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8th Annual Centre County Farm Tour Draws Over 2,000 Visits
August 21, 2013
On Saturday, August 10, cars crisscrossed valleys and traversed Centre County from end to end as part of the 8th Annual Centre County Farm Tour. The day was bright and breezy, bringing over 400 people out to explore seventeen of the county’s farms. Coordinated by Buy Fresh Buy Local® (BFBL) Centre County Chapter, the Farm Tour is a highly anticipated event that lets consumers get a behind-the-barn-door look at farm life, talk with the farmers, and get up close with the agricultural bounty found right here in Centre County. No matter the level interest or previous knowledge that tour-takers brought with them, there was something for everyone to see, taste, and experience. From apples to zucchini, from petting sows to picking tomatoes, the Farm Tour gave visitors a well rounded and hands-on approach to the many facets and niches of small scale farming.
With more farms than anyone could get to in one day, it was up to each party to decide what farms to visit and how long to stay there. No two farms are ever the same, and each farm took a unique approach to sharing their lifestyle with visitors: with farmer or self-guided tours, animals to feed, samples to savor, produce to pick, or demos to watch, each farm had something new and exciting to connect the guests with their products.
Spring Bank Acres, an Amish family-run farm just outside of Millheim, received over 200 visitors of all ages eager to take a draft-horse-drawn wagon tour of the fields, learn about producing raw milk cheese, discover tips for keeping produce fresh and plentiful for markets, and cool off with homemade ice cream, root beer, or kombucha tea. Rising Spring Meat Company opened their doors to visitors interested in touring the newly renovated USDA Inspected slaughterhouse in Spring Mills. Production was stopped for the day so that visitors could walk through each step of the slaughtering, butchering, and packaging process while learning about the important role that a local, transparent company plays for both farmers and consumers. At Bear Meadows Farm, a 167-acre dairy farm tucked into the base of Tussey Mountain, the squeals of enthralled youngsters rang across the fields as they received snuffly kisses from the gentle grass-fed Guernsey cows before sampling the farm’s “Udderly Delicious” milk that is sold unpasteurized, keeping it just as wholesome when you drink it as it is when the cow is milked.
Tour-goers may have arrived empty handed, but all left with bags and coolers bulging with farm-fresh ingredients: eggs fresh from the chicken, creamy milk practically straight from the cow, fruit and produce picked from luscious tilth, raw-milk cheeses, butter, the juiciest of meat cuts, and baked-goods hot out of the oven. These delicacies aren’t just limited to Farm Tour visitors—many of the farms are regular vendors at the county’s many farmers markets or sell from their on-farm store, so be sure to stop by and stock up on the freshness. BFBL sends out its e-newsletter every other week highlighting what’s in season and what you can expect at area farmers markets - for those interested in being on that list, visit buylocalpa.org.
Brian Futhey, owner and head cheesemaker of Stone Meadow Farm in Woodward, was extremely pleased with how the day went. Stone Meadow produces six types of cheese from milk from their herd of pasture-fed jersey cows. Despite being the farm furthest East of State College, he saw about 100 people come through, all excited to get a feel for farm life and learn about cheese making. “People were really curious and very appreciative that they can actually come onto a farm and see how things are done,” he says. “So many people [who go on the Farm Tour] have never been on a farm before, let alone a cheese plant, so they really get a lot out of it. Some had no idea how cows are fed or the difference of grass versus grain diets, and there was a lot of interest with both the cows and the cheesemaking process.”
Ben Macneal, co-owner of Macneal Orchard & Sugarbush, also had a great day showcasing his bumper apple crop. “It went as well as we hoped it would,” he happily reports. “We generated a lot of newfound interest, and had great maple syrup sales. We got quite a few new customers who had never bought apples from us before—they said they’ll be waiting by our roadside stand when we open on Labor Day weekend!”
In its eighth year, the Farm Tour was once again a great success. Farmers got to show off what they do best while meeting new and established customers face to face, and consumers were able to spend the day in the sunshine and get their boots muddy in true farmer fashion. While farming isn’t for everyone, there’s nothing quite like seeing the faces and fields behind your food to really impact consumer decision to locally source their meals.