In the early years, operating the kettle corn machine came with very specific instructions:
Don't use too much oil. Stir frequently. And when it catches on fire, shut off the gas and go find Kyle.
Back in that day, the $5,000 price tag on a new kettle corn machine was a little out of Kyle's budget, so he rounded up some family members and they put their "sure, I can make that" farmer attitude to work. The very first kettle corn machine was a product of a conversation with a knowledgeable carnival worker, quite a bit of YouTube research, some spare parts in the barn, and a little welding, It was what Kyle calls "a little quirky," but it did the job...that is, until it caught on fire. (And, yes, the answer to your question is, it did catch on fire...twice.)
Today, Kyle has a less Frankenstein monster-esque kettle corn machine, one that our employees can operate without needing a fire extinguisher at arm's reach. And these delicious kernels are a fall season staple!
The origins of our apple cider donuts also started under unusual circumstance. The summer Kyle decided to add the Snack Shack onto the old white barn, donuts were high on the list for food offerings, but the machine to make them was difficult to find. At that time, he was working pretty closely with the Grant County Fair board and had gotten to know the carnival operator very well. Kyle mentioned he was looking to add donuts to the fall season during a chat with him one day...and wouldn't you know - the guy had an old donut machine lying around in a trailer that he was going to toss out.
So the old donut machine came to call Vesperman Farms home. It didn't make great-looking donuts - they were misshapen and uneven - but the staff couldn't keep up with the orders. And Kyle knew that they were on to something with these donuts.
Although maybe not as dangerous as that first kettle corn machine, a lot of problem solving when into that first donut machine. Twice in that first fall season Kyle had to overnight parts when the motor burned up. And because the thing was old, there wasn't even a motor that fit it, so he spent nights reworking the motor to fit the machine.
Since that forgotten donut machine, Kyle has since upgraded to two newer models that are much more efficient and precise. Now we make 75-100,000 donuts every fall season!
Later one of those same motors ended up in the kettle corn machine, running the first auto-stir function that saved Kyle and his staff from some serious burns from hot, popping sugar. (Kyle used to dress basically like a beekeeper to keep himself from getting burned while stirring the popcorn.)
Donut making then....
...and donut making now!
Both the donuts and kettle corn have found their niche at the farm, and oftentimes are the favorite part of fall season for many of our guests. It's been fun for Kyle to see both foods evolve and take their own special place in many people's fall season experience. These fall treats are available soon - fall season starts September 22!
Can I just wax poetic about loaded baked potatoes for a minute?
Okay, you said no, but I'm going to do it anyway. Sorry.
There's no food that says sweet summer nights to me more than a loaded baked potato in a cardboard boat. Grab it from a food truck and then dish up your toppings at the condiment station. Eat it with a spork (or eventually your fingers because the spork would always break) while walking through the lights and the noise and the carnival color. Just pure deliciousness in the simplest of forms.
Now, baked potatoes are saying sweet fall days because they are making their debut at the farm this season. And I am so excited because I didn't think fall could get better...but it did. Good hearty potatoes with good hearty toppings. I'll be first in line to get mine!
New Fall Food: Brisket Sandwich
This is just your average premium-selected, dry-rubbed-in-a-special-blend-of-herbs-and-spices, and slow-smoked-for-eight-hours brisket sandwich that you can find pretty much everywhere.
That's a lie. This brisket is pretty special, and you can get it here on the farm this fall season. You don't even need the sauces. They're really just for show.
New Fall Food: Chicken Strips
They are locally sourced. They are hand cut, hand breaded, and then hand deep-fried (just kidding...we do that last step with a tongs).
And then they are served up to you new this fall season: chicken strips!
Sure these are for kids. But more importantly, YES, it's socially acceptable to order off the kid's menu here at the farm.
For a lot of this off-season, Kyle and his food crew have been experimenting in the kitchen. The fruits of that labor are four delicious food and drink options that are new for fall season! And we're going to be featuring them right here on the blog. AND if you pop on over to our Facebook page, you could win a free meal or two...or in this case, a free drink!
Kyle's been making fresh-squeezed lemonade for Night on the Square and a lot of other events off the farm, but this year we're offering it during fall season. It'll be available in the Snack Shack, reopening this fall season in the comeback story of the year (for us at least...more on that in a few weeks). Chat with Judy or me (cause I'll be there on weekends sucking on lemon rinds and stealing donuts) while you watch us make this refreshing and delicious drink! And enjoy!
Fun on the farm...in blog form!