The Green Roof: A Past Capstone Project and Current Community Space

By Jolee Keplinger | June 11, 2020
Principia Center for Sustainability
Special Projects Officer

On the top of the science center above the Information Technology Department is a hidden gem that has existed for just a few years. It’s an excellent place to relax, use your green thumb, and support campus-grown food. 

History

The garden was started by Principia alumnus Jeff Lewis. This idea sprung up after Jeff participated in the Urban Harvest STL internship program. Urban Harvest STL is a St. Louis organization that works to provide fresh produce to communities that are food insecure. In other words, it benefits those who that have little or no access to fresh produce. 

Jeff was part of the first class of interns, and stayed on for a second growing season. While he was participating in the program, he was also developing a plan to build a smaller version of Urban Harvest’s food roof on campus. After lots of research and discussions with on campus stakeholders, he obtained the necessary approval to transform rooftop space. If it wasn’t for the internship at Urban Harvest,  Jeff probably would have never decided to establish a green roof on campus.

The Capstone Project Lives On

After Jeff graduated in 2018, other members of the Principia College community have stepped up and kept the roof green. Currently, the green roof is most frequently used by Carly Hendrickson, the College’s administrative assistant. Carly had been interested in gardening for many years, and also enjoys gardening at her house in St. Charles, MO. She’s grown tomatoes, basil, rosemary, mint potatoes, kale, kohlrabi, red cabbage, and leeks.

So far, the produce grown on the green roof has gone to a small group of people, including summer research assistants, professor of sustainability Dr. Karen Eckert, members of the Sustainability Club, and Carly herself.

In addition to Carly, The Sustainability Club also utilizes the space on occasion. The Club has held rooftop garden parties during the spring, and has also created fresh salads with the roof’s abundant leafy greens. 

Most Recent Activities

The spring 2020 semester did not unfold as planned due to COVID-19 complications, but the green roof did produce a small harvest. This harvest wasn’t the usual variety of leafy greens and herbs though. Due to restrictions on campus, Carly wasn’t able to consistently work on campus and visit the roof. Fortunately, she planted a few pots of tulips earlier in the semester. In April, the flowers were able to be harvested. Since I still had access to the Science Center as a Post-Graduate Teaching Intern, I was able to harvest and distribute the tulips. 

Future Plans

Once campus returns to a more normal state, the Center for Sustainability hopes to revive the rooftop garden, and continue to maintain this campus-grown food space. If you will be on campus in the future, and would like to get involved, please contact Dr. Karen Eckert, the Directer of the Center for Sustainability. To learn more about Principia College’s sustainable food scene, you can visit the Center’s new website!


 

Seedz: Innovative Plant-Based Provisions at the Local Level

By Jolee Keplinger (C’20)
Principia Center for Sustainability
Dining Services Liaison Officer

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Tucked in the historic DeMun neighborhood of St. Louis are two spots that are beautifully embracing local, organic, and plant-based food.

The recent popularity of plant-forward dining is not a trend, but rather, a shift which has exploded throughout the St. Louis area within the past couple of years.

What initially inspired me to visit Seedz Cafe, (and the separate store, Seedz Provisions) was it’s healthy plant-based fare. Seedz stands out because it’s not simply a delicious plant-based, sit-down restaurant. Just a few steps away, from the cafe at Seedz Provisions, you’ll find a plethora of fresh baked goods, locally produced food products, handmade gifts, and a selection of espresso and elixir options. 

The Power of Plant-Forward Cuisine

All of the food served at Seedz Cafe and Seedz Provisions is vegan, meaning everything is of 100% plant origin, so no meat, dairy or any other animal derived ingredients are used. (The terms vegan and plant-based are often used interchangeably.) 

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As someone who enjoys dining at a variety of restaurants, I’ve noticed that plant-based/vegan restaurants tend to be my favorite due to the innovative nature of the food and high likelihood of sustainable operations. In general, I’ve noticed that plant-based restaurants are highly conscious of where their ingredients come from, and very intentional in how they prepare them. 

In addition, eating foods which are organically grown, unprocessed, and plant-based foods can reduce one’s ecological footprint and promote health. As you probably know, the U.S. food system is not set up in a way that makes healthy eating easy. As a result, only 9.3% of Americans are meeting the recommended intake of three cups of vegetables per day! Fortunately, plant-based restaurants like Seedz Cafe offer a variety of healthy, delicious, and aesthetically pleasing foods packed with fresh produce, whole grains, and healthy fats. 

Fun fact: Seedz Cafe is one of the top 10 healthiest restaurants in St. Louis! Click here to see their menu.

The Ingredients: 

Since Seedz is clearly going above and beyond what most restaurants are doing, I wanted to learn more about the business in-depth. Even though the website and Instagram account are informative, I wanted to specifically learn about Seedz in terms of the local food movement. I met with Cara Schloss, an incredibly inspiring owner and self-taught culinary artist and learned quite a bit of valuable background information.

For example, Seedz sources approximately 40% of its ingredients locally. Since there is no official definition of local food, it’s important to know how a businesses defines its local ingredients. At Seedz, a local ingredient must be located within about a 200 mile radius.

Their produce comes from Williford Family Garden which is St. Clair Missouri. This small farm went through the EarthDance apprenticeship program, and it specifically grows ingredients for Seedz. In addition, about 60-80% of the restaurant’s ingredients are grown organically. 

Cara mentioned organic ingredients are a lot more expensive, but emphasized they are a priority. Even if a farm isn’t USDA certified organic (such as Three Rivers Community Farm which I previously highlighted), the food can still be grown using organic principles. Ultimately, what matters the most is how food is grown, not whether it flashes a fancy label. 

Here are a few examples of where they source their food:

Foraged Foods

Seedz transcends locally sourced and organically grown ingredients by incorporating foraged foods into cuisine. Foraged foods include nutrient-packed nettles, elderberries, and morel mushrooms. (This relates to a previous restaurant profile.)

For example, their Greenz Elixir features mineral rich nettle leaves (plus Gotu Kola and Matcha for mental alertness and focus). It’s even dusted with spirulina (a natural source of essential minerals such as iodine & chlorophyll). It’s also worth mentioning that they sweeten their innovative elixirs and espresso drinks with dates and use fresh and homemade hemp seed mylk.

Fun fact: Their herbalist makes five flavors of elixirs which represent the five branches of Chinese medicine.

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This was my first warm, freshly-composed elixir experience. It did not disappoint! It not only tasted absolutely magical, but I felt like I was truly nourishing myself. I would drink a large mug of this every day if I could!

Sustainable Design

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Reclaimed wood is located at the front of the cash register at the store and throughout the cafe. It was given to Seedz by a friend from Farmington, MO (whose barn happened to be falling over). 

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The cafe and store both have windows which let in plenty of natural light. The natural lighting compliments the natural decor and cozy atmosphere. 

Zero Waste Operations

 If the restaurant has an over-abundance of its locally sourced produce, it does not go to waste. Instead, it’s given away to their employees. In addition since Seedz uses paper straws and biodegradable to-go ware, everything can be composted! When dining in, real dishes and silverware are used. 

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Local Products for Sale

Seedz Provisions stocks a wide array of locally sourced products which are perfect for gift-giving (or treating yourself)! Below are three examples of what Seedz Provisions has to offer.

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1. This small-batch Made Fare Co. granola is baked in St. Louis, MO. It’s filled with wholesome ingredients and also refined sugar and GMO-free.

2. Big Heart Tea Co. is also based in St. Louis. This woman-owned company crafts its tea with healing herbs which promote one’s overall sense of health and wellbeing. They are committed to sourcing their ingredients ethically, and ensure that every ingredient used helps pioneer traceable and direct-trade herbs.

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3. Core + Rind, another local brand based in St. Louis, specializes in cheesy sauces made from cashews. Their sauces are 100% plant-based, and serve as an excellent alternative to the unhealthy and ultra-processed jars of queso dip. Their cheeesy sauces are packed with healthy fats and are vegan, paleo, whole 30, and keto friendly!

Fresh Baked Goods

The best part about Seedz Provisions is their ever-evolving selection of homemade donuts. These superfood spiked donuts are packed with wholesome ingredients and are free of oil, refined sugar, and gluten. (Who knew a donut could actually be healthy?!)

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Seedz isn’t just heaven-on-earth for dedicated vegan and plant-based eaters, it’s is an excellent destination for food-venturers who value healthy, delicious and consciously crafted cuisine. 

If you love plant-forward cuisine, but aren’t near the St. Louis area, the Happy Cow app is an excellent tool for discovering vegetarian and vegan restaurants. (I actually discovered Seedz by using this app.) In addition, I’ve noticed that the restaurants in Happy Cow’s database tend to be healthier than the average, and this benefits everyone!

Location & Hours

6344 South Rosebury, Demun, MO 63105 – Open Tuesday – Saturday 11a – 8p and Sundays 11a – 4p.

Coming Soon: Seedz Cafe will be a vendor at the 2nd annual St. Louis VegFest! It’s hosted at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park on Sunday, October 13th, 2019.

Confluence Kombucha: An Avant-garde Stop in St. Louis

By Jolee Keplinger (C’20)
Principia Center for Sustainability
Dining Services Liaison Officer

Confluence Kombucha isn’t simply a local restaurant that specializes in kombucha brewing. It’s a place that is passionately championing the local and sustainable food movement. It’s consciously crafted, seasonally changing, compositions are true works of art.

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First, if you aren’t familiar with kombucha, I’ll give you a brief overview. Kombucha is typically green or black tea combined with yeast and sugar. This mix is set aside to ferment. This sweet and sour beverage is ancient, and is thought to have first been brewed in China. In the United States, kombucha has the reputation of being a fizzy health drink which makes an excellent alternative to soda. Currently, Kombucha is a huge trend, and it can be found in most grocery stores. Common brands include G.T.’s, Kevita, and Humm.

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Even though kombucha is wildly popular these days, restaurants specializing in this fermented tea aren’t so common. I didn’t even know these places existed until I came across one in Chicago last year. I didn’t expect a restaurant dedicated to brewing kombucha would exist in the St. Louis area, but I was proven wrong. A few months ago, I randomly Googled something along the lines of “Kombucha Restaurant in St. Louis” and discovered Confluence Kombucha gastroLAB. This hidden gem has been located in The Grove entertainment district since 2016. (The exterior is a bit low-key, so it’s helpful to look for Urban Chestnut Brewery, and then look to the left.)

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After doing a bit of research, I determined that Confluence is dedicated to doing things differently, and I thought this local business would make an interesting addition to the blog. This inspired me to set up a meeting with William Pauly, Confluence’s creative chef and owner.

Forage

Since William has a friend that clears overgrown plants at a nature reserve, he’s offered usable plants that are ideal for incorporating into the kombucha. In addition, common foraged foods that may appear on the menu include morel mushrooms, nettles, and wild greens.

Farm

Confluence offers only the best, locally sourced ingredients, which support small-scale farmers in Missouri and Illinois. William does not source the food from an average food service provider, such as Sysco, but instead, a farmer brokerage called Eat Here STL. This St. Louis-based brokerage works with farmers and producers, bringing the finest and freshest foods to local chefs. For example, ingredients could come from PrairiEarth Farm or DeManage Family Farm.

William described how a chef who started Eat Here STL had many connections with farmers, and decided to start a company. This chef wanted to make farm-to-table dining less complicated for restaurants. By doing this, restaurant owners like William don’t have to spend a lot of time sourcing local ingredients individually.

Feast

The culinary concoctions at Confluence are not only exceptionally creative, but are made predominately of wholesome, plant-based ingredients. In addition, these ingredients are grown sustainably, such as by following organic principles. About 60% of ingredients are local, which is exceptionally higher than the average restaurant.

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By simply scanning the menu, you may assume the restaurant falls into the vegan genre. Technically, the proper genre is plant-based, since most of the ingredients are plants. Examples of non-plant foods on the menu are Chaga Smoked Trout, honey and ramp kimchi.

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Every flavor of kombucha is hand-brewed, and the Japanese inspired cuisine is hand-crafted. For example on the “curiosities” section of the menu (aka appetizers) you will find nukazuke, which is a type of Japanese pickle made with an ancient preservation method which includes fermenting whole vegetables. This curiosity is also served with a beet mousse, coconut yogurt, bear butter, and house-made flax seed chips.

In addition, the menu devoid of common food triggers such gluten and dairy. The average diner will most likely leave feeling refreshed, rather than stuffed full of over-processed, not-so-healthy, ingredients like refined oils, carbs, and sugars (which are staples at the average restaurant in the St. Louis area).

Letting the Customers Speak – No Ads Necessary

As I talked with William, I learned that he doesn’t pay for advertising, but has appeared on FEAST TV (click link to see video, Confluence is featured at 4:41). He’s not a fan of mainstream advertising media.

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He believes in authenticity, and paying for advertising does not reflect who he is. Instead, he patiently waits for curious customers to discover his restaurant on their own. Word of mouth advertising definitely plays a role in this. With this advertising, Confluence attracts a special crowd.

I’m a bit hesitant to publish this post, just because I consider this restaurant one of St. Louis’s hidden gems, and I want it to stay that way. I do feel that Confluence is a restaurant that is doing things right, so I believe it should be recognized by this blog’s niche audience.

Fun Facts

  • During our meeting, I learned that 150 kombucha flavors have been created in the last two years!
  • Confluence’s Kombucha is actually available on draft at a few other locations within the city.
  • The back patio, there’s a garden with local plants for pollinators. It’s raised begs are changed every year, and they grow plants that infuse its spring waters and contribute to the various kombucha flavors.
  • William is starting to make vinegars with kombucha and even products utilizing SCOBYs, such as spring rolls.
  • Food waste, such as veggie scraps, are utilized. These scraps are given a second life by being transformed into veggie ash. Basically, vegetable skins are roasted and dehydrated. The ash has a deep flavor, and notes of spice, making it an excellent accent to a dish.
  • Confluence is Green Dining Alliance certified, with a 5-star rating. Click here to read my post about this sustainable restaurant certification.
  • The to-go boxes are compostable. William mentioned these eco-friendly boxes cost $0.80 each, but is willing to pay the price since being a steward of the earth is a priority.
  • Even though most of Confluence’s offerings are vegan, William is not vegan himself. Due to the confines of the space, grilling meat doesn’t make sense logistically, and additionally, he wanted to challenge himself as a chef. He stated that, “people use meat as a crutch; to be creative and innovative with vegetables takes work, thought, mindfulness, technique, and skill.” I couldn’t agree more!

In case you’re craving visit:

Hours: Friday, Saturday & Monday 11 – 9 / Sunday 11 – 3

4507 Manchester Avenue
St. Louis, MO

314.833.3059

Visit their Facebook page for more information, and their Instagram to see what they’ve most recently created!

Slow Food Spotlight: Sucrose Bakery and Cafe

By Jolee Keplinger (C’20)
Principia Center for Sustainability
Dining Services Liaison Officer

Sucrose Bakery and Café is a European-inspired, family run business nestled in the charming city of St. Charles, MO. This quaint and historic community lies on the banks of the Missouri River, where unique locally owned shops and restaurants abound.

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Sucrose is owned by two innovative chefs who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. They are not only passionate about food itself, but where it comes from. This is demonstrated by their interest in organic farming and local sourcing paired with their commitment to cultural authenticity.

First Impression

Sucrose is located in a charming, newly remodeled home. Upon entering, I was greeted by two giant cases of sweet treats and mingling aromas of coffee and fresh-baked goods.

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The interior’s modern aesthetic is absolutely on-point. Each element is intentionally placed in a tidy, minimalist style. A separate seating room includes plenty of tables and a couch. Pieces of mid-century modern furniture accented with live potted plants and fresh orchids liven up the space. In addition, there’s Wi-Fi, making it an excellent spot to study while sipping a latte and snacking on a pastry.

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I was impressed by their science-inspired logo, which is modeled off the chemical bond for cane sugar, an ingredient often found in baked goods.

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Food

Sucrose offers a wide array of sweet and savory artisanal baked goods, inspired by traditional European lifestyle, as well as the Slow Food movement. This movement’s philosophy envisions a world where all people can access food that’s healthy, fairly produced, and that positively affects the planet.

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All their baked goods are made in-house from scratch. This is impressive, considering how the majority  of offerings are solely made by two chefs. Many of the baked goods are traditionally German, French, or Italian. This includes, but is not limited to: breads, cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, brownies, croissants, and at least a dozen flavors of macarons.

The options are quite overwhelming, so if you have difficulty deciding what you want (as I do), I recommend going with a few friends and ordering a variety of pastries to share.

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Savory Spotlight

As a self-proclaimed quiche connoisseur, I tend to order quiche at nearly every café I visit. Sucrose’s quiche was so good, it stole the spotlight from the sweets. Its well-crafted flakey crust, paired with a perfectly fluffy egg and mushroom filling earned it a 10/10. Sustainability-enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that their eggs are locally sourced from Blind Star Farm.

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Sweet Spotlight(s)

The pear frangipane tart struck an optimal balance of flavor and sweetness, without being overly rich. Pears aren’t exactly my go-to fruit, but this treat completely changed my pear-ception! (In case you’re unfamiliar with frangipane, it refers to a ground almond cream filling or topping, often used for pastries.)

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I especially appreciated that all their macarons are freshly made in house, rather than being mass-produced and imported from France as many are. The flavor I selected was London fog, a British-French fusion flavored with Earl Grey tea and a hint of lavender.

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On my second visit, I opted for the raspberry cheesecake. I was drawn to this dessert because of its vibrant pink color. This individually baked mini cake is topped with fresh raspberries, a touch of raspberry syrup, and a bit of chocolate. Even though cheesecake has the reputation of being a dessert on the rich and heavy side (think of Cheesecake Factory’s gigantic slices packing nearly a day’s-worth of calories), this one succeeded in not overdoing the richness factor.

Drinks        

Sucrose offers a variety of hot drinks that pair perfectly with their pastries. Their coffee bar sources its beans from Blueprint, a specialty roaster located in St. Louis.

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One of the walls is filled with shelves containing a variety of locally sourced and handmade provisions. There, you can purchase bags of Blueprint’s coffee for home brewing. 

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Helpful Hints

  •      Saturday mornings are very busy so Wi-Fi is not offered (for quick table turnover).
  •      Since there are just so many options, I recommend taking a few treats to-go. Fortunately, Sucrose supplies compostable to-go boxes rather than earth-destroying Styrofoam.
  •      For those who opt for gluten-free foods, there are many options available. For example, there was a gluten-free version of the raspberry cheesecake I mentioned earlier. 

Final Words

Sucrose is a cutting-edge café and bakery combo that’s committed to creating high quality, nourishing food. In addition to providing hand-crafted baked goods in an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere, this small, family run business is making strides in the sphere of sustainability.

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Overall, Sucrose is an ideal destination for those who value consciously crafted baked goods with a European flare. This business is an excellent example of the Slow Food movement, which beautifully embodies the blog’s theme of locally sourced and sustainably grown food.

Location & Hours

700 S. Fifth St / St. Charles MO 63301 / 636-410-8505

Tuesday-Friday 6:30-6 / Saturday 8-4

The Alton Farmers’ Market: A Nexus Between Local Producers and the Public

The number of farmers’ markets has risen more than 350% from 1994 to 2016 (according to the USDA ). Clearly, the local food movement isn’t just a feel-good trend. It’s becoming mainstream, and it’s here to stay. 

Since most of us purchase our produce from grocery stores due to convenience and other logistical factors, the idea of shopping at a farmers’ market may feel “far away” to some. Chances are, you probably live within a reasonable distance from one. If so, I highly recommend checking one out.

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Imagine this: On Saturday mornings from May-October in Alton, IL, a large parking lot transforms into a bustling marketplace. The lot, which is located at the corner of Landmarks Blvd. and Henry Street, becomes the Alton Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market.

While attending a local food panel with my Sustainable Food Systems class, I met Sara McGibany, the Executive Director of Alton Main Street (a traditional downtown area of the city which offers a variety of places to work, eat, and shop). She played a significant role in launching the market, and continues to passionately support it.

Sara revealed that shoppers are typically drawn to the market due to the superior flavor of the food, rather than the fact that’s it’s grown locally. In other words, most shoppers are simply interested in the tasty food, fun experiences, and social opportunities rather than striving to live more sustainability.

This demonstrates how quality and taste can unite a wide range of demographics. Shoppers are surprised at how affordable the food is. Sara mentioned that people have been heard saying, “This costs less than what it would at the grocery store!”

This connects to the previous post about an experience at the farm-to-table restaurant, Bakers & Hale. This post mentions how more rural areas (such as Alton), struggle to get people behind the local food movement because there’s a common perception of it being cute and trendy, rather than as a significant way to support the local economy, plus human and planetary health.

What to Expect

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At the Alton Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market, shoppers can find a wide selection of local and seasonal foods grown within a 50-mile radius. There’s an abundance of produce which includes heirloom and organically grown varieties. In addition, there’s pasture-raised poultry, grass-fed beef, honey, fresh bread, and baked goods. There are even non-food items such as fresh flowers, pottery, candles, soap, woodwork, and other hand-crafted home goods and works of art. 

Although there aren’t any certified organic vendors (yet), it’s important to consider that there are local farmers who grow crops with organic principles. For example, Three Rivers Community Farm, which is the closest farm to me, isn’t certified organic, but it abides by organic principles. In addition, it’s worth mentioning that the farms who sell at this market are regularly inspected.

Who Shops at Alton’s Farmers’ Market?

Nearly 2,000 shoppers visit, and they come from range of  socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s important to acknowledge Alton, IL has a 28% overall poverty rate. Fortunately, there are two programs which incentivize low-income residents to purchase healthy, locally grown produce.

SNAP, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, was formerly known as the food stamp program. SNAP is the largest hunger safety net program which offers nutritional assistance to millions of eligible, low-income Americans. This program provides its recipients with cards, which allows them to use those benefits when shopping.

SNAP recipients are encouraged to visit the market’s info booth and swipe their cards. By doing this, they can double their dollars toward fresh produce. This means recipients can double their buying power, and therefore, more easily afford the health-promoting food they may normally struggle to afford at an average grocery store.

Supporting the Community Local Economy

This market is profitable for Alton Main Street and it contributes to the city’s sense of community. Neighboring vendors become close since they see each other week after week. Shoppers can be heard saying that it’s the best way to spend a Saturday morning.

Local Food in Relation to a Sustainable Food System

For those especially interested in how locally grown food, and food miles, connects to the broader topic of environmental sustainability. It’s important to acknowledge the data. According to this landmark study, which was conducted by two Carnegie Mellon University scientists, “final transportation to market is only 4% of food production’s overall environmental impact.” This means that the type of food consumed makes an enormous impact. Click here to learn more about this topic.

The Challenge of Communication 

Even though 2019 marks the market’s 27th season, some residents still don’t realize it exists. This connects to the current lack of the Principia College’s community awareness of Three Rivers Community Farm

Want to Visit?

The 2019 season will begin on Saturday May 11th and pop up each Saturday through October 19th. It’s open from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 

In addition, a Wednesday Market will run from July 3rd – September 25th from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. You can follow the market on Facebook too!

Bakers and Hale: Midwestern Cuisine with a Local Flair

By Jolee Keplinger (C’20) | Principia Center for Sustainability

Bakers & Hale is a locally owned and operated farm-to-table restaurant that opened its doors in June 2018. Unlike the average restaurant in the Alton/Godfrey, IL area, this one is championing the local food movement. This sit-down restaurant specializes in American cuisine and features classic comfort foods.

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The Power of Word-Of-Mouth Marketing

I learned about this restaurant through word-of-mouth, thanks to a local Principia College faculty member. I immediately acted on this newfound knowledge, and informed my Sustainable Food Systems professor of its existence. I was helping coordinate a local food panel, and this seemed like the perfect location to meet. Just a few days later, a class field trip was scheduled!

The Local Food Panel

This panel met in April 2019, and consisted of two small-scale, sustainable farmers (Amy Cloudand Crystal Stevens), the Elsah General Store owners (Blair and Dory Smith), a representative of Alton’s farmers’ market (Sara McGibany), and one of the restaurant’s talented chefs. This panel took place during the time Principia’s Sustainable Food Systems course would typically meet in the classroom. This field trip is an excellent example of experiential education.

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The five panel guests, five students, and our sustainability professor sat around a long table which happened to be painted by the art class led by panelist Crystal Steven’s. There, we enjoyed a multi-course, family-style meal. Each panelist eloquently explained their role in the local food system, and how they arrived where they are today. After each of the panelists spoke, students asked questions. At the end of the event, one of the restaurant’s chefs passionately described his background, role in the business, and explained where the locally sourced ingredients were from.

Food Review

Appetizers

The first dish was a colorful place of crostini spread with kale pesto and creamy goat cheese. It was then topped with thinly sliced radishes, a light sprinkle of parmesan, and finally, a drizzle of olive oil. This combination struck a perfect balance of flavor and texture. The fresh, toasty bread complemented the creaminess of the cheese, the pesto provided a pop of flavor, and the radishes served as the fresh, seasonally appropriate element.

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Local Highlights: The fresh bread was from Duke Bakery, located in the neighboring town of Alton, IL. The “world renowned” artisan goat cheese was from Baetje Farms, which is located just south of St. Louis, in Bloomsdale, MO. The house-made pesto incorporated fresh kale from Double Star Farms in Benton, IL.

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The next course was a salad consisting of farm-fresh red romaine lettuce,  Baetje Farms goat cheese, and sweet roasted walnuts, all tossed in a house-made chardonnay vinaigrette. Even if you don’t consider yourself a salad person, I highly recommend giving this a try; it will not disappoint! This simply delicious salad is currently listed on their menu.

Sides

Although I would’ve been completely content filling up on the appetizers, I’m glad I saved room for the two side dishes that followed. The first one was a gnocchi made with locally sourced potatoes. It was complemented with kale from Double Star FarmsGateway Farm garlic, James Wright’s oyster mushrooms, chicken broth (from chicken sourced from Rustic Roots farm), plus fresh herbs from their garden.

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The flavor profile was absolutely incredible! The herbs and spices created notes of warmth with a hint of spiciness. Even though the kale adds a healthful flare, I still consider this side dish to fall into the “comfort food” genre.

Side Note: When studying abroad in Slovenia, I fell in love with gnocchi, and my standards for this dish became very high. Two years later, gnocchi has come to me, and I can sincerely say it has exceeded my high standards.

I didn’t have a chance to snap a photo for the second side dish, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. This dish combined locally sourced fettuccine (made by Midwest Pasta Co) with oyster mushrooms, greens, and a well-balanced combination of herbs and spices.

Although sourcing local is becoming more cost neutral, the chef noted that the artisan pasta, which is sourced from St. Louis, is more costly. What makes this pasta worth purchasing is the fact that it’s crafted fresh to order in small batches using high quality ingredients and Old World techniques.

The Main Dish

Shortly after the two side dishes were served, platters full of roasted chicken were brought out. What makes this locally-sourced chicken significant is the high standards the farmers practice in raising them.

Unfortunately, most chicken served at restaurants is factory farmed (aka, not raised humanely), and more often than not, chickens are fed so much, they can barely stand. People don’t like to talk about this, but I feel it’s important to acknowledge the reality, and encourage mindful meat consumption.

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Fortunately, the chicken Bakers & Hale sources is an exception. They specially source their chicken from a small-scale farm which is located in the neighboring town of Brighton, IL. Rustic Roots Farm pasture raises their chickens. This means that they can experience sunshine and eat the fresh grasses and plants which are sewn in the field they graze.

Dessert

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After a full plate of absolutely delicious food, dessert was served. Each guest was given a small plate with a perfectly gooey, made-from-scratch brownie. Each brownie was carefully drizzled with a house-made mint glaze, which contained mint picked from their very own herb garden. A light drizzle of raspberry sauce added a pop of color, and nicely complemented the mint. Freshly whipped cream sourced from Rolling Lawns farm was served on the side and garnished with a few freshly harvested mint leaves from the herb garden. A bit of candied ginger was included, giving the composition a spicy-sweet element. This ginger was locally sourced from EarthDancefarm, which is located in Ferguson, MO. (Fun fact: Panel guest Crystal Stevens serves as their marketing coordinator!) 

The Chef’s Perspective

Sustainability is a topic which was evident throughout this dining experience. As we enjoyed our dessert, one of the chefs stepped out of the kitchen and talked to us and answered questions. Since he was brought up eating organic, that aspect of his upbringing definitely influences his career as a chef. He revealed that in rural areas like Godfrey, it’s harder to get people behind the local food movement because there’s a common perception that it’s just a trend, rather than a significant way to support the local economy, and human and planetary health.

This connects to the theme of education. The chef emphasized that educating customers regarding the concept of sustainable and local food is a process, and hopes consumer awareness will increase over time. In a restaurant setting, with many responsibilities, it’s difficult to educate customers. The chef admitted that they don’t educate as well as they should, but this is understandable, considering the multi-faceted, fast-paced nature of the job.

One question the chef answered was about how, and where, they source their beef. This is significant because conventionally raised beef is one of the least sustainable foods one can eat.  Even though many of the restaurant’s ingredients are locally and sustainably grown/raised, at the time I visited, the beef wasn’t. One reason for this is due to the fact that most locally-raised grass-fed beef is expensive. Even though grass-fed (rather than grain-fed) beef is more natural and ethical alternative, the chef emphasized that the customers are not used to the flavor (since it tends to taste similar to lamb).

Sustainable Operations Extend Beyond the Ingredients

Food waste is an inevitable part of the restaurant business, but Bakers & Hale is addressing this issue by composting unusable and uneaten food. Additionally, they utilize ingredients well. For example, leftover chicken bones are used to make broths, stocks, and roux (which was used in the gnocchi we ate).

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Overall, this restaurant experience, paired with the local food panel, was a real treat. The food was delightful, and the company (plus the experiential educational element) made this meal one of my all-time favorites. It’s clear that Bakers & Hale doesn’t just make delicious food. They support the regional food community, and local economy, by sourcing ingredients from local farms and food producers. Ultimately, they play a significant role in the area’s local food movement.

Want to Visit?

Bakers & Hale
7120 Montclaire Avenue
Godfrey, IL 62035
618-433-9748

In addition to their website, Bakers & Hale has a vibrant Instagram account. There, you can keep up with their new offerings. Click here to see a list of their local suppliers.

Green Dining Alliance: Certifying Sustainability on a Local Level

By Jolee Keplinger (C’20) | Principia Center for Sustainability

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What it is: The Green Dining Alliance is a restaurant certification program. Since its focus is sustainability, this alliance offers practical strategies to help restaurants lower their environmental impact.

The Certification Process: For a restaurant to be certified, it must commit to a few Core Concepts. A few examples are banning Styrofoam, recycling, phasing out energy inefficient equipment. In addition, the restaurant must receive an audit. Various aspects of the restaurant relating to sustainability are evaluated, and if the score is 80+, the restaurant is certified! To maintain certification, a restaurant must receive an annual audit.

Click here to see an interactive map of all the GDA certified restaurants through the St. Louis area. Is your favorite restaurant certified?

GDA-Related Experiences

Last year, I had the opportunity to experience a GDA audit for recertification at Principia College. Jenn DeRose (the program manager), the college’s chef, and the director of sustainability participated. I learned how the point system worked, and joined the walk-through portion audit at the end. Due to a variety of sustainable practices Principia College has implemented, the 5-star rating was retained. (Click here to see what the GDA highlighted.)

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My second experience with the GDA was at an event hosted at the Old Bakery, which is located just off of the Great River Road in Alton, IL. This restaurant is the first restaurant in Alton to be GDA certified!

In February, I participated in Alton’s first Green Business Forum and represented Hungry Planet FoodsHungry Plant is a St. Louis-based, family-run company that specializes in plant-based meats. I worked there summer of 2018 as a marketing and communications intern. Click here to see some of the delicious recipes made with their products.

At the Green Business Forum, Jenn DeRose, the GDA’s program manager, educated the businesses and general public. It’s worth noting that the Old Bakery is the first restaurant in Alton, IL to receive this certification!

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My third GDA-related experience was a class field trip to the restaurant. My Sustainable Food Systems course met with Jenn DeRose (who again, represented the GDA) and Lauren Patton, one of the restaurant’s owners. We learned about the Green Dining Alliance in relation to the restaurant. Jenn gave a presentation, and Lauren talked about her experience relating to sustainably in the restaurant business. We had a round-table style discussion and enjoyed Impossible Burgers. The restaurant’s higher-than-average selection of plant-based offerings was a major highlight. 

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Comparing the Impossible to Conventionally Raised Beef:

It’s made with 100% plant-based ingredients, and packed with protein. A key ingredient is heme, an iron-rich molecule that’s also found in red meat. Taste-wise, you can’t tell it’s made of plants. If I didn’t know I was eating an Impossible Burger, I would’ve assumed it was 100% beef.

The carbon footprint is 89% smaller (according to a science-based life cycle assessment released by the company). In addition, this burger uses 87% less water, 96% less land, 89% fewer greenhouse gas emissions and 92% fewer aquatic pollutants.

In addition to the Impossible Burger, which is always available to order, there are many and other dishes featuring plant-based proteins. There’s even a weekly #MeatlessMonday special to encourage people to try a plant-based meal. Click here to see examples which are regularly posted on their Instagram account. 

Sustainability Highlights:

  • Spent grain (from their brewery) is sent to a farmer in Fosterburg for cattle feed. Then, they use the beef from the farm on their menu when it’s available.
  • The furniture was made locally (by Mwanzi), with reclaimed wood.
  • Their food waste turns into fertilizer. It’s picked up by Total Organics Recycling, a St. Louis-based composting facility. 
  • Since most of their solid waste is recycled, very little needs to be landfilled.
  • Energy efficient LED lighting is used.  
  • Energy efficient appliances, as well as energy-saving practices, are utilized.
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In addition, the Old Bakery sources its ingredients from local producers such as Hansen Meat Co. (located next door), Rustic Roots Farm, Marcoot Jersey Creamery, and more!

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For example, the Havarti cheese used to make this delicious grilled cheese sandwich is sourced from the Marcoot Jersey Creamery, which located in Greenville, IL. This sustainably-run family farm raises its cows on grass, and has existed for generations. I first encountered their cheese last year when shopping at Three Rivers Community Farm Stand. Click here to learn about my Three Rivers experience. There, you will see that Marcoot’s Havarti cheese is listed on my list of favorites. 

The Old Bakery is not only a great place to gather and eat, but also serves as a leader for the city of Alton in terms of sustainability. This is represented by their 5-star GDA rating.

Now that you’re more familiar with the purpose of this sustainable restaurant certification system, you’ll probably notice “GDA Certified” stickers posted on windows of restaurants throughout the St. Louis, MO area!

Do You Know Your Farmer?

By Jolee Keplinger (C’20) | Principia Center for Sustainability

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Amy Cloud isn’t your average farmer and initially, she did not intend to become one. Although she grew up on a corn, soy, and dairy farm in Michigan, the atmosphere didn’t resonate with her. Instead of following in her family’s footsteps, she decided to study English literature in college. While interning at a publishing company, Amy quickly realized that the literary life was not her calling. Fortunately, during her college education, she was introduced to Wendell Barry’s work.

Barry, an American novelist, poet, and environmental activist, holds deep reverence for the land, which is evident in his 40+ published pieces. 

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Wendell’s work inspired Amy to incorporate an environmental science minor into her college education. This led Amy to apprentice on organic vegetable farms, and at one of them, she met her husband Jose.

Later, Amy was hired as a farm manager at La Vista CSA(Godfrey, IL). This allowed her to truly learn about the farm lifestyle and develop her skills. She realized that starting her own farm with her husband was the next step.

While working at La Vista, Amy talked to a biology professor from Principia College, (which lies on 2,600 acres in the nearby village of Elsah, IL). This conversation resulted an opportunity to lease land from the college.

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After managing the CSA for three seasons, Amy and Jose were ready to establish Three Rivers Community Farm. There, they built a multi-purpose barn with their home on the second level. The first level houses the seasonal farm stand, produce washer, and stores food.

Currently, Three Rivers Community farm is Amy’s full time job, along with being a mother of two. Even though farm work can be physically demanding, she appreciates this hand-on, low-tech lifestyle. She’s grateful her kids can grow up playing outdoors and be able to have an abundance of fresh, organically grown food. 

How It All Started

I first met Amy last summer (2018) at Tower Grove Farmer’s Market, which is an hour away from the farm and Principia College. I was interning in St. Louis, MO at the time, and routinely visited farmers markets on Saturday mornings. While exploring the Tower Grove market, I stopped at Amy’s booth, and noticed the sign which stated the farm was located in Elsah, IL. I had heard about a CSA that was near campus, but I assumed it only served those who were members. I didn’t know Amy also sold at farmer’s markets and operated a farm stand on site. I couldn’t believe I had gone two years without utilizing this local resource.

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Once I returned to Principia College in the fall, I regularly visited Amy’s farm stand and loaded up on fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese and eggs. By wintertime, the farm stand closes since production slows, but I look forward to visiting as soon as it opens in mid-May.

On one of my visits, I noticed a Principia professor (the same one who connected Amy with the land) shopping there. It was so exciting to see how the farm was benefitting the local community.

Last semester (fall 2018), one of my goals was to ensure that Amy’s locally grown goods would become integrated into Principia College’s Dining Services. I coordinated a meeting with Amy, our executive chef Trey McCartt, and our director of sustainability Karen Eckert. This meeting was a success, and it led to a collaboration between the farm and Dining Services. This fall (2019), farm-fresh produce should be expected!

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A Fruitful Future

The relationship between the farm and Principia College will strengthen This summer. Principia student and biology major Allegra Pierce will be working there! For those living on campus, look forward to farm-fresh produce this fall!

The Farm-Fresh Difference 

Many people assume that simply buying organic produce from Whole Foods ensures optimal nutrition and flavor. At a local panel, which was part of my Sustainable Food Systems course, Amy emphasized that there is still a significant difference in quality when comparing freshly harvested produce to store-bought. She compared processed baby carrots to freshly pick, stem-on carrots from the farm. I learned that industrially processed baby carrots are soaked in a chlorine solution to prevent harmful bacterial growth. Personally, I’d much rather eat the whole, unaltered food, than a chemically processed version. That simple anecdote demonstrates the importance of sourcing local food that’s in its natural state. Even if a vegetable is sold fresh, whole, and grown organically, it may not be the best quality. 

Visit

Farm: 22935 Chautauqua Rd. Elsah, IL 62028

The farm stand is open Thursday and Friday from 10-7 and Saturdays 9-2 starting in mid-May through October. Their very popular plant sale is the last weekend in April, both Saturday and Sunday from 9-4.

What you can find:

  • A wide array of produce
  • Local apples
  • Fresh flowers
  • Free-range eggs right from the farm, locally sourced meats and Marcoot cheeses, spiced apple butter & more!

Personal Favorites: 

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Shopping Tip:

Reusable produce bags are an excellent way to reduce plastic waste, and advocate for a less wasteful & sustainable world. I ordered these Earthwise produce bags from Amazon.com.

Want to continue learning about local farmers? Click here for a short video.

The Principia College Campus: The First Layer of the Local Food Journey

By Jolee Keplinger (C’20) | Principia Center for Sustainability

Defining Local

The specific number of miles traveled by food to count as being “local” varies. The definition adopted by the U.S. Congress considers local food to have traveled less than 400 miles from its origin, or be from the state it was produced. The more common definition of local food means it was grown within 100 miles or within the state. 

Local Focus: Principia College

I will start this local food exploration from where I am living, Principia College, located on the bluffs next to the Mississippi river in Elsah, IL. Just on this 2,600 acre campus, a plethora of off-the-radar foods are scattered across the landscape. I will start this food-venture at the East Quad housing section of the campus. There, a mini apple “orchard” exists, and each fall, the trees are abounding with apples.

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Apples harvested from campus – Fall 2018

Most students walk by these trees without giving them a second thought. I used to be one of those students, but last year, my perspective changed when I participated in the sustainability club’s apple sauce workshop during the fall of 2018.

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I was amazed at how under-appreciated the apples were, and at the potential to create a variety of apple products right on campus. It’s too bad these apples aren’t incorporated into the campus’s dining services. Instead, industrially grown apples are shipped in from many miles away, and their origin is not communicated to us. 

Fortunately, an aspect of the campus that’s being utilized are the sugar maple trees. A biology course called Sugarbush focuses on making maple syrup during the spring semester.

The students create products using the maple syrup, and sell them in the campus’s store. This example demonstrates how local food is so accessable.

Sadly, if you go to get pancakes for breakfast, the maple syrup is not campus-grown due to its high value and limited quantity. Instead, you’ll find an artificial version shipped in from many miles away. 

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Fun fact: Principia’s maple syrup is FSC certified. Products labeled with this certification come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits!

90% of proceeds benefit Principia’s Land Stewardship program. 

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Maple Syrup for Sale

 Value added products, made by students enrolled in the maple syrup making course, will be for sale in the C-Store as well. For example, sweets such as cake pops, rice crispy treats, maple bark, and popsicles graced the shelves last year.

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Next to the sugar shack (where the syrup is boiled) lies a community garden, which is currently being revitalized.

The Science Center, which is located next to the garden, is contributing to the campus’s local food production as well. Part of this building’s roof has been transformed into a garden. There, kale, cabbage, leeks, romaine lettuce, and a variety of herbs are being grown, (and sunflowers are coming soon). Evidence of the campus’s potential to self-sustain itself is the student/faculty-run victory garden during World War II. This demonstrates that with an urgent event, and call to action, things can be accomplished.

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Rooftop gardens, also known as green roofs, provide many benefits. The most obvious one is the availability of fresh, nutrient-dense, and local food, which can be grown with organic principles. Additionally, rooftop gardens can lead to community building, reduce energy costs, and even provide habitats for native pollinators, which play an essential role in local food production.

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The beekeeping program, a subset of the Sustainability Club, manages bee boxes, which have successfully produced honey.

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This is exhibited during Sustainability Weekend each year. Samples of honey are offered to anyone walking through the Concourse.

As you walk through the concourse, you can enter the central food area, known as the Scramble Room. There, locally grown products are not the norm.

If you continue walking though, you’ll arrive at the campus’s convenience store, known as the C-Store. There you can find local specialties such as Fitz’s soda, which is hand-crated in St. Louis.

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Even though the campus has the ability to produce a variety of foods, this utopian campus food system isn’t being achieved due to logistical factors, such as high turnover rate of student residents, apathy regarding the origin of one’s food, and our have-it-all, fast-paced, globalized culture.

The average person to expects to have 24/7 access to a variety of foods which of course, cannot all be grown locally and sustainably. 

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On a positive note, the campus’s Dining Services has a five star rating from the Green Dining Alliance. This St. Louis-based program rates restaurants in terms of water and energy conservation, food sourcing, recycling and waste reduction, awareness, innovation, and chemical use.

In each category, Principia has scored at least four stars, except for the “sourcing” category. This highlights the fact that sourcing local and sustainable food has plenty of room for improvement.

For example, one product which happens to be manufactured semi-locally is the Beyond Burger.

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Fortunately, progress is being made. As Principia’s Dining Services Liaison officer for the Sustainability Department, one of my projects last semester was integrating local produce from a Three Rivers Community Farm. This small, family-run farm, which grows all its produce with organic principles, is less than a five minute drive from campus. (Fun fact: the land is actually being leased from Principia.) I thought it was important to utilize this local food source which lies in our backyard. I took action by setting up a meeting which included our chef, the director of the Sustainability department, and the owner of the farm. The meeting was a success, and resulted in a partnership with the farm. Fresh, local produce can be expected to become integrated into Principia’s Dining Services starting in the fall semester of 2019!

Final Words

Today, what’s needed is community awareness regarding the current, unsustainable-state of the U.S. food system, and individuals who are passionate about igniting change. Everyone eats, and everyone wants to eat in the future. For this to be possible, we must transition from the current too-good-to-be-true depleting global industrial food system, to once that’s local, place-based, and not just sustainable, but regenerative.

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Even though Principia’s campus-grown food is a step in the right direction, the intentions seem to be academic research, Sustainability Club activity, or project-based. There is much progress to be made considering the multitude of possibilities that exist on a rural 2,600 acre campus.

Elsah General Store: An Opportunity to Step Back in Time and Support Local Businesses

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By Jolee Keplinger (C’20) | Principia Center for Sustainability

Not too long ago, Blair and Dory Smith purchased a historic building built in 1877. The building was originally a dry goods store called Keller & Son General Merchant.  According to Blair, the idea of revitalizing the storefront had been “bubbling in thought for many years.” In 2015, the Elsah General Store became a reality. This store allows residents, tourists, plus students and faculty from Principia College, to experience a slower, simpler time.

The Elsah General Store is located in the historic village of Elsah, IL, which is located off of the Great River Road. When considering the fact that there are only about 600 residents there, it’s understandable that this is the only grocery store serving the area. 

Currently, the store offers locally sourced staple products such as baking ingredients, eggs, meat and fresh bread plus a variety of treats which include old time candies, vintage soda and ice cream. In addition, jams, sauces, dressings, maple syrup, honey, canned goods, and coffee are available. Blair defines local as being within 100 miles, which includes St. Louis, MO.

Initially, the local food movement didn’t register with Blair and Dory. One day, a customer inquired about “eggs from happy chickens.” This led him to specially source the store’s eggs from a local and humane farm. Even though these eggs cost more, he emphasized that his customer base appreciates them. This demonstrates how sustainable and ethical options can be a beneficial business move.

Each week, Blair commutes to St. Louis to shop for locally made specialty products. This demonstrates his dedication to offering the locals a variety of locally produced options without having to drive an hour into the city.

The Goodies Table features products from the weekly St. Louis shopping haul. One dessert which is unique to the region is gooey butter cake, a St. Louis speciality. Blair purchases the gooey butter cakes from Ann & Allen Baking Company. This business bakes over 70 flavors! You can expect to find the original flavor, as well as a special flavor which changes each week.

My favorite items from The Goodies Table are the Kakao chocolates. This Maplewood, MO confectionary only uses the finest natural ingredients, ensuring exceptionally high quality chocolate. 

This table filled with local specialties isn’t just reserved for sweets. You can also find savory options, such as Billy Goat Chips.  Once you taste these hand-crafted potato chips you, will never want settle for the mainstream, mass-produced version ever again.

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Another local speciality found at the store is Ringhausen’s Apple Cider. This delicious drink is only available September through December. What’s special about this product is that the apples are picked right off the trees. You’re probably thinking “aren’t all apples picked from trees?” For cider, most of the apples used are actually the discards that have fallen to the ground.

Speaking of drinks, Blair spoke fondly about BunkHouse Joe coffee, which is roasted in Feildon, IL, which is only a half-hour drive away. He’s even met the owner and learned all about their extensive roasting process.

This post only covers a few product highlights. I highly recommend paying the Elsah General Store a visit. There, you will most likely see Blair at the register, and hear more about his passion for providing high-quality, locally sourced products. 

Location: 

22 LaSalle St.
Elsah, IL 

Store Hours:

Wednesday – Saturday 10:00 – 5:00

Sunday 12:00 – 5:00

Closed Monday & Tuesday

Click here for a full list of products.