Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Final days in PA

I spent most of Friday at a workshop on transitioning from conventional to organic farming at The Rodale Institute (something of a Mecca for farmers and gardeners on the east coast, and one of the groups consulted by the Secretary of Agriculture during the drafting of plans for a garden on the National Mall). It was another cold, damp day, and we all clutched cups of coffee and folders in our shivering hands, but the presentations and discussions were totally worth it. Speakers filled us in on the practical concerns -- what organic certification means, what to expect during the process, how long it takes, how to apply -- as well as federal and state (PA) financial assistance options, online resources, and various programs that can help farmers begin, convert, or expand their land to an organic operation. All of the speakers were great and many fielded some pretty tough questions. I learned a ton.

After a wonderful dinner, hot bath, and solid night of sleep in a comfy bed at the home of some dear family friends in (relatively) nearby Kintnersville, my cousin Caroline and friend Jim came by Saturday afternoon and joined us for an impromptu picnic before whisking Ollie and I up to Stroudsburg for a few days. Jim, my unflagging guide to the sustainable farming community here, brought me first to Josie Porter Farm, where veggies for the 100-family-strong Cherry Valley CSA are grown. Heidi and I planted flats of tomatoes and tomatillos as she told me about the history of the formerly biodynamic farm and some of her aspirations for the future of the place. Apparently I couldn't get enough of Josie Porter because I found myself back there on Sunday morning planting nearly an entire row of peppers with Heidi and weeding the onion patch with her friend Somaili visiting from West Africa. Sunday afternoon found me planting sunflower and loofah seeds and weighing garlic scapes with Caroline, Gary, Eric, and Jessie at Mountaindale Farm, followed by a dinner of venison weinerschnitzel, homemade applesauce, and asparagus/garlic scape salad. (Talk about a local meal: I think the bottle of Malbec was the only thing on the table that had traveled more than 200 yards from where it was grown.)

Monday morning found me once again back at Josie Porter Farm, but only for about 2 hours of planting and weeding before Jim transported me to Henry's Homestead Farm in Cresco. I chatted with Jeff and Mary Jean while they harvested mushrooms (part of Jeff's research project for his herbalist certification) and prepared for their 21 members' weekly CSA pickup. Theirs was an amazing and unique farm, with about a dozen small (150 foot or smaller) plots of beets, chard, garlic, onions, lettuce and more scattered about the property. After some conversation with the pair (exchanging recipes for yoghurt, cheese, garlic scapes, and broccoli rabe), Jim and I checked out the state-of-the-art greenhouse, were greeted by packs of truly free-range chickens in the forest (they made me a bit nervous, actually, with their complete disregard for human notions of personal space: about 2 dozen birds sidled right up to me, but Jim insisted they were harmless so I tried to dispel Hitchcockian scenarios from my mind), admired the creek, and learned a bit about the history of the land which had been in Jeff's family for generations. And I even had a chance to try my hand at milking Delilah, their lovely, infinitely patient cow. We left soon afterwards and I departed with the distinct impression that this farm was a place teeming not only with healthy food but also curiosity and joy. As Jeff and Mary Jean expand their efforts in coming years, I hope others seek out a similar model of sustainable food production.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  1. Hi Ibti~
    So I've been wondering, how many pounds of Garlic Scapes were harvested??

  2. People's garden at the USDA, No way


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