After spending a near week in Pittsburgh, PA, a vibrant commercial, academic, and research-oriented city with a population of some 310,000, filled with activity and the rushed living of other modern urban centers but with a focus on sustainability, usually lacking in the world’s largest cities. In the last few decades Pittsburgh’s citizens have brought their city back to life after it had decayed for years.
After indulging in this hectic life for a while, I felt the urge to move out for a few days to go back to the quaint rural life of old Pennsylvania. The closest region was Butler County and it was to that destination that a group of us headed because of its vicinity and its drive to bring nature back as the primary focus of healthy and happy living. As I was enthusiastically advised by the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, the ‘3Ds’ of the area – diversity of landscape, diversity of weather, and the diversity of attractions – are a must-see for anyone wanting to feel the rhythm of real Pennsylvania.
Taking to heart the words of the Bureau’s reps, the next day a group of us were on our way to tour the region. After a half hour’s drive, we stopped at the Doublewide Grill, in Mars, Cranberry Township in Butler County, for a truck-stop breakfast.
Sated we made our way to the Enchanted Olive, home of over 50 blends of the highest quality extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from all over the world. Walking through the doors, before us was a whole array of stainless steel containers filled with these oils and vinegars in bewildering types and varieties such as the robust olive oil Oro Bailen Reserva Familiar Picual and Alfoos Mango White Balsamic Condimento, a vinegar that pairs well with the Enchanted Olive’s Persian Lime and Harissa Olive Oils. All members of our group sampled many of the oils and vinegars while a few purchased the ones they liked the best which were bottled and sealed fresh.
Leaving this unique shopping experience we headed through a lush green rolling landscape, to the Con Yeager Spice Company retail shop in Evan City - a company specializing in spice distribution and seasoning manufacturing serving both commercial and retail customers. The firm makes a variety of up to 1,200 spice blends from spices imported from all over the world for meat curing, and also manufactures various types of sausages. Rodney Schafer, owner of the company, said that they ship their products all over the U.S.A. and soon hope to add Canada to their area of distribution.
At the Freedom Farms we stopped for the final meal of the day. This really was what I expected from rural Pennsylvania – farm food, wholesome and hearty. These farms are owned by the King Family, so-well admired in the county that they now have their own reality show called “The Farm Kings” that is aired on cable across the U.S. In addition to farming, the King family owns and operates the Freedom Farms Local Market (including a homemade bakery section), Freedom Farms Sandwich Shop and Freedom Farms Donut Shop.
Nine strapping young men and their lovely sister, they are led by their outstanding mother, Lisa. According to her children, she has struggled hard to keep the family together and has so far succeeded. As her eldest son, Joe, explained, “My mother taught us the work ethic and we will teach our children the same”.