When they couldn’t bring the people to the barbecue, Barn and Country Catering decided to bring the barbecue to the people instead.
The Stirling-based catering company was forced to cancel or reschedule more than 50 events in 2020 due to the pandemic. But, instead of calling the season a loss, the family put their heads together and decided to think outside of the box.
“It’s been an interesting year for sure,” said Jillian Nusko, who, along with her parents Angela and Kent Foley, and her husband Mark Nusko, operate the Stirling-based catering company.
“It definitely threw us for a loop,” she added. “There was a little bit of stress, but it also caused us to get creative.”
The family decided to take some of their mobile barbecue carts and turn them into full-fledged food trucks. Although large-scale events were cancelled, they were determined to find a way to serve their country-style, barbecue-inspired meals to hungry customers.
Having purchased the business in 2016, Jillian said, entering the catering industry was a new experience and the family adapted quickly.
“It’s been a learning experience for sure,” she said. “We grew really quickly, it was a bit of a whirlwind, so we’ve really learned a lot through trial and error.”
So, when her dad Kent pitched the idea of operating food trucks for the summer season, Jillian said, they didn’t hesitate to try it out.
As of July 1, Barn and Country had opened two food truck locations with a third in the works. Both locations – one on Highway 62 north of Belleville, and the other in Prince Edward County near Sandbanks – have been a hit, said Jillian.
“People have just been so supportive, we’ve just been blown away,” she said. “We have customers who are coming back every weekend.”
The food truck menu includes unique items such as stuffed burgers, buffalo brisket, chipotle chicken tacos and of course ribs and pulled pork. While the catering season has been different this year, it has also been a great experience, Jillian said.
“My favourite thing has been connecting with people one-on-one.” Personal connections with customers have helped spread word about Barn and Country Catering and has also fostered a new kind of customer experience.
Still, the food trucks are busy and fast-paced. Each week the staff does a huge amount of preparation for the weekend crowds.
“Today we prepped 150 pounds of ribs, 100 pounds of pulled pork, 200 pounds of potatoes, plus baked beans, cornbread and macaroni salad,” said Jillian. Mark, a certified Red Seal Chef, comes up with a lot of the home-cooked cuisine served by Barn and Country – including the delicious deep-fried apple and cherry pies served at the food trucks.
Working with her family is something Jillian says makes the job worthwhile, even though the days can start at 6 a.m. and not end until late into the evening. “They’re long days, but they’re fun days,” she said. “I love it. I’m happy to keep at it.”
Operating the food trucks has been a different direction for 2020, but has been rewarding, and allows Jillian to continue her favourite aspect of her career.
“I just really love feeding people,” she joked. “I love to see people enjoying our food.”
Barn and Country Catering’s food truck locations are open Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hastings County’s location is at 6992 Highway 62.
About the Hastings Trailblazer Series
The Hastings Trailblazer Series celebrates our pioneers who excel in their industries, and who thrive on thinking outside of the box and being innovative. They have community as a deep-rooted value that lends to their success, and being authentic, yet anything but ordinary, is what they strive to achieve. Hastings is proud to be home to so many trailblazers who are strong contributors to our rural economy, be it tourism, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, retail or services. We thank you for your ambition and perseverance through uncertainty.
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Megan Abraham is a freelance journalist residing in Marmora and Lake with her husband and three daughters. Since she graduated from Loyalist College’s Print Journalism Program, her passion for journalism has had her writing for various online and print publications, followed by several years working in the municipal sector with a focus on tourism, business and economic development. Now Megan is living her dream as the community coordinator for The Belleville Local, and she continues to fuel her creativity as a freelance writer full-time.