Sprawling across more than 380 acres, Pocono Organics across from Pocono Raceway in Long Pond in Monroe County officially opened its farm, market and cafe to the public on Thursday.
The massive farm is poised to become one of the largest regenerative organic fruit and vegetable operations in North America.
Guests who come to Pocono Organics can enjoy and purchase produce year round in its Organic Farm Market and Cafe where a Food Network champion chef prepares farm-fresh food and shares easy-to-make recipes. The farm is now growing produce on 90 acres of fields but its goal is to expand to 380 acres.
As a global center for research, education, and discovery for regenerative organic agricultural practices, the dine-in or take-out facility brings guests back to the roots of how and where their food is grown.
Pocono Organics founder Ashley Walsh said she wanted to create a dynamic educational and nutritional experience from her personal health journey for guests to understand the vital connection between soil health and human health.
Walsh was diagnosed with gastroparesis in her early 30s, which means she can’t digest food properly. Doctors told her they could help her by cutting out parts of her stomach and using feeding tubes. Those weren’t options she was willing to accept and started her journey with organic foods.
“The powerful results of using food as medicine were undeniable for me,” Walsh said. “Instead of being sick five days a week, I was sick five days a month. I was also able to get off of all the medications I was taking for my health because of my stomach. The problem was that I just wasn’t able to get the nutrient-dense organic foods I needed. That’s when the vision for Pocono Organics came to life.”
Hands-on cooking and educational workshops will be held at Pocono Organics as well as health, wellness and yoga retreats and seasonal events such as pumpkin and tomato festivals.
To help reach its goal of being a self-sustainable farm, Pocono Organics will connect to Pocono Raceway’s solar farm, install well and septic systems, use a vegetative roof to capture rain water for re-use and create a robust composting program.
Pocono Organics has partnered with Rodale Institute, the largest independent organic research station in the world and pioneers and industry leaders in regenerative organic farming practices.
It has become an agritourism destination with its sister company and hotel, The Village at Pocono, which features rooms with full kitchens located next to the farm.
Connor Scalleat of the Scalleat Hospitality Group, which operates The Canning House at 900 Rutter Ave. in Forty Fort, The Powerhouse Eatery in White Haven and Ovalon Bar & Grill in Hazleton, recently visited Pocono Organics with a team from Grocer Collective that now partners with the organic farm.
The Scalleat Hospitality Group is one of the first accounts for Pocono Organics. It is now using the farm’s products in its three restaurants and will be Pocono Organics’ first online retailer and will sell their products at a new retail store planned at The Canning House.
Scalleat is celebrating the one-year anniversary of The Canning House and he said Grocer Collective will open retail space here in about a month. He anticipates launching the retail store at the end of July. He said they will stock products from local farms, including an extensive collection from Pocono Organics.
“Pocono Organics is developing a platform that is the future of farming and we are working alongside them to progress those ideals and give people easier access to healthy, sustainable, and top quality produce,” Scalleat said.
Once customers have exposure to Pocono Organics’ products through dishes in the restaurants, Scalleat said customers could then purchase the products online or at the retail store.
The store at The Canning House also will carry an array of high-end proteins, seafood sustainably sourced from partner Pierless Seafood, a variety of meats including grass-fed strips and dry aged ribs as well as antibiotic-free chicken from Joyce Farms.
Speciality fruit also will be stocked alongside organic fruits. The fruits will also be used in smoothies which will be available at Grocer Collective and The Canning House. Along with the launch of the retail store, Scalleat said they also will launch meal kits with ingredients to make a dinner for two to four.
Grocer Collective originated from online stores for The Canning House and Powerhouse Eatery, he said.
“Our mission is to extend our hospitality from the unique products you know from our restaurant to your kitchen cabinet,” Scalleat said. “We are working with local farms, butchers and specialty food purveyors to bring you the products that meet the needs of the most discerning chefs.”
Grocer Collective’s team of more than eight people was developed in a little under a month as the coronavirus pandemic caused the last three months to be some of the “most challenging times in history, especially for those of us in the business world and more specifically the service industry,” Scalleat said.
He said Scalleat Hospitality Group has pivoted its business to “continually serve our guests in safe environments for our teams.”
Outside of pivoting all its menus, replacing its main vendor Maines Paper and Food Service that filed for bankruptcy after a more than 50-year relationship, curating new takeout packaging, launching four in-house delivery services, the Scalleat Hospitality Group also built a new brand, he said.
“Our company now extends beyond the walls of our eateries,” Scalleat said. “We believe that by extending our hospitality to our communities, we’ve strengthened our own culture and business.”
While COVID-19 has provided many challenges to the industry, Scalleat said there is innovation on the horizon.
“I look forward to the day that households and restaurants alike can have a deeper integration with their local agriculture network and allow our communities to fix our broken food system,” he said. “Together we can all focus on the positive changes that we can drive out of this and build deeper connections with real people growing real food.”
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