Pam Bowshier and Mark Runyan run the Champaign County Virtual Farmers Market together, but they also have working partnership, which they call Hippie and the Farmer. She is Hippie, the free-spirited baker; he's the conservative, 4th generation farmer. Together they've created a unique farm to table business.
Pam Bowshier was selling her baked goods at the local farmers markets when she paired up with Mark Runyan, creating a breakfast sandwich from her bread and his sausage that people loved.
“It just kind of happened naturally.” Mark explains while grilling sausage, “We started doing the farmers market and shortly after we started, I decided that sitting at a farmers market with frozen meat was not going to work real well. So I put a trailer together so we could serve samples. Pam had all the connections in town and I had all the farm connections. So we’ve been able to work both ends of it.”
So Cosmic Charlie Bread and Oakview Farms Meat combined to produce Hippie and The Farmer. They took their food on the road to the Columbus Bacon Bash which is held by the Ohio Pork Council, and won the top award in every category competing against big restaurants like the 130 year old Schmidt’s Sausage House in German Village.
“It was our very first thing to do as Hippie and the Farmer," Pam says. "At that point I was baking everything out of my home because Ohio does still allow the Cottage [Food] Law. It’s very helpful for people who are just starting out.”
The Cottage Food Law allows bakers and jam producers to work out of their own kitchens with certain restrictions on where you can sell your product. Now, Pam works out of a commercial kitchen on Mark’s farm which is connected to his retail meat shop. They do CSA’s, catering, and farm-to-table events. They do a Saturday on the Farm event, every Saturday, on State Route 54 in Urbana.
Pam and Mark say they just kind of fell into a trend called agritourism, where anyone can experience first hand where their food comes from. Marks says, “Really it’s not been planned. Like our greenhouse. We started building it to start our plants. People wanted to start having their dinners there. I cannot say we planned any of it, it just kind of happened, just like the pizza farm thing.”
“We call it Pizza Farm Friday,” Pam chimes in. The idea came from Mark’s mom who saw an article about farms in Minnesota that use field trips to get kids to connect with their food source by picking fresh ingredients that they then used to make pizzas. “ People love it,” Pam adds, “like we sold out tomorrow night.”
On Friday night, music is drifting across the garden while children run through the corn and play on the swingset. Adults are drinking their BYOB beverages out of coolers, and noshing on pizza made with ingredients picked that day and layered on top of Pam’s homemade crust. Diners seem to really enjoy it this experience.
“A sense of community,” one diner from Yellow Springs tells me, “... so making our way up here and just meeting other, new people. We love it. We absolutely love it.”
“I love that it’s natural, organic, and homegrown,” says another diner from Yellow Springs.
“Well, we were just kind of meandering around,” a retired military couple from Springfield says. “We’re relatively new to Ohio, so we just kind of meander. Well it’s an absolutely great find. The ambience, the country atmosphere. Tonight especially is a great night for it. Friendly people, I mean my gosh!”
“It was delicious,” says a young father as he watches his kids playing with other youngsters here. “We came here the first weekend, and had to come back. It’s probably the best pizza in the area that we’ve been able to find.”
“When you get out into the countryside or whatever town, there’s a lot of good people everywhere, there really is,” says a man who is here with his extended family. “No matter what we all see on television, most people are pretty daggone good. And they’re usually friendly, and you can have a conversation with them.”
“Whether it’s the city or the country, it really doesn’t matter,” his wife agrees, “And like this place, we’re all here for the food, right, and food brings people together like nothing else.”
County Lines is WYSO's series on rural life, made possible by a grant from the Ohio Humanities.