Dec 31, 2010

A Locavore Tour of Harbor Country, Michigan

It's trendy these days to be a locavore. A locavore knows where their food comes from and hopefully the source is not far from where they are dining. John and I visited Michigan’s Harbor Country, which is very much like Oswego County. They have built a thriving tourist business based on the locavore concept.

I took the culinary tour that started with breakfast at Kites Kitchen and Retro CafĂ© in New Buffalo. It was not far from the Harbor Grand Hotel where we were staying. Judy Kite-Gosh, the owner, makes everything from scratch. A cheerleader for the locavore movement, she says, “This area has so many microclimates that farmers can grow just about anything.” The Sticky Buns with Caramel Sauce were decadently delicious but surprisingly tasty was the Grass Fed Roast Beef Hash. The beef was raised locally at Middlebrook Farm in nearby Three Oaks – the next stop on my tour.

Middlebrook Farm was established in 1844 but has been owned by Bob and Janet Schuttler since 2005. The Schuttler’s enjoy sitting in their yard at the end of the day with glass of wine. When they first moved to the farm from Chicago they were surprised that there were no fireflies. What happened to them? Too many pesticides was the reason so they try to farm as naturally as possible and the fireflies are back.

No wonder the hash was so delicious. When cattle eat grass like nature planned they thrive producing nutritional and tasty beef. The Schuttler’s raise Lowline Black Angus free of antibiotics, steroids, hormones and pesticides. Schuttler explained that, “They are very docile and will follow me around. Only good things happen when cattle are grass fed. The meat is lower in fat and calories, contains more Vitamin E, and has more Omega-3 Fatty Acids plus there are other benefits.” The Schuttler’s cattle are not only grass fed but are "finished" on grass, rather than fattened up on corn for the last few months prior to processing

The next stop on my tour was Stover’s Farm Market in Berrien Springs. The passion and dedication of the farmers I met was amazing. At Stover’s I enjoyed fresh apple cider and sampled a slew of homemade products but what really impressed me was the barn. The Stover family has been farming in the area since 1870. The huge Big Red Barn was built in 1865 of hand-hewn beams held together by wooden pegs. Not originally located on the farm, the Stovers had it moved three miles to its present location – all 150 tons of it. According to June Stover, “We thought we would knock down people’s mailboxes but the barn rode so high above the road that it went over the mailboxes.” What a sight it must have been.

My next stop on the tour was the Round Barn Winery. Besides wine from their vineyards they brew their own beer and distill their own spirits. Once again what really caught my attention was the barn. The Moerschs, the owners, had a turn-of-the century Amish Round Barn transported from Indiana and rebuilt on their property. Chris Moersch explained, “The historic building is the perfect home for the round copper pot still because only good "spirits" would be created in a structure where legend says that because round buildings have no corners there is no place for evil spirits to hide.”