Farm to Table Pittsburgh

Mark and I spent Friday at the Farm to Table Pittsburgh conference. Though we found that we were familiar with most, if not all, of the ideas and vendors presented there, we were very happy to support the conference with our tickets in hopes that each year it will continue to grow and get larger. 

We went to two different presentations in the morning. First, we saw Nigel Tudor from Weatherbury Farm (where we get our beef) talk about the benefits of grass-fed beef. Though we already eat only grass-fed beef and know and appreciate its benefits, I learned a few new things.

The mother cows will give birth to calves in mid-May, and that is the time of year when their nutrition requirements are at their peak. Perhaps not coincidentally, mid-May is also the peak time of the pasture growth. Whatever pasture the cows cannot keep up with is mechanically grazed at the farm and stored for winter. The cows on the farm are rotationally grazed so as not to over-graze certain parts and to allow the pasture itself to thrive, including all of the cows’ favorite types of grass.

The average American eats around 66.5 pounds of beef per year. If someone switched to grass-fed beef only, and made no other dietary changes, within that year he/she would see a savings of 17,733 calories, or about 6 pounds a year.

Did you know that cows can self-medicate? They know which types of grass to eat when they have specific ailments, like an upset stomach(s). That’s why having a variety of grasses in the pasture is important and monocultures don’t work. Pastures with a high level of organic matter are also less prone to flooding, since organic matter holds 8 times its weight in water.

The second presentation was on fermented foods by Scott Grzybek of Zukay Live Foods. I’ve been interested in fermentation since I first had kombucha, and I attended a class at Mother Earth News Fair last year on making your own. The presentation we saw Friday focused mostly on the basics of fermenting and the benefits of good bacteria. The more raw foods I consume, the better my digestive health, so I didn’t need any convincing. 

Probably the best thing we learned was that you can’t use city water to start your ferments because of its chlorine content, which kills off bacteria. Mark realized it was probably why his sourdough starter wasn’t really going anywhere, so we’re excited to try it again with spring water. 

I realized that I’ve been holding back on trying a few new things, like making my own sauerkraut and brewing kombucha at home, because I was afraid to mess up. If anything, this Farm to Table conference gave me the confidence to just go for it and try it. What have I got to lose?

In my link roundup on Friday, I will post links to some of the great businesses we found at the conference and also share a recipe we picked up.