A Visit to Hidden Pond Farm

Recently I had the pleasure of taking a field trip, along with Meg Torrence, East Store Manager, and Justin See, Perishables Buyer, to visit Hidden Pond Farm in Centerville, Indiana. Hidden Pond is the 1880s-era farmhouse that owner Andy McDowell’s family bought in 1951 when he was five. Following years as an HVAC technician in the Indianapolis area, and after meeting and marrying his wife Beverly, the couple moved back to Andy’s boyhood homestead with the desire to create a living for themselves from the farm.

The McDowells had wondered about organic farming, selling at farmers’ markets, but decided it was too much labor for a couple in their sixties. Because they had both suffered some digestive and other health issues and had been making their own fermented foods (they have been at it for 20 years and were strongly influenced by Sally Fallon’s book, “Nourishing Traditions”), they decided to make a go of producing their own line of fermented foods and juices. They currently make Sauerkrauts, Kombucha, Beet Kvass and KimChi. SuperTonic is in a slightly different class: not truly a fermented food but a powerful remedy for inflammation, fevers, flu, colds, and infections. They’ve just recently begun making and selling Ketchup, BBQ Sauce, and Salsa. You can find all of these fine products at the East store.

After touring their lovely old home and petting the couple’s two dogs, we walked down to the barn where the production facility is. There, Andy has built a heavily insulated chamber of small rooms where all the work takes place. The large main room contains a whiteboard production schedule, the McDowell’s pride-and-joy food shredder that starts all the organic produce on its way toward becoming krauts and juices, and several large stoneware crocks that, on our visit, were holding batches of sauerkraut. In the case of sauerkraut, it begins fermenting in the warmer main room for 2-3 days. It then is moved into a cooler off room where it continues its process for 10 days to two weeks. By contrast, the much more potent Super Tonic takes three to six months to ferment. In addition to this second fermenting room, there is a refrigerated storage room, kept cool in the winter months by an ingenious and energy-conserving design by Andy that brings in cold outside air through a simple ductwork system. Last is the kombucha room, which houses a few dozen large glass crocks (designed as vodka dispensers) bubbling away with living kombucha tea. The McDowells employ a continuous brewing method in which half the kombucha is drained from the dispenser to make the drink so many love, and a mix of sweetened black and green teas are added to the remaining concoction. This method allows for a greater concentration and variety of live cultures.

We finished our visit with a homemade gluten-free pizza that Bev made, along with a simple salad of chopped lettuce and apples topped with an oil and kombucha vinaigrette dressing, naturally. And Andy offered up some KimChi as a topping for the pizza. I must say it would never have occurred to me to try that particular combination, but in fact it was delicious. If you’ve never tried it, you should. Both Beverly and Andy recommend a bite or two with each meal to enhance your digestive tract more so than a large helping just twice a week. Frequency is more important than quantity.

And sharing good food with friendly people, sitting around an old oak table by a woodstove, warmed by new friendship and rich conversation, I was again reminded of what makes the Bloomingfoods and Co-op experience so special. You, our customers and members, put your trust in us with your food choices. We in turn do our best to know about the food we carry, and to get to know the people making and growing it. In that way, we are all sharing the table with one another.

To find out more about Hidden Pond Farm, visit their website. You can also “LIKE” them on Facebook and receive regular updates about what they’re up to.

Tom Zeta
Front End Manager
Bloomingfoods East