Penn Chefs Tour Local Farms and Markets

By Tatianna Losk, Marketing Manager and Valerie McHugh, Executive Chef
Bon Appétit at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has been steadily increasing its purchases from local farmers ever since taking over the Penn account in 2009. But the busy chefs don’t always have the opportunity to venture outside of their kitchens and visit the producers. To provide chefs with a unique farmers’ perspective, as well as inspiration to purchase locally, Hill House Executive Chef Valerie McHugh (right) has begun taking members of the Penn team on visits to local farms during school breaks.
Just before the start of the school year, Valerie and a group of chefs and managers visited a local produce auction market in Leola, PA. Fifth-generation farmers stood shoulder to shoulder with brand new farmers to sell their crops to wholesale buyers. Buyers came from as near as the local grocery store to as far away as New England.

After the auction market, the team headed to Cedar Meadow Farm, also in Lancaster County, to meet a third-generation farmer who grows sweet corn, pumpkins, and 26 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. While discussing the characteristics of the different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, the farmer explained how the hand-grafting he does for each tomato plant increases disease resistance.Penn_high_tunnel_at_Cedar_Meadow_Farm For Spring Break, the team visited Basciani Mushroom Farmsin Kennett Square, PA, just over 50 miles from the Penn campus. Known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World,” Kennett Square produces more than a million pounds of mushrooms per year. Basciani farm is a fourth-generation, family owned operation. They grow, pack, and ship many, many pounds of mushrooms per week, from white mushrooms to exotics. On the tour, the family personally guided the Bon Appétiters through the mushroom houses, showed them the different stages of mushroom growth, and open up their packing facility as well.The Bon Appétit staff loved seeing firsthand where all the incredible ingredients they get to cook with actually come from.

Above left: Cedar Meadow Farm’s high tunnel for growing in the colder months