A family. A farm. A food truck.
● By J. Chambless
The Road Rancher team, from left: Jack Fossler, Olivia Heyward, Tyrone Heyward, Kathy Goin and Matt Goin. (Photo by Richard Gaw)
By Richard L. Gaw
It is an early spring afternoon in the parking lot of Braeloch Brewing Company in Kennett Square, and everyone crammed into the Road Rancher food truck has stepped up their pace, to the point where the business is no longer just a 58-foot-long RV of food distribution, but a brilliant dance in full and cooperative symmetry.
The Beef Baronesses – Julia and Olivia Heyward – take orders from long lines of customers, while their father and head cook Tyrone Heyward is in perfect step with Matt and Kathy Goin on the grill, all at the same time Jack Fossler is filling in any gaps in the process.
It's Organized Chaos, cooked to order.
To taste the menu that comes out of the Road Rancher is to enjoy slow food prepared in the Time of Instant Gratification. It's a roll-back of the clock return to lazy Sundays, when mothers and aunts and grandmothers would do the bulk of the cooking, and fathers and sons and uncles and grandfathers would gather around the well-prepared variety of meat that sizzled on the outdoor grill, sending off smoke rings of scents so tantalizing they could whet the taste buds of neighbors several houses away.
“We're not rolling up and re-heating up stuff that's been cooked somewhere else, or opening up plastic bags,” Kathy said. “We're making fresh, made-to-order entrees, so when people order from the Road Rancher, we're not wrapping the food up and handing it off to them, like at a fast-food take-out window. This is more than just a transaction. Our food becomes part of an experience that has to do with socializing with friends and family, of enjoying a hand-crafted brew along with a freshly-made entree.”
The ideas that began the Road Rancher were – and remain – closely connected to the other enterprise owned by the Goins – Katt and Matthy Farms, which since 2011 has lovingly raised grass-fed Angus cattle for cultivation into several top cuts of beef, including several kinds of steaks and ground beef. The store, located on New London Road, has become very popular for those shoppers who are looking for top-quality steaks like Porterhouse, T-Bone, Delmonico, as well as Filet Mignon and Osso Bucco.
“Our accountant was taking a look at our books, and we were talking to him about the challenges we were having in 'moving' our ground beef from our farm, as quickly as our other cuts of meat,” Kathy said. “We can move it, but not 2,000 pounds of it. He told us, 'I have two other accounts who are food trucks in West Chester. They are doing an incredible business. If you think you can pull this together, you will create a market price and turn a profit.'”
Once they decided to enter the food truck industry, the Goins went looking for an adequately-sized vehicle, and after an exhaustive search, there it was, parked in nearby Wagontown: a 58' x 9' beauty, fully equipped, that would provide them with 28 feet for food preparation.
“We had raised livestock for years, and we had never purchased a vehicle that big in our lives,” Matt said. “Kathy and I looked at each other and said, 'What in the world have we done?' But it was on.”
They quickly hired Heyward and his daughters, then Fossler.
“None of us had ever worked formally in a restaurant kitchen before,” Matt said. “The only experience we had was that we all enjoy cooking, so we were confident that we knew what were doing. We began to invite friends and family over to test what we were about to launch, and that's when we found out what worked and didn't work.”
It worked, and very quickly.
Officially launched three years ago, the Road Rancher has become a road warrior, seen nearly every weekend at events throughout Chester County from March through November. What began as an idea to bring the business to 40 events during the first year has extended to a desired goal of 140 events in 2019, and beyond.
From nearly the day it first arrived on the Chester County culinary scene, the Road Rancher has become known for its eclectic menu and the names they've attached to it. At any stop, food lovers can tuck into the Big Wolfie burger, the Calypso Cowboy burger, the 48 Lancaster sandwich, or enjoy the Pig Pickin' Plate, an order of slow-roasted smoked pulled pork.
Along the way, the Road Rancher receives a lot of help from its many neighbors. Nearly every burger, sandwich and accompaniment that comes from the food truck is grown and cultivate on farms throughout southern Chester County.
Remember that scent of a far-off grill from your childhood? It's alive and well at the Road Rancher.
“We burn real firewood,” Matt said. “We have had so many people who have come up to us and said, 'We smelled you from way over there, and we just followed the smoke.' The next thing you know, it moves beyond just a food truck and becomes a group of guys standing around talking about grilling.”
To the Goins, there was another reason -- a lasting and rich one – that helped to inspire the art of their business.
“There has been a distancing between modern living and what farming is,” Matt said. “We've been reading that the typical American is four to five generations removed from the last farmer in their ancestry. We're trying to keep the awareness of the local farmer alive.”
“Like many of the local farmers whose produce is found on our menu, Matt and I are what is known as 'Nook-and-Cranny' farmers, which means that we're farming in between established communities and developments,” Kathy said. “We believe that it allows those who live around us to see what maintaining a farm is all about – to hopefully gain an appreciation for the farmers who live right near them, and work 365 days a year in taking care of the land and the animals.”
During a typical stretch of time when the Road Rancher is slammed with requests for a Big Wolfie burger or an Old Stone Cider burger, there is a moment that Kathy enjoys most.
“We'll see them looking at the menu, and we tell them, 'Hey, by the way, all of the food on this menu comes from our farm and from other farms in southern Chester County.' Matt and I say that, the Beef Baronesses say that, Jack says that and Tyrone says that.
“We're bringing our family and our farm to the public, and when people come up to our window, they can all bear witness to what it is like to work on a farm.”
“What we all do is life,” Matt said. “Plants and animals are living things, and to nurture a tomato from seed to fruit, or to nurture a calf so that it will someday be able to feed as many as 30 people? There's real honor in that.”
To learn more about the Road Rancher food truck, visit them on Facebook, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 484-612-2335. Katt and Matthy Farms is located at 1694 New London Road, Landenberg, Pa 19350. 610-656-5396. To learn more, visit them on Facebook.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email email@example.com.