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Case Study > Essen: Breathe, Live, Grow


A Cooking School Primer: "Essen: Breathe, Live, Grow"

Every day, more residents of Lancaster County are shopping smarter, eating healthier, and enjoying an abundance of fresh, locally-grown products. You too can live a sustainable lifestyle!

A lesson with essen (Click here for video)


Buy Fresh Buy Local
Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network
Community Supported Agriculture
Farmers' Markets in Lancaster County
Food Cooperatives
Farm to Restaurants
Farm to Schools
Grocery Stores
American Public Health Association
Other National Organizations
USDA Farmers' Market Nutrition Program
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Asian Picnic Food
The Global Food System
New Green Basics
Going Green in the Kitchen

Enjoy a Healthy Lifestyle With Essen


Essen is a recreational cooking school located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that provides demonstration and hands-on classes for the home cook. Essen focuses on developing solid cooking techniques and easy cooking concepts using fresh, local food.


Betsey Gerstein Sterenfeld is the founder of Essen. She has always had a passion for food and desires to share her excitement of sustainable cooking with others. Betsey’s ultimate goal is to help others develop solid cooking skills that can be used throughout the rest of their lives.



More consumers than ever before are shopping smarter, eating healthier, and enjoying an abundance of fresh, locally grown products. Sustainable agriculture involves food production methods that are healthy, safe so as not to harm you or the environment, and supports farmers and farming communities.


To learn more about sustainability, all you have to do is educate yourself on the main issues so you can ask the right questions in order to take action to eat healthier.

Step 1: Educate

Learn that when a process is sustainable, it can be maintained for quite some time. It is important to understand that sustainable food production is able to continue for long periods because the farmers do not take more resources to produce food than they give back.

Step 2: Ask

As a consumer, it is your right to know exactly where and how your food was grown. Usually the hardest part of learning something new is knowing what questions to ask. Don’t be shy to ask questions about your food!

Step 3: Act

When purchasing your products, really get to know the farmer. That way you’ll always feel comfortable buying from a friend. Feel free to get involved and invite your neighbors and family members over for sustainable meals.


Buy Fresh Buy Local



Buy Fresh Buy Local is a nationwide, grassroots program managed by the Food Routes Network. The Friends of Central Market and The Local Economy Center of Franklin and Marshall College organized Lancaster’s Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter.

Essen is one of the many Buy Fresh Buy Local organizations that help to celebrate the abundance and diversity of regional foods available locally. The Buy Fresh Buy Local goal is to make it easier for people to find, choose, and appreciate great local foods while supporting the farmers and lands that produce them.

Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local mission:

  • Increase the demand for locally produced foods.
  • Strengthen the local food system by connecting Lancaster County families, farmers markets, restaurants, and other institutions with Lancaster County farmers.


Support Local Economy: Buying fresh and local food helps keep Lancaster County farms from going out of business. Many small farmers need support from the residents in Lancaster County to keep money flowing throughout the community. Knowing the farmers who grow your food also helps to build strong relationships.

Freshness and Taste: Numerous markets in the United States travel a long distance with their homestead products, which typically results in a reduction of shelf life. The people of Lancaster County are privileged to benefit from local, fresh tasting food purchased from neighborhood farmers markets, locally sustained farmers, grocers, restaurants, and cafés who sell freshly grown farm products.

Protect the Environment: If more Lancaster County residents bought fresh, local products, the distance goods would have to travel would be decreased. This means that the carbon dioxide from the vehicles transporting the food and packing materials used when shipping would also be reduced.

Family’s Health: Lancaster County customers have the opportunity of knowing where their food came from and how it was grown. That is a major advantage of buying directly from the source. Pesticides, hormones, and other biochemical agents are usually reduced when you buy from local farms and markets.

Unique Varieties: Local farmers often grow a large assortment of products to offer the most appetizing fruit and vegetable selections no matter what the season.

Affordability: Lancaster County Buy Fresh Buy Local customers can easily save more money buying locally grown food. Farmers and other suppliers sell their products directly to the buyers. Local farmers charge retail prices instead of wholesale. Fresh, locally grown food is more affordable for lower income families since local farmers traveling to the markets are lower than the national average.


There are various ways farmers can sell their food:

  • Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network (SSBN)
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
  • Farmers’ Markets
  • Food Cooperatives
  • Farm to Restaurants
  • Farm to Schools
  • Grocery Stores


Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network



SSBN is a non-profit network of businesses that support the triple-bottom-line:

  • People
  • Planet
  • Profit

Essen and the many other members of the Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network are local businesses, farms, non-profits, organizations, and individuals who are committed to building an economy that values the triple-bottom-line.


  1. Create a diverse network of people committed to the SSBN mission.
  2. Increase local and environmental health purchased by consumers and businesses.
  3. Collaborate to make local purchasing and environmental practices more convenient and affordable.
  4. Create opportunities for business leaders to network and share best sustainable business practices.
  5. Educate and engage the community to increase support for local, sustainable business.
  6. Provide civic leadership on economic fairness and environmental issues.
  7. Direct capital toward local financial institutions and businesses committed to building a more inclusive and sustainable economy.


Before becoming a SSBN member, you must meet certain criteria:

  1. Business must be privately owned.
  2. Business owners must live in Lancaster County or a surrounding area.
  3. Business must be registered in the state of Pennsylvania with no corporate or national headquarters outside Lancaster County.
  4. Business makes independent decisions regarding the name and look of the business.
  5. Business pays for marketing, rent, and other business expenses.


Community Supported Agriculture



Essen is also a member of Community Supported Agriculture, which has become an admired way for consumers to buy fresh, local food directly from farmers. The idea is very simple. First, an interested consumer purchases a CSA membership. After the subscription is acquired, the customer in return receives a basket of seasonal produce each week throughout the year.


  • Spend time marketing products early in the year.
  • Receive payment early in the season.
  • Get to know the individuals who purchase their food.


  • Eat fresh, local food with great flavor and vitamins.
  • Exposure to new vegetables and new ways of cooking.
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how the food is grown.


Farmers’ Markets in Lancaster County



A farmers market is a place where farmers can go to sell their produce to the public. Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, fresh produce, lets farmers have the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and develop consumer loyalty with the farmers who grows the produce. Currently, there are over 4,500 farmers markets operating throughout the country.


There are numerous farmers markets located all over Lancaster County. Here are a few markets you may want to check out.

Central Market (Lancaster, PA)

Lancaster Central Market is America’s oldest farmers’ market building. Since the 1730s, farmers have been bringing fresh produce to the market for sale to local residents. People are encouraged to come and fill their baskets with delicious, locally grown foods.

23 North Market Street
Lancaster, PA 17608


Cherry Hill Orchards, Inc. (Lancaster, PA)

Cherry Hill Orchards strives to provide the highest quality of produce for their customers. Their highest mission is to ensure absolute customer satisfaction.

400 Long Lane
Lancaster, PA 17603


Eastern Market (Lancaster, PA)

Lancaster Eastern Market features the freshest locally produced vegetables, fruits, flowers, plants, breads, and eggs sold by Lancaster County farmers and producers.

308 East King Street
Lancaster, PA 17608


Root’s County Market and Auction, Inc. (Manheim, PA)

Root’s County Market has over 200 vendors that sell fresh, local produce, baked goods, flowers, and much more.

705 Graystone Road
Manheim, PA 17545


Green Dragon Farmers Market and Auction (Ephrata, PA)

Green Dragon features Amish-made items, apparel, baked goods, books, candy, collectibles, flowers, locally grown food, home furnishings, jewelry, quilts, and toys.

955 North State Street
Ephrata, PA 17522



Food Cooperatives


A food cooperative is a voluntary group of people created for mutual profit. Food cooperatives are retail businesses owned by a community and the structure of the co-ops is independent and voluntary. All food cooperatives are committed to consumer education, product quality, and member control, and support their local communities by selling produce grown locally by family farms.


The Swarthmore Food Cooperative is just one organization that strongly supports local farms and vendors in Lancaster County. This particular co-op was organized in the 1930s and has served the community since its start. Swarthmore seeks to provide an expedient, welcoming, and supportive market devoted to supplying quality fresh and local goods at reasonable prices and absolutely anyone is free to shop.


Farm to Restaurants

George Street Café, New Day Café, and Pemberley Tea Shop are a few restaurants located in Lancaster County that buy their food from local farms. Many of the restaurant owners are members of the Buy Fresh Buy Local organization and the Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network. To find more sustainable restaurants in Lancaster County check out the eatery listings in The Green Pages, at the Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network web site.


Farm to Schools

Local farms also sell their food products to local schools. Regrettably, smaller farms are unable to sell their food to local institutions. Most institutes purchase their food from large and corporate farms inside and out of the United States. Visit The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) web site to learn more on farm to school programs.


Grocery Stores

John Herr’s Village Market is a grocery store located in Millersville, PA that also buys their fresh, local produce from neighboring farms to keep the local economy strong.


American Public Health Association

The buy fresh and local movement works hand in hand with the idea of sustainability. The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a sustainable food system as "one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities."


Other National Organizations

The National Farmers Direct Marketing Association: This trade organization provides information, support, and advocacy for family farms. It promotes food security, farmland preservation, and the purchase of locally grown food.

Sustainable Table – GRACE: Sustainable Table of the GRACE organization provides information, recipes, and multimedia presentations to encourage and commemorate the sustainable movement to buy locally grown food across the country. If you visit their web site, you can find many delicious recipes to try in your own home.

Harvest Eating: Harvest Eating is an online web source for eating seasonal, nutritious, and locally grown organic food. Harvest Eating also has enlightening material and expert advice on how to live a healthy and “green” lifestyle.

Farmers Market Coalition: The Farmers Market Coalition was founded with first time farmers in mind. The Coalition is a support group for farmers markets across the United States. The organization is a partner with the United States Agricultural Marketing Service and the Ford Foundation, among many other organizations.


USDA Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program


The United States Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is associated with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for women, infants, and children known as the WIC. This program provides supplemental foods, health


The women, infants, and children program is offered in:

  • All 50 states in America
  • 34 Indian Tribal Organizations
  • America Samoa
  • District of Columbia
  • Guam
  • Commonwealth Islands of the Northern Marianas
  • Puerto Rico
  • Virgin Islands


There are two major types of nutritional risk recognized for WIC eligibility:

  1. Medically based risks such as anemia, underweight, overweight, history of pregnancy complications, or poor pregnancy outcomes.
  2. Dietary risks such as failure to meet the dietary guidelines or inappropriate nutrition practices.

Note: Nutritional risk can only be determined by a health professional such as a physician, nutritionist, or nurse, and is based on Federal guidelines.



Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture


In the state of Pennsylvania, there are over 58,000 farm families that live on more than 7.5 million acres of farmland. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) supports, defends, and promotes agriculture and related industries throughout the commonwealth while supplying customer protection through examination services that influence the health and financial well being of Pennsylvania’s residents.


  1. Grow safe, nutritious, and affordable food for Pennsylvania and the world.
  2. Preserve farmland and conserve natural resources for future generations.
  3. Improve water and air quality through nutrient management.
  4. Maximize technology and innovation to grow the economy.
  5. Educate people to be life-long learners.


Asian Picnic Food

Essen has several unbelievably mouth-watering and simple recipes that you can make for your family right in your own home. Below are just a few recipes from Essen’s Asian Picnic Food. Also, make sure to check out the multimedia presentation and see how your food will look when it’s ready to eat!


Serves 6

3 cups water
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1⁄2 cups short-grain rice (such as sushi rice)

Small saucepan
Wooden spoon
Large mixing bowl

  1. Bring water to boil in a small saucepan. Stir in salt and rice; bring to a boil.
  2. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 17 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat.


Serves 6

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
12 (about 3 pounds) skinless boneless chicken thighs
Sticky Rice (see recipe)
Seasoned Nori Wrappers (see recipe)

Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Large mixing bowl
Measure spoons
Grill pan or BBQ

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic.
  2. Prepare and heat barbeque (or grill pan) to medium-high heat.
  3. Add chicken to marinade; toss to coat. Let the chicken marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  4. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
  5. To assemble: Wrap grilled chicken with the Sticky Rice in Seasoned Nori Wrappers. Definitely eat with hands.

Make ahead note: Chicken and marinade can be assembled 2 hours ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature 15-30 minutes before grilling.


Makes 32 wrappers

4 sheets Nori (dried seaweed sheets)
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
Coarse salt

Pastry brush
Grill pan or BBQ

  1. Heat grill pan or BBQ to medium-high.
  2. Brush both sides of Nori with sesame oil and sprinkle lightly with salt.
  3. Grill Nori until edges begin to curl, about 5 seconds per side.
  4. Pile sheets on work surface. Using scissors cut Nori lengthwise in half. Cut each half crosswise into 4 rectangles.


Makes about 30 cookies

2 large eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Mixing bowls
Measure cups
Measure spoons
Half sheet pan
Parchment paper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, salt and extract. Blend in the coconut until it is completely moistened.
  3. Drop generous teaspoons onto the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the macaroons are golden brown with crisp edges.
  5. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Make ahead note: The cookies will keep for 3-5 days at room temperature in an airtight container. Macaroons freeze beautifully and are great eaten straight from the freezer.


The Global Food System

There are a number of challenges that face the global food system. The greatest of these challenges is for the nations of the world to retain continuing sustainability and be able to provide those living in poverty with excellent food sources.

Environmental Challenges: The lack of natural resources and the negligence of water in underprivileged farmlands are typically caused by a shortage and improper management of technologies.

Economic Challenges: Underdeveloped nations usually have difficulty maintaining food independence. Sadly, food prices in poverty-stricken nations are much higher compared to inexpensive wealthy nations, which means the majority of the income of the poor, is spent on food.


New Green Basics

Not only do people have the opportunity to eat sustainable, they can also prepare their food sustainable. At New Green Basics, their ultimate goal is for customers to cook, eat, shop, live, and be green.


One of the biggest energy-sucking appliances in your house is the refrigerator. By using a CDN refrigerator/ freezer thermometer, you can save energy and prevent food waste.


Not only are these knives incredibly sharp but they also come labeled, which comes in handy when trying to identify a knife. Unlike stainless knives, the Calphalon Series is made of German high-steel carbon with Molybdenum and Vanadium that makes them environmentally safe and lightweight.


Did you know there are energy efficient pressure cookers? Well yes, there are! The Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker is the leader in energy efficiency and acts as a pressure fry pan as well as a pressure braiser. An additional benefit to using the pressure cooker is vegetables cooked in the pressure cooker retain more nutrients than cooking by other methods. So you get the healthiest and tastiest vegetables ever!

All abovementioned products are available online at:


Going Green in the Kitchen

In just a few small steps, you can make the way you eat easier on the environment. Changes do not need to be dramatic and often it's a small changes that become the most important.


For those who love bottled-water, it is difficult to go back to drinking tap water. However, it is necessary to better our environment. Americans buy more than 8 billion gallons of bottled water every year and toss 22 billion empty plastic bottles in the trash according to National Geographic magazine.


It's time to stop using paper plates and other disposable tableware and treat yourself to the good stuff. Doing this in the long run will also save lots of trash. Cloth napkins, real dishes and cutlery enhance the dining experience and send the message to your family that they deserve the best. Also, you can keep a set of cutlery at work and wash them after using them instead of using a new set of disposables.


Take a break from bagged lettuce mixes and make your own from individual heads of lettuce for fresher flavor and a lot less slime. If you eat a food in quantity, such as yogurt, choose the large container and spoon out what you need instead of buying several individual tubs.


Cooking Green

Years ago, the concept of fresh produce was not a necessity. Today, however, more and more people are choosing to buy natural and locally grown food to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. And not just in Lancaster County, but across the globe!

Now it’s your turn. Do you wish to live healthier, support your local economy, and always have the freshest and best tasting food? Then start to live a sustainable life and enjoy all the happiness that comes your way.


This site was created by Megan Morrison

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