Fall Fun at Lever Farms
Pumpkin Bread, Muffins, & No-Regret Pie
Photographs by Ted B. Williams
Tis sad but true, my friends. The only thing some children know about farming is a song with the refrain, “e-i-e-i-o.” If you were one of these children, you might assume the cheeseburger in your greasy little hand grew inside a drive-through box with a cartoon toy. You might think the milk in your Paw Patrol mug rained into grocery stores and was flavored plain or chocolate, to be sold in plastic cartons—or the eggs in your pancakes popped out of yellow styrofoam, which is why the middle part is that color. Right?—Wrong, dear children. Wrong.
It seems that urban-induced, food-source illiteracy is a widespread affliction of our times. Still, let us not despair. There is a treatment for this dreaded condition, and of course, it is found here in Newberry County. At Lever Farms.
Actually, fall is a beautiful time of year for a Lever Farms “treatment.” Everyone needs a treatment now and again. Not only do children learn where their food is produced, grown-ups can take time to appreciate the land, to honor those who put food on their plates, to say a prayer a gratitude.
We can open our eyes to the afternoon light, how it slants across the brightness of pumpkins, each one unique in its way. We can hear the laughter of school children, ringing out from the corn pit. We can taste the sweetness of a crisp mountain apple. We can feel the tender fall breeze, cool upon our faces.
Yes indeed, every day is a beautiful day at the Lever Farms—Not that the farm is their farm. Not really.
“...Whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.” —Leviticus 27:30
Since 1897 Todd Lever’s family has owned the 100+ acres of Lever Farms, but his wife Lynnette is firm in her belief: the land is not theirs. “This is the Lord’s land. We are just His servants. Only He can make a seed grow.”
As servants, the Levers feel a responsibility to be good stewards of the Lord’s land, and in 2004 they felt a call to action.
Even though they had two young children, Will and Shelby—and they had full-time jobs not on the farm—Todd and Lynnette felt they were being called to cultivate the fertile fields that had been in Todd’s family for generations.
They based their decision about what to do, as they had based so many others, on faith. Soon, they set to work.
In 2006 the Levers opened a strawberry patch to pickers of all ages, and they welcomed the first school group from Pomaria Garmany, where Lynnette worked as school nurse.
Soon more school groups came on field trips. Soon picnic tables were added so that families could enjoy the experience of life on the farm. More field trips were scheduled. More tourists came. More families came. Art and Ag came.
Yes, Lever Farms became a very popular agri-tourism destination.“Agri-tourism gives people a more rounded view of farming,” she said.
In 2015 pumpkins were added, along with fall family fun (see sidebar or visit leverfarms.com). The field trips are now in their 13th year, and Lynnette estimates Lever Farms welcomes several thousand visitors every year.
The children’s responses to the farm visits have been rewarding. One child from Columbia had grown up with asphalt and concrete, and he exclaimed, “There’s a lot of DIRT here!” Other children have been infatuated with the texture of the corn in the corn pit. One child was astounded, as if witnessing a miracle, when his discarded pumpkin—with seeds inside—grew into a pumpkin plant the following year.
Yes, on field trips children have learned how seeds grow into plants, how farmers work to plow and fertilize, to irrigate and weed, to control pests and protect tender plants from freezing temperatures, to repair equipment and so much more.
The teaching seems natural for both Todd and Lynnette.“When Todd graduated from high school, he wanted to be an elementary school teacher. He worked for the highway department instead, but now he teaches children about farming. He loves the kids,” she said.
For 17 years Lynnette worked as a school nurse. That allowed her to observe excellent teachers, and she made teacher friends who helped her with ideas for field trips. “The Lord works it out. He was molding me for the future,” she said.
“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.”
The Levers feel they must be good stewards of the land with which God blessed them, and others, too, should understand the importance of taking care of the land.
Field trips let students see for themselves that farmers are more than “tractor-drivers.” Farmers watch the weather like meteorologists. They monitor soil like scientists. They repair equipment like engineers. They budget like CEO’s. They plan for the use of resources like conservationists—and the list goes on.
That hard work on the farm, of course, results in fresh, tasty, wonderful things to eat.
Lever Farms carries super-fresh, locally produced fruit and veggies, meats, eggs, baked goods and more.
Slushies are a wow. ‘Nuf said.
Word to the wise: with fresh, local produce, not everything is available all year long. Better get what you can, while you can.
The fall brings apple cider slushies, pumpkin butter, apple butter, North Carolina mountain apples, apple crisps. Spring brings strawberry jelly, strawberry salad dressing, strawberry slushies.
“We use local producers for honey, to be effective in allergy prevention,” Lynnette said, adding that she offers a field trip program on the importance of bees.
Check out the website for information on other good things going on at Lever Farms.
Mini-Muffins, Nutty Bread and Skinny Pie
When you visit Lever’s this fall, you will definitely leave in a “pumpkin mood.” These three recipes can help you extend that mood a bit longer, and they can help you maintain your health.
The pumpkin, it seems, is a “superfood” for which we all can be thankful. Pumpkin helps with blood pressure, vision, bone density, emotional health, immunity, antioxidants, weight loss, skin, cancer and macular degeneration prevention—You name it.
Any of the recipes here could be dessert for a tailgate party or a Sunday dinner this fall, and the “no-regrets pie” would be a fine gift to anyone who is trying to navigate the “gimme candy” holiday without pants expansion.
One recipe calls for pumpkin pie filling, and two call for pumpkin puree, fresh or canned. Warning: Pie filling and puree are not the same. In the grocery store, do not reach for the picture. Put on your glasses and read the label. (Why yes, I have done that. Did not work out well.)
To make fresh puree, choose your pumpkin wisely.
Agreed, all pumpkins are edible. That does not mean all pumpkins should be eaten. Your whopper-sized, scary-giant Jack-O-Lantern is simply not pie-perfect material. Most large pumpkins are as stringy as the Mount Airy Blue Grass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention, and in a pie, that’s choke-and-gag awful.
In the kitchen, a sugar or pie pumpkin is your friend. This pumpkin is smaller, sweeter, and far less likely to have you reaching for dental floss before you leave the table.
Bonus? You can make puree your way.
Truly, this is a free-form recipe. Pre-heat oven, 350-400 degrees, you decide. Spray baking sheet with Pam, or maybe use parchment paper. Remove stem, remove seeds (or not). Save seeds for roasting, if you like.
Cut pumpkin into 4 pieces, maybe 6 or 8. For cutting you might use a large sharp knife, mallet, cutting board, hammer, or axe. Just don’t cut y’self.
Spray pieces with Pam, set pulp-side down (or up) on baking sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until color darkens and fork inserts easily. Cool and scoop out pulp with sharp spoon. Or you could use a crock pot. Cook the pumpkin pieces for 6 hours, maybe 8. You know, until soft.
If you have a little one who likes to play with dough, that little one may have fun “squishing out” the pulp. Use blender or food processor to puree.
Voila. Two cups = one 15-oz. can. Advantage of fresh? Taste and texture. Of course, there’s always how “Earth Motherly” it makes you feel to serve fresh anything. (BTW? Pour a little maple syrup over one of the pumpkin pieces, and call it breakfast. Excellent.)
The pumpkin treats use cream cheese icing, that’s all I need to say. Please have extra candy corn or pumpkins on your Halloween table. Otherwise, trick-or-treaters will pick them off the cream cheese icing.
The pumpkin bread makes a not-too-sweet dessert, a filling breakfast, or (if you want to get a head-start) a wonderful Christmas gift for friends and co-workers.
The No-Regrets Pumpkin Pie counts for one point on a popular diet program but is a combination of several recipes, some from online and many from other sources. Yes, other sources: many recipes have been exchanged through the decades by my fellow-travelers on circuitous weight-loss journeys that too often have returned us to our home port-ly.
May you and yours return safely to your home ports, too, as you travel widely this fall to football games and festivals, or trek door-to-door, trick or treating. As you enjoy good food in your travels, please be grateful for the partnership that provides it: for the Lord who owns the land and the farmers who are stewards of it.
No, neither me nor mine will ever suffer from urban-induced, food-source illiteracy. Not ever. Not with #FaithFamilyFarming nearby.
Fall fun days are here y’all. Whether all you know is “e-i-e-i-o” or you have a degree in agriculture from Clemson, every day is a beautiful day for a Lever Farms “treatment” of faith, family, and fun. Pick out a pretty pumpkin now, y’hear?
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” —Psalm 34:8
Family Fun at Lever Farms
How to grow a pumpkin
Spring Field Trips
Fall Field Trips
Farm fun games and more
“God creates each pumpkin to be different, just like He creates each of us to be different, unique.”—Lynnette Lever
Address: 5057 SC Hwy 34, Pomaria
Mid-April - Mid-June
Mon-Sat: 8am 6pm
Dawn - Dusk
Mon-Fri: Appt Only
Always Closed on Sundays
Pumpkin Treats/Mini Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Lynnette Lever
”A Taste of Heaven”, Morris Chapel Southern Methodist Church cookbook
1 yellow cake mix
20 oz. pumpkin pie filling
1/2 C. oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
Mix together and bake at 350 degrees in mini-muffin pans for 9 minutes. (This recipe makes about 48 mini-muffins, and you will need two pans. Butter Pam was used, of course.—sds)
1-1/2 stick butter
3 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C. powder sugar
Mix icing ingredients together and ice pumpkin muffins. (The muffins must be completely cooled before icing. Otherwise, the butter melts. You may want to fill a quart-size freezer bag with the icing, clip one corner, and squeeze the icing onto the muffins. Less mess, less fuss.
Optional: decorate with candy corn for Thanksgiving or “scary” candies for Halloween.)
Pumpkin Bread/Nutty Bread
Recipe courtesy of Lynnette Lever
Yield: 2 loaves
3 C. sugar
1 C. vegetable oil
2 C. pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin, not pie filling)
2/3 C. water
3-1/3 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2-3/4 C. chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Mix sugar and oil with mixer. Add eggs and blend. Add pumpkin and blend. Add water and blend. Combine remaining ingredients and add slowly. Divide mixture equally between the two pans and bake until golden brown (depends on oven, check at 35 minutes but could take 1 hour).
Variations: Substitute 1/2 applesauce for 1/2 C. of the oil. To make banana bread, substitute 2 C. mashed, ripe bananas for pumpkin and omit nutmeg.
No-Regret Pumpkin Pie
2 C. pumpkin puree (or 15 oz. can)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Splenda
12 oz. can 2% evaporated milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin spice
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat all ingredients together. Pour into Pam-sprayed pie pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Continue baking about 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Serve with fat-free whipped topping, or sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar. (There are 10 calories in 1 tsp. powdered sugar; 1/4 tsp. is all you need.)