Mark Dornstreich, 72, a pioneer in the farm-to-table concept that transported healthy dining and whose local farm products were used by many of the area’s top restaurateurs, died Jan. 28 after a long bout with multiple myeloma.
The longtime New Yorker transplanted his dreams and career to a Bucks County farm in 1978, producing organic produce long before it became a hot national trend. But Dornstreich had already lived an out-of-the-box life way before establishing Branch Creek Farm with his wife, Judy, whom he met when both were in their senior year at the University of Pennsylvania.
After Penn, the couple spent two years in Papua New Guinea, which provided live source material for the doctorate Mark was pursuing and subsequently completed at Columbia University.
They spent that time living “with an indigenous tribe who had never before seen outsiders,” says their son, Elijah.
“They documented their structures, mores, habits and, above all, their food production.”
It was a far cry — and a long distance — from what they had experienced as Penn kids. “Once, my father walked for three days to get to the nearest vehicle, so he could drive to get medicine for my mom’s malaria,” Elijah Dornstreich says.
Evidence of those years abound: “Around our home are the anthropological and archaeological artifacts they brought home: spears, wooden combs, necklaces made of boar’s teeth.”
But soon his parents cut their teeth on farm life. Recalls Elijah, then a youngster at the place in Bucks: “Soon, we were growing gourmet cooking herbs, then baby salad greens, and then we were delivering these delicacies to the highest-end Philadelphia restaurants and hotels.”
In addition to his wife and son, Mark is survived by two daughters, Sophie and Eva; and son Jesse.