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Big City Farms

May 5, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Big City Farms

As supporters of the "buy local movement" have gotten to know the local farmers who grow their food, a curious phenomenon has emerged.  Not all farmers work on farms.  At least classic farms, as we think of them.  One operation that Chef Jerry Pellegrino has know for many years is a great example of "urban farming."

Big City Farms is the name, and executive field manager Anthony Dye was our guest.  Big City Farms got going in 2011, capitalizing on the emergence of "hoop houses" as a practical means of extending the growing season in Maryland. 

Hoop houses, or "high tunnels," are elongated structure made from big metal half-hoops that support a thin plastic covering.  They heat the soil and air passively and require not additional source of heat.  Farmers either erect them over prepared ground or over, say, an asphalt parking lot covered with built up beds.

Big City Farms has three locations, covering a total of about 5 acres of land.  The home location is near the north end of the Hanover Street Bridge.  They have other locations in Sandtown and Leakin Park.

The focus at Big City Farms is salad greens, which they can keep in production nearly all year long.  As Jerry can attest, restaurants as demanding as Waterfront Kitchen gladly bought up Big City Farms produce and thrived on it.

In addition to a full selection of salad greens, they will be working with several varieties of heirloom tomatoes over the summer.

If you want to try their excellent produce, you can find them at the Waverly Farmers Market year-round on Saturday mornings, and at the Sunday Baltimore market under 83 April through November.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.