Producer of the Week: Greg Laut, Balloon Artist

Greg Laut creates a balloon figure for a young market patron. Photo courtesy of Copper Lantern Pictures.

Greg Laut creates a balloon figure for a young market patron. Photo courtesy of Copper Lantern Pictures.

What do unicorns, swords, flowers, laser guns, and strawberries all have in common? Can you guess? Well, when they’re expertly crafted out of multi-colored balloons and amazingly life-like, they have the balloon artist Greg Laut in common.

“I was introduced to balloons in my high school’s juggling club,” said Greg. “The sponsor of the club’s wife made balloon animals and she showed us how to do a few of the basic shapes.” Greg’s knowledge and skill level increased with more formal training over time.

Greg believes anyone can learn his craft. What it takes, he shared, is “determination and a bag of quality balloons purchased off the Internet.” For anyone who has ever had a bad experience trying to inflate and twist balloons into figures, this insight may seem improbable. Yet, Greg encourages people not to get discouraged. “Most balloon kits bought in stores come with bad balloons which tend to set you up for failure,” he said.

Using his high quality balloons, Greg produces a wide range of figures that delight UM Farmers Market patrons of all ages. Some patrons request figures that are reasonably straight forward; however, some patrons make rather interesting requests. “I have a bunch of strange requests for balloons,” Greg said. “The one that sticks out to me the most is a double helix, requested by a very intelligent little girl who looked to be about 10 or 11-years-old.”

Whatever the request, Greg really enjoys his artistry. “My favorite thing about doing balloons is undoubtedly the little and big smiles I see when people are given the finished balloon.” That’s because Greg produces remarkable balloon creations that delight patrons every time.

PRODUCER’S SPECIAL: In honor of the July 4th weekend, you can request a patriotic-themed balloon creation from Greg. Please be sure to stop by and say hello to him!


Producer of the Week: Sweet Tree Artisan Roasters

Sweet Tree artisan coffees. Photo by Copper Lantern Pictures.

Sweet Tree’s coffees. Photo by Copper Lantern Pictures.

“We think of coffee roasting as an art,” says Pete Pijanowski, a volunteer who works for Sweet Tree Artisan Roasters. “We are extremely dedicated to our product, and we always bring the best quality product to the market each week.”

You can find Pete and these products at the Sweet Tree market booth every Saturday. These days Pete is selling a good deal of nitro cold brew coffee, which makes sense given the recent spike in warm temperatures. “Cold brewing is a process of grinding the coffee and pouring in cold water. You let the grounds sit for 20 or more hours so you get a concentrate out of that. Afterwards, you water it down, keg it, and charge it with nitrogen gas,” Pete says. “It’s a process, but the end result is well worth it.”

While Sweet Tree’s cold brew coffee is a favorite among market patrons, they also have many other popular artisan coffees from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and more. “We’re 100 percent pure coffee,” Pete says.

Sweet Tree has been in the roasting business since 2013. Local owners Ian and Melissa Kingsley began roasting coffee as a hobby. “Ian then made the mistake of letting his friends try his coffee,” jokes Pete. “They loved it so much they urged him to share it with others as a business.”

Coffee roasting is a passion for Ian and Melissa. Stop by their booth at the market to talk with them and with Pete, and while you’re there, ask for a cup of their nitro cold brew coffee. It’s a great way to satisfy your coffee craving and beat the heat!

PRODUCER’S SPECIAL:  Any two bags of coffee for $24. Some single origin whole bean coffees you may want to try include Ethiopian Burka Gudina (cherry notes, cocoa, full body), Sulawesi Toarco (buttery body, spice, tomato), Kenyan Kihenia (strawberry, candy-tart), Sumatra Peaberry (vanilla, melon, grapefruit, earthy), and Rwandan Misozi (pleasant complex notes of honey, raspberry, tangerine acidity).

Producer of the Week: Hippie Soap Company

Handcrafted speciality soaps from Hippie Soap Company. Photo credit: Copper Lantern Pictures

Handcrafted speciality soaps from Hippie Soap Company. Photo credit: Copper Lantern Pictures

Hippie Soap Company is a new producer this year at the UM Farmers Market. In fact, they’re a new company entirely.  “We had been buying craft soap from other vendors,” said Stephanie Oram, co-owner of Hippie Soap. “We read books and blogs on soap making and decided to start our company in September of last year.”

Stephanie and her business partner Henry Toroni make a number of handcrafted soaps, lotions, and lip balms. In their first visit to the market, they found their unscented lotion bars, as well as their Moroccan Mint, Lavender, and Patchouli Tie Dye soaps sold very well. “We’re still learning what our most popular products are going to be,” Henry said. By talking to patrons, they learned a great deal about people’s allergies to certain scents. This information was valuable, they said, because it will help them think about the products they produce for the market.

Henry and Stephanie were drawn to the UM Farmers Market based on its proximity to their business. Once here, they found they liked the setting and the patrons. “It was really nice meeting people from the neighborhood today,” said Stephanie.

If you’re wondering, the name Hippie Soap came from Henry and Stephanie thinking about using the initials of their first names – H and S. That evolved into Hippie Soap “because making soap is a hippie thing to do,” said Stephanie. If you haven’t yet met Henry and Stephanie, please visit them at the market this week to browse their great selection of bar soaps, solid lotions, lip lotions, and men’s shaving soap.

PRODUCER SPECIAL: In honor of being selected Producer of the Week, Hippie Soap will be selling its lotion bars for $3. That’s $1 off the original price. Stop by their booth and take advantage of this special pricing!

Producer of the Week: Mucho Bueno


The guacamole-green Mucho Bueno food truck has patrons lined up for their great food. Photo Credit: Copper Lantern Pictures

You may have seen Patrick and Shannon Baudoin-Rea traveling around town in their distinctive guacamole-green food truck. Maybe you’ve tasted their signature sweet potato taco that was named by Zagat as one of the Top 10 Tacos in Philadelphia. Or perhaps, you’ve enjoyed their delicious breakfast tacos at the UMFM. To know them is to want to eat Mucho Bueno.

Patrick and Shannon started their business two years ago. “The joy of serving others is what got us into it,” Patrick said. “We love tacos and barbecue, so we decided to throw them together.”

Some of their most popular creations are the beef brisket taco, and the jump-off sandwich that includes chicken, bacon, and barbecue sauce. YUM!

Patrick and Shannon believe in supporting small local businesses like their own. “We use eggs from Peach Bottom Farms here at the market, as well as their tomatoes and other produce.”

Outside of the UMFM, you can find the Mucho Bueno food truck at LOVE Park, the Navy Yard, and Weavers Way Co-op. “This market is one of our favorites, though. We love the people, and how the people here appreciate us. We also love the great setting at the market.”


Producer of the Week: Spring Creek Farms

IMG_2074This season we’re doing something new to honor our terrific producers. Each week, we’ll highlight one of our producers, artisans, entertainers, or volunteers and shine a spotlight on the great contributions they make to the market. We’ll highlight these individuals here on our blog, in our e-newsletter, through out social media, and at the market itself each week.

Our first Producer of the Week for the 2015 market season is Spring Creek Farms. Spring Creek is one of the market’s original producers and a long time UMFM “family member.” Spring Creek’s mission is to raise the healthiest food possible and be good stewards of the environment. Forrest and Greg Stricker’s family has been farming their land for five generations. They have been a certified organic farm since 1999, though they’ve been chemical free since 1991. In addition, the cows at Spring Creek are 100% grass fed. Patrons don’t need to worry about GMO contamination in their beef or soy in their eggs.

Spring Creek’s most popular products are their raw milk and brown eggs. On hot summer days or crisp fall mornings at the market, their milkshakes are popular among patrons of all ages.

Josh Swope, a worker at Spring Creek Farms, wants us to know that he’s up at 3:45 a.m. in the morning milking the cows. He says it’s important for patrons to know that he and others actually work the farm, as well as bring the products to the market. So, they can talk knowledgeably about them.

What Josh likes most about the market is talking to the patrons. “They’re like family,” he said. And we feel the same about Josh and Spring Creek!

PRODUCER SPECIAL:  In honor of being Producer of the Week, Spring Creek is offering a special on their eggs. This Saturday, May 23rd, the eggs will be $5 per dozen. Forrest Stricker says these eggs are “organic, free range and soy free with golden yolks that you have to take and see to believe!” Stop by Spring Creek’s booth this weekend and pick up a dozen of their delicious eggs!