Farm to Shelf

Northeast Farm Report – Memorial Day Weekend 2020

🥕Find a farmers’ market, farm stand or florist and buy some lilacs!

🥕If you can, plant something in your yard or window.

🥕Get ready for strawberries and blueberries – they are coming up the East Coast.

🥕Say goodbye to ramps

🥕Know that farmers are mid-way through corn planting, getting ready for the first cut of hay, and grazing their cows outdoors as pastures start to grow.

🥕Make fresh butter at home with this fun project: Buy a pint of heavy cream, preferably cream with no stabilizers in it. (Very preferably, Five Acre Farm’s delicious cream.) Pour half of it into a mason jar. Secure lid. Shake hard for 10-15 minutes. Pass it around the house to share the work. See that ball forming in the jar? That’s butter! The rest is buttermilk. Enjoy.

🥕🥚🥦🥛 Five Acre Farms – keeping farmers farming

The Role of Local Food

The decimation of local food and farms is a conundrum that existed before the current crisis. Society has said over and over it wants local food and farms, yet our current “efficient” outcome ignores these wishes.

How? Efficient got twisted to mean the lowest dollar cost, when it really means “perfectly valued.” The difference is subtle but crucial in understanding the Local food opportunity. The word “dollar” is just one, not the only, measure of what food buyers value.

As discussed in my earlier posts, the crisis has exposed the weaknesses of the just-in-time, heavily consolidated distribution system. Although we will and should always have a global economy, the crisis has exposed the weaknesses of over-dependence on “efficiency” when it is measured solely as that which costs the least.

We are in a moment when food and the farming community has the nation’s attention. The individual action of buying food has always been able to directly reflect our values. What is unusual now is how visible that direct connection currently is.

Local food gives us an opportunity to get to the true definition of efficiency – perfectly valued. Many buyers value cost and also value having regional farms, supporting farmers’ futures, eating fresh food, strengthening their local economies, and having a reliable source during crises. When buyers hold those values and the connections between what they value and what they purchase are visible, then local food is equally or even more efficient than far-flung food. It’s economics as if people mattered (and it is indeed beautiful.)

A robust local food supply is forward looking. The point is to have options that shore up our economies, help our people, improve our planet, and protect us in times of emergency. Local food does all four of those things. Next up: More on costs and values.


left to right: Chris DeCicco, Joseph DeCicco Jr., and John DeCicco Jr. in front of their Craft Beer Bar in Millwood

Left to right: Chris DeCicco, Joseph DeCicco Jr., and John DeCicco Jr. in front of their Craft Beer Bar in Millwood

DECICCO & SONS regional grocery chain got its start in 1973, when the DeCicco brothers—Frank Sr., John Sr., and Joe Sr.—began selling groceries out of a small storefront in the Bronx. Today DeCicco & Sons has stores in Armonk, Ardsley, Brewster, Harrison, Larchmont, Millwood and Pelham in New York’s Westchester and Putnam counties.

How did your family get into the grocery business?

My father and his two brothers came to America from Italy in 1958. Being from Italy, they had a deep knowledge and love of food and immediately found work at New York City produce stands and butcher shops. In 1973, they opened the first DeCicco’s store in the Bronx.

How did you expand the chain over the years?

The brothers opened their first Westchester location in Pelham in 1985, and a decade later, were operating three more stores. My cousins John Jr. and Chris and I grew up together. In 2006, the three of us joined forces and opened the store in Ardsley. In addition to Ardsley, we now manage the original Pelham store and six additional stores we have opened over the past 10 years. We all share leadership of and responsibility for the business. My dad and Uncle John still walk the aisles all the time, giving us advice and inspiration and visiting with customers.

What’s new in the stores?

We recently introduced a beer and wine bar in Millwood, our newest store, where we host special events and new releases with brewers. All of our stores now have coffee bars, and we roast our own coffee beans in house at the Brewster location. Next up we’ll start serving FIVE ACRE FARMS milk at all of our coffee bars!

How has the local food movement changed your business?

The strong interest in local food among our customers has been a major development for us over the last few years. I know from talking with our customers that their eyes are open about the issues surrounding local food, and they are knowledgeable about seasonality. They understand that there is a time and place for local fruits and vegetables. They know that they can buy apples grown in the Hudson Valley only when they are in season and don’t take that for granted. When you buy dairy and eggs from a local source, and especially with FIVE ACRE FARMS, you know where the food was produced, who the farmers are and how they care for their animals. You know they are giving you a quality product.

How do you maintain your high level of customer service?

Our approach to customer service is very simple: everyone in the family leads by example. No job is too small. We walk around the stores, answering customers’ questions, bagging groceries, rounding up shopping carts, making sure the stores are always tidy. Our employees see us working side by side with them and interacting with customers, which promotes teamwork and collaboration. We also have a well-developed training program for all of our employees.

How do you stay current with the needs and preferences of your customers?

We stay close to our customers to ensure that we can respond to their requests and even anticipate what they want. At the checkout, we always ask, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Members of our team talk with customers in the stores, our customers email us and they even highlight certain products for us on social media.

What’s your favorite thing about your work?

I love that the food business is so dynamic.There is always something new to learn, and I enjoy the challenge of keeping up with trends and new developments that are relevant to providing the best possible products and experience for our customers. Since I’m a foodie myself, it’s a fun time to be a buyer. I also love merchandising the store and seeing our customers really appreciate quality food.

What’s the most challenging thing about your business?

We operate in a very competitive business environment. Today, with online shopping, convenience stores, and big box retailers, we are faced with more competition than ever. But we also relish the challenge.

What makes the DeCicco’s partnership with FIVE ACRE FARMS work for you??

FIVE ACRE FARMS makes it easy for us to offer local food in our stores and gives us an important stamp of approval in the eyes of our customers. You provide great-tasting, quality products from farms you have hand selected. You tell our customers where their food comes from and connect them with their farmers. It’s obvious that you care about what you are doing. We like how you do business and depend on your expertise. It means one less thing we need to worry about.

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