[caption id="attachment_163154" align="alignleft" width="1000"]OWNERS KENNY AND SHERRY BLESSING OPENED THEIR FARM-BASED SHOP IN 2015. PHOTO BY MARIA DEFORREST [/caption]
By Gwen Guerke
There's off the beaten path, and there are back roads. But thanks to way-finding apps and palates that appreciate quality meats, a rural location is no longer an impediment to success. For discriminating foodies, Mule Run Meats is a destination.
As the proverbial crow flies, the farm-based market at 1931 Bowman Road in Milford, is maybe a mile west of busy Del. 1. But no matter which direction you're driving from, there's no direct route. Yet, customers can enjoy a taste of rural Kent County along the way.
The namesake mules are no longer in the picture, but a frolicking, boisterous herd of goats play in a fenced-in yard adjacent to the parking lot.
Owners Sherry and Kenny Blessing welcome their customers and take the time to answer questions about the cuts of locally sourced meats, as well as offer suggestions for preparation. Kenny, a third-generation farmer, also grows lima beans and raises a herd of 45 beef cattle on his family homestead near Houston, Delaware.
The store is the culmination of a long-time dream. Before the shop opened in 2015 the Blessings had been selling freezer beef to family and friends for about 15 years and were encouraged to expand. "I decided to go for it," says Kenny, who earned a degree in agriculture from the University of Delaware after returning home from U.S. Army service.
"I asked Sherry if she wanted to take a chance with me," he recalls. The site was prepared over a weekend. "When the building went in, then it was game on. The timing was right," he says.
Early on, the Blessings manned a booth at the Riverwalk Farmers Market in nearby Milford, but in subsequent years customers-including regulars from New Jersey and New York-found the farm.
Kenny says he enjoys talking with patrons. "I try to educate, dispel myths," he says, explaining that some cultures may have a preference for a non-traditional cut of meat. "I'm old school, and I believe your word is your bond. The customers trust us, the way it used to be."
Kenny works with Sudlersville (Md.) Meat Locker to provide those custom or specialty cuts. "[Their butchers] are extremely helpful, and they are one of two USDA inspected [butcher shops] in the region."
Mule Run's glass-front freezer cases are stocked with more than beef. Locally sourced chicken, bison, seafood, goat, veal, pork, turkey, lamb, smoked meats and sausages are stacked in clear wrap, ready for selection. "It's all locally grown. It's vacuum-sealed so they can see front and back. It tastes as fresh as day one," he boasts.
Mule Run Meats stocks other farm-fresh products. Customers also return for specialty cheeses supplied by The Cheese Board, a vendor familiar to locals from nearby farmers markets; ice cream by the quart from Greenwood's Vanderwende Farm and fresh produce in season, plus a variety of honey. The Butter Bean honey-a best seller, the Blessings say-is produced from hives placed at the borders of their own lima bean fields.
This article original appeared in Delaware Business Times sister publication Delaware Today.