Today’s guests on The Full Course are David and Cindy Bench, who are long-time farmers in Curtice, Ohio. They are the second generation to work the land at 9151 Jerusalem Rd., having taken over from Charles and Margaret, the parents of Big Dave (as he is known), who founded Bench Farms (benchfarms.com).
“We always say we are your farmers,” said Mrs. Bench, and the Benches’ grown children have continued this family legacy. “They each have found their little niche,” said Mrs. Bench. Kurt and Corinna Bench own Shared Legacy Farms (sharedlegacyfarms.com) at 3701 South Schultz Portage Rd. in Elmore, which is certified organic. Arik and Beth have Bench’s Bees and Honey (benchsbeeshoney.com).
A wide variety of tomatoes, peppers, gourds, cucumbers, melons, and much more is grown at Bench Farms. Each fall, they also offer apples and cider from Eshleman Fruit Farm in Clyde, making sure that everything they sell comes from “within 30 miles of this farm,” said Mrs. Bench. “Ohio has some of the best produce in the whole world,” she said, due to the Black Swamp, which has infused the soil with many nutrients.
Corn is probably the Benches’ most famous product, specifically Big Dave’s Super Sweet corn. “Dave does an awesome job with it,” said Mrs. Bench, and their loyal customers would undoubtedly agree. It’s a variety that contains extra sugar, and many swear it doesn’t even need butter or salt.
The Full Course asks three random questions of its guests, and Mr. Bench — a township trustee who had been in meetings with Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Gov. John Kasich right before the interview — arrived just in time to participate in the fun.
The Appe-teaser question asked whether mayonnaise or Miracle Whip is preferred. Mrs. Bench said that she likes olive oil mayonnaise, because she can tell herself it’s more healthful, she said with a laugh.
The Entrée round: What is your favorite ingredient to cook with, and why?
Mr. Bench, who is noted for his sweet tooth, laughed as he said, “Sugar.” His wife responded, “I like heirloom tomatoes — it’s my No. 1 thing.” They can make an ordinary recipe “spectacular,” she said, and Mr. Bench noted that he loves chili made with them.
Heirloom tomatoes are not usually very attractive, with odd shapes, cracks, and other idiosyncrasies. But “it’s not a beauty contest,” Mrs. Bench said. “We’re looking for the flavor,” and they are advocates of so-called ugly produce that is often wasted. Less-than-perfect vegetables, which are still nutritious and delicious, are sold at a discount at the farm.
Finally, for the Dessert round, Mr. Bench was asked whether he prefers Mounds or Almond Joy. “Almond Joy,” he said right away. “But I could do both,” he quickly added. Mrs. Bench, who trained as a nurse, wants him to eat good carbohydrates rather than so many refined ones, such as sugar and white flour. “He thinks apple pie is the best carb there is,” she said.
When the growing season is over, there is still a lot to do on the farm. Plants are brought inside, routine maintenance is done on the property and the equipment, and seeds are ordered as plans are made for next spring. The work doesn’t end, it just changes.
“There’s always stuff to do,” Mr. Bench said.
They do it, Mrs. Bench said, because “we love it ... We love it,” she reiterated with great enthusiasm. They “want to produce great food ... and feed the people around us, our neighbors.”
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