A monthly Farm to Table Market series started in 2015 has been bringing residents to the lobby of the Sherwood Oaks retirement community in Cranberry Township, Pa. from May to early November each year. The event gives residents and staff the opportunity to conveniently purchase, sample and learn about healthy and local foods from Registered Dietitian Anna Bohland and Executive Chef Fred Buchanan, both of management company Cura Hospitality, which operates dining at Sherwood Oaks. Cura is a unit of Elior North America.
Buchanan was the inspiration for the market series, as he had altered his lifestyle by eating only real, fresh and local foods following a health challenge.
The produce sold at the events come from vendor Paragon Foods and include crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, Chambersburg peaches, zucchini, yellow squash, apples, hydroponic lettuce and a power blend of greens such as kale and red and green cabbage.
“We will break down the power blend of greens into separate smaller individual packets so we can sell to the residents inexpensively,” explains Beverly Puglia, general manager for Cura at Sherwood. Specific requests are also taken for less popular crops and anything left over is sure to be used.
“Chef Fred always has a plan never to waste any of the produce left over and will add it to the menu in the café and dining room,” Puglia says. Excess product can wind up in strawberry rhubarb pie, apple strudel and other baked goods. Homemade rhubarb jam, dark beer sauerkraut and applesauce are packaged in mason jars and also sold at the markets as are homemade smoothies crafted by Bohland, who also provides nutritionals on the healthy and delicious beverages.
A food cart complements the farmers market by offering a selection of locally baked artisan breads from Breadworks, gluten- and dairy-free breads from Gluutney Bakery and homemade zucchini and banana breads from Buchanan.
A highlight of the event is the live cooking demonstration put on by Buchanan, in which he prepares an entrée and dessert made from local produce sold at the market. Residents and staff can sample the dishes and learn how to replicate some of the menu items in their homes.
In the last farmers market of the 2016 season, Buchanan sautéed butternut squash pasta with a pine nut, local honey and sage sauce; sautéed fennel with caramelized shallots and candied bacon; and prepared a flaky cheese and cherry pastry in a waffle iron.
The market events are promoted through a weekly newsletter issued to residents, flyers posted on the community bulletin board, an announcement on the community website and through a slide notice on Touch Town, a digital TV communication broadcast to the residents’ homes and apartments.
While the intention of the monthly events is not to make a profit but to offer an opportunity to make fresh food purchases in a safe, convenient setting while socializing and learning about healthier foods, the markets do tend to increase weekly café sales by about $300.