Monday, March 5, 2012

Farmhouse ---> Your House

The word comes across the family wire pretty quickly in the Heights. Whether it's crime, a school fundraiser, or a speed trap on Yale, Heights families seem to know about it moments after it happens. By the time I started to hear non- mommy rumblings of the new Farmhouse Delivery, Heights Kids Group already had a thread about it for a week. This had gotten me thinking about whether this was a good option for my family, especially because I am typically skeptical about all things Austin based. "What do they want with Houston? Will they respect our own local food folks? Will this effect our local businesses?" I wondered. As I contemplated these questions, I was lucky enough to actually get connected with Farmhouse's co-founder, Elizabeth Winslow. 

Wanting to know, I asked Elizabeth how the expansion to Houston came about. The official, press-release oriented line is this:
In 2012, Farmhouse Delivery co-founders Elizabeth Winslow and Stephanie Scherzer became inspired by the burgeoning local food movement in Houston, and made the decision to expand east.  “There are so many growers in the Houston area that we are excited to work with—innovative farmers using sustainable methods to farm intensively and producing gorgeous, abundant produce, “says Scherzer.  Winslow, too is excited about the eastward expansion, “As an East Texas native, Houston has always been one of my favorite food cities.  My connections in this community run deep, and I can’t wait to bring both incredible ingredients and inspiration to Houston homes.  
This was an ok answer, sure. I mean, Houston is indeed a fertile market for anything food related. We do love our whole farm-to-table thing and this sounds great for a press release, but it wasn't enough. I knew there was bound to be just a little but more. She had to know something else besides the fact that we have a local foods movement. And it came out: there are selfish reasons Elizabeth and her partner, Stephanie Scherzer, decided to expand here. "We selfishly wanted access to Slow Dough Bread, Words & Food pimiento cheese and cheese from The Houston Dairymaids," she told me. She said she is also looking forward to "all the other great Houston food artisans we have yet to discover." There will be many! For this skeptic, this demonstrated some knowledge of what was actually going on, versus just a "we can sell stuff there" mentality.

I told her I would love to check it out, knowing I could share the goodies (or maybe not-so-goodies) with you guys. Let's just say, I loved what I saw. Elizabeth dropped a big, gray crate on my door step. That was Win #1. I didn't have to go anywhere. Win #2 came when I opened the crate.

A big bunch of green bursted out of the crate. I was bowled over, in a great way, by the smell of earth and onions. Kale, spinach, lettuce, and green onions. As I dug down, I also unearthed a container of brussel sprouts, a family favorite. Just looking at them made me drool, thinking of the bacon they would soon be pan roasted with.

Tucked in with the greens were another of my family's favorite foods: Eggs! Not only eggs, but farm eggs that come in colors that make kids stare at them as if they had just uncovered a pirate's chest. My fear is that they actually won't want to crack them!

I dug deeper and the colors just kept on coming. I found red, yellow, white, and orange. Rhubarb! I haven't seen real, fresh rhubarb in ages. Where I grew up in western Massachusetts, it grew like weeds behind the apartment house I lived in. Kids used to pick it, dip it's bitter ends in sugar and suck on it. It was nothing unusual to see a bunch of kids sitting on the curb on a summer day, sucking the ends of rhubarb. Turnips, a favorite of my mother. A giant yam. Oranges and limes.

So, I loved the produce I recieved. The eggs were an awesome bonus. In the bottom of the crate was paper shred (eco conscious) and a reused frozen water bottle to keep the contents fresh for a couple hours. It didn't need a couple hours in my case, though. I put it all in the sink and got it washed up. I had a couple hours before the kids were home and decided I would make short order of that yam. I am not a yam eater but they're easy to cook and the kids love them. 

Basically, I scrubbed it clean, sliced it in to big chunks, covered it with olive oil, salt & pepper, and put it in the oven set to 400. It took about 35 minutes to soften enough to stick a fork through, which means a yam is done. The smell through the house made it hard for me to believe I wasn't going to be eating it. Even if I did like yams, this one was going in my younger son's lunch the next day. I put the cooked chunks in the fridge and the next morning delivered them to school with him. 

Aren't sure you'll know how to cook each bushel's produce? With every delivery, you'll get an email with at least one recipe for the crate's contents.
I was pretty sold on the ease of delivery and impressed with the quality of the food. I was still left wondering, though, why the Heights? What about our own local folks and was our neighborhood being targeted for the right reasons?

Elizabeth had no problem answering those questions for me. "Morgan Weber [of Revival Market] is a good friend of ours.  I met him when I wrote an article about his heritage pig farm for Edible Austin--I loved hearing about his plans for the market, and he really inspired me with stories about the growing locavore movement in Houston."  Weber is unofficial ambassador for our local foods folks, so this was a good enough reason to be open to Farmhouse's concept. Would they compete with Revival, I wondered?  Probably not, considering Revival Market serves as a drop/pick-up point for those who are outside of the delivery area or who prefer pick up for another reason.  And not only is Revival a pick up point, they'll soon be a part of the offerings. Farmhouse will be "offering Revival Market sausages, bacon, and handmade condiments to Farmhouse Delivery customers in both Houston and Austin." 

Elizabeth appealed to my Heights-centricity, adding "Also, The Heights is one of our favorite neighborhoods--we love the architecture, the wide grassy boulevard on Heights Blvd, the community vibe and endless restaurant and retail discoveries." Indeed!
You can find out a lot more about Farmhouse Delivery on their website or their Facebook page, but here is the nuts and bolts:

There are 2 membership options:
Weekly- $37, with a one time $20 set up fee
Bi-weekly- $39 with a one time $20 set up fee

If you're a residence, you'll get your crate on Saturdays. If you're a business, you'll get your deliveries on Wednesday.

If you're a Heights Life reader, you can also get $10 off your 1st delivery with promo code

Currently, Farmhouse is sourcing from their favorite Houston based companies [Houston Dairymaids, Words & Food Pimiento Cheese, Slow Dough Bread] 
as well as the following farms:
Wateroak Farm-- Bryan, TX
Sand Creek Farm-- Cameron, TX
Fruitfull Hill-- Smithville, TX
Comanche Oaks-- La Grange, TX

Gunderman Acres-- Wharton County, TX

Hatfield Farms-- Navasota, TX

Home Sweet Farm-- Brenham, TX

A sink full, plus more


  1. Make new friends but keep the old... please don't forget about Houston's Central City Coop!

  2. The issue with the co-op for me is their hours. Their very limited hours of operation never seem to fit my schedule. For me, delivery makes a difference.

  3. I like the fact they offer a bi-weekly option for smaller households. I've tried some other farm delivery services but we can't eat up everything they bring us in the space of a week.

    1. I agree about the bi-weekly option. That's what we're subscribing to, even though we have a household of 4 people. My kids are small and the oldest one is very picky, so we don't plow through the veggies. Every other week will be perfect.

      I do want to add: it's been almost a week and I haven't eaten the whole bushel yet. The brussel sprouts and some of the left over greens are still in great shape- much better off then they would have been if they had been store bought.

  4. I'm in. I had been wanting to try a CSA for awhie, but had been overwhelmed on where to start. This article connected me to the Farmhouse site & helpled me see how simple this could be. Plus the option for bi-weekly is the right fit for our family. Just opened a membership and can't wait to get started.