What started as a trip to visit our friend Jamie’s hometown ended up being an extremely enlightening and educational weekend.
It all started with my first taste of scrapple at the Airport Diner in Kutztown, PA. Your average diner will offer you a breakfast side of hash browns, bacon, sausage but in Pennsylvania Dutch Country you can get scrapple. After the city girls did a proper Google search on our iPhones and got a glowing endorsement from Jamie, we decided to try it. The results were like nothing I’ve every really tasted before. Not really porky or meaty, most of the seasoning came through and the texture was pretty pleasant. A little apple butter helped as well.
Next we were off to Ontelaunee Orchard to pick our own strawberries! I loved how the best strawberries were hidden under the large leaves that grew on the plant. I’m pretty sure strawberries need a cool soil to grow so that is very advantageous on their part. It was also interesting to see how the strawberries were exreamly different from the ones you buy in the store which are huge and tasteless.
Our afternoon satisfied one of my 2011 Food Resolutions which was to visit a working farm.
Pasture’s Pride is a family operated farm owned by the Stutzman family which also happens to be Jamie’s old neighbors. We had the pleasure of a tour by Joy Stutzman, wife, mother, and business leg of the farm.
After we went through the initial “tell me again why you city girls want to spend your Saturday afternoon on a smelly farm” we were off to our first stop, the chicken coop. Joy explained to us that each of her children managed their own enterprise on the farm which was meant to finance their future. One of the boys raised chickens and we caught the last batch of his last year of labor. He had made enough to support himself through college and this was to be the last year, seemingly for sentimental reasons.
Next we braved through the tall grass and land mines of cow dung to get an up close look at the main source of income for the farm. It was amazing to think that just one of the grass-fed cows could comfortably feed four of us for a year. As we got closer I was amazed at the majestic-like stature of these creatures. At first they all hearded together at a safe yet comfortable distance from where we were standing. However it didn’t take long before someone got brave and tested the boundaries. It was at this exact moment we unanimously agreed it was time to head back.
Joy gave us a quick tour of of the old farm house that has been passed down for centuries and since modernized with current-day appliances. We shared a tall glass of lemonade and departed with just enough time for an iced coffee before making it to our final stop of the day.
When you hear that a dairy farm is on the agenda for sure you would think there is going be some down and dirty udder action. Little did we know. As we slowly adjusted to that special sent of manure, Jim Younker and his 12-year-old son let us poke around the baby calves pens. Just an hour before our arrival, Jim’s older son, no more than 16 helped deliver a calf as the mother was completely unaware of the birth leaving the baby in danger if he had not come to the rescue. They were un-phased by all of this, while the four of us stood there with our mouths hanging open. The interesting connection between Jamie and the Younkers is that a portion of the yard where Jamie’s mom and brother lives is devoted to growing grass which Jim will use to feed his cows
Jim moved us into the actual dairy where about 95 cows were lined up and ready to go. This was the second milking of the day, a very time consuming task but fairly intimate as well. The young boys have become so familiar with the cows that they can tell what their udders look like when they’re done. These cows can give birth multiple times which makes for a very large udder. And the most surprising of all was that the cows are hooked up to machines that milk, and then transports right to a little filtration-like device and then into the vat picked up by the dairy truck and off to packaging. The milk is never touched by human hands.
Jim also showed us some of his show cows and similar to the kids at the Stuzman farm, the Younker boys train and breed their own show cows to compete at state fairs and such. Jim’s wife Sue was also helping our with the milking and told us the story about how Jim was very upfront when they were dating that his dream was to own his own dairy. Her job in finance was short-lived to say the least.
As we are walking through the dairy it was quite apparent that there was danger of projectile excretion of bodily fluids and solids from the cows. (That was the most politically correct I can be for a public blog). I of course was curious to where it all goes! With a grin and a small undertone of comedic sarcasm Sue directs one of her sons to open the barn doors to the *hit hole. (I didn’t quite catch the correct name for this). But needless to say I now know where the term derives. A different truck comes by and turns it all into fertilizer for the farm.
We were able to participate in feeding time for the babies before removing our shoes and socks and climbing into Jamie’s Zip car.
Sunday was a day of rest with a delicious Pennsylvania Dutch meal prepare by Jamie’s mom which included a strawberry pie fresh from the field!
Definitely one of the best weekend get-aways I have taken in a long time. Knowing where food comes from and the labor and passion behind the people that bring it to you is perhaps one of the most important things I have come to realize. Thank you again to Joy Stuzman, the Younker family and especially Jamie and her mom for putting this all together for us city girls.