The Hippie and the Farmer is one of several Champaign County businesses modifying the way they serve customers during the coronavirus epidemic. Although Mark Runyan and Pam Bowshier, co-owners of Hippie and the Farmer, have been collaborating for four years, they only recently started offering delivery to customers unable or unwilling to go outside due to coronavirus fears.
“Some people don’t want to get out,” said Runyan. “Some older people shouldn’t be out, so that’s part of the reason we started offering delivery as a way for them to get product … We’ve talked about it for a few years, but it was just because of the viral outbreak that put us over the edge that we definitely needed to do that.”
The Hippie and the Farmer is a collaboration between Runyan’s business, Oakview Farms, and Bowshier’s business, Cosmic Charlie Bread. Besides beef, chicken, pork and bread, the business’s location at 1645 state Route 54 has become a hub for other local producers to drop off items like milk from Indian Creek Creamery, yogurt and cheese from Dugan Road Creamery and an assortment of honey, jam and eggs.
“We’re getting a lot of call-ins, and we’re getting some new customers, partially because people are just out of things,” Runyan said. “A lot of the stores just order stuff in every week, where we process whole animals, so we have to have a large amount on hand. We’ve got a large walk-in freezer that’s always full, and I just picked up another steer this morning, so that’s another 700 pounds of meat.”
The new delivery option is for orders of $50 or more, but customers are limited to 10 pounds of ground beef and two packs of any other kind of beef, such as rib-eye or New York strip steak. The limit on steak has always been imposed to prevent people from buying all the store’s meat before they can process another steer, about once every three weeks, but Runyan added that customers were welcome to all the pork they could buy.
“I honestly think all local producers are going to do well,” he said. “All the sudden the consumers are realizing this is where you can get it. They actually grow it. They’re not waiting for a truck to come in, where they can’t get it in, and I think that’s a big thing, and the other thing is … we’ve worked with the pigs and livestock keeping disease and viruses out for 30 years. So all the bio-security things that we’ve done for our livestock forever all the sudden fit into this. We’ve done it forever, and we’ve had completely disease-free pigs that if you get any virus in there it’s a disaster, so we’re familiar with bio-security and working with that type of thing.”
Bowshier said that her most popular bread is her sourdough, as well as her Sugar Rhee bread stuffed with brown sugar, Sweet Jane chocolate stuffed bread, fresh herbal breads in the summertime and whole wheat dinner rolls. She said she also does a blueberry lavender waffle that people go crazy for, but which she had to put on hold because lavender is not plentiful at this time of year.
“I think both with Hippie and the Farmer, Cosmic Charlie Bread and Oakview Farms, we do draw a specific kind of customer,” said Bowshier. “They are looking for good quality. They want to know where their food comes from, so that’s pretty much our customer base. I think this is also giving us an opportunity to open up good nutritional local food to people who maybe are just coming to us because things are sold out, but now they found out that things are so good here. I almost think we’re reintroducing things to people.”
Runyan said he has been able to get all orders out within the next day or two after they have been placed. Customers can place their orders through Facebook messenger by visiting their Facebook page, which also contains a menu, or by calling 937-869-6083 for Oakview Farms, and 937-926-4833 for Cosmic Charlie Bread. Regular store hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Runyan said that his family has been raising animals for meat for about 75 years, but that he had only been a part of the farmer’s market scene for about 10 years. While Oakview Farms raises pigs, Runyan said that his neighbors raise all the other animals that he uses, and the butchering is custom done by Copeys in Medway, Ohio.
Cosmic Charlie Bread, likewise, has been active in farmers markets for about 10 seasons.
“I started baking bread 10 years ago,” Bowshier said. “It started as a hobby, and then it kind of turned into farmer’s markets. My first farmer’s market that I started into was downtown, back then the Champaign County Farmers Market. Right when I started that the Depot Coffeehouse was also launching their first lunch service. They got a hold of me, and so I became their bread baker for all of their panini sandwich’s.
“I was with them for close to six years,” she continued. “In that time-frame I also helped manage Mechanicsburg Farmer’s Market. I was in the Springfield Farmer’s Market. I was servicing the Depot restaurant, Cafe Paradiso, Seasons Bistro in Springfield, and Mad River Market … At that time I was a cottage law baker, and Ohio is one of the last states to allow home licensing through the cottage law. When I look back, I honestly don’t know how I produced so much volume out of my own kitchen.”
According to Bowshier, Runyan entered the farmers market scene shortly after she did, at a time when the local foods movement was new to the area. Both sat on the Local Foods Council and saw each other regularly at markets.
“One farmer’s market it was boring and we decided to grill some of his stuff, and then I sliced a loaf of my bread and we started passing out samples,” she said. “We kind of started our own little, local breakfast sandwich, where we would get to the farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings and he would buy bread from me, eggs from another vendor, cheese from another vendor, maple syrup from another vendor, so we literally had a completely locally-sourced sandwich, and it got so crazy popular that we had lines waiting for us, here, and when we moved on to the Springfield market we had crazy lines there, so that kind of brought together the thought process for Hippie and the Farmer because we wanted to do more of that.”
Hippie and the Farmer formed the LLC in February of 2016 and is currently in its fourth season.
Champaign Locally Grown
Runyan and Bowshier also volunteer to help co-manage the Champaign Locally Grown virtual market, currently in its ninth season, through the Champaign Family YMCA.
“It’s all online and I manage the back end of it, which means I tally up the orders at the end of the week and get those out to all the vendors so they know what product to bring on Thursdays,” said Bowshier. “I get the Y reports to them so they know what checks they’re writing. They take care of payments going out to our webmaster, who runs our website out of Athens, Georgia, where that was the original locally grown market.
“The Y runs all of our finances for us, because the market started on one grant that was a project between the Y and what used to be Champaign Healthy Families, a now-defunct organization,” she added. “We got a $20,000 grant that year and we worked off that for as long as we could. It was only projected to last two years, but we made it last until this past December. We don’t take any pay, so it’s a completely volunteer-run market, but the Y takes care of all of our payments coming in from our customers, and they write all of our checks going to our vendors, so we never have to deal with any of that.”
Runyan said that it was through the virtual market that they originally had the idea of delivering to customers, because they had a lot of older customers who couldn’t get out in bad weather; however, the YMCA’s insurance would not allow them to deliver.
The Champaign Family YMCA closed temporarily this week in response to coronavirus concerns, leaving Bowshier and Runyan to decide how to proceed with the virtual market. In the interim, they have decided to use their business as a central location for other local producers to drop off their products, and run the virtual market as a bare-bones operation.
“With the Y closing we couldn’t do anything, but our customers had already ordered for the week so we both talked about it and we put out there that the customers could still order most product here, and they’re just going to come on Thursdays and pick it up for now,” said Bowshier. “We’ll just run it privately, not as a market, more as just a service, and then when the Y opens back up we’ll continue it that way.”
Runyan said they help support a lot of different vendors and are doing the best they can to keep everything going. Deliveries will be done weekly on Mondays, either by himself or Bowshier, although Runyan’s son and daughter, Myer and Emmy, sometimes help out as well.
Runyan also said he was planning to put out face masks for customers to use while they were in the store, just in case someone did come down with the coronavirus.
“The ones I’m really focused on doing it for is the older people, because it can be really serious if they get it,” he said. “We might keep doing it anyway because just like with the on-line market, there’s a lot of older people who just have trouble getting out and getting things.“
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304