All In The Family
Brothers Peter and Dan King are laughing at me.
And I’m probably blushing because they’re so darn cute.
As I pull up behind their covered flatbed truck in my teeny Toyota Corolla, Peter hangs his arm out the window of the cab, grinning. I cut the ignition when he hops out, saying, “You probably don’t want to drive that on the farm.”
So, I forget for a moment that I’m a city gal, and I hop up in to the flatbed, wet with mud, filled with green plastic crates that are used for collecting fresh produce, sit myself down on the edge of a wooden palette, and hold on tight.
We rumble down the dirt road to Freedom Farms, with a second truck carrying more Kings, following slowly behind. Soon, we’re all unfolding ourselves from the tightly packed vehicles, and before my eyes materialize nine (yes, nine!) blonde brothers. They toss the green crates swiftly from the trucks and are soon spread out in the field, picking cucumbers.
There’s the oldest, Joe, 27, followed by Tim, Peter, Dan, Paul, Luke, John, Sam, and the youngest, Ben, 10. Since 2009, the farm has been owned and operated by the three oldest, Joe, Tim, and Peter, with lots of help from the rest of the family. They also have a sister, Elizabeth. “I hope you boys are nice to her,” I say.
“Aw, we treat her like a princess,” confirms Joe.
They’re all wearing Freedom Farms tees, and there are more for sale in the market store, emblazoned with varying slogans, such as “Born to Farm,” “No Farms, No Food,” “Love Your Farmer,” and “Locavore,” a simple, one-word affirmation of their local-food-loving ways. I’m loving them, too. I’ve already had a blueberry donut from Boldy’s Homemade Goodies, which is also owned by the King Brothers. “I made them this morning,” says Joe, as he waves a sugary boxful in front of my face. Yes, please.
Edible Allegheny photographer Adam Milliron swipes a chocolate donut. We trade little pieces, and agree: They’re ridiculously good.
When the summer is in full swing, the King Brothers sell the fruits and vegetables farmed from their 150 acres, along with Boldy’s baked goods, and fresh flowers from Lisa’s Gardens, a part of the business run by their mother, seven days a week, at farmers’ market throughout the region. (Look below for the calendar!)
We here at Edible Allegheny heard a lot about the King Brothers before we even met them — they have a little bit of a reputation as being seriously hunky. Their propensity for selling produce shirtless probably has something to do with that. “We do this when we’re at market, so I’m not shy at all,” cracks Dan, as he whips off his sleeveless T-shirt at our photographer’s behest.
But seriously, the Kings are exceptionally knowledgeable about and dedicated to their business. Their market, located on Route 8 in Butler Country and open year-round, is filled with gorgeously fresh produce.
Joe advocates shopping from small-scale farmers, who are “intimate with the food — the way they’re growing it and selling it.”
As he starts talking about how convenient food has become and how it breeds a culture of instant gratification, Dan teases, saying, “There goes Joe, preaching again.”
But what he says is valid. Conveniences like onestop stores, the possibility of buying strawberries in the winter, and low-priced meat, all provide us with “a false sense of cheap. It’s not quality. We’re paying top dollar for junk,” he says, urging consumers to “support the people who are doing it right.” In fact, he says, it’s our social responsibility to do so. I wonder: “Do you ever go to the store? Do you need to?”
Pretty much, no, says Joe. “Except for things like ketchup, jeans, flour…” The Kings are well-read in the works of American farmer and author Joel Saltin, and watching the documentary Food, Inc. proved to be a revelation for them. “We realized, we gotta raise our own animals,” says Tim. Freedom Farms now offers free-range chicken and eggs, and they are working toward using rotated pastures in raising goats, pigs, and cows in the coming year.
It’s clear their passion for farming, instilled in them basically since birth, only stands to grow stronger. Joe sums it up pretty simply: “Support local. Eat local. Use what’s in season. Know where your food is coming from.”
Freedom Farms Market and Lisa’s Gardens, 795 Pittsburgh Road, Butler. 724.586.5551. Boldy’s Homemade Goodies, 633 Pittsburgh Road, Butler.