Vendor in the Spotlight: Scratch Meats - by Katrina Emery

Vendor in the Spotlight: Scratch Meats – by Katrina Emery

July 6, 2016 |  by  |  Blog, Vendor Profiles  |  No Comments

Jeff Garritano is passionate about sausages. So passionate, in fact, that he gave up his job teaching middle school science and algebra to throw himself into making sausages full-time.“It’s a family thing,” he tells me, citing his heritage and the family Italian sausage recipe as the first hints of passion.

After a stint working in the meat department at a national food chain, Jeff started making his own sausage for friends. He was still teaching then, and as his customers grew to a longer and longer email list, he figured he’d try selling at some markets during his summers off. That first summer, three years ago, he did two markets–one of which was Montavilla. “I was more tired at the end of the summer than the beginning,” he laughs, adding, “That’s not how you want to start a school year.” That marked a decision for him: teach or make sausage. He couldn’t keep doing both. As he entered the school year in the fall he gave notice that it would be his last year. The following summer he expanded to five markets, then to seven this year.

Along with his partner Sabrina, Jeff once lived in Italy and Switzerland, where a lot of his recipe’s flavor profiles come from. Hoping to expand his repertoire, the two of them recently took off on a month-long trip to Eastern Europe for sausage research. The inspiration was plentiful. “Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, they all use spices like cumin and coriander, and add offal and rice to the sausages,” he says, which aren’t found in his classic recipes. In Budapest, Hungary, they tried a Lamb Merguez sausage from North Africa, with Hungarian paprika in the mix. His version of that dish is now on the menu, sitting amongst a variety of flavors like Chicken Spinach Feta, Chorizo, Cheeseburger, Bratwurst, and a pork braising sausage.

All the sausages are made fresh from raw cuts of meat and local ingredients. After processing, they’re vacuum-sealed and quickly frozen, ensuring complete freshness. That freshness is the differentiating factor between them and other market sausages, which are cured, smoked, or otherwise pre-cooked. As we chat, the market opens up and people begin to file past. Jeff pivots to the first few browsers, switching gears to shout out, “Best sausage in the world, can’t pass it up!” He creates seasonal specials every week: the sample he’s passing out this week is Blueberry Breakfast, their maple breakfast brat with added fresh blueberries. The Cherry Brat (available for a few more weeks) showcases cherries from the market’s own Baird Family Orchards, two tents down.

To cook, Jeff advises going slow, with low, indirect heat. On a grill, place the charcoals on the opposite side of the meat. To steam, splash some water in the pan and cover, keeping the heat low and steady.

Abundant Fields Farm: Naturally Grown vs. Organic - by Alexa Bell

Abundant Fields Farm: Naturally Grown vs. Organic – by Alexa Bell

June 28, 2016 |  by  |  Blog, News, Vendor Profiles  |  No Comments

In Orient, Oregon, east of Portland and just outside Gresham, is situated a small farm known as Abundant Fields. Run by Rick Reddaway and his family, the farm produces a variety of vegetables to be sold at Montavilla Farmers Market. Upon approaching the cash register at the Abundant Fields tent, customers may notice the sign hung in plain view informing customers that all the produce sold at Abundant Fields is “Certified Naturally Grown.” But what does it actually mean to be certified Naturally Grown? And how does it compare to its more commonly-known alternative, organic certification?

“Certified Naturally Grown” (CNG) is not a label a farm can simply slap on without anything to back it up. There are qualifications that must be met, much like the USDA’s more commonly-known organic program. These guidelines are very similar to the USDA guidelines for organic farms. Certified Naturally Grown farms such as Abundant Fields cannot use any synthetic pesticides or herbicides on their crops. Furthermore, they must utilize sustainable farming practices that conserve both soil and water. Rick fertilizes his crops with compost approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), and utilizes drip irrigation as a watering technique in order to minimize water waste as much as possible.

Despite the major similarities, there are a couple key differences between being Naturally Grown and Certified Organic. For one, Naturally Grown certification is more forgiving of farms that cannot use organic seed one hundred percent of the time. CNG farms are simply expected to follow certification guidelines for growing non-organic seeds. The Naturally Grown certification program also utilizes a greater variety of sources for their yearly inspection – while certified organic farms are only inspected by USDA employees, Certified Naturally Grown farms can be inspected either by fellow CNG farmers, or by customers themselves. Rick has always chosen to have Abundant Fields inspected by other CNG farmers.

In essence, the Certified Naturally Grown program was created as a direct alternative to organic certification for the sake of farms that generally utilize organic methods, but for whom official USDA sanctioning is too impractical and costly. This should not be mistaken to mean that Rick is any less devoted to sustainable practices, however. According to Rick, it “simply makes sense” to grow his crops in the most sustainable and environmentally conscious way possible, regardless of certifications or labels. Despite the unfortunate reality that he must sometimes order regular seeds over organic seeds, he makes a point of ordering organic seed whenever possible, and never purchasing GMO seeds. Furthermore, he hopes to upgrade Abundant Fields’ certification to Certified Organic eventually – the farm’s current certification is a stepping stone to this goal.

The importance of the Certified Naturally Grown program as a cheaper alternative to USDA organic certification cannot be underestimated in light of the fact that many market patrons today expect organic practices from vendors. According to Rick, one of the main reasons he decided to obtain Naturally Grown certification is because he was continuously being asked by customers whether or not his produce was organic. The official endorsement that Naturally-Grown certification provides helps keep the farm competitive and thriving, while also keeping operational costs manageable.

Ultimately, the differences between the USDA organic program and CNG are fairly small. For relatively new farms such as Abundant Fields, the CNG program provides an official guarantee of organic practices that is more practical and affordable than the USDA organic label. However, the USDA Organic label likely has more credence in the eyes of the public, so Rick and other farmers like him strive to develop their farms to the point that USDA Organic certification is a possibility. If we as consumers wish to support Rick and other CNG farms in their efforts to provide the Portland area with the most organic and sustainably-grown produce they can, then we must do our part to keep farms like Abundant Fields operating and growing by purchasing their goods whenever possible and encouraging others to do the same.

Visit the Abundant Fields website at www.AbundantFieldsFarm.com

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Pictures thanks to MFM volunteers, Lisa Sikorski and D.L.Reamer.