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Food & Drink

From farm to family at Bluescreek farm

Jeni Ruisch

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A butchery, cafe, bakery, grocery, and food truck rolled into one, Bluescreek Farm Meats is one of Central Ohio’s oldest family-owned farms. Once a single stand in Columbus’ North Market, Bluescreek Farm Meats Market now occupies a thriving space on US Rt. 42 just north of Plain City. The farm itself, just north of Marysville, raises 200 acres of hay, wheat, rye, soybeans, and 200 to 300 head of livestock.

Cheryl and David Smith, co-owners of Bluescreek Farms, had have been farming their whole lives, but they had to weather some difficult financial times during the 1980s when their farm was sold back to the lending institution. They stripped the property of anything of value to help with the down payment. They began to work with a new breed of cattle, the Belgian Blue, and selling it as freezer meat. In the process, the Smiths found out not only about a consumer demand for fresh cuts of raw meat, but also about the North Market, which had a vacant meat store spot available.

“The process of getting into the North Market—being interviewed by the merchant board—was a very intense and intimidating process. They had us second guessing and questioning our capabilities, if we were good enough to be in there,” said David.

Undaunted, Cheryl and David passed inspection and literally set up shop for an adventure that would see them through the next quarter of a century. Although Bluescreek has since left their North Market location, they’ve found retail freedom in their Plain City location and even jumped on the food truck trend with the addition of their B’raisin Beasts Food Truck. Stock & Barrel checked in at Bluescreek Farm with Manager Jamie Smith-Johnson, Cheryl and David’s daughter, for a more pastoral, yet just as busy, view of Central Ohio.

S&B: What is the main driving philosophy of Bluescreek Farm?
JSJ:
I think our biggest driving philosophy in the beginning was about providing humanely-raised, quality meats that were grown hormone-and antibiotic-free. And focusing on quality and customer service are still very important to us. We still have [that] same driving force, but it’s much bigger than that now. Now it’s also about the individual families that we see on a weekly or monthly basis that rely on us the way we couldn’t have imagined when we first opened up. Some of them have food sensitivities and have a very difficult time finding food that doesn’t make them sick. Others have told us that our meat tastes like meat “used to taste when they were a kid.” 

What animals do you have? What products do you make?

We have cattle, lambs, goats and hogs. We have also raised turkeys but, we love the turkey we get from Bowman and Landes. We like having the turkeys as guard animals for fun more than anything. We make a wide variety of products. Not just your basic cuts of meat. [Smith-Johnson proceeds to list off a laundry list of menu items such as meatballs, burgers, and sausages.] Oh the list could go on forever I feel like. With our location here in Plain City we also have the flexibility to create more than we ever did at our previous location. With our baker making crust from scratch (with lard) we make a Classic Apple Pie, Apple Bacon Bourbon Pie and Peach Pie. We have also started making Pot Pies that have been keeping us VERY busy. We now do Beef, Lamb, Turkey and Chicken Pot Pies (regular 9” size and individual size). Our baker also makes things like Sausage Gravy (regular or gluten-free), a variety of cookies, muffins, bread, buns and cheesecakes! 

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Walk me through what a typical day or week looks like on the farm.

Dealing with the weather is the number one factor that decides what is going to be taking place on any given day. On a farm, you’re ALWAYS on call, 24 hours a day. You never know when or what is going to happen. Cody, my brother, works on the farm full time and is there basically every day. My dad is our main butcher here at the store and is also on the farm. My Aunt Mary Ellen also helps out on the farm daily and helps us out in the evenings at the market. She didn’t realize that when she retired she would be working so much!

Working with plants and animals means you often deal with unpredictability. What were some times when things went totally sideways? How did you recover?

Yes, working with mother nature; plants and animals, can absolutely have some unpredictability. When I was growing up it was like clock work that if there was a major holiday we had animals being born. It was like they watched the calendar and waited sometimes. We try not to put all of our eggs in one basket. And if we do put all of our eggs in one basket we have always been fighters about it. Opening up here in Plain City was the largest investment that had the potential to go sideways that we have ever taken. Getting things ready to open here was very stressful for us as a family because we knew how important it was for this location to be a success. The first few weeks here in Plain City we were all putting in 100 hour weeks. We had to
make several changes quickly to ensure that we didn’t kill ourselves.

What do you think about urban farming? 

I think urban farming is fantastic! The more people who know and understand where food comes from the better! Many people, especially those who are not around it all of the time, don’t make the connection that carrots are grown in the ground or on that same note that meat comes from an animal. It’s not made in a factory. Understanding and respecting where your food comes from, be it from the ground or from an animal, is important.

Bluescreek farm is located at 8120 US 42, Plain City, Ohio. Visit them online at bluescreekfarmmeats.com

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Food & Drink

Kick off summer with FREE Krispy Kreme this Saturday

Mike Thomas

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It’s officially summer in C-Bus, which, due to climate change, apparently doubles as monsoon season (thanks a lot, Al Gore).

If you’re still there after reading the words “climate change,” we have some good news. Krispy Kreme, purveyors of those sugary-sweet rings we all know and love, want to help you celebrate “summer” (and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission) with a free doughnut this Saturday, June 22.

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Free doughnuts might just be the perfect way to salvage a weekend wrecked by rain. As always, please remember to pace yourself!

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Biz + Dev

Signage suggests new eatery coming to former Short North Blick space

Mike Thomas

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A brand new awning sporting the words “Ned’s Bayou” has appeared over the former Blick’s Art Supplies location at 612 N High St in the Short North.

While initial searches have turned up little information about this forthcoming business, we can only assume that this will one day be the sight of a Louisiana-inspired restaurant of some sort.

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Then again, the word “Bayou” carries other connotations. Maybe this will be the Short North’s first-ever spot for gator rasslin’. Only time will tell!

614NOW will keep an eye peeled for more info on this business as it becomes available.

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Food & Drink

Hop On: (614) rolls around in new brewery party bus

Regina Fox

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So many breweries, so little time, so few volunteers to drive your tipsy tush around, right? Wrong! Columbus, I’d like you to meet CBus Brew Bus: a brewery party bus tour that offers a new and refreshingly different way for curious hop heads to experience the local craft beer scene.

It was a despairingly shitty day in Central Ohio when our very strange-looking Uber pulled up to the (614) Media Group office. We all raced to the front to catch a glimpse, giggling at the thought of our impending adventure. 

Our tour was private, meaning we had the whole bus to ourselves and were able to customize the pickup and dropoff locations, as well as the destinations. Public tours, on the other hand, are made up of several small groups that meet in the heart of downtown at City Tavern and visit predetermined breweries. (I know what you’re thinking and yes, the AUX cord is up for grabs on both private and public tours.)  

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Owner Andy Bachman and his wife/tour guide extraordinaire/HBIC Jess greeted us at the door as we took our seats. The inside was decked out with paintings of Godzilla wearing a shirt reading “I Heart Local Beer” and Godzilla wearing a Block “O” tee—both raising foaming pints of beer, naturally. Unlike a real school bus where Kenny from 5C won’t stop kicking the back of your seat, CBus Brew Bus chairs face inward to keep conversations flowing right along with the brews. Between each seat is a cup holder that contained a 6.75-ounce sample glass that we would use to sample three unique beers at each of our three destinations.

Between curiosities of our careers and a mutual interest in beer, we hit it off with both Jess and Andy immediately—a perk of the service before we even shifted into drive. 

“It’s a great way to meet other people who may already enjoy craft beer,” Andy said of the tour. “You might even be somebody new to town or visiting from out of town and it’s a great way to acclimate yourself to the Columbus culture.”

First stop: Zaftig Brewing

We hustled in to avoid the rain and were met by an expecting Frank Shoults, Zaftig Taproom Manager. One of the most special qualities of CBus Brew Bus is the personalized experience you receive at every checkpoint. There were other bar guests upon our arrival, but Shoults gave us his undivided attention as he explained the beers, and waited patiently as we decided on our individual flights of three. 

I’m an IPA girl through and through, but I wanted to use this excursion to expand my hop horizons. I went with the Big Barleywine (14% ABV), Nuts For You Peanut Butter Stout (8% ABV) and Juicy Lucy IPA (7% ABV) because, well, old habits die hard.

While Andy understands that beer isn’t everyone’s thing, he’s confident the CBus Brew Bus can provide an experience even the most inexperienced beer drinker can appreciate. 

“Through this tour, you get to sample nine different types of beer and there’s usually something within that range that people will grab onto,” he assured. “There’s something for everybody. Don’t fear the beer!” 

We sipped and gossiped until Shoults came over and invited us on a tour of the Zaftig brewing facility. We learned about cultures, yeast, the canning process, and the importance of having a CFO (chief feline officer—follow Hops on Instagram at @zaftighops).

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Second stop: Parsons North 

Jess popped the top of our crowler of Sweet Lucy and officially christened our trip with its first road beers before we were even clear of the Zaftig parking lot. You can throw a rock from pretty much anywhere in Columbus and hit a drinking establishment, but there’s just something about sipping on an ice-cold IPA with your buddies while doing 65 down I-71 South. Beer tastes better while you’re doing a mile a minute. Amirite?

It was becoming crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery + to-go beers between stops were going to add up quickly.

Like at Zaftig, our bartender was also ready and waiting for us with an ice-cold pitcher when we tipsily traipsed into Parsons North. Mulberry Saison (7% ABV), American Stout (5% ABV), and Grapefruit Wheat (6% ABV) were the three beers we were treated to—none of which I would have ordered on my own accord, but were all brews I’d drink again. 

Andy, now retired from Columbus City Schools, was first introduced to craft beer during his residency in Boulder, CO and, more specifically, his experience with Boulder Beer Company about 20 years ago. Experimenting with different craft beers has been a muse of mine for about five years now. Andy, however, is a pioneer of sorts.  

“From that point on, I was pretty anti-domestic,” Andy said laughingly. But, he returned to Ohio in the mid-90s only to discover how far, far behind we were in the craft beer scene. Andy became a teacher but clung to his passion for beer. Without the capital for a taproom or enough knowledge of the process to become a brewer himself, Andy landed on the idea for the CBus Brew Bus.

Third and final stop: Platform Beer Co. 

The trip from stop 2 to stop 3 is what Andy calls the “sweet spot.” What he means is that the riders are experiencing peak fun. I couldn’t agree more. Our small, but lively, group of (614) staffers and Jess—who was going beer sample for beer sample with us—drank the rest of our Sweet Lucy crowler under-the-light of the green LEDs that lined the ceiling of the bus, and talked and laughed at unnecessarily high volumes until we rolled to a stop at our final destination. 

At Platform, I tried the Seltzer Project: Tangerine-Grapefruit Hard Seltzer (5% ABV) and I loved it. Will it replace my Black Cherry White Claws this summer? Stay tuned. I also had the Mello Hello IPA – Brut (5.4% ABV) and loved it, also. 

By this point, at our third brewery, it was crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery plus to-go beer between stops had really added up—tipsy would’ve been an understated adjective for our crew. But, we got way more than a Friday morning hangover out of the deal. Jess was our new favorite drinking buddy, we fell in love with several new brews we may have never taken a chance on otherwise, we learned the ins and outs of Zaftig’s brewing process, and we bonded with each other in a way that few coworkers get to experience. 

What will your Brew Bus adventure hold?

For more information and to schedule your next trip, visit cbusbrewbus.com.

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