From the Boardroom to the Barn at River Road Farms! and a recipe for Summer Berry and Peach Crisp

From the Boardroom to the Barn at River Road Farms! and a recipe for Summer Berry and Peach Crisp

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!

Mr. Bunkycooks really wants this tractor!

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)!

Their Macon Country Quilt Patch is of a Berry Basket! Very cute!

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!

This photo is courtesy of River Road 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!

River Road Farm is #8 on the Macon County Quilt Trail.

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.”

These were so sweet to just eat all by themselves!

River Road Farms is another farm that is certified by ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project). They are also a member of the North Carolina Agritoursim Association.

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!

Lots of blueberries and peaches...oh, my!

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

Serves 6

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

38 Responses to “From the Boardroom to the Barn at River Road Farms! and a recipe for Summer Berry and Peach Crisp”

  1. 1

    Denise@There's a Newf in My Soup! — August 12, 2010 @ 11:19 pm

    Mr. Bunkycooks has become quite the “Cover Boy” in these ‘behind the scenes, on the road’ posts! Cute story – glad you didn’t get arrested! Beautiful photos, as always, love the rustic table and the red barn, especially since it also serves as a pub on those hot days! I’ll be drinking beer with the boys, thank you!

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 13th, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

      Hi Denise!

      “Cover Boy”could be a scary name…maybe Mr. Bunkycooks should head right for the barn and the beer! I have to tell you, it was a hoot to open the doors and the boys were in there with the dogs and the beers! What the heck are we doing wrong?! ;)

  2. 2

    Doris — August 13, 2010 @ 7:24 am

    To the Bunkycooks –
    Sure enjoyed your witty, wonderful blog about my sister and brother-in-law’s
    River Road Farms berry patch! This year, in June, Lenny and Jean hosted our annual family reunion (nearly 50 strong) so we all got to sample some of the early crop.
    You write so entertainingly as well as provide yummy-looking recipes. And I can see that you already appreciate the Jordan part of our family clan. Keep up the great blog and your commitment to down-home freshness.

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 13th, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

      Thank you so much Doris! We really have gotten to know Lenny (especially) after hours of berry picking and chatting. We Think the farm is really special and that your family is awesome for buying up the land and preserving it for others to enjoy.

      Gwen

  3. 3

    Reina Kegan — August 13, 2010 @ 8:50 am

    I loved your comment on Jean and Lenny’s farm. I enjoy so much going picking blueberries. My husband and I had the pleasure to meet them a few years ago and grow fonder of them at each encounter.
    Please keep my e-mail address for future blogs. I will try the crisp recipe for a coming diner party. Have a great summer.

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 13th, 2010 @ 8:34 pm

      Hi Reina,

      Thank you for your comment. I will email you the info on how to subscribe to future posts.

      Lenny and Jean are incredibly nice people and we are fortunate to have met them.

      Gwen

  4. 4

    Ruth Ann — August 13, 2010 @ 10:23 am

    From another sister/sister-in-law of Jean/Lenny: Thanks for your great blog! What more could you ask for than wonderful, warm people, delicious organic fruit, and a nurturing love of the land!

  5. 5

    Monet — August 13, 2010 @ 11:56 am

    I loved learning more about berries…how much fun to sample each bush of berries before selecting the one with the sweetest treats! I wish I could have visited this farm with you. Thank you for sharing a lovely dessert recipe! I might have to give this a try over the weekend.

  6. 6

    Brian — August 13, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

    Our family picked at the River Road farm for the second time this year in what has become an annual event that we all look forward to each summer. Lenny indeed is a wonderful guy whose berries are excellent and whose heart is in the right place. He even watched our infant daughter under the shade of his tent while my wife and I picked berries with our older daughter! Great farm, great people, great berries!

  7. 7

    Jim — August 13, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

    Reading all those nice comments about Lenny, Jean and River Road Farms, I kept saying, “Is that REALLY my brother they’re writing about?” But when I got to the part about hanging out in the barn while the others pick, I knew, “Yes, that’s my little brother. Hasn’t changed since we were kids!!”

    Seriously, great write up, great pix. We’re proud.

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 13th, 2010 @ 8:38 pm

      Hi Jim!

      I don’t know what else to say, but LOL!!! I sooo wish I had a picture of that when we opened the barn door in 96 degrees and there they were! Wish I had known about that deal…I would have been there, too!

      Gwen

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 15th, 2010 @ 9:27 am

      Hi Jim,

      I am still laughing over this comment! What a hoot! Maybe you should write a blog! ;)

      Gwen

  8. 8

    Jackie — August 13, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

    What a fun article! I am a grateful niece of Jean and Lenny who appreciates their labor of love! Very entertaining article–I learned several things I didn’t know–thanks so much!

  9. 9

    SMITH BITES — August 13, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

    Just priceless Gwen, just priceless! I can just imagine the looks on your faces when you realized there was no where to pay and you’d picked PAILS of berries – LOL!!

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 15th, 2010 @ 9:28 am

      Hi Debra,

      Glad you got a chuckle out of this one! It is funny looking back, but we sure felt a little weird at the time! Yikes!

      Gwen

  10. 10

    Cristina - TeenieCakes — August 13, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

    Gwen – your fresh berry and peach crisp looks absolutely lovely! It is the epitome of what summer fruits is all about. Hilarious about the berry-picking thieves…I enjoy your adventures. Thank you for sharing about the berries, blueberries sitting and becoming more sweeter and why the blackberries are sometimes riddled with red in it (I tried looking that up one day, wondering if it was an indication of it going bad). Another well-written and informative post! ;)

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 15th, 2010 @ 9:31 am

      Thank you Cristina. I am glad you enjoyed this post. We are having so much fun with all of the adventures and they truly are adventures! :) I was also really glad to learn about the red color in the blackberries. Lenny told us that just the year before his berries were entirely the dark color, so it doesn’t take long for the cross pollination to occur.

  11. 11

    Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle — August 13, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    Sometimes your posts can almost bring a tear to my eye. I lived in North Carolina for ten wonderful years and though I’ve come to love, love, love Colorado, seeing these pictures, remembering the many trips my girlfriends and I would take to harvest berries of all sorts; makes me very homesick. Funny, I’m from St. Louis but never get that feeling; maybe because we built our home from the first scoop of dirt to having both my girls being born there.

    I said it yesterday, will say it again…a part of my heart will always remain in NC.

    Oh, and the food! Small world, my neighbor just brought me over part of a pan she had made of a mixed berry crisp. I’m addicted!

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 15th, 2010 @ 9:23 am

      Hi Barb,

      I know you love and miss NC because we have chatted about that several times. It is truly a beautiful state and this area where we are is particularly special. I hope you will come this way sometime and visit and see your beloved NC again!

      Gwen

  12. 12

    redkathy — August 13, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing River Road Farm with us. Great post and awesome crisp! I love love love berries. Think you could send me a plate? Back home mom and dad had raspberry bushes. Oh my I loved picking and eat right off the bush.

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 15th, 2010 @ 9:24 am

      Hi Kathy,

      Eating the berries right off the bush is part of the fun of picking…just ask Mr. Bunkycooks! ;)

      Gwen

  13. 13

    denise @ quickies on the dinner table — August 13, 2010 @ 11:01 pm

    Ooh! That was a little awkward, but kinda funny :) Love the crisp and all those gorgeous berries!! I really am so envious that you have access to so many farms!!!

    This was such an enjoyable read! Thanks for all the work you do here Gwen :)

  14. 14

    Drick — August 14, 2010 @ 10:43 am

    really funny story – would have loved to seen your face when you finally met Lenny… what a great crisp with the mixed berries and peaches, always like adding oaks to the topping…

  15. 15

    deeba — August 14, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

    What a hilarious tale… berry berry nice indeed! I love it! Love the picture of the crisp too…Rustic & moorish! Wish it were berry season in India sometimes too!

  16. 16

    The Cilantropist — August 14, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

    This dessert looks heavenly, and sounds so much more appealing since it uses farm-fresh ingredients! Sounds like your visit to the farm was lots of fun while also being educational, a great combination. Also, I think I have those same dessert dishes as you, the ones in the first photo. Are they from Crate and Barrel? ;)

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 15th, 2010 @ 9:08 am

      Hi there!

      Thank you for the comment and yes indeed, they are from Crate and Barrel. I use them quite a bit and they are good for pics! :)

      Gwen

  17. 17

    torviewtoronto — August 14, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

    lovely pictures and crisp

  18. 18

    Lawyer Loves Lunch — August 14, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

    What a great story! I’m glad you were able to smooth things over and get your berries :) I’ve been contemplating making a crisp for a while now and this may be inspiration I need!

  19. 19

    Sherry Fulk — August 14, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

    I want to add that Lenny and Jean brought blueberries and jam to my 60th birthday in Indiana. Lenny picked them I think for the first time. Ha They were wonderful and I still have some after a week. They are both quality people that are the heart of our midwest upbringing and you are all lucky to have them in Franklin. Great stewards of our land. Don’t forget that great honey too.

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 15th, 2010 @ 9:06 am

      Hi Sherry,

      Thank you for the comment. Lenny and Jean are great folks and we are lucky to have them nearby! I still have some blueberries in my fridge, too. It’s amazing how long they last when you pick them fresh!

      Gwen

  20. 20

    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors — August 14, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

    Gwen – oH YUM! Look at all that bounty with fresh berries and peach crisp – looks lovely!

    Hilarious ! berry-picking thieves indeed :) Loving the series so keep it coming.

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

    • bunkycooks replied: — August 15th, 2010 @ 9:04 am

      Hi Devaki,

      Glad you are enjoying the adventures of the Bunkycooks. We are having fun with it and meeting some really nice people along the way!

      Gwen

  21. 21

    Brian @ A Thought For Food — August 15, 2010 @ 10:03 am

    There are few things better than fresh picked berries… and then using them to make a fantastic dessert. I love this series of posts you’ve written!

  22. 22

    Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro — August 15, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

    Another lovely post! I find it hilarious that you trespassed… in the sincerest kind of way. :-)

    Don’t you just love that buckle?! The dog ate my entire batch (after I took out the first two slices), so I might have to do another one for the office folks on Monday. :-)

    Cheers!

    [K]

  23. 23

    sippitysup — August 15, 2010 @ 10:25 pm

    I have noticed that slight changes in micro-climates can make subtle changes in flavor profiles. Even in humans. Not that i eat humans. GREG

  24. 24

    Lazaro — August 16, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    Perfect use of some wonderful fresh fruit. Great post.

  25. 25

    Conor @ HoldtheBeef — August 18, 2010 @ 6:28 am

    Ooh you’re just like a couple of pesky birds, flying in and stealing all the best berries! :D I love how friendly they were despite the confusion.

  26. 26

    amelia from z tasty life — May 30, 2012 @ 9:33 am

    fun adventure and the crisp looks wonderful!

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