Local Food

Other than seasonal Farmers Markets, food choices in rural areas tend to be quite limited, with grocery options dominated by dollar stores and convenience marts. Residents of the Capon Bridge, WV area, fortunately, have a new choice: Kate Pacelli and her husband Pete opened their store The Farmer’s Daughter Market and Butcher in May 2015. They sell locally-sourced meats, dairy, produce, and dry goods. Their website is facebook.com/farmersdaughterwv. This email interview with Pete was done in December 2015.

What qualities made you choose the town of Capon Bridge as a good place to open your business?

Our family farm is located in Capon Bridge, and we noticed there was a great need for fresh food in the area. Outside of seasonal fruit stands, there are no fresh food options between Romney, WV and Winchester, VA. Judging from our local response, the community agreed!

I understand you try to source your meat and produce locally. About how many local farms are you helping to sustain with your business?

We are currently working with over a dozen local farms- from small family farms that supply us with eggs, to farms like Bigg Riggs and Mayfair farm who have other outlets like farmers markets. We calculated this month, that since opening May 30th, we have purchased over $97,000 from West Virginia Farmers- something we're very proud of.

When and how did you first get interested in butchering?

I've always had an interest in food, particularly meat. My family comes from a long line of butchers from the Netherlands, my grandfather grew up in the family shop. His father was a butcher, his father's father was a butcher, and so on... I really got serious about it when I lived in Portland, OR. I frequented the neighborhood shops and read everything I could get my hands on, that is where I think it really clicked for me.

Are you self-trained, or have you had formal training and/or an internship somewhere?

I started working part time behind the counter at a whole animal butchery in Asheville, NC- the Chop Shop. I apprenticed and washed dishes for 6 months before ever holding a knife. I've also had a short internship at the Meat Hook in Brooklyn before working for JM Stock Provisions, a great whole animal butcher with locations in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.

I saw that you were offering a butchering internship. Any takers?

Yes, we recently brought on a gentleman interested in butchery, he has really taken to it and we now have him working a paid position.

Do you use more than one abattoir?

We leave that decision up to our farmers. They take the animals to the abattoir that they feel comfortable with, then bring us the whole carcass. Right now our beef and pork is slaughtered at two different facilities.

I've tasted quite a few of your sausages, and they comprise quite a delicious variety of flavors. About what percentage are from recipes vs. your own invention?

I have created about 50% of them, the other half I've picked up over the years from other butchers I've worked with.

Any chance that your bakery items will include bread in the future?

We have a baker who comes once a week and bakes mostly sweets. We would love to have bread, but aren't set up right now to have a baker here multiple days a week- which is what fresh bread would require. We're always looking for someone with a commercial kitchen who would like to supply the shop with fresh bread weekly- feel free to put the word out there!

I notice you have quite a few cookbooks in the shop. If you could keep only one, which would it be?

It would be the River Cottage Meat Book- in addition to some of my favorite recipes it allows some great insight into the farming and butchering side of meat.

Although it's still early days yet, your business seems to be thriving and building bit by bit. Do you have any advice for similar small businesses trying to succeed in rural areas?

I would suggest that they don't try to compete with Wal-Mart and other commercial groceries. Offer a higher quality product and encourage your patrons to ask questions they may have regarding price and sourcing of your product. Be present, put a face and some accountability to your business. And most importantly, hang in there.

Surviving Disasters

As the June 2012 derecho storm knocked out power all over West Virginia, and October’s Hurricane Sandy superstorm upended the East Coast, the words “climate change” finally broke into the presidential campaign. Folks began asking more seriously:

  • How would my household survive a disaster that overwhelmed our community?
  • How can we set up our homes and communities to survive extreme weather events?
  • Can we set up sustainable ways of living to cooperate with nature, rather than fight it?

People’s reactions to Sandy and the derecho were revealing. Lack of gasoline brought panic. Dark, flooded streets in New York brought rats and robbers. And, just as in New Orleans, banksters are scheming to take over the ruined property of low income coast dwellers. At the same time, “Occupy Sandy” and other grass roots relief efforts used technology and good will to get supplies directly from donors to people in need; they also cooperated with police, federal government and large charity organizations to make the relief more efficient. Classic American compassion and ingenuity came shining through. http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/

As a state (some would say colony) founded on energy and raw materials, seeing so much taken at the expense of land and people, West Virginia bears a key role in the transition to survive and sustain.

Disasters in the Household
Short and Long Term

The power outages in July and October tested Potomac Highlanders’ preparations for disasters, as individuals and communities. Old country ways suddenly seem useful again. When electric power fails, you have no no well pump, (unless you have a gravity fed spring); no refrigeration (a root cellar would help somewhat), no fans or air conditioning, (although if you planned ahead you might have natural ventilation, solar heat, and shade trees) and sometimes no heat (unless you have a woodstove).

Assuming your house is not destroyed in a fire or flood, you may ride out a storm with some preparation. This checklist page has links for more information. and practical steps you can take to prepare for disasters: homeowning.homestead.com/prepare.htm. We avoid the common advice about disaster kits, because kits get stale and evacuations are far rarer than fires, hospitalizations, and power outages, and you can rarely evacuate with much stuff anyway.

WATER: Clean drinking water is available in the hot water tank. People with tankless heaters need to store water. Water for flushing toilets could come from rain gutters, but filtering roof runoff to keep it healthy takes advance planning.

ELECTRICITY, HEATING, COOLING: In an emergency, you can use a 240 volt generator to run the well pump and other electric needs, but you may need to store fuel. Some solar systems involve a low-current pump, but there’s still potential for passive design, co-generation of hot water, and photovoltaic panels that produce electricity.

SMALL APPLIANCES: Like computers, routers, and phones, an inverter can run from a car battery as long as fuel lasts.

FOOD: People generally have a couple weeks of non-perishable food on hand. Those without a generator need to eat perishable food first or give it away. If it’s summer and your garden isn’t flooded, you may be eating off the land!

THE MOST COMMON DISASTER is actually fire, and the most common emergency is going to the hospital. In a fire you need to leave, stopping only to help others out of the building; you may not get out with your cell phone, keys or papers. Work on backing up your important computer files and bank info off site and online. Find someone you trust with extra keys to car and safe deposit box, and important phone numbers. You will need them after a fire, and your friend can visit you if you land in an emergency room or hospital (individuals have a 20% chance of this per year) and help call doctors, insurance, relatives, etc. Update the list of numbers yearly or when you get a new bank account, insurance or good friends!

REMEMBER: you can always get new stuff for your house, but files, keys and phone numbers are harder.

New Local Rural Hospitals

Hospitals and emergency services, both professional and volunteer, will be a key to survival and sustainability in the new era, wherever we live.

Reversing a long trend toward centralized medical care, in 2011 and 2012 Valley Health built two new hospital facilities in the Eastern Panhandle. Both provide acute (ER) care, as well as rehabilitation and long term (nursing home) care. Hampshire Memorial Hospital is located in Romney just behind the Food Lion, and War Memorial Hospital is in Berkeley Springs. Now you won’t have to spend a whole day at the ER at Winchester Medical Center! If you do need intensive care in a larger hospital, coordination and transportation is available between all three hospitals.

Rooms at the new hospitals are light and spacious, and War Memorial especially has lovely views of the mountains (which should be healing in itself!). Eclectic shopping and superb restaurants abound in Berkeley Springs, one of the nation’s top artistic towns, after your hospital visit with a loved one there. If the MARC commuter rail line can be extended to nearby Hancock, MD, we’d have another way to get to Berkeley Springs for both hospital and recreation.