Here is another adventure in the On the Road with Bunkycooks series. This time we went to a berry farm. You know how much the Bunkycooks love fresh fruit (especially really fresh, just picked fruit!), so what could be more fun than picking our own berries
in the sweltering heat on a lovely Summer day? We did not go to just any berry picking place, we went to the Jordan’s River Road Farms in Franklin, North Carolina!
I have to tell you right off, that our first meeting with Lenny Jordan was an awkward one. I had contacted Lenny and Jean Jordan about doing some berry picking, but did not realize that they send out a weekly email called a “Berry Alert”, advising when it is okay to come and pick their berries.
So, not knowing that slightly major fact, one day while we were over in the Franklin area, we decided to pay River Road Farms a visit and go picking! I had at least sent an email telling them I was coming, so I assumed it was okay. I had called and left a message, too!
We drove up and saw the farm and a house next door. We saw a tent and lots of buckets to put your berries in. However, after much berry picking, we then were not quite sure how to pay for them since nobody was home and there was no place to leave the money! Later on we found out that the farm belongs to the Jordans, but the house on the property belongs to their friend!
Now, we had been berry bad (I just had to say that) and we were feeling pretty weird, so we called their number again and didn’t get an answer. Maybe they take IOU’s just like Karen at The Lick Log Mill Store?! So, needless to say, our first face to face meeting was when Lenny got to meet the Bunkycooks (alias berry thieves)!
I have to say that the Jordan’s story is another fascinating one. Lenny was an Executive with a very large corporation based in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1999, Lenny and Jean Jordan bought a home up on the mountain in Franklin, North Carolina. Lenny told us that as they would look down into the valley below their home, they kept seeing much of the land in the valley being taken up by new housing. So one day, they decided to buy a piece of that land to preserve it and turn it into a farm!
The land on what is now River Road Farms was purchased in 2004 and the Jordans, who retired three years ago, grow blueberries, blackberries, various veggies, herbs and really pretty flowers. The blueberries and blackberries are the primary crops, but every now and then Lenny will pop a few peppers in your bag along with some other goodies!
This farm was truly born out of a love for the land and a desire to preserve it as well as giving back to the community by providing a place where local people can come and pick fresh berries (like the Bunkycooks!). Lenny says that one of his fondest memories is of a little girl that came to pick berries with her family. At the end of the visit her bucket was empty but her clothes and face were covered in berry juice!
Besides having the cute little red barn and the very nifty tractor, River Road Farms is also on the Macon County Quilt Trail. Their quilt, which is #8 (see…it says so above!) is a berry patch. These quilt blocks are connected in some way to the history of the land, the building or the family that purchases them. This is a tourism initiative in North Carolina to increase awareness and traffic to various farms and attractions in the Western North Carolina.
I have to say that in addition to picking lots and lots of blueberries and blackberries at River Road Farms, we have also learned a great deal about berries this Summer. When we asked Lenny why blackberries sometimes have red mixed in with the true blackberry color, he told us that “the red is an indication of cross pollination, but not always attributed to that. When wild blackberries are found in the immediate vicinity, this cross pollination occurs and replanting every four to five years is almost a given.”
He also said that “blueberry bushes will live for many years and with proper pruning, and plant maintenance, will continue to increase in the fruit they bear.”
The Bunkycooks have also learned (especially Mr. Bunkycooks) that the berries on each and every bush have a very different flavor. Some are sweeter and juicier than others. So, as you go along and pick your berries, you need to eat a few berries from each bush to find the sweetest bushes! You should also leave your berries sit out for a day on your counter before using them. It will sweeten them up. Then you need to hope that there are some left over after
Mr. Bunkycooks everyone nibbles on them before you get to use them in cooking or baking!
In addition to bringing home gallons and gallons of berries this Summer, we have found wonderful new friends in meeting Lenny and Jean. In fact, Lenny invited us the Local Food Gala in Franklin which is to benefit the Land Trust for Little Tennessee. If you watch the video, you will see Mr. Bunkycooks and Lenny chatting it up behind Paul J. Carlson (the Executive Director of the LTLT). First, they are behind him on the right side and then they are on the left side later in the clip!
Lenny told me “I am learning every year more about both the blackberries and blueberries. Considering Jean and I started this adventure to protect the beauty of the valley, we are happy with the fruits of our labor and the enjoyment folks get from being able to come and pick our berries, knowing the origin and the care we give the plants. We use no sprays and only organic fertilizers.”
I am sure you are wondering what on Earth I could have done with all of these berries we have
swiped picked this Summer! First of all, my freezer is filled with berries and berry jam so that I can have wonderful local berries this coming Winter. I also made all sorts of yummy desserts, including several pies and a Blueberry Buckle recipe from Debra at SmithBites, which was adapted from a recipe by Betty Gunkle (you’ve gotta love that name!). By the way, it was very tasty!
This recipe for Berry and Peach Crisp combines the fresh awesome blackberries and blueberries from the Jordan’s farm along with some beautiful South Carolina peaches for a real taste of Summer! I made the topping a little healthier than the usual crisp, since the Bunkycooks need to be watching their
butts grow larger waistlines with all of this travel!
Thank you so much to Lenny and Jean for their friendship and for their farm with the amazing berries. By the way, if you are too hot and not in the mood to pick berries, I know a secret! Lenny and some of his friends (and their dogs!) hang out in that cute red barn, drinking beer and staying cool while the wives pick the berries! I still can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of that!
Summer Berry and Peach Crisp
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh blackberries
3 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your fruit)
1 cup regular rolled oats
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter,chilled and cut into very small pieces
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Put the berries and peaches in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, flour and sugar to the bowl. Gently toss and let sit for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens.
Meanwhile, combine the rolled oats, flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, butter and salt with a pastry blender or a fork. Mix together until the mixture is crumbly.
Pour the fruit with all the juices into the prepared baking pan. Evenly distribute the topping over the fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until top is brown and the berries are starting to bubble up through the topping. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream (and if you are Mr. Bunkycooks, you will insist on homemade ice cream! Here is the link to my recipe for homemade vanilla ice cream.