September 20, 2009

September 12th Branch Creek Farm-to-Table Dinner

We canceled August 22 for a hurricane that never came, so we were worried when the forecast for September 12th called for 60% chance of rain. A little rain certainly would not put a damper on the dedication of Mark and Judy Dornstreich, owners of Branch Creek Farm, to provide Fork with gorgeous produce. So the Fork trip to Branch Creek Farm continued as planned. A one and half hour drive later, we found ourselves in beautiful Perkasie in Northern Bucks County near Quakertown.

Fork buys from several farms; why choose to highlight Branch Creek? Many Philadelphia "foodies" don't realize that Branch Creek was part of the original movement to bring locally grown foods to restaurants in Philadelphia. Like many of us, we don't find the restaurant or food industry immediately. Mark and Judy started as anthropologists studying food gathering techniques of developing countries. As academics, they traveled to New Guinea, India and other far parts of the world documenting the process of growing food. Their research process made them realize that they didn't want to be bystanders and they would become organic farmers. So when they returned to the US, the two worked for several organic farms to learn the ropes. In the late 70's, Branch Creek Farm was auctioned off and the Dornstreichs purchased the land. Quickly realizing that retail farm sales were difficult, they met an herb grower who was successfully selling to local restaurants. Back then, a handful of restaurants bought herbs from the Dornstreichs, but it wasn't until Chef Aliza Green, at Dilullo's in the 80's, questioned why restaurants couldn't access other local produce. By the time Fork opened in 1997, several options besides Branch Creek existed for restaurants to buy direct from farmers - including Green Meadow Farm, Greens Grow, The Herb Farm and others. At time, buying local was still novel. Today, Chef Feury purchases more than ever, and co-ops such as Lancaster Farm Fresh enable smaller local farms to access the restaurant market.

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