warmer months, expect their sustainability initiatives to go one step further — the truck will become a mobile farmers market, selling the same produce from Common Market and Weavers Way Co-op that Coven and Pepper use in their dishes. But that’s not all. In addition to being a kitchen for their own creations, the truck, which was painted by artist Gabe Felice, is also a gallery for local artists. Grid caught up with the chefs on Farm Truck’s one-month anniversary to see how their patience has paid off. To keep tabs on where the truck will be parked, check out Farm Truck’s Facebook and Twitter (@Farm_Truck).

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West Philly Local: An emporium of locally made gifts

story by Courtney Sexton | photo by Albert YeeNeighborhood pride is alive and well in West Philadelphia thanks to VIX Emporium. Their “West Philly is the best Philly” logo, designed by local tattoo artist Justin Turkus, has developed a following, appearing on sweatshirts, t-shirts, notebooks and even aprons. The West Philly logo products are just one example of the unique, handmade items sold at VIX, which was opened five years ago by husband-wife team Sean and Emily Dorn.   
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Basket Case: Local food products' longstanding champion

story by Courtney Sexton | photo by Albert YeeWhen you think of local food, fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat probably come to mind first. But what about the family-run, small scale packaged food businesses that call Philadelphia home? For 25 years, The Pennsylvania General Store at the Reading Terminal Market has been the one-stop shop for buying these regional treats.
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Salad Solution: Local grocery grows lettuces, tomatoes

Chris Williams, head grower at BrightFarms' Yardley greenhouse, shows off a tomato start from the farm's first planting. | Image via BrightFarmsAnyone who has bought a bag of spring mix only to discover half the leaves wilted and slimy, knows first-hand the problems grocers face when trying to provide fresh produce to customers during the dead of winter.

Mark Eckhouse, vice president of the local supermarket chain McCaffrey’s Market, describes the seemingly convoluted process of purchasing lettuce—chasing growing seasons from region to region, often thousands of miles away, so that the produce can be shipped cross country—with a hint of frustration.

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Vegging In: What I learned from my roommate’s quest to eat sustainably

Story by Colleen Davis Illustration by Adrienne Langer AFTER DECADES OF BEING A PRETTY RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN, I felt I’d traveled about as far as I could on the path to eating and living sustainably. Others around me were more zealous, but they were yoga teachers and gardeners whose extreme eating habits grew from their career choices. I never felt compelled to join them in becoming a vegan or buying a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. It looked like too much work.

Then I met Nick, a young California lawyer, who rented a room in my house when he moved to Philly. Along with a small number of boxes, he brought a surfboard, a bicycle and a staunch commitment to eating in a way that helped the environment. A few months after arriving, Nick bought a guitar and an organic CSA share.

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Denim Dreams: Local merchant and denim maker partner for exclusive, Philly-made jeans line

Art in the Age—creaters of Pennsylvania-inspired spirits like Root, Snap and Rhuby—have launched yet another local collaboration. This time they've teamed up with Norman Porter, a Fishtown-based denim and leather goods maker, for a special exhibit and limited edition denim series.

The exhibit, on display at Art in the Age, features the Norman Porter denim and leather crafting process, and includes examples of their attention to detail denim finishings. Their two mascots—a buffalo head and taxidermied bobcat—are also on display.

Like all Norman Porter jeans, the limited edition line is made from 100 percent cotton, raw denim that hasn't been treated. All detailing and rivets are done by hand. The jeans retail for $200 in-store, or $250 on the Norman Porter website. 

Sorry ladies, they're only making men's jeans for now, but rumor has it they're branching out into women's styles soon. In the meantime, check out their leather wallets and totes made from recclaimed U.S. Postal Service parcel bags.

Check out the exhibit at Art in the Age, on display until November 30th. Age in the Age, 116 N. 3rd St., Hours: T.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 12-6 p.m., artintheage.comNorman Porter, 2628 Martha St. (by appointment),

Photos by Danni Sinisi

A Steady Glaze: Arresting art from a ceramic education center

story by Jaclyn HardgroveFounded in 1974 by five artists who needed workspace, The Clay Studio opened with the goal of providing affordable equipment and a shared space for recent art school graduates. Soon though, the founders shifted their mission to focus on education and community outreach. By 1979, the Clay Studio had evolved into a nonprofit educational institution.
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Paper Chase: Art torn from the pages of yesterday's books

story by Liz PachecoTwo years ago, Liddy Russo challenged herself to craft gifts for friends and family without buying new materials. Her solution: Make paper ornaments from old book pages. The spherical origami was so well-received that she started a business, Made by Liddy, and began selling the pieces. “I think it’s really important to use what’s around us instead of having to go out and purchase stuff… [and] I really enjoy working with my hands,” says Russo, who is also a freelance graphic designer.
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Bird Calling: Salvage homes for our fine-feathered friends

story by Jaclyn Hardgrove“The first time we tried to sell our [bird]houses in public, the customers knew more about birdhouses than we did,” admits Matthew Borgen, co-founder of Recycled Rowhouse. Borgen and his partner Monica Giacomucci started cobbling birdhouses from found wood as gifts for friends and family. But after that initial attempt to sell them, Borgen—a professional artist and gallery technician—decided to take the projects more seriously, visiting the library to learn about local birds. The result is functional birdhouses with a unique aesthetic.
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Ring Leaders: Bario-Neal creates a new gold standard

story by Liz Pacheco | photos by Alyssa Robb

When college friends Anna Bario and Page Neal reconnected at a wedding a few years ago, the pair discovered they shared an interest in creating sustainable jewelry. At the time, each had an independent jewelry label, but in 2007, decided to forgo those to launch a collaborative line, Bario-Neal, which features handmade pieces crafted from reclaimed metals and ethically-sourced gems.

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Storybook Ending: A couple's romance with the past yields timeless pieces

story by Molly O'Neill | portrait by Chris Crisman AT PEG AND AWL, stories bring products to life. Every découpaged candleholder, leather book necklace and sturdy wooden caddy proudly reveals the source of its reclaimed materials. A chalkboard tablet is reborn from oak bleachers of the century-old Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Pa., and finished with a leather pencil loop that first served as a World War II gun holster. A scrap of leather from the drawer of an 1835 summer kitchen finds new purpose as a journal cover, sheltering hand-sewn, archival-quality pages.

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Merchants of Cool: Grid's 2012 Holiday Gift Guide

Finding that special holiday gift that won’t be tossed aside with the wrapping paper can be a challenge. So, here’s our advice: Buy gifts that are totally cool. What does that mean exactly? Consider these criteria before opening your billfold:  1 Is the gift homemade? 2 Is the design thoughtful? 3 Are the materials salvaged or sustainable? 4 Is the item useful? 5 Is it made right here in Philadelphia? We’ve featured a handful of local businesses we think score really high in the cool department. All the products—the jewelry, candy, birdhouses, ceramic goods and housewares—possess quality and style, just like you. And that’s what cool is all about.

The issue will be on stands this week, but for a peak inside check out the full gift guide in the digital edition, available here.

@ Reading Terminal: On-site cheese making

Grid’s illustrious neighbor, the Reading Terminal Market, has some exciting new occupants. The New Jersey-based Valley Shepherd Creamery, due to open in November, will truck in milk three times a week, allowing customers to witness their cheese-making process firsthand.

Already open are the Tubby Olive, which sells olive oils and vinegars on tap, and the Head Nut, a coffee roaster from the Main Line that also offers bulk goods, including dry beans, nuts and candy, so bring your refillable containers!

For more information, visit

Power Surge: Philly energy consumers can now buy green and local

story by Samantha Wittchen"Buy local” has long been the rallying cry of the food movement. Now the renewable energy movement has adopted the slogan to encourage residents and businesses to buy their electricity from in-state sources. And with good reason—the wind industry alone has a big impact on Pennsylvania’s economy. In 2010, it directly and indirectly supported 3,000 to 4,000 jobs, and wind project owners pay $1.3 billion in annual property taxes and more than $2.2 million in land lease payments.
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Farm to Front Door: LFFC to begin offering home delivery

Image via

Ever roll out of bed, shuffle to your kitchen ready to prepare a mouth-watering breakfast of freshly laid eggs, straight-from-the-farm herbs, and produce that still has the morning's dew on it only to recall that you live miles away from rolling pastures? It’s a crushing wake-up call. But Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op (LFFC) is working to lessen the blow. The cooperative network of more than 75 Lancaster County family farms has partnered with Doorstep Dairy and Lancaster Farm Fresh Organics Trucking to deliver goods straight to the residents of Philly, Lancaster, Morgantown, Reading and the Mainline.

Expanding delivery from just wholesale markets, LFFC is now offering an at-home delivery option for its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. In exchange for a single fee, customers will receive weekly vegetable, fruit, flower and/or community-supported medicine shares right to their doorstep. There are spring and summer share options, each offering great seasonal organic produce for May through October.

Not ready to commit to a share? Order products like almond butter, eggs or grass-fed beef from the online store and get a little bit closer to local farms without ever leaving home.

To see the LFFC delivery range, check out their interactive map

Gift Guide: Sweet

Gift Guide - Sweet

#1 - Betty's Tasty Buttons - Betty’s Speakeasy offers their Tasty Buttons in a variety of seasonal flavors, including white chocolate eggnog and dark chocolate with cranberries and orange zest. Crafted using local cream and local goats’ milk, the bite-sized pieces of fudge are packaged in locally-made boxes.

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Buy Local: Young Garlic

Garlic is one of nature’s most wondrous miracles. I have never had a dish that I deemed “too garlicky”—I like it spicy (raw), sweet (roasted; I go through whole heads at a time) and anywhere in between. When most Americans picture garlic, they see the mature bulbs—taut little bundles of awesome, each individual clove gift-wrapped in its translucent shell—but spring offers the chance to enjoy baby garlic, toddler garlic and wily teen garlic.
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