Discovering Bucks County, One Farm At A Time
Food writer Colin Marsh shares his experience on a Bucks County Food Tour -- a recent venture started by local foodie and food blogger Lynne Goldman and business partner Alan Brown.
Food doesn't come from the grocery store. It comes from farms and artisanal producers -- both of which are plentiful right here in Bucks County.
And now, thanks to Bucks County Food Tours, residents can get an inside look at some of the area's best agriculturual operations.
Lynne Goldman, creater of the website BucksCountyTaste.com, has long been a resource for Bucks County’s locavores to find the area's best food. Goldman is also an administrator for the Bucks County Foodshed Alliance, a nonprofit organization with a goal of fostering and expanding the local sustainable food supply in Bucks County.
Her extensive knowledge of artisans, farmers and foodies of Bucks County can now be shared in her new venture, Bucks County Food Tours, which she started with business partner and foodie Alan Brown.
I recently joined Goldman and Brown on a personal tour of Bucks County’s artisanal food suppliers.
The day began at Town Crier Bakery in Peddler's Village. There, Roseann and Kerry Burns make breads, pastries and cakes from scratch using traditional techniques. After an introduction, we were lead to the back of the bakery where Kerry Burns showed us how he makes his signature sticky buns. Real butter, brown sugar, dried fruit and nuts enrobed in handmade, enriched sweet bread dough. What a treat.
Next up on the tour was Birchwood Farm Dairy in Newtown, where owner and third-generation farmer Mike Tierney showed us his prized Tamworth pigs and dairy cows.
Birchwood is one of 400 farms in the country producing raw milk and making raw milk cheese and dairy products. His bio dynamic system of farming is holistic in its principles of understanding the relationships between soil, plants and animals. The farm produces cheese, milk, yogurt and ice cream, which Tierney was eager for us to sample in the farm store.
Brenda Slack and her Milk House Farm were next on the tour. Slack showed us the 27 varieties of squash she had just brought in from the fields and bragged about the 30 heirloom varieties of tomatoes they grew in the summer. The 120-acre farm has been in the Slack family since 1813 but Brenda Slack is the first in the family to be growing vegetables. She converted the milking room into a farm store and dedicated 30 acres to growing in season local produce. Seven breeds of hens fill the barns at Milk House and their eggs are sold in the store.
Up the street from Milk House Farm is Ely Farm Products, our next stop. Established in 1981 by Dwight Ely, a seventh-generation farmer, on the historic Ely Farm that dates back to the late 1700s. Hogs, cattle, and hay are raised on the farm to help to supply their on site butcher shop with its quality meats. Ely also produces three varieties of cheese, cures his own bacon and hand makes five varieties of sausage along with his world famous Ely ham and pork products. We sampled Ely’s pork products and met the family who work the store’s counter, including daughter Elizabeth, who has her own egg business at the farm.
After Ely's, we got back in the van for a drive up river and lunch at the Lovin’ Oven in Frenchtown, N.J. It's not technically in Bucks County but owner Julie Fern uses almost all local produce, meats and dairy products, indicative to the mantra of the food tour.
A locally-grown heirloom squash soup and a delicious salad with local greens and goat cheese started our lunch. Then we enjoyed a choice of an omelet made from Kerr Farm sweet corn, Happy Farm eggs and Bobolink Dairy cheddar cheese or an open faced grilled sandwich with Manoff Market Gardens apples and brie cheese.
While eating the delicious food, I had a chance to talk with Goldman and Brown about the tour.
“Bucks County is becoming a mecca for people that love fine, fresh artisanal food," Goldman said. "We created Bucks County Food Tours to provide an exciting and delicious experience for tourists and locals alike, promoting local businesses who specialize in producing exceptional food products.”
After lunch, Manoff Market Gardens was next. There, we met Amy and Gary Manoff, who showed us around their orchards and farm store. Amy Manoff explained their involvement with the food tour. “We are not on a main road," she said. "The farm tour has been a great way for customers to connect with us and get to know our products.”
Manoff Market Gardens grows 27 kinds of peaches and 25 varieties of apples. Gary gave us a sample of their fresh pressed apple cider, only available at the farm. It is unpasteurized, unadulterated and delicious. I tasted four varieties of apples including the elusive Northern Spy -- to me the perfect apple for pie. I bought a quarter bushel for my trip home.
Our last stop was oWowCow Creamery’s newest location at Carousel Gardens in Wrightstown. Owner John Fezzuoglio, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y, said he feels oWowCow is more than just an ice cream shop.
"We are part of the community and we feel that we need to play our part in supporting other local businesses, we try to buy locally-sourced ingredients and develop relationships with other local food suppliers," Fezzuoglio said.
"My product is about depth of flavor, using a locally grown ingredients creates a product that simply tastes better than something driven from 2,000 miles away. I am a small batch maker and am lucky to be in a place where I can source locally," he added.
Our tour ended where we began, back at Town Crier Bakery.
As I took my cooler from out of the back of the van, I realized I was taking the best of Bucks County home with me.
I had leeks, beets, squash, eggs and onions from Brenda Slack, the most delicious unpasteurized milk, Monterey Jack cheese and grass-fed beef from Birchwood Dairy, Dwight Ely’s delicious bacon and a piece of his Alden’s Blessing cheese and a quarter bushel of locally-grown Northern Spy apples that later turned into the best apple pie I ever made.
I had eaten a locally-sourced healthy lunch and got to chat with local food artisan John Fezzuoglio. The food tour was well worth taking. Goldman and Brown have the same passion for our county as the artisans, farmers, bakers and chefs they introduced us to.
Tours are $95, last about four hours and include lunch. The introductions and back of house access are worth the price. They can customize tours and can take a maximum of six people at a time, a great way to spend a weekend morning.
I feel I now have a better understanding of the food supply in Bucks County. We have a movement that is growing and I feel I met some of the key players.
For more information, email Bucks_county_food_tours@yahoo.com or call 215.794.4191 (Alan Brown) or 215.598.3979 (Lynne Goldman).