I was invited to attend an Authentic Adams County Media Tour sponsored by Discover Gettysburg. From Field to Fork is a food tour that was offered as part of that trip.
I have a confession to make. I’m not really a fan of farm-to-table restaurants. I know they’re hot and trendy and obviously make for a more sustainable meal but I’ve just never really enjoyed it. And now I think I know why.
The real joy of farm-to-table is intimately understanding not only the farms behind the food but also the people behind the farms. Gettysburg’s new From Field to Fork tour gives you a taste of all of Adams County, Pennsylvania and ends with a meal that cultivates everything you’ve experienced in one day.
I had the opportunity to head into the fields on an unseasonably warm late September day and left with a new found appreciation for not only buying local and eating sustainably but also challenging my own cooking skills.
First Stop: Caprine Delight Goat Farm
Upon arriving at our first stop, Caprine Delight Goat Farm, I was sure we were looking at the grounds of a daycare center. The fenced in yard was full of brightly colored plastic play structures. It turns out that it was all for the kids. Kids, of course, being the young goats that were thriving at the farm.
After being greeted by some of the younger goats (and learning that a selfie with a goat isn’t always the best idea), we met with Candy and her husband who run the farm.
Candy is a soft-spoken no-nonsense woman who is very matter-of-fact and proud of her goat operations. After letting us get our fill of baby goats, she gave us a tour of her immaculate milking facility which is where she produces raw goat milk. Unlike many other states that prohibit the sale of raw milk, Pennsylvania actually regulates it ensuring that facilities are inspected and held to high inspection standards.
In keeping with the “local” theme, Candy and her husband showed us the custom grain mixture they buy locally to ensure their goats get whatever nutrition they need. And it shows because not only were the goats happy and healthy (assuming I know what a happy goat looks like!), but the products were delicious.
We finished our visit with a tasting of cheeses made from raw goat’s milk. While we enjoyed them all (and I purchased the Leaning Tower – a hard cheese like parmesan – to take home), we purchased the mild General’s Choice to be incorporated into our late lunch.
Second Stop: Rambling River Farm
As if we couldn’t get enough goats in our first visit, we got to meet a larger breed of goat at Rambling River Farm, a small family-owned and operated farm just off of one of the state highways. While mom Meredith is a veterinarian and well equipped to take care of her animals, she recruits her children to help with milking and feeding the turkeys, goats, chickens, and pigs on the farm.
She also recruits other members of the family to help out – namely this Great Pyrenees whose job it is to wrangle the turkeys and keep them in line. These turkeys, while enjoying their free range, are actually all spoken for with the holidays just around the corner.
And finally, we meet the messiest but possibly most intelligent animals on the farm. The pigs dig trenches not because they like to get messy but because they want to cover themselves in mud to protect them from the sun and the biting insects. They also sometimes think it’s fun to tunnel under the fence.
Although all of these animals remained alive during our visit, we did secure some bacon from Rambling River Farm to be used in our meal.
Third Stop: Boyer Nurseries and Orchards
As with many family farms, especially apple orchards, you’ll find they’re being run by 3rd and 4th generation farmers, which was the case with Emma from Boyer Nursery, Orchard & Winery. She took us into the field and introduced us to the three types of apple trees that were ready for harvesting: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Jonagold (but don’t quote me on that one). I might have even snuck in a few Fuji apples that hadn’t been completely picked over.
My biggest surprise was how much I actually liked Red Delicious apples! I remember them from my childhood as being waxy and mealy on the inside with a bland taste. These apples can be picked right off the tree, shined up on your shirt, and eaten. And the taste was amazing!
After our time in the orchard, we sampled their locally grown pears, cheeses, and wine. I’m still kicking myself for not buying some of their apple pie cheddar.
At this stop, we purchased pears to be used in our meal later in the day.
Fourth Stop: Halbrendt Winery
What do you do when you’ve spent your career as a Plant Pathologist at Penn State and you buy 5 acres of prime farming land? If you’re John Halbrendt, you start growing grapes because there’s a market for it. But when you turn your winemaking hobby into a business, you start Halbrendt Vineyard and Winery.
With the perfect amount of sun and topography, John planted several varieties of domestic grapes on his hillside farm. Due to native soil pathogens, he reminded us that all grapes grown in the United States must either be domestic in nature or grafted onto a native vine.
At his vineyard, I had the opportunity to do something I’ve never done in all my winery experiences. I had the chance to try wine grapes, right off the vine. Most were sweet and very grape-y and I admittedly didn’t have high hopes for the wine (much of the wine in the mid-Atlantic states is too sweet for my taste). But I fell in love with their darkly colored rosé wine made from Chambourcin grapes and bought a bottle to take home.
For our meal, we purchased a bottle of semi-sweet red wine. And wait until you see this meal come together…
Final Stop: Beech Springs Farm
If I could pick a perfect ending to our day, it would be finding a small, quaint, historic farm and enjoying our meal in the shade of an old maple tree. And that’s exactly what was waiting for us at the end of the tour. But our work wasn’t done yet.
Jayne, the owner of Beech Springs Farm, had already done the dirty work of digging up produce to be used in our meal. Our job was to raid her herb garden and ensure our chef had the freshest ingredients for his meal.
I gathered a basket and some clippers and went straight to work grabbing rosemary, thyme, and garlic chives. After we delivered them to the chef, we sat down to watch him prepare an unforgettable meal.
We started with fresh vegetables from the garden along with a dipping sauce. And if you see flowers in those cups, yes, they are edible flowers. And yes, I ate one. Tasted kind of peppery!
Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese (I played sous chef to help prepare these!)
Artisan bread from Gettysburg Baking Company
Herb-Rub Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Seasonal Vegetables (Note: I’m not normally a fan of pork tenderloin but apparently I’ve never had it cooked to the moment of perfection before!).
Red Wine Poached Pear
Told you it was the perfect end to a long hot day. We saw the fields, met the farmers, and tasted the fruits of our (and their) labor all in one day. It’s a wonderful way to explore Gettysburg beyond the battlefield and see what the rest of Adams County has to offer.
From Field to Fork would make an amazing day-long date or the perfect end to a girlfriends day out. But if you have older kids (10 and up, perhaps) who are adventurous eaters, it’s a great way to expose them to the food cycle and what happens outside of the grocery store.
For more information about the From Field to Fork tour, visit Savor Gettysburg Food Tours and see everything they have to offer in the area.