Ard’s Farm is located about 4 miles west of Bucknell down Rt. 45. A family owned farm that thrived throughout most of the 20th century on ordinary farming – growing crops and raising animals for profit. As the economy started to favor the larger farms that could mass produce crops, Ray Ard feared for his family’s farm. After much contemplation he decided that in order to save his farm he would have to turn to Agri-Tourism, which is defined by the oh so reliable Wikipedia as:
a style of vacation that normally takes place on a farm or ranch. This may include the chance to help with farming and ranching tasks during the visit.
The Ard’s opened a store on the farm in 1991, selling produce, dairy, and some other goods grown on their land. Today, Ard’s Farm includes a market, a restaurant, a catering service, a 95 ft. slide, a rope maze, a tractor ride, and other attractions for kids. These activities draw people to the farm and give them a chance to see the charm of the rapidly disappearing American family farm.
When we were talking about Tod Murphy’s diner in Vermont during class I immediately thought about Ard’s Farm and its restaurant. Ard’s is one of my favorite places to get a good, cheap breakfast when I have a chance to get off campus. As I was thinking about Murphy’s ideal diner in which everything sold was locally grown, I wondered what percentage of the food from Ard’s Restaurant is produced locally. So, I gave a call over to Allen Ard this afternoon to find out.
I kind of put him on the spot and told him I was only looking for some rough estimates. He told me that the numbers fluctuate dramatically depending on the season. Any produce that is on the farm during these cold winter months comes in on trucks, but during the summer about 60% of produce is grown on his farm or comes from nearby. Meat, especially elk and buffalo, are kept on his farm and used in the restaurant year round. He said that on average about 40% the food sold in the market and the restaurant is local.
Although the numbers were only mere estimates, they shocked me. It made understand a little better how difficult it must be for Tod Murphy to maintain his Farmers Diner using 100% local goods. It is tough to say whether or not Ray and Allen Ard are doing all they can in order to sustain an organic farm, and if I had a little extra time I would love to find out more. From what I was able to find out, it seems that Ard’s, without going above and beyond, is providing “farm food” to customers looking for an experience. They are trying to live a sustainable life on a family business, and these days that includes calling on the big guys that can grow a considerable amount of crops very cheaply.
I think Murphy has a great thing going with his diner. But, with the amount of effort necessary to find suppliers and keep costs down, I don’t think it is possible for his company to grow much larger. Murphy says his emphasis is on “supporting projects that will create long-term value for society.” People feel different when they eat at a diner like the one in Vermont or at Ard’s Farm. They believe they are supporting the locals and it gives them a sense of pride. I love what the Ard’s have done with their farm. It is a realistic approach to the difficult economy and it is a lot of fun to go and visit.