Robert Rothschild Farm products are served coast to coast. But seldom, if ever, with the distinction accorded guests of the Urbana Episcopal Church of the Epiphany’s monthly Community Meal May 15.
The supper – hot, pulled pork dressed with Rothschild’s Anna Mae Smoky Sweet Barbecue Sauce, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw sparked with Rothschild’s Onion Blossom Horseradish Dip and cookies – was served with panache by executives from Rothschild’s Champaign County headquarters.
Aproned in striped ticking, Rothschild staff servers included Buyer Tommy Barnhardt, Sales Coordinator Donna Hoermle, Distribution Manager Jackie Barr, Distribution Assistant Micah Vesey, Human Resources Manager Charlotte Hildebrandt and, from Accounts Receivable, Kathy McGinnis.
The food was also donated by Rothschild’s and literally home-cooked. The corporate cooking facilities were in use that day so Jackie Barr offered her Urbana home kitchen to prepare the meal. Jackie admitted that it was a little hectic, but with oven, crock pots, roasters and a lot of patience, it all came together.
There was a nice symmetry in the situation. Jackie is the daughter of Epiphany congregant Paddy Barr who was the supervisor of the May Community Meal. Paddy reported that about 70 meals were served on site or as take-out between 5 and 6:30 p.m.
In between greeting guests and filling plates, there was reminiscing about the beginning of Rothschild’s Champaign County enterprise. Bob and Sara moved from California to the Mad River Valley in 1970, bought 170 acres in Union Township and planted red raspberries and pine trees.
They set up a drive-in stand selling berries in bulk and opened acres of bushes to people who wanted to pick their own.
Even with brisk sales, they ended up with more fruit than they could handle. Local homemaker Ruth Runyan was hired to develop recipes for jams, jellies, sauces and dips. They were cooked in small batches on the premises, sealed in artfully-designed glass jars and bottles and offered to wholesale and retail outlets. It was still a modest operation, all in a single building at the farm site.
The Rothschild Community Meal volunteers spoke with pleasure about the Raspberry Sunday festival Bob instigated with the help of the Champaign County Arts Council.
For years, it attracted large crowds from throughout the region. It featured fresh raspberries and raspberry sundaes, Chef Hubert’s gourmet snacks, classical, folk and contemporary music, visual arts, picnics, the antics of a cunning goat family and leisurely strolls in the fresh air and sunshine.
Rothschild products proved a huge commercial success and the venture expanded in all directions. The current 51,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on East Route 36 produces an increasing variety of products: gluten free, organic, non-GMO with the majority certified kosher.
The generous assist with the Community Meal at the Church of the Epiphany continues the firm’s kinship to the community. It is doubtful that Rothschild products have ever enhanced a more appreciated meal, prepared and served by those entrusted with the day-to-day care of Bob and Sara Rothschild’s dream.
It came true in Champaign County and is still an influence for good.
Submitted by Sally Johnson on behalf of the Northern Miami Valley Episcopal Cluster.