grassfed beef harmony hill farm

Here’s why grassfed beef is worth the money

Plus tips on how to cook it up — it’s different from grainfed beef

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

All our family farmers are transparent about the way they farm. They do it the old fashioned way: slow and natural.

harmony hill farm grassfed beef

That’s how Earl, his wife Robin, and son Jesse raise their animals (cows, pigs, chickens, and more) at Harmony Hill Farm in Scottsville, Va. We talked about it with Earl, and we’ve got the whole conversation below, plus info how to cook grassfed beef without ruining it!

The motto of Earl and his family is: “Farming in harmony with nature.” It’s not the cheapest way to farm. But here’s why it’s worth paying a little extra money to benefit from what they have to offer.

grassfed beef

Before the days of industrial corporate farming, the typical American family spent 30% of their income on food… about the same as what they spent (and still spend) on housing.

Nowadays, thanks to industrial agriculture, most Americans spend less than 10% of their family budget on food. But it’s true what they say: You get what you pay for. Treating plants and animals like widgets on an assembly line has made them cheaper in every sense of the word. Today’s food has fewer nutrients, less natural flavor, and more unhealthy stuff like pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and bad fats.

To minimize cost while maximizing profit, industrial agriculture harvests produce before it’s ripe from soil full of chemicals, then ships it long distances. Industrial ag crams animals into confined spaces, stuffing them with unnatural feeds, antibiotics, and hormones to fatten them fast during their short, often miserable lives. The result is food that’s much less nutritious and flavorful than what your grandparents ate, and worse for the environment.

To get the food our bodies were meant to eat, you have to turn back the clock to the old ways of doing things. You have to take your time and grow your produce in soil that’s naturally rich and fertile, not chemically enhanced. And you have to leave your produce there until it has absorbed all the nutrients and flavor it was meant to absorb from the earth and the sun.

You have to raise your animals the way nature intended — out in the pastures and woodlands and sunshine, eating what they were meant to eat. For cows, that means grass. Grassfed beef contains more healthy things like vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and cancer-fighting fats.

Yes, it costs more to make food this way. But better health is worth it. The better flavor that comes with it is icing on the cake.

As a farmer, it’s not easy to go the unconventional all-natural route. The American industrial food system is designed to support conventional farmers. We asked Earl about it.

harmony hill farm


How long have you been farming?


We’ve been farming full-time here in Fluvanna County for two and a half years. Before that I was a landscape contractor for 30 years in Hanover County. We’d gotten a few cows and hens and broilers, raising them on the side as hobby. But our hearts became more involved with that than the landscaping. So we left the landscaping business, found a farm, and moved up here and started farming full-time.


That’s a big change! Any regrets?


None so far. We moved away from our family and friends, so we don’t have that everyday interaction anymore. We thought it would be more of an emotional strain. But it really hasn’t been. It was time for a new season in our life and where the Lord was leading. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t been difficult or we haven’t had our struggles. But any new venture you’re always going to have those things.

The other day I was talking with Sam (Seasonal Roots’ Farmer Connector) about mindset and emotional things. You’ve got to turn a profit and make a living and support your family. But for us it wasn’t all about the money. It was about a lifestyle change and the direction we wanted to head.

harmony hill farm grassfed beef


How’d you pick up the hobby and then turn it into a second career? Do you come from a farming family?


We’re first-generation full-time farmers. My grandfather always did it on the side. But he never did it full-time. We were the first to do it as a career. Some new farmers do their research early and get started really young. But financially it can be really hard. Getting in when we did later in life, we had a monetary base we could fall back on because of the landscaping business.


Why did you get into all-natural farming? Was that your grandfather’s influence?


No, my grandfather’s methods were more conventional. We call our type farming unconventional because we’re out of the mainstream, unlike industrial farming. My wife was the driving force. Robin started the research to learn about healthy food and healthy eating, where we bought our foods from and how it was raised. She wanted our family to have healthier food. As we started doing it on the side for ourselves, we thought we might be able to make a go of this.

harmony hill farm


Healthier eating motivates a lot of us. What else motivated you?


Our faith — our belief that things are created a certain way, and they need to be allowed to perform in a manner in which they were created. Cows were created to be herbivores and eat grass, not meat byproducts and grain. Our society has changed that, wanting to get away from how something was designed to live, and that’s how we cause a lot of our problems. No animal was designed to live in an industrial situation, crammed in together.


So how did you learn how to farm unconventionally, as you call it?


Our learning has been schooling with folks who have been in our type of farming. We were reading Wendell Berry and Greg Judy. We’ve been to classes with Polyface Farms, falling back on their wisdom and experience. And of course trial and error — you learn by doing.

grassfed beef


What’s been the biggest challenge of becoming an all-natural farmer?


That hardest part is that here in America, because of the industrial, commercial way that we do things, the food is so cheap. Our food is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. That’s hard to overcome. The food we grow is more expensive because our animals are so much more healthy and better for you. It’s more work and takes longer to grow a quality product.

But still, it has to turn a profit. So it’s been hard because that’s the biggest thing you hear: “Why is your meat so much more expensive?” We have to do a lot of educating. It’s better for you and tastes better. We do what we can to be transparent. We invite folks to come out and see how we do it. Our customers visit our farm and they can see our animals out on pasture or in the woods. With a local family farmer like us, you know where your food comes from. You’ve got no clue when you pick something up from one of the big box stores.


So what kind of response do you get?


Usually folks, if they want to eat healthier, once they get it, they’re sold for life. And those folks are everywhere. You’ve just got to be able to find them. That’s where Seasonal Roots fits in — you help us connect with those families who want to eat healthier food.


We’ve mentioned already why grassfed meat is healthier for people. Is eating grass healthier for cows, too?


Grassfed is so much better. Because our herd is out on pasture, like nature intended, they stay healthier. They don’t get sick as often as they would crammed into a crowded, dirty feedlot eating grain. And their ruminant stomach can’t digest grain, so if you feed them grain, well then they need antibiotics. The meat we provide has no antibiotics and no GMOs.


Grassfed vs grass finished

Not only is the beef from Harmony Hill Farm grassfed — it’s grass finished, too. Many farmers who claim to be grassfed actually switch their cows to grain at the end to fatten them up faster. The cows of Harmony Hill eat grass their whole lives.

grassfed beef grass finished beef

There’s more on that, plus the environmental benefits of grassfed on Harmony Hill Farm’s website.

Their site is full of great information, including their favorite books on these subjects, so be sure to check it out. You can also visit them on Facebook.

How to cook grassfed beef

To get the full benefit of lean, healthy, grassfed beef, you have to cook it right. Fortunately, it’s easy to cook right. You just have to know how. So don’t let anyone tell you grassfed beef is tougher than grainfed.

The biggest culprit is overcooking. Grassfed is made for rare to medium-rare cooking. If you prefer beef well-done, first sear it over high heat to seal in the juices, then cook it at very low temps in a sauce to add moisture, like in our beef bourguignon recipe. The reason: grassfed is high in protein and extremely low in fat.

However you like your beef, be sure to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before you cook it, so it’s closer to room temperature. Like your muscles, it’s more relaxed (and tender) when it’s warmer. As it warms, it also releases moisture that you can pat dry ahead of time. That prevents the meat from steaming itself into a gray lump instead of searing nice and brown. Rub it with extra virgin olive oil, salt it, and if you like, coat it with your favorite dry rub seasoning.

For grassfed steaks cooked indoors:
1. Preheat your broiler to 450 and place a heavy, oven-proof skillet in the oven to preheat along with it.
2. When the skillet is sizzling hot, turn a burner on high, grab an oven mitt and move the hot skillet from the oven to the burner. Turn the fan over your stovetop on high and place the steaks in the skillet. They will smoke like crazy! But be strong and let them sear for a minute, then flip them to sear on the other side for another minute.
3. Put the skillet back in the oven. One-inch steaks will take 4-6 minutes to hit medium rare (120-130 degrees inside). Since it will continue to cook even after it’s removed from the heat, take it off when the internal temp is still 10 degrees below the target temperature. Using tongs (not a fork — don’t poke holes for the juices to escape), place the steaks on a cutting board and loosely tent them under foil for 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat while it finishes cooking, making for juicier steak.

More tips for grassfed cooking, plus recipes, are on our Pinterest beef page.


Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

wreath welcome dominion harvest

Welcome, Oberweis Dairy customers!

Everything you need to know to get started

By the Veggie Fairy Team

Seasonal Roots is Virginia’s oldest and biggest home-delivered farmers market, specializing in locally sourced, sustainably grown produce. When Oberweis Dairy asked us to help make sure you can enjoy the convenience of the freshest, best-tasting, healthiest home-delivered dairy, we said sure!

Seasonal Roots members order a weekly home-delivered produce basket, and can add on Extras like pastured eggs, grassfed meats, and artisan fare. To help you out, we’re now making it possible for you to also add on your favorite Oberweis items.

So for all our new Oberweis customers who join and become Seasonal Roots members, here’s a step-by-step introduction to your new community of fresh local food lovers:

When to place your order

You can place your order all weekend long. Your online farmers market is open from Friday at 2pm until Sunday at 11:59pm. We’ll send you an email on Friday to remind you that the market is open. During that time you can browse and shop all you want. When the market’s not open, you can take an offline tour of the ordering process by clicking here.

How to order your basket

When you sign in while the market is open, you’ll see that each order is fully customizable. It starts with a basket of fresh local produce that you can swap items in and out of. Then in the Extras section you can choose to buy bakery items, meats, artisan goods, more produce, and Oberweis dairy products.

First, the basket. There are three basket sizes to choose from:

basket assortments prices

Whichever basket you choose, it will come pre-filled with a selection of produce. You’re free to change that — just swap out items to get exactly what you want.

How to order Extras

Browse the tabs in the Extras section and add to your order whatever items strike your fancy. You can change your order as often as you like until the market closes on Sunday at 11:59pm. If you do make changes, only your most recent save will be processed, so you can disregard the email confirmations you’ll receive for the earlier saves.

Need to skip a week or more? You can schedule skips anytime before the market closes, up to 12 weeks in advance. If you don’t skip or customize, the default order that was in the Friday email will be processed when the market closes.

The money stuff

Here’s what you need to know, in no particular order:

  • After each weekend that you order, your credit card will be charged on Monday morning.
  • We don’t charge a bottle deposit. We just ask that you return your bottles so Oberweis can sanitize and reuse them.
  • Seasonal Roots has a small annual membership fee of $50 the first year, and $35 every year after that.
  • Delivery

    If you live in Northern Virginia, Wednesday will be your delivery day. If you live anywhere from Richmond to Virginia Beach, Thursday will be your delivery day. If you’re unsure about your delivery day, drop us an email.

    On your delivery day, your box of local food will be delivered to your doorstep — hand-delivered by a neighborhood Market Manager who lives near you. She or he will send you an email reminder the night before that will give you a delivery window of just a couple hours so you’ll know when to expect it. Your Market Manager is there to help, so feel free to send an email if you ever have any questions or concerns.

    On delivery day, you’ll also receive a “Field Notes” email from Sam, your Farmer Connector – he’ll update you on the harvest. Sometimes Mother Nature has plans for our crops that we can’t foresee. If something foils the harvest of a basket item, we’ll substitute the closest item we can find – for example, yellow squash instead of zucchini. If it’s an Extra item that you ordered, we’ll credit it to your account.

    By the way, we check and double check each item before it reaches you, but if something falls through the cracks, like a bruised apple or a missing item, we want to know! It’s easy to report an issue — visit our FAQs and scroll down to “Quality Control” for instructions.

    Each week on delivery day, please leave out a cooler, along with an ice pack if you have one. That way your fresh local food will stay fresh and safe from hungry critters.

    Next to your cooler, please leave out your empty Seasonal Roots delivery box and glass milk bottles from the week before to help us reduce our carbon footprint. Your Market Manager will whisk it all away so it can be reused. That will save energy and, in the case of the boxes, trees!

    Last but not least: Enjoy!

    Once you receive your order, all you have to do is enjoy it! If you ever find yourself with more fresh local produce than you can eat right away, here’s how you can preserve the nutrients and flavor until you’re ready to use it.

    To get to know us better, please visit our Web site where we’ve got FAQs, the story of how we got started, and more. We also hope you’ll join us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest for recipes!


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ home-delivered farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

    rooted delights vegan mac and cheese

    This local food beats food allergies 5 ways

    No gluten. No tree nuts. No soy. No dairy. No eggs. Pure comfort.

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    Food allergies are on the rise. Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. That includes 5.9 million children under the age of 18. That’s 1 in 13 kids, or just about two in every classroom. And 30 percent or so of those kids are allergic to more than one food.

    Others don’t suffer from a full blown allergy, but just feel better when they don’t eat gluten, soy, tree nuts, dairy, or eggs. Still, just because you or someone you love can’t eat those things, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a yummy comfort food like macaroni and cheese…

    rooted delights vegan cheese

    …or even an entire wheel of cheese! Not when Rooted Delights is handcrafting artisanal, plant-based cheese using ingredients you can pronounce.

    Rooted Delights is one of the new locally prepared foods we’re welcoming into our home-delivered farmers market this year — part of our goal of making it easy for you to eat the healthiest food available: local food!

    rooted delights vegan allergen-free local food

    Rooted Delights was co-founded in 2016 in Alexandria, Va., by Janay, a fellow sufferer of food intolerances… until she realized that, lo and behold, she felt so much better when she cut things like gluten, dairy, and soy out of her diet.

    We veggie fairies were curious about Janay’s journey from food sufferer to food artisan. We also love, love, love her cheddarliscious vegan cheese and mac and cheese. And so, as usual, we just had to her a bunch of our usual nosy questions.

    Veggie Fairy:

    For you veganism was the cure, right? How did you discover that?


    My vegan journey started with meatless Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. During that short period, I noticed amazing changes in weight loss, fewer cravings, improved sleeping habits, and overall more energy. I was convinced that my new diet was a positive lifestyle change that could easily and permanently be done.

    Veggie Fairy:

    What made you jump from cooking vegan food for yourself to cooking for others?


    I couldn’t wait to share my experience with others and provide plant-based alternatives to help with transitioning! I was determined to create vegan comfort food for my loved ones to enjoy without compromising its taste. While doing research, I found that a high percentage of people have allergies to soy, gluten, and tree nuts. I knew then that I had to be particular with the foods I decided to use and buy so everyone could enjoy it. My co-founder Alexander and I started out with a vegan food truck/catering venture, and I just fell in love with how our food made others feel — that feel-good feeling we all crave. I quickly realized the need for more plant-based cheese alternatives.

    Veggie Fairy:

    So you graduated from the food truck to creating artisanal cheese. What was the hardest part of getting the cheese business off the ground?


    The hardest part was finding a cheese type to start the Rooted Delights product line. At the time, I was making different vegan cheeses at home as a hobby.

    rooted delights vegan allergen-free local food

    Veggie Fairy:

    How did you learn to make vegan allergen-free cheese?


    Lots of trial and error, haha! It took almost a year to get it right. I tried many different ingredients and quantities. But I kept at it because I believe plant-based foods have the ability to be flavorful and make you feel good. As I experimented with those different vegan cheeses, that’s when the cheddar-style cheese was born! I figured a cheddar-style taste has so much diversity and can be used in so many dishes, which in my opinion, makes it a perfect transitioning cheese.

    Veggie Fairy:

    What do you love most about making artisanal food?


    I’m so excited that Rooted Delights can provide delicious meals for all! I love that one by one, we are changing people’s perspective of what plant-based food tastes like.

    Veggie Fairy:

    What makes Rooted Delights different from other vegan food makers?


    For me, veganism is a movement based on love and positivity. So Rooted Delights is about more than just food making — we are a feeling! We want to provide our customers with the same great feeling as non-vegan foods, but with a plant-based product. That’s how we give our customers something to enjoy with their nachos, burgers, pastas, and mac and cheese… pretty much all the amazing foods we thought we had to give up!

    rooted delights allergen-free mac and cheese

    Veggie Fairy:

    Well, we’re super excited to welcome you and Alexander and Rooted Delights to our home-delivered farmers market! Is there anything else you want to tell our members about Rooted Delights?


    Yes, one last thing! Rooted Delights is also part of a group called ‘Less Media More Social”. We visit different cities and we provide four-course vegan cuisines, poetry, and great vibes. We also take away our guests’ phones for a small session of the night. Yes, we take their phones. We do give them back! But in the process, we all educate and learn. We are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Seasonal Roots and look forward to sharing more cuisines and cheeses in the near future.


    Learn more about Rooted Delights on their website and on Facebook.


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

    Birdies Pimento Cheese healthy eating

    Healthy eating starts with local pimento cheese. Seriously!

    With pimento cheese, even picky eaters eat their veggies

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    Pimento cheese may have been invented in New York, but it became a southern staple long ago. South of the Mason-Dixon, everybody’s got a favorite — a cherished family recipe, a potluck tradition, a beloved deli.

    Now, it’s true that dairy products do provide lots of nutritional value. And pimento cheese is gluten free! But admit it: With all that cheddar and mayo, you eat pimento cheese for the fabulous creamy comfort it provides, not to achieve excrutiatingly correct nutrition.

    Which is what makes Virginia-made Birdie’s Pimento Cheese such a great secret weapon for getting picky eaters to eat their veggies. You can transform veggies into pimento cheese delivery vehicles by dipping it up with sticks of raw carrots or celery, wrapping it in collard greens, and adding it to tomato sandwiches. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s addictively delicious, and on a busy day it’s a lot better for you and your family than fast-food take-out.

    birdies pimento cheese healthy eating

    We’ve got some how-to’s on that at the end of this post. Because figuring out how to eat healthy meals even when you’re pressed for time can be a real challenge.

    Bad news about kids’ restaurant meals

    It’s especially hard to find convenient kids’ meals that are also healthy. Ninety-seven percent of the children’s restaurant meals studied by the Center for Science in the Public Interest did not meet expert nutrition standards for children’s meals. Even at home, less than one-fourth of family dinners include a full serving of vegetables, according to a recent survey by Birds Eye.

    Good news about convenient home-cooked meals

    Yes, they CAN be convenient! That’s why we’re including prepared foods like Birdie’s Pimento Cheese alongside the vegetables and fruits in our home-delivered farmers market — to equip you with the tasty tools you need to eat healthy, even when you’re in a hurry or faced with a picky eater.

    birdies pimento cheese healthy eating

    Birdie’s story

    Birdie’s is our fave because it’s locally made, its ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible, and we’ve got it in five — count ’em FIVE — fun flavors: Classic, Cream Cheese & Black Pepper, Garlic Parmesan, Smoked Gouda with Roasted Red Pepper, and Jalapeno.

    Birdie’s is co-owned by Robin and Glenn, affectionately known as Birdie and Bubba. Robin grew up in North Carolina, and there was always some pimento cheese in the fridge. Since it was easier to eat a spoonful of pimento cheese than to make a sandwich, she chose it for her go-to after school snack. She didn’t think much about it, other than sneaking a few bites between playing outside and maybe doing some homework. (Let that be a lesson to all you parents out there — always stash those celery sticks next to the tub of pimento cheese to encourage sneaky kiddos to use veggies instead of spoons!)

    birdies pimento cheese picky eaters

    So Robin grew up, got married, and she and Glenn ran their own printing business. When Robin’s niece got pregnant, everybody in the family was picking out their grandma name or family nickname.

    “I think my niece thought I was going to feel left out and she pondered what to call me,” Robin recalls. “You have to be careful letting others nickname you, you could end up as Fruit Loops. So I jumped in with an offer: With a bird as my first name, I thought how about Birdie!”

    After that, Robin was once asked if her pimento cheese recipe was hers or her Aunt Birdie’s. She said, “I’m Aunt Birdie!” It was only in July of 2014, as Robin was about to turn 50, that she saw an opportunity to make and sell her own pimento cheese. “My great niece thinks it’s very fine that she’s the catalyst for the name of our pimento cheese. She’s a super fan!”

    It happened like this. A revitalization grant brought a farmers market to the Allen’s home of South Hill, Virginia. Eventually, Glenn caught the market bug and figured he’d try his hand at growing and selling cabbages.

    “He planted about 24 cabbages in our little garden,” Robin remembers. “As the cabbages started to grow, like good little cabbages do, our hound dog, Day-z, would nip the tender heads right off. Glenn was beside himself. Every afternoon, there was another dead cabbage in the driveway. I suggested I could make pimento cheese.”

    So Robin and Glenn came up with a plan to sell three flavors of pimento cheese at the market — just for one day, just to see what it was like.

    birdies pimento cheese farmers market

    Turns out, they loved everything about it. The town of South Hill cleared the way for Robin and Glenn to get their pimento cheese inspected and their business established, and after that first day — making new friends over pimento cheese, feeling the thrill of the sale, and selling out all 30 tubs of cheese they had in stock — Robin and Glenn launched the next phase of their lives together. They sold the printing business and started making pimento cheese full-time.

    birdies pimento cheese farmers market

    Why we love pimento cheese

    Robin, a.k.a. Birdie, explains what she loves about it all:
    “When I would take my pimento cheese to people’s parties, people would say, ‘Oh, well, I put a little onion in mine,’ and that’s when I realized that people are really doing things with it. That’s why we have five flavors. Familiar and exotic at the same time, we’re wildly curious about this Southern tradition. Store-brand pimento cheese has become blander, a please-all attempt that has just left it flavorless. People will taste ours and then they start talking about their aunt’s recipe or the way their mom would make it. That’s one of the beautiful things we’ve experienced with having this business — we get to share everybody’s memories.”

    We veggie fairies love that about it, too… almost as much as we just love eating it. It’s so fresh! You’ll find Birdie’s Pimento Cheese in the market’s Extras section.

    birdies pimento cheese healthy eating

    How to cook with pimento cheese

    Watch Robin demonstrate how to make chicken breasts and collards stuffed with Birdie’s Pimento Cheese. To max out the flavor and nutrients, use the healthiest possible ingredients: local pasture-raised chicken and bacon and local sustainably grown collards. They’re available in our home-delivered farmers market. Serve it up with a salad of veggies and/or fruits and you’ve got a complete meal full of fresh nutrition, especially if you double up on the collards.

    Watch Robin demo how to make grilled pimento cheese and tomato sandwiches. Be sure to use fresh local tomatoes and fresh-baked local bread. She’s also got other suggestions like sandwiching the pimento cheese between cucumber slices.

    Visit Birdie’s Pimento Cheese on Facebook or on her website.


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

    my empanada busy family meals

    Empanadas make busy family meals easy

    And eating together is so good for families!

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    All you local food lovers have been telling us that you love local veggies AND locally prepared foods, too — because prepared foods make eating fresh and local so easy. So we’re kicking off 2019 by expanding our home-delivered farmers market with prepared foods from local food artisans like My Empanada in Henrico, Va.

    My Empanada busy family meals

    It’s easy to build a healthy meal around fresh-made prepared foods. That’s really important because our hurry-scurry schedules are cutting into busy family meal times. Sixty years ago, families spent 90 minutes eating dinner together. Now they give it only 12 minutes! And those precious dozen minutes together are happening less frequently — compared to 20 years ago, families eat together 30% less often.

    With our busy lives, it seems like you have to make a conscious decision to carve out time for a meal together. But it’s totally worth the effort. Meal times are often the only time when everyone’s in the same room at the same time doing the same thing. It’s a time for catching each other up on your day and growing closer as a family.

    According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, kids and teens who share family dinners three or more times per week:
    1. Are less likely to be overweight
    2. Are more likely to eat healthy food
    3. Perform better academically
    4. Are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (drugs, alcohol, sexual activity)
    5. Have better relationships with their parents

    Eating together is just as beneficial for couples, too!

    My Empanada bake at home

    So knowing all that, we veggie fairies have discovered that My Empanadas’ frozen ready-to-bake empanadas are perfect for busy family meals. An empanada is a type of pastry that’s baked or fried in many countries of the Americas and in Spain. The name comes from the Spanish verb meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

    My Empanada Juan & Claudia

    At My Empanada, Juan and his wife Claudia make the crusts by hand and source the fillings from local farmers when available. Stuffed with beef, chicken, or veggies, empanadas are a painless way to get healthy nutrients into picky eaters.

    My Empanada picky eaters

    Eat them as a snack on the run…

    My Empanada easy snacks

    …or make them the centerpiece of a meal. To build an easy home-baked meal around them, apply an egg wash to the frozen empanadas and pop them in the oven for 25 minutes. While they’re baking, toss together a salad or roasted veggies for sides, and viola! You’ve got a delicious, nutritious meal you can gather around to enjoy together, even during a crazy-busy day.

    These family meal favorites come from a family business. We talked with Claudia, who trained for two years in the baking program at culinary school in North Carolina. She now owns and runs My Empanada with Juan.

    My Empanada Claudia


    So why did you and Juan decide to focus your food artisan skills on empanadas?


    My husband Juan and I were born and raised in Colombia, South America, where there are as many empanada vendors as there are burger joints in the United States. Empanadas are a popular comfort food. They’re golden brown, crescent-shaped pastries that come in a wide variety of sweet and savory flavors from all over South America and the Caribbean. So they’re multi-functional — you can eat them as a snack or a meal, and they’re a staple for special events and parties.

    My Empanada veggie


    How are your empanadas different from the kind you can get in the frozen section of the big grocery store chains?


    We start with traditional recipes passed down from our family. We’re all about going back to the roots of a culture. Not just our Latin culture, but also other cultures, in search of that special ingredient or spice that creates a nostalgic flavor. Then we use the best ingredients to hand-make flaky, mouth-watering crusts, and we fill them with a variety of filling options.

    My Empanada local fresh made

    CLAUDIA (continued):

    They’re baked fresh every day. Our fillings include traditional recipes from several different countries, as well as some modified American flavors that you may find in your grandma’s cookbook. Our goal is to give you a taste of these many cultures, straight from our kitchen to your table.

    My Empanada Virginia farmers markets


    In addition to your take-out store in Henrico, you also go to farmers markets. What kind of response do you get there?


    So far we have received great feedback from our customers at the farmers markets we serve. We have really enjoyed getting to meet new people and share a taste of our culture with them. There are often people who have never even heard of empanadas. We find it very rewarding when they try our empanadas and come back for more! Thanks to our farmers markets patrons we just moved into a bigger production kitchen. We’re looking forward to introducing more people to the pleasures of enjoying empanadas!


    My Empanada snacks or meals

    Now you can see why we jumped at the chance to welcome Claudia and Juan and their irresistable empanadas to our home-delivered farmers market! With a little help from prepared foods like this, busy families can still enjoy mealtimes together. So while you’re shopping this weekend, throw some fresh-made local empanadas in your basket and make plans to sit down and enjoy them next week with the ones you love.

    In the meantime, if you’re in Henrico, stop in at My Empanada at 1421 Blue Jay Lane, or visit them on Facebook!


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

    salsas don sebastian local salsas

    Authentic local salsa made in Virginia

    What a happy zingy way to eat your veggies!

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    She was born in Venezuela. Her parents named her America. Later she married Lionel, who comes from Mexico, and she grew to love the flavors of his rich culture. So, no surprise that she’s now handcrafting authentic local salsas and Latin sauces right here in Virginia, right?

    The company is Salsas Don Sebastian, which is named after their son Sebastian.

    salsas don sebastian local salsas 1

    We veggie fairies were all a-twitter when all those amazing salsas made their debut in our home-delivered farmers market. We weren’t the only ones — our members couldn’t get enough of it. Salsa is a delicious mix of fresh vegetables, and that makes it an easy, yummy way to boost your veggie intake. So we had to get the story on this new local salsa that was lighting up our taste buds.


    Did you grow up eating salsas?


    Not like this! I got really into salsas after several trips to Mexico, where I was introduced to a wide range of flavors and colors that I was not used to before. I learned that in Mexico, there is a salsa for everything. Mexicans use it as a complement for every dish. As I started tasting salsas, my tolerance of the spices and heat was low. Now, however, I feel like I can actually taste the flavors of the different peppers that are used in the different salsas.

    salsas don sebastian local salsas peppers


    How did you make the leap from making it for your family to making it for everyone?


    I have this vein of being independent and intrepid. I love doing something fun, different, creative. We’d been making the salsa forever, mainly because we couldn’t find any authentic Mexican salsas in the market. None of those products were as fresh and filled with exciting flavors as what we were making at home. So, from out of the blue it occurred to me that we might have something here that other people might enjoy. I talked about it with Lionel, but he had a good corporate job and he said, “I’m not going to leave my job to make salsa.” So I said, “Teach me!” Two years later, I quit my job teaching Spanish throughout the Richmond metro area and the rest is history.

    salsas don sebastian local salsa


    Making food like this is a very creative process, right?


    It is! I discovered it was even more creative than I thought. You don’t just throw things in the blender. Making it is a science and an art, finding the balance among all the ingredients. Different salsas use different ingredients, and since I use as many locally grown ingredients as possible, they change with what’s in season. So I started making salsa and giving it away and people said, “I’d buy this in a heartbeat.” I put up a post on our Facebook neighborhood page and said, “Hey guys I’m thinking about selling this at a farmers market, would you try some? I just need feedback.” Lots of people wrote back saying they wanted to try it. I distributed it around and it was amazing — all the feedback was positive.

    salsas don sebastian local salsas 3


    What did your taste-testers like best?


    Everyone talked about how fresh it was. What I make is very different from other salsas in the grocery store. Read the ingredients and those industry-made salsas have sugar and preservatives. They’ve been shipped from who knows where and then sit on the shelf for who knows how long. I make salsa today and the next day it’s on your shelf.


    I didn’t realize there was sugar in the big industry-made salsas.


    Mine has no added sugar. There are plenty of natural sugars in fresh vegetables. My salsas are also gluten free. And not to mention delicious! We make every batch from the freshest ingredients available that we can find locally. That’s why our salsas are fresher and tastier — because they’re local.

    salsas don sebastian ingredients in bowl cropped


    What do you look for in the produce that goes into what you make?


    I go to different farmers markets and I have made very valuable relationships with the local farmers there. When local produce is in season, I source from my friends who farm sustainably. When my must-have ingredients aren’t in season, then I go to my regional wholesaler. Either way, it has to be fresh and it has to be grown sustainably. That’s good for us and for the environment. And I help make sure nothing goes to waste, because most of my produce doesn’t have to look perfect. I’m cutting it up. It just has to taste perfect.


    Yeah, we love ugly food, too! So long as it’s fresh and local, it has more taste and nutrients than the pretty produce in the grocery store.


    Exactly. Like the tomatoes I use don’t need to look perfect and the farmers love me for that. The only exception is cilantro. It has to be beautiful and green and perfect because that pop of color is part of what makes salsa so irresistible. But jalapenos, for example, they just need to be hot!

    salsas don sebastian local salsas 2


    How do you, the professional, use salsa?


    On everything! Our red salsa is so versatile that it goes with most meats. You can put it on eggs, or just enjoy it as a dip with fresh chips or tostadas.


    So who does what at Salsas Don Sebastian?


    I wear most of the hats. My sister helps me with prepping all the veggies and making sure that all vegetables are super clean. Lionel helps when he gets in from work and also sells in farmers markets on the weekends. We work from the same recipes that his grandmother used when he was growing up. So every batch we make reminds him of fond memories from his childhood. Flavors and aromas are very connected to memory and we’re handcrafting happy new ones for our customers every day with our salsas.

    salsas don sebastian mexican hats


    Start making your own delicious memories with America’s salsas and Latin sauces. You’ll find them in the Seasonal Roots home-delivered farmers market every weekend. In between you can check out all her latest creations on the Salsas Don Sebastian website and on Facebook.


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

    how to cook greens

    How to cook greens

    ‘Tis the season for greens!

    – Written by Margo L, veggie fairy & neighborhood Market Manager in Yorktown

    Greens are loaded with perishable nutrients, so long as they’re fresh like our locally harvested greens. Our farmers are harvesting two types right now. The cabbage family (Cruciferae) includes bok choy, broccoli, cabbage (obviously), collards, kale, and turnips (which have tasty greens). The goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae) includes beets, chard, and spinach.

    So here’s the inside scoop on the difference between greens and how to make use of them, including how to cook greens.


    Beets are loved or hated. They’re dense and have a strong, earthy flavor. But they’re also full of sugars. Beets can be boiled, steamed, or roasted to be eaten on their own or added to salads. They can even be used as a sweetener when baking certain desserts. Beet greens make an excellent salad green or can be sautéed or steamed.

    Bok choy

    Bok choy is sweet, crisp, and mild tasting. The stems are juicy and sweet and take a few minutes longer to cook than the mild-tasting greens. It’s delicious in stir fries and soups.


    Broccoli crowns can be eaten raw, or cooked along with the stem. Just discard the shard tip, then slice the rest of the stem and steam or roast the slices longer than the crown, which needs only brief cooking. Bake broccoli into casseroles or add to soups and stews.


    Cabbage, when overcooked, emits hydrogen sulfide (the rotten egg aroma), ammonia, and other foul smells. But cooked with care, it’s delish. Add it to soups or baked dishes, or simmer, sautée, or steam it. Eat it raw in slaws and salads, or use the leaves to wrap up a savory filling. Savoy cabbage, by the way, is the one with extremely crinkled leaves.


    Chard, including lovely rainbow chard, is almost as quick cooking as spinach. You can steam, sautée, or braise it, or add it to soups, stews, and casseroles. The leaf and stem can be prepared together or they may be cooked and served separately.


    Collards are actually a mild tasting variety of kale. Leathery looking but tender after an encounter with heat, they both do well when you slice them into slivers and cook them briefly. They’re commonly cooked with smoked meats, onions, chiles, garlic, and vinegar. But they’re also good with ginger, coconut, and spices like turmeric, coriander, cardamom, and cumin. Raw kale is good in salads or hide it in a smoothie.


    Spinach is a delicate veggie and best when lightly cooked, just until it begins to go limp. Its mild flavor absorbs any seasoning and its leaves have a velvety quality. Just wash it well, shake off most of the water, and put it in a hot pan – the moisture clinging to the leaves will be sufficient to wilt it. Spinach can also be eaten raw in a salad or smoothie.


    Turnips, in this case salad turnips, taste similar to a radish – earthy, crunchy, and peppery. Eat the roots and greens raw in a salad, or slice and sautée them.

    So eat your greens, enjoy the flavors, and feel oh so very virtuous!


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

    kale recipes

    These kale recipes make kids love kale

    The right kale recipes made me, a grown woman, love kale, too!

    – Written by Meredith M, veggie fairy & neighborhood Market Manager in Northern Virginia

    – Photo by Sherri B, veggie fairy & Area Manager in Richmond, whose son can’t wait to sink his teeth into some fresh, local kale

    I’ve never been much of a “routine” person, despite my best efforts. However, every Wednesday after I complete all my deliveries I do the exact. Same. Thing.

    Upon returning home, I unload all the boxes my members have given me to reuse and recycle (thank you!) Next, I head to my kitchen, where I unload and put away my own basket of goodies — everything but the kale and an apple (or a handful of grapes in the summertime). Then I proceed to make my favorite lunh…

    Have you always read about the numerous health benefits of kale, but just didn’t have that easy, go-to recipe that you would want to regularly use? Well, I’ve got that recipe.

    Start by tearing up a TON of kale from one of our local farmers. Don’t be timid. This recipe is so good you’ll want more.

    Top your heaping plate of kale with a sliced Saunders Brothers apple of your favorite variety. I’m partial to the sweet tartness of the Piney Golds at the moment.

    Next, toss on some pecans, craisins, and blue cheese, feta, or goat cheese — whatever your preference.

    Lastly, drizzle some delicious homemade vinaigrette. You can whip up a vinaigrette using extra virgin olive oil, local honey from Alfredo’s Beehive, salt, pepper, and some of that apple cider vinegar you’ve been choking down through tears ever since you read about that miracle potion. Go ahead and make a big batch of this vinaigrette. It lasts a long time in those mason jars you hang on to “just in case,” and it’s fabulous on a basic spinach, cucumber, and strawberry salad. So good! Here’s the step-by-step:


    1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 c ALFREDO’S BEEHIVE honey
    1/4 to 1/3 c apple cider vinegar
    salt & pepper, to taste

    (Kale salad recipe thanks to

    Ever since I began making this salad, I’ve been craving it. And I bet you will too. This one even made the cut for my Thanksgiving menu, and the competition was stiff — a heated battle between the kale and all the usual hearty stuff… but the kale won. It’s not easy being in the line-up alongside mouthwatering mashed potatoes, cherry pie, and the best corn casserole you’ve ever tasted, yet this salad still holds its own. But I digress.

    Looking for a saltier alternative? That brings us to the next step in my Wednesday routine. I heat up the oven and use the rest of that curly bunch of greens to make chips!!

    The spicy kale chip recipe I discovered long ago has never failed me. I tweak it here and there, but it comes out great every time. Even my harder-to-please family will chow down on these! I also recommend making kale chips when you need to use up the rest of your kale the day before Delivery Day to make room for the new bunch you’re about to receive. These zingy, savory chips disappear fast.


    (adapted from
    1/2 bunch local kale leaves (approximately)
    1 T extra virgin olive oil
    1-1/2 t garlic powder
    1/2 t chili powder
    1/2 t onion powder
    1/2 t smoked paprika
    1/4 t fine grain sea salt or pink Himalayan sea salt
    1/8 t cayenne pepper (optional)

    1. Preheat oven to 300. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
    2. Remove leaves from the stems of the kale and roughly tear into large pieces.
    3. Place kale in large bowl and massage in the oil until all the nooks and crannies are coated well. Combine all seasonings in separate bowl, then sprinkle on kale and toss to combine.
    4. Spread kale onto the baking sheet in a single layer, being sure not to overcrowd the kale.
    5. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for another 12-15 minutes until the kale begins to firm up. The kale will look shrunken, but this is normal. I bake for 25 mins total in my oven.
    6. Cool the kale on the sheet for 3 minutes before digging in! Enjoy immediately, since they lose their crispiness with time.

    There are lots more easy recipes to help you get in the kale habit on the Seasonal Roots Pinterest kale board.

    And if you want to learn pretty much everything there is to know about kale, check out the Happy Happy Vegan blog for a deep dive!


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

    eat local deer run farm

    Eat local and you’re eating the results of local weather

    Hey, where did all the local green beans go?!

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    If you like green beans, yet have no green beans on your plate this Thanksgiving, that’s good news. It’s a sign that you’ve chosen to eat local food – the freshest, most nutritious and flavorful food you can get.

    Right now there are no locally grown green beans to be had. Our Farmer Connector Sam searched all over Virginia. No luck. So there were no green beans for Thanksgiving in our home-delivered farmers market, as you may have noticed. You also may have noticed a lot of rain this year. Those two things are connected.

    In parts of Virginia, 2018 has been the wettest year on record. Check out the photo at the top of this post. That was the scene at Deer Run Farm in Hanover, Va., after a heavy spring rain. Not much sun and too much mud!

    Some plants love to hydrate. Others, like green beans, not so much. Bean plants prefer their soil evenly moist to max out their growth and bean production. Drying out stunts them. If it doesn’t rain enough to keep the soil moist, that’s easy to fix with a drip hose.

    It’s much harder to do anything about too much rain. Excess water deforms plants or makes them prone to disease, covered in yucky fungal growth. And downpours can wash away soil nutrients before the roots have time to absorb them.

    So when you sit down at your Thanksgiving table this week, give thanks for the beanless proof that you’re eating the healthiest food you can get… fresh, locally grown veggies.

    And here’s hoping next year brings good green bean weather!


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

    legacy roasting fair trade coffee

    Virginia fair trade coffee roasters

    Legacy Roasting brews up coffee with a conscience

    – By the Veggie Fairy Team

    Want to feel good about your cup o’ joe? Make sure it’s sustainably and responsibly sourced.

    One way to do that is to look for the certified Fair Trade label. Fair trade coffee means the coffee beans were sustainably grown by small-scale family farmers who got a fair deal.

    Another way to make sure it’s responsibly and sustainably sourced is to know your coffee roaster. The only way you can know them is if they’re local. Here at Seasonal Roots, our Farmer Connector Sam knows all the local coffee roasters in our home-delivered farmers market. As a result, we know they’re committed to using beans that were grown and traded in a way that’s good for the environment and the people who do the farming.

    legacy roasting & jolly roasters fair trade coffee

    The newest local coffee roaster in our market is Legacy Roasting in historic Hopewell, Va. That’s Larry of Legacy Roasting on the right with a longtime member of our market family, Jolly Roasters. We talked with Larry of Legacy Roasting, so you can get to know one of your local coffee roasters, too!


    How’d you get started in the coffee business?


    I always knew I wanted to own my own business. I just wasn’t sure what kind of business I wanted to run. When I was in college at VCU studying business, I really liked going to my local coffee shop, and I thought, “This would be cool to own but I don’t know what it takes to own one.” So I started The Java Blog. I’d give coffee shops reviews in exchange for letting me pick their brain. Pretty soon I knew this was what I wanted to do, but I didn’t have the $30,000 to $40,000 that it would take to open one.


    So how did you get around the startup money obstacle?


    Well, about that time I reconnected with my old friend Josh. We hadn’t talked since third grade. It turned out he was the roast master at a well-known local roaster in Richmond but he had to step away due to his health. I had the business knowledge and I wanted a shop, and Josh had the production know-how and wanted a coffee roasting operation. Together we had it all covered. So four years ago we just started small. We bought a small coffee roaster — just the machine, not a whole company! — and set up our operation in my parents’ garage in Cheseterfield.

    legaacy roasting fair trade coffee 1

    We sold our coffee at farmers markets…

    legacy roasting virginia farmers markets

    …and we did the roasting in the backyard, even in the winter. One time, Josh says, “Larry, it’s starting to snow,” and I go, “We gotta power through it!” Eventually Josh had to step away, but my dad joined the operation and now we’re truly a family business.


    When did you make the move to Hopewell? And why Hopewell?


    We wanted to find a community where we could make a positive impact. Hopewell is the oldest surviving English settlement in the U.S. It’s been there since the 1600s. There’s a lot of history there but it’s been economically overlooked. The nearest coffee roaster, for example, is 30 miles away. So we found our niche. In 2017 I signed a lease in a historic brick building downtown and became the first local coffee roaster in Hopewell’s history.

    legacy roasting hopewell va


    What does it mean to you to be a business owner in this community?


    For me, coffee is just a segue to supporting the community. For example, we’re exploring starting an internship program on how to build and run a business. There’s definitely interest — this past summer Pathways.VA toured our roasting facility. It’s a faith-based non-profit that’s doing cool things for the community. It was really fun to hear everyone’s passions and the businesses they are working to build.

    legacy roasting pathways va


    So tell us about your coffee!


    We are passionate about coffee! Everything we do is specialty grade coffee that comes from cool places. We have a couple single origin coffees and also blends. We use quite a few certified fair trade and organic beans, and some shade grown as well. Most commercial growing operations are out in open fields where everything grows faster in the sun and they can make more money. But nature actually intended for coffee to grow in the shade. It grows slower and has time to develop more flavor.

    legacy roasting fair trade coffee 2

    Our latest blend is Wonder City, which is named after Hopewell’s nickname. It’s a three-bean blend: Brazil Santos, fair trade organic Honduras, and organic Mexico. Another thing about us is that we can customize. Most roasters are doing 30-to-60-pound batch roasts and can’t customize for you. My roasting drum does from two to six pounds. So I can customize based on what a person is interested in tasting. It all starts with a conversation about what they’re looking for.


    We’re welcoming Larry’s Legacy Roasting to our market this weekend, starting with 2 oz bags of Wonder City. Look for it in the Extras section. It’s part of our commitment to bringing you food that’s good for you and the planet from people you know. To learn more, visit the Legacy Roasting website, and check it out on Facebook and Instagram.

    legacy roasting fair trade coffee 4

    We’ll let Larry have the last word. Here’s what he said on Instagram once:
    “I believe coffee has the potential to start open and honest communication. Let’s be real, coffee is the fuel that gets a lot of people started in the day. Due to the impact of coffee, I wanted to be apart of a local community hungry for change using something that positively impacts people. For this reason, I am proud to call Hopewell and the RVA community just that… my home. We are a community of creative, passionate, and just plain awesome people. Plain and simple I believe coffee has the ability to foster a legacy within a community. Will you choose to be a part of that positive change?”

    legacy roasting fair trade coffee 3


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at