September is Local Food Month in Pennsylvania – and there’s certainly local food in abundance at Godfrey Run Farm Market & Cider Mill in Girard Township.
There are tomatoes, grapes and other produce that are fresh from Erie County farms. There are baked goods from a Millcreek Township bakery, wine from a North East Township vineyard and beer from an Erie brewery.
And the apples? Those were picked about 200 yards from the back door.
Owner Gary Faulkner grows eight or nine varieties of apples at the business, which is named after the stream that cuts through the property. Some of the apples are sold to customers, and others go into the cider that is pressed on site.
The cider season is just gearing up – they press cider from around Labor Day to the end of the year, he says. At Godfrey Run, that process involves multiple steps, sending the apples and juice smoothly from one piece of equipment to another through the cider room. The cider is treated with UV light to prevent any potential pathogens and then is bottled up, ready to be sold.
Not all of that juice comes from Godfrey Run trees – Faulkner contracts with other Erie County growers. The business works both ways – several other operations sell Faulkner’s bottled cider.
Faulkner supports growers not just in Erie County but statewide, too. His products are designated PA Preferred (part of an initiative to support local foods), and he is active in the Pennsylvania Apple Program and the Pennsylvania Cider Guild.
In addition, he has been looking into ways to expand and find different uses and new markets for his apples and his cider.
A previous brainstorm created the cider slushy, a favorite treat for visitors to the farm market. I had a taste during my visit to Godfrey Run, and I can see why they’re so popular.
It’s a new twist on a favorite fall flavor that reminds me of how fortunate we are in Erie County, where we have family farms growing fresh produce so close to home.
As Godfrey Run Farm Market’s sign says: “How sweet it is.”
About Godfrey Run Farm Market & Cider Mill: Faulkner has been growing produce for 38 years, first part time and now full time. These days, he almost exclusively grows apples. He expanded his farm market over the years, and is now in his seventh year of making cider on site. The market draws a number of tourists, he says – particularly people who pass by on their way to camp or fish. “A lot of people don’t realize that Erie County is the place in the world – not in the state or in the county, but in the world – to go steelhead fishing,” he says.
Why Erie County: For Faulkner, Godfrey Run is an opportunity to do what he enjoys. He worked as an insurance agent for most of his career, and switched over to run Godfrey Run full time just over 11 years ago. Now, he enjoys the chance to work outside. He also is helping to keep alive a tradition of family farms in Erie County. Years ago, he recalls, family farm stands were plentiful, particularly in west county between Fairview and Girard. Now there are fewer, he says.
Challenges of Erie County: Godfrey Run faces challenges from the most unpredictable source – the weather. Like any agricultural operation, it is largely at the whims of Mother Nature. That includes facing various challenges, like apple scab.
Fun fact: Godfrey Run Farm Market & Cider Mill participated in Farm Aid in Pittsburgh on September 16, representing cider makers in the local food concessions at the all-star music festival.