Spring, 2014: On a drizzly grey morning we pulled into Mud Run Farm.
Sarah and I were developing a series of Farm-To-Table tours that focus on local farmers and restaurants that use in-season local foods. Later that day we had a meeting scheduled with Ken Bogucki, Proprietor and Executive Chef of The Wooster Inn.
We continued up the hill to a small brick farmhouse, popped the trunk and traded “regular” shoes for boots. We figured the farm had the word mud in its title for a reason.
At the front door we were greeted with a hurried Alex who was in deep conversation on the phone. He gestured that he would be out in a minute. We said, “no problem!” and plopped down on the stoop.
Here we took the beautiful view of the farm and small valley below us. The morning sun popped through the clouds and lit up the pond. Farm equipment, outbuildings and black squares of recently tilled soil spilled across the hills before us. Birds chirped and frogs sang. We certainly didn’t mind waiting here.
Alex stepped out and apologized for being on the phone. The conversation was about purchasing chickens, and it didn’t end well. “He said he needed a credit card and I said, ‘I’m sorry, that’s just not how I do business’”. I glanced at Sarah to see if she heard him right because it seemed incredulous to me (as a business owner) not to accept credit cards. But then again, we were just about to meet Alex. By the end of our visit, that statement would make perfect sense.
He shook our hands and thanked us for coming out. He wore a button-up shirt over a t-shirt and his blue jeans were caked with dried dirt but tucked neatly into his boots. It didn’t surprise us that he had been working long before we arrived.
We headed out and began the tour. He pointed out a plot designated for root vegetables and garlic, a pen for roasters, the market stand, and on and on. Then up the big hill we went, following well-worn tire tracks, our boots slipping in the mud. He informed us he had a wagon so people wouldn’t need to walk up the hill as we were today.
But this walking in the mud with the sun out, cool breeze on our faces, past the fence row that held the large dapple grey and tan draft horses (he doesn’t use traditional farm equipment), listening to Alex tell stories about his farm, family, and passion, was an experience I won’t soon forget.
We left an hour later, ideas swirling in our heads.
Two hours later we swung open the door to The Wooster Inn. A polite woman behind the counter asked who we were and whether we had an appointment to see Ken. We assured her we did and waited in the brightly lit foyer. Soon we were ushered down the hallway to a corner office.
Ken was already standing behind his desk, and motioned for us to come in. I shook his hand and he invited us to sit. I looked around. There were two chairs, but each in a corner of the room, somewhat away from the desk. I thought this was a little odd for a meeting arrangement but quickly sat and then instinctively scooted up my chair to be a little closer, which seemed like a good idea until I realized I was now seated awkwardly in the middle of the room. I looked back at Sarah. She hadn’t moved. Ken didn’t flinch and said, “Give me the spiel”.
Not having a chance to get settled, I shuffled my papers, laptop, and folder on my knees, trying to balance all of it while quickly trying to pull up photos of the tours. This is when Sarah usually fills the dead air with polite and engaging banter but today it seemed like a huge cloud of silence hung in the room. I cringed. I knew Ken was a busy man and this was not a good way to start.
Unlike Alex with his muddy boots and blue jeans, Ken was dressed in a crisp, coal black, neatly pressed chefs coat with emblems embroidered on his chest and sleeve. He leaned back in his chair and waited.
Sarah to the rescue: She pointed to a photo (one of many) on the desk and asked, “Is this recent?” I quickly glanced at the photo and gasped. It was a photo of Ken, in his black chefs coat, sort of half sitting, half laying on a giant Easter Bunny. This wouldn’t be so alarming had I not just spent time the previous night scrolling through my friend Ryan Humbert’s Instagram photos of “Terrifying Easter Bunny” pics. Have you seen the ones that depict old-school bunny costumes that look more sinister than inviting? Many had kids crying or trying to get away from the scary bunny. They were awful yet I couldn’t stop scrolling through, and now, in front of me, at the most inopportune time, was something in real life that reminded me of that. Distracted, I said, “Oh wow, it kind of looks like……” and then quickly thought better of it and let Sarah carry the conversation in another (better) direction.
Finally I had things organized on my lap. From here on out it was “Game On”.
We shared the vision of our tours and how The Wooster Inn could be a part of it. Ken was professional, charming, gracious, and has a wealth of culinary talent and business prowess. He showed us around the beautiful grounds, through the wine shop, the patio, the restaurant, and the upper bar area.
We left very impressed with both Alex and Ken but couldn’t help but remark on how different the two experiences were. It might not have been so striking had the meetings not been back to back on the same day. To us however, it was the cream of the crop: Connecting the farmer to the restaurant table!
Below, a couple more pics of Mud Run Farm