Monday, July 27, 2009

SAITA presents Quiet Creek Farm at The Rodale Institute

Saturday July 25th saw a total of 16 interns in attendance for SAITA's Vegetable Cultivation Techniques workshop at Aimee and John Good's Quiet Creek Farm. Situated at the Rodale Institute, a few miles east of Kutztown, PA, the Goods lease 8 acres from the Rodale's 333 acres. Rodale is renowned not only for its longevity in the organic community, but also for its Farming Systems Trial (FST), the longest-running experiment comparing organic and conventional farming practices. 

Founded in 1947 by J.I. Rodale, this is now a third generation farm, impressive for its tidiness and beautiful rolling hills. In fact, I was struck by the similarity to the vistas of Umbria's agrarian horizons in Italy. On a personal note, this was the highlight of our workshops, as I had wanted to visit the institute since the late 1960's, during my own early involvement with the 'back to the land' movement.

Quiet Creek operates a 225 member CSA and has on-farm pickups on tuesdays and fridays. John works the farm full-time, Aimee works part-time and takes care of their young daughter, Celia Rose. Jonathan Maier works as their full-time apprentice and there are two other full season apprentices helping out.

They also offer two 1/2 acre U-Pick fields, including flowers, that usually bring 50-60 people out at a time. They partner with other farms to offer pork, bacon, eggs, grass-fed beef, and even locally produced organic spelt flour. The objective is to make the barn shop a one-stop shopping experience.  The Mennonite farmer next door sells raw milk and butter.

Because Rodale has large equipment on site, the Goods hire them to do some of the harder field work, like cover cropping. They also borrow the potato digger and planter. They make their own potting soil from compost and on the last part of our tour we viewed the compost sterilizer and turner, designed and built by the local Mennonite farmer next door, the same one who sells raw milk and butter. The screener pasteurizes at 200 degrees. John amends his compost with a butter dishful of lime, bone meal, rock phosphate, bloodmeal, greensand, using a 1 to 1 ratio of compost to lightening products; perlite, vermiculite and peat.

John works aggressively with cultivation to keep bushy type weeds like foxtail and ragweed from getting out of hand. He will go through the beds with the cultivator at least twice before seeding or transplanting. This he says, can exhaust most of the weed seeds in the top 2-3" of soil. To find out if the land is too wet, grab a handful of soil and ball and drop; if it breaks up, it's safe to work the field. Cultivation will also help to dry out the surface of wet soil, helping with disease and fungus. The resulting top 2" of soil will then help preserve moisture below. Some farmers who use no irrigation only use cultivation as a means of conserving water.

Quiet Creek and Rodale share a pond as their irrigation source with a hydrant on each of 6 pillars. There is also a pumphouse and 4" pipes @ 100 psi are sized for the 300 acre farm. There are 3 big guns on tripods for Quiet Creek, with 200' broadcasting ability for 2-3 hours. John uses Rainflo tripods and flat hoses and praises the company's prompt and personalized customer service.

He uses Typar as a heavier type of row cover; it never rips and will last much longer than the earlier products like Agronet or Reemay. Fall kale is planted under these now.  

An ingenious way to roll out large row covers onto fields, John inserts a roll through the pipe, lays it onto 2 sawhorses and another person at the far end helps to unroll while it's laid onto the field:

To avoid a lot of hand weeding, John marks his rows, getting as close as possible with his cultivator. He suggests that if you don't kill a few plants, you aren't close enough. He demonstrated tractor passes on cucurbits and lettuces, using a 13" pumpkin knife on his Williams Weeder from Market Farm, showing us how to avoid swerving when going down the row, and how to raise and lower the knife to slide underneath the drip tape and plants. Keeping a 15/16" ratchet wrench in the tractor box for changing out tools can help save time. For plastic covered rows, John will remove the two middle tines with the knives facing to the outside. He cultivates his beds at least once every two weeks and tries for each week in May or June when weeds are growing their fastest.

His Holland made Lely weeder has adjustable tines that float independently. He also uses the Williams system with a rake, that flips the weeds over and gets roots up into the sun to bake. His tractor is a Kubota L245H, with the offset engine that all cultivators use. John suggests going to auctions to find this equipment since companies stopped making cultivating tractors in the mid 1980's. You can also search back to Shane LaBrake's June 16th workshop in the blog to find information on tractors. John found his at auction for about $7000, circa 1985. These tractors may be easier to find in the southern states, since they've been used more recently for tobacco cultivation. An interesting paper by a U of VT vegetable/berry specialist on the pros and cons of cultivation equipment with source addresses, can be found here.

Back in the storage barn, Aimee showed us their Planet Jr. version of a European push seeder, with three different seed plates. Read comparisons of Cole's seeder to the Earthway product here.  Johnny's makes a European model that's similar to the Planet Jr.

Another nifty piece of equipment demo'd was the Flame weeder, a propane powered contraption that basically burns weeds to a crisp. Helpful for weed control and possibly for disease as well,  John suggests trying this on damp weeds and wetter ground; the extra moisture helps to steam them to death. Open the propane tank before you put your backpack on. The model that John was using can be found, with a photo tour, on in West Virginia.

Hand tools include 3 different stirrup hoes and a small hand hoe from Johnny's:

The farm uses Surround on cucurbits for cucumber beetles, BT on their cabbages and broccoli for cabbage worms. Actinovate is being used for bacterial diseases and Quiet Creek is experimenting with Agriphage,for their tomatoes. Agriphage is a new bacteriophage treatment that is actually a virus, injecting its DNA into the offending bacterium, which then replicates as new 'phage'. From all the data I read online, it appears safe, although there is some concern among scientists about these viruses entering our food system and future effects on human DNA and metabolisms. (This link suggests: Although these two dsDNA viruses infect hosts from very different kingdoms, their striking similarities, from major coat protein through capsid architecture, strongly suggest their evolutionary relationship.) I'm slightly suspect of any company who is working with the Department of Defense to develop biological weaponry and Omnilytics, a biotech company in business since 1954, makes Agriphage.

Quiet Creek leases a Greenhouse from Rodale for $1000/year, but waters in exchange and ends up even. They put their lettuces underneath heatpad covered tables and once germinated bring them to the top. Garlic was drying under the tables when we walked in and it smelled like a giant pizzeria.

Rodale's bookstore is not to be missed, it's housed in a historic one room schoolhouse. I even met a couple of New Yorkers out tending their plots nearby. LingLee told me they drive out 2 hours and go back in the same day. Just to be in the country and have some fresh home grown vegetables. Now that's dedication!

Rodale and Quiet Creek are both worth a trip to see the lovely fields, the stunning demo and visitor gardens and the chance to meet the friendliest farmers around - Aimee, Celia and John.

Next SAITA workshop on Diversified Amish Farm Marketing at Ben Stoltzfus's Pleasant Pastures Organic Acres is Saturday August 1st from 11am-1pm in Honey Brook, PA. Be sure to check Maysie's website on friday, as there may be a time switch to 10am start time.

Happy growing! See schedule and addresses for workshops here.

Victoria Webb

SAITA Coordinator

Thursday, July 23, 2009

This week, we seem to be continuing our discussion on the environmental factors that affect farming: Our tomatoes are being hollowed out and have puncture marks in them. Insects? Disease? Weather? Soil? No……. CROWS! For some reason, this year the crows are all over the tomatoes. We are trying a variety of deterrents such as building a scarecrow, suspending shiny objects, such as aluminum pans and cds (anyone have old cds to spare??), and even resorting to the old shotgun! We’ll keep you posted!

Then there are the potatoes: You may have noticed that some of the larger Yukon Gold potatoes have a hollow center. “A hollow heart (a lens- or star-shaped cavity at the center of the tuber) results when conditions such as high rainfall…………over stimulate growth” (from Rodale’s Garden Problem Solver). We certainly had high rainfall and very rapid growth of our potato plants in June. You cannot tell from the outside of the potato if this condition exists inside. The outsides look perfectly fine. The hollowed area, however, is typically quite small, is easily excised and in no way affects the taste of the rest of the potato, but for now, maybe you should plan on cutting open your larger potatoes before cooking them.

Reminder: Please bring bags appropriate for use on pick up days. Lately we have been running low!

Our first Seedlings Cooking Class for 3-6 year olds will be Monday August 3rd from 4-5 pm. We will make flowers out of a variety of vegetables and a yummy spread to dip them in!
Please register your child by calling us or emailing us. The cost is $10 per child.

We will have a complete schedule of children and adult classes ready shortly.

Farm Tour:
Ben and Anna Stoltzfus are hosting a Farm Tour on Saturday August 1st. It is a great way to see the workings of a true Amish farm and enjoy hay rides, Ben’s homemade ice cream, and samples of his other delicious dairy products. You can find the details attached here.

Some of the zucchini coming in from the field are dangerously large….. great for bread.
Zucchini Bread
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini
2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch salt
3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup dried raisins or cranberries

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs and vanilla.
Mix in the grated zucchini and the melted butter.
Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and add in. Add the flour, a third at a time. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix. Fold in the nuts and dried fruit..
Divide the batter equally between 2 buttered 5x9 inch loaf pans. Bake for one hour. (Check for doneness at 50 minutes) or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.
Makes 2 loaves.

For those of you looking to eliminate gluten from your diet, here is a Zucchini Bread recipe from the internet:

Although the recipe below calls for canola oil, a much more healthy alternative would be melted coconut oil, melted butter, or olive oil!

3 eggs1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups fresh grated zucchini
3/4 cup tapioca flour
3/4 cup white rice flour3
/4 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup arrowroot powder (in place of cornstarch)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbs. xantham gum
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1. Preheat to 350F, just like in the other recipes.
2. I did not use a mixer. I used a plain old fashioned, no-power-needed, whisk. It worked fine. I beat the eggs, and then added in the sugar, oil, applesauce, and zucchini. The recipe says to add the zucchini w/ the dry ingredients, but after grating my zucchini I really felt that it was not a dry ingredient, and belonged with the wet. After adding everything, I mixed some more w/ my whisk.
3. Mix the rest of the ingredients together, and gradually add to the wet while stirring. Keep stirring until all the flour is incorporated and you have a smooth texture.
4. Grease a 9″ x 5″ bread pan. To grease a pan, since I don’t like breathing in pump sprays very much, I do it the old fashioned way – take some butter and grease the pan, then coat lightly with flour, and shake. I think greasing a pan by this method works a lot better than spraying some non-stick spray.
5. The Baking Beauties says to fill 2 bread pans half way. My batter only filled one bread pan half way. Maybe I just have an abnormally wide bread pan? Not sure. Do what fits, but don’t fill anything more than half way, because this will rise a lot in the oven.
6. Bake until done. For me this was about an hour, and I used the “sticky knife” test to determine when it was done. I liked the tip on Baking Beauties about adding the aluminum foil if the crust is browning too quickly before the loaf is done. Mine didn’t, but very useful tip if yours does!
By the way, this bread is great w/ melted butter and homemade jam, or as a sandwich, or as toast, the list goes on and on….

This recipe for Lemon Verbena Ice Cream comes from our member, Harriet Stone, who says that the taste is heavenly… can’t wait to try it!! This will be especially delicious with Ben’s milk and cream!!

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar (I use ½ cup)
60 fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 T. vodka (optional to keep the ice cream from freezing too hard; you usually don't have to worry about storing left-overs)
In a large sauce pan, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and verbena leaves. Heat over moderate heat just until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for an hour. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve (I just scoop out the leaves with a slotted spoon.) and discard the leaves. Refrigerate until well chilled. Process in an ice-cream freezer.

See you around the farm!
Annmarie and Sam

Sunday, July 19, 2009

SAITA presents Two Gander Farm and Honeybee Production

Even though we had the threat of rain (heavy downpours while driving) and drizzle during the workshop, 15 farmers, interns and apprentices showed up at Two Gander Farm on July 17th, a muggy friday evening. The interns from Colchester Farm in MD drove about 3 hours, so hats off to these dedicated folks! 

Trey Flemming farms 23 acres of leased property with his partner in Oley, Berks County, PA. He lives with his wife Deidre, in a lovely historic circa 1860 stone house on another 7.5 acres about 5 minutes away. In their second year of farming on 6 tillable acres here on the leased farm, he produces some vegetables for 3 farmers markets; Headhouse Market in Philly, Reading Terminal Market and Clark Park Market in the University City district. They also grow for a winter farmers market in 2 of their hoophouses and have a passive solar greenhouse, modeled after Steve Moore's plans.

Trey began the workshop by showing us a cutaway of a hive, with the brood's nest on the bottom, pollen in the middle with honey situated at the top. 80% of the bees are sexually inactive female workers, 10-20% are the male drones. While there is only one queen and she never leaves the nest, the bees function as one entity, they'll share food and pheromones. There can be from 30 - 50,000 bees in one colony, with just one queen. Trey uses the standard moveable frame Langstroth hive, invented by Philadelphia native, Reverend Lorenzo Langstroth, in 1851. 

The queen bee moves from one box to another but usually remains in the lower 2 boxes in a tower. A 'Queen Excluder' wire mesh frame simply allows the worker bees to move but not the queen, since the mesh is smaller than she can fit through.


At any one time Trey has 60-65 hives. He keeps them in 7-8 different locations during the year. When bees begin the process of raising a new Queen, they swarm - usually here in southeastern PA, in April, May and June. The older queen, who can live up to 5 years, simply knows when to leave and half the worker bees follow her to perch on a tree or fencepost. They send out scouts to find a new home to raise their colony. If you position your boxes where you find a swarm, they'll move right into them and since a starter colony can run from $75 to $100, Trey suggests this is a great way to get new bees into your farming system. Because the bees have efficiently consumed as much honey as they can to resume making honeycomb in their new home, they are engorged, docile and easy to handle at this time.  Most beekeepers replace their queens every 2 years, and Trey thinks that the most productive queens are 2 years old, laying more than 1000 eggs at her peak. He marks his queens depending on age, which allows him to keep track of which has been replaced and which may be getting ready to leave.

He can influence the genetics of a hive by producing more drones than workers. Most colony collapse can be traced to the Varroa mite, an external parasite that prefers to develop in the larvae of drone bees. Some ag schools are doing genetic research on influencing resistance to the mite. You can read about it here. Trey mentioned that larger beekeepers have more issues with collapse, simply because they are farming in monocultures, where beneficial insect populations have been reduced. Bees, like humans, need a diverse diet. Dandelion pollen is good for them early in the season for raising their brood, but after that it doesn't provide enough nutrients to sustain them. A varied food source will strengthen the hive's resistance to disease and increase the chance for their survival.

The small farmers aren't stressing their bees by shuttling them to distant pollination farms, and are using less pesticides than mono-cropped industrial farms. Scientists now suspect pesticides as another cause of colony collapse. Nicotinoids like Imidacloprid, lethal insecticides to honeybees, birds and beneficial insects like lacewings and spiny soldier bugs, have saturated the home growers markets since 1994. Like most registered pesticides, no studies have fully evaluated effects on both humans and the environment. Nicotinoids have been used to treat cotton and other crops, are systemic and are absorbed by the plant or tree, ultimately making their way into the bees' food sources. The colony builds up concentrations in their hives, disrupting mobility, navigation and feeding behaviors, eventually leading to complete collapse of the colony. Trey also warns against buying unknown honey to feed your bees, because of American Foulbrood disease, a devastating and contagious spore-forming bacterium.

He grows 3 acres of buckwheat and other flowers that attract beneficials and creates an attractive food product for bees. Buckwheat is fast growing, weed suppressing and a good cover crop. He'll mow it twice when it's seeding, lets it die back and tills under in the spring. He can get 3 successions in a year, since buckwheat breaks down quickly, unlike rye and vetch, which is harder to till under.

He also takes his bees to other neighboring farms for pollination and to collect free pollen from wildflowers, purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed and other flowering plants. A lavender farm in Virginia nets him pollination fees and he sells the farmer honey at wholesale pricing. Bees usually stay within 1/2 mile of an area, but can travel up to 5 miles for nectar. Their two dances indicate direction but the 1/2 mile version is more accurate.


Bees slow down in the winter and the hive temperature drops to 65 degrees. In late February, it will rise again to 95 when the bees first leave after being cooped up all winter - they don't defecate inside the hive. He warns against hanging your laundry outside near a hive in early spring...

The last part of the workshop included a tour of Trey's home farm where he keeps about 11 colonies with 1 mating colony, collecting pollen every evening. We viewed his drying garlic hung from rafters in the stone barn and walked up to the back of his property where he plans to start a fruit orchard and where his beehives are kept. He offered interns the chance to use an uncapping knife to remove the bee cappings before putting the frames into his stainless steel motorized extractor. He has a trap that collects 60% of the pollen that his bees collect on their legs. It's a great nutritional source, builds antibodies and is used for allergies, although raw honey can be eaten with similar effects.

Particulates in honey cause crystallization and Trey strains his product. You can also submerge honey in a warm water bath to liquefy if it becomes crystallized over time. He noted that the propolis bees produce is their first line against pathogens. Taken predominately from pine trees, sap flows and other botanical sources, bees use it to make their hives more defensible by sealing off alternate entrances, and preventing any unwarranted small visitors, like dead mice or lizards from contaminating the hive. Anything too big to drag out, they seal in propolis, rendering the critter inert and harmless.

The best part of the tour had us all sampling Trey's marvelous clear black locust honey, his dark and smokey buckwheat honey and a tasty wildflower variety. His wife makes salves and lip balm from the beeswax and he'll make a few candles from it too. 

Many thanks to Trey for his wonderful tour and knowledge of the most necessary of farming's creatures, and for everyone's continued attendance!

Next SAITA workshop on Vegetable Cultivation Techniques is Saturday July 25th from 11am-1pm at Quiet Creek Farm at the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, PA.

Happy growing! See schedule and addresses for workshops here.

Victoria Webb

SAITA Coordinator

Friday, July 17, 2009

Maysie's Messages 7-16-09: Weather, Classes and Yummy Recipes!

Ah, right, this is what humidity feels like! Welcome to summer in Pennsylvania! But wasn’t it wonderful to enjoy the glorious weather of the past 2 weeks? I’m sure it seems like a distant memory, but can you remember back to those endless weeks of rain??? Unfortunately, the string beans remember all too well, as many of them were done in by the flooding that occurred at the bottom of Field 2. But those that remain will be on the list, ready to pick for Friday’s pick up. Unfortunately they will be limited in quantity until our later generations mature. Our sweet corn crop was also done in by the cold, wet month of June and this looks to be first year ever that Maysie’s Farm CSA will not be providing sweet corn. You see, unless you’re planting seed treated with fungicides (and not abiding by “organic” rules) corn seed will rot in cold, wet soil. That’s why we normally don’t try to beat the season and have extra early corn, but this year even planting a month later than normal was too early. Only a small handful of plants emerged out of an entire block in Field 2 – twenty 170 foot rows. So we’ve cover cropped that block with buckwheat – to reduce weeds and add organic matter – and will use the space to accommodate extra fall brassicas after tilling in the cover crop.

And, now with the weather getting warmer, maybe the tomatoes will start coming on strong. They have been craving some warm nights to get them ripening …..

Also, the herbs are coming along beautifully. We have plenty of sage and oregano in the rock pile and some of rosemary in the hoop house. Get one of Ben’s chickens this week and roast it with those herbs…. Delicious!!

Don’t forget about the mints- we have spearmint, peppermint, apple mint, chocolate mint and lemon balm ready for picking. At this time of year they make very refreshing teas. Just steep the leaves in water, strain, cool and serve over ice. The lemon verbena is also delicious in the tea (as are some basil leaves!). This weekend, I am going to try making some brews with these herbs- I’ll let you know how they turn out!!

We did not order any new bread from Sweetwater this week, as our freezer is stocked. Please use up those loaves first and we will have more for next week. Just let them defrost or toast them slightly before using.

Does your little one love coming to the farm and harvesting the pick your own crops?
Maysie’s Farm is now offering cooking classes for your little seedlings. We are dividing the classes by age:
3-6 years – 1 hour class - $10 per child
6-9 years- 1 hour class- $10 per child
9-12 years- 1 ½ hour class- $12 per child
12 and over- 1 ½ hour class- $12 per child

Little ones will have fun “playing with their food” as we do some planting, harvesting and simple kitchen activities like pouring, stirring, and best of all….. eating!!
The older children will learn the basics of growing healthy food, eating healthy food and simple kitchen safety.
Classes are forming now. Please contact Annmarie if you are interested in setting up a class. These make great birthday parties as well!!

Our kale recipe this week comes from Libbie Goodill, one of our interns: The pesto is delicious spread on your Sweetwater Bread, as well as over your favorite pasta.

Kale Pesto
1 bunch kale (about ½ pound), stems removed and coarsely chopped
¼ cup walnuts, toasted and cooled
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil with some salt. Add kale and cook until tender’ about 10 minutes. . Drain the kale and let it dry out slightly. Place kale in food processor. Add garlic and toasted walnuts. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Stir in parmesan cheese and season with sea salt and serve. The pesto will be warm from the cooked kale.

This recipe for Collard Pesto from was sent in by member Jan Goren, who says that this pesto is delicious!

Collard Green Olive Pesto1 3/4 lb collard greens7 large brine-cured green olives (2 1/4 ounces), pitted2 garlic cloves, chopped1/3 cup water1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegarScant 1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon cayenne1/4 teaspoon black pepper1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut stems and center ribs from collard greens and discard. Stir collards into water in batches, then simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer collards with tongs to a colander to drain, gently pressing on greens to extract excess water. (If making pasta, reserve water in pot for cooking pasta.) Coarsely chop collards.Blend olives and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add collards, water, vinegar, salt, cayenne, and pepper and pulse until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream. Turn off motor, then add cheese and pulse to combine.

This last recipe comes from Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables, which we have for sale here at the farm…. It is based on a movie called The Real Dirt on Farmer John,
a witty documentary about one farmer’s trials and tribulations starting Angelic Organics, one of the largest CSA’s in the country.

Scallion and Potato Patties- 4 servings
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Cup chopped scallions, white parts and about 2 inches of the pale green parts
2 eggs
1 ½ cups cold mashed potatoes
¼ cup dried bread crumbs
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons oil

Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.
When the foam subsides, add the scallions. Sauté until tender, about 3-5 minutes.
Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the sautéed scallions, mashed potatoes, bread crumbs, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Stir until well combined

Place a baking pan in the oven and preheat to 250.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Shape the scallion and potato mixture into patties. Sauté the patties in the skillet, turning them once, until they are golden brown on both sides, 2-4 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked patties to the baking pan in the oven to keep them warm while you sauté the next batch. Serve warm.

See you around the farm!

Monday, July 13, 2009

SAITA presents Urban Farms in Philadelphia

Twelve interns, farmers and apprentices attended these two informative workshops on Saturday July 11th, both on small, yet highly productive, urban farms in Philadelphia. The first workshop was in the morning at Greensgrow Farm in the Kensington area of Philly, just north of Center City at Cumberland and Almond. In the afternoon we all drove over to Weavers Way, northwest in Awbury Arboretum, off Washington Lane.

Greensgrow is a stunning example of former chef Mary Seton Conboy's determination to forge an urban garden in the middle of a dilapidated former steel galvanizing site. EPA had cleaned up this one acre of land back before she bought it in 1998 from the city, but the rusted girders and steel beams are in evidence across the street where the new bio-diesel 'plant' has emerged, recycling used restaurant oil into fuel for their Subaru sponsored truck and car.

Most of the farm's promotion and press comes from Mary's own efforts, word of mouth and curious journalists, although a marketing intern was hired this year to help with PR. They've even made it to the Sundance Channel.

Ryan Kuck is the intensely dedicated Lead Farmer at Greensgrow, has his own small farm in the city called Preston's Paradise, and gave us the tour and information about Greensgrow's history. With 4 greenhouses, 3 hoophouses and about 85 farms in their co-op, (from NJ, PA and MD) the farm provides fresh produce and some processed food to the neighborhood and outlying areas. Networking with local farms offers diversity and gives Greensgrow an advantage that other farmers markets don't often have. 

Four full-time managers and a seasonal staff of 8-10 keep the farm in production, with an often themed CSA that offers 320 shares to feed 420 households.  There is no work requirement for the shares, which cost $725 for a season. The farm accepts Federal WIC (Women, Infants, Children) checks and also offers a winter harvest to 150 members. They do some processing of rice, spelt and oats and also offer a nursery that has tripled in size this year, with plants ready for your own garden. Their community kitchen, begun in St. Michael's Lutheran Church, is a novel business venture to allow for canning, more processing and for residents who pay a small fee in exchange for the use of a commercial kitchen.

Emerald Street Farm offers beautiful produce.

We checked out Greensgrow's hydroponics setup - the farm originally grew lettuces and cooking greens and then sold them to local chefs. The horizontally laid regular rain gutters have a continuous water system flushing through them, monitored by a nutrient counter. Ryan told us that while they only heat for a month in spring and fall, they're scaling back their hydroponics. In the middle of this urban oasis, the temperature ranges 3 degrees warmer than in the suburbs. He emphasized that the farm is a business, as evidenced by sales of hanging baskets and Christmas trees. Renting out space in one greenhouse to an arts design collaborative last holiday season was another way to generate press and work with more diverse groups. 

The farm even has an apiary on the property, to one side of the bio-diesel house. To understand how Steve Richter and his son Cody designed the plant, view this video. Cody walked us through the process, but the video makes it all clear. The Greensgrow veggie truck uses this fuel and the farm also sells some of it.

All of Greensgrow's own produce is grown in 12" concrete block edged raised beds, a preventative against any residual metals in the soil. Buckets of rocks are buried in the paths between rows, similar to a french drain. Rotations are made throughout the year, and plenty of herbs are grown to attract bees and beneficial insects. They hired a vermiculture expert to launch a worm bin, popular with local schoolkids. Green roofs have been planted on the composting toilet roof, along with the bio-diesel and walk-in fridge structures' roofs. Drought tolerant Sedum, grasses and native wildflowers require little care. A diagram of the structural design can be found here.

Edward Riehl, the regional Peace Corp representative, was there with a young student from the Ukraine, handing out information about the 1961 organization, and to answer any questions. Ed told us that he's reaching out to farm programs and interns because the Peace Corps is finding it difficult to find volunteers with a wide range of agricultural skills. I was not aware that volunteers receive housing, are paid for 27 months and receive a $6000 're-adjustment' stipend once their program is finished. To find out more, please visit their website or contact Edward:

Watch for Greengrow's sustainability series of workshops and other partnerships across the city. Many thanks to Ryan and Mary for hosting the workshop and to everyone who came, especially those who travelled more than an hour to get into the city!

Weavers Way Farm leases their land from the beautiful Awbury Arboretum, northwest of Greensgrow in the East Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. David Siller is the Farm Education Manager who gave the workshop and tour. They also developed a CSA at Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, have gardens at MLK High School and manage the farm at Stenton Family Manor, a temporary housing shelter for families in transition.

Weavers Way Co-op is one of the most successful and oldest in the country, having launched in 1973. Many early members still buy from the store, which has expanded to a row-home next door in Mt. Airy. There is a new store in Chestnut Hill and Weavers Way Farm sells wholesale to the co-ops as well as to Headhouse and the Reading Terminal markets in downtown Philly. No work requirement for any of the Weavers Way stores, it's optional with a subsequent discount on produce. 

The farm began in 2000, with the help of General Manager Glenn Bergman and other partners in the city who thought a sustainable farm would be a good idea in the neighborhood. The farm pays rent to the arboretum and is not certified organic, but doesn't do much spraying. Again, a lot of rotation of crops, low use of BT and Surround, combined with Pyrethrins. David is also growing herbs and flowers to attract beneficial insects and birds. Comfrey, Anise Hyssop and Alliums are just a few of the flowering herbs and bulbs that we saw growing in various gardens. 

David Siller (without the hat).

Dave took us on a tour of the farm with his young farming assistant Z:Kiya at his side, showing the mere foot wide paths between vegetable rows that he rototills, throwing soil up into what become raised beds. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society donated a huge 60'x30 new heated and cooled Greenhouse, and Philadelphia University built their new washing station as part of professor Rob Fleming's 'Green Design Build' course, view the interesting video here.

Partnering with these groups and more, Weavers Way distributes seedlings throughout the city and donates produce to shelters. They also want to be able to offer nutritional education and more options to actually cook the produce. Because some of the soil still contains lead and metals, soil tests are conducted every year.

The farm is experimenting with a variety of exotic vegetables and plants like Castor Bean plant, Stevia, which is amazingly sweet, Strawberry Spinach and Walking Stick or Tree Collards, the largest collards I'd ever seen. There was also a brilliant alizarin crimson Amaranth in the Children's Garden. Peanuts, sweet potatoes, corn, string beans and tomatoes are all grown here to entice the kids and educate them about local food production. A parent or chaperone accompanies the groups of kids, but David suggested that limited factors to the program are busing and costs of getting the children out to the farm. They can walk if they're local. 

It's obvious that not only does David have a passion for farming and growing unusual plants just for the sake of the experiment, but that he inspires the children with his own contagious enthusiasm and curiosity. 

Castor Bean plant


Tree Collards

Wild Chenopodium is also called Strawberry Spinach. The fruit isn't especially sweet, but the leaves can be used in salads.

Weavers Way employs 3 full season apprentices and 2 full-time employees or farm managers. The Philadelphia Orchard Project also maintains a small plot of land for their trees.

Thanks to David, Z:Kiya and Weavers Way for hosting this workshop. We all enjoyed the tour and seeing their hard work of creating a food paradise in the middle of an urban park.

Next SAITA workshop on Incorporating Honeybees into the Farming System is Friday evening July 17th from 5pm-7pm at Two Gander Farm in Oley, PA. (Berks County)

Happy growing! See schedule and addresses for workshops here.

Victoria Webb

SAITA Coordinator

Thursday, July 9, 2009

CSA Update

Is it really the beginning of July? The weather has been so pleasant; we hope you are all getting out and enjoying it. But, it is DRY. We are definitely in need of some rain!!

The crops are doing well, however. We are continuing to harvest abundant stir fry greens and zucchini and cucumbers are all coming on. Unfortunately, the peas and favas are on their way out... such a short harvest for such tasty morsels!

Just a reminder that we are still accepting registrations for Jerry Brunetti’s presentation here on Saturday. Call or sign up in the barn. We are so looking forward to having him here!!

Some of you have been taking advantage of the wonderful Friday massages with Kevin Koser. Kevin is offering massages on Fridays between 3 and 6 pm on the farm, and will also work with your schedule. To schedule a massage with Kevin, contact him directly at 484-818-0383.

I am including some ideas for kale and cukes this week.
A delicious way to prepare the kale is to, of course, sauté it with olive oil and garlic.
Kale salads are also delicious:

Boil the kale for approximately 10-15 minutes so it gets soft.
Drain well and pat dry.
Place in a bowl and add chopped olives, sundried tomatoes, capers, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Try adding anchovies or anchovy paste and toasted pine nuts.
You can vary this and use whatever you have available…. Cheese is delicious in the salad- goat cheese, feta cheese or fresh mozzarella.
Serve the salad warm or at room temperature.

The following recipe for cucumber soup is taken from
Cold Cucumber Soup

5 cucumbers
½ cup chopped parsley
6 scallions
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 quart buttermilk
1 pint yogurt
Salt and pepper
Peel cucumbers. Slice them in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain off excess water
Chop the cucumbers coarsely and place them in blender with parsley, scallions, lemon juice, buttermilk and yogurt. Blend at high speed. Season with salt and pepper and serve well chilled. Serves 6

See you around the farm!

Think Globally, Eat Locally
Maysie's Farm Conservation Center
15 St. Andrew's Lane Glenmoore, PA 19343

Thursday, July 2, 2009

CSA Update

Happy Summer!

I apologize for the missed update last week, but we hosted another wedding here on Saturday. This time, it was the farmer’s sister who tied the knot!! (Many of you probably saw the tent on the lawn when you came to pick up your food) – Such an idyllic site to hold an event!

We will be hosting another event presented by Maysie’s Farm and The Chester County Chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation…. It is a presentation by Jerry Brunetti entitled “FOOD AS MEDICINE”.
Jerry is an international speaker on the topic of nutrition- becoming an expert through his work as an agronomist and his journey to cure his lymphoma. Jerry will discuss the importance of having REAL, NUTRIENT DENSE FOODS in your diet to treat and prevent disease, as well as how to attain and maintain access to these crucial foods (by belonging to CSA’s, supporting local producers, developing a local economy). This event also kick’s off Chester County’s Buy Fresh Buy Local Week! We will be serving a locally produced lunch to all attendees to highlight the abundance of foods available in our area. Please plan on joining us, as Jerry is an inspiring and extremely knowledgeable speaker.
Information regarding the event is attached. There will be a sign up sheet in the barn if you are interested in attending…. Please pass the information along to your friends!!

Also, please be sure to look at the information in the store. We have flyers regarding upcoming events at local venues (the opening of a healing center down the road!) We also have the new BUY FRESH BUY LOCAL Food Guides available for the taking- your source for where to access local foods in Chester County.

OK, now onto the crops- we hope you have been taking advantage of the fava beans. These beans are incredibly popular in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe and are now catching on here… and good thing, because they are delicious!!
When picking the beans, look for mature pods. When you get them home, peel back the shell. You will see a waxy covering surrounding the pod. To remove that, drop the beans in boiling water for about 30 seconds and then plunge in ice water. Peel and then drain them. Now you’re ready to cook!!
Fava beans lend themselves to herbs such as thyme, oregano, dill and mint. An easy way to prepare them is to sauté them in olive oil and garlic and finish with some mint and parmesan cheese- a delicious side dish. Here are some other recipes you can use:

There are many recipes for fava bean purees, which are spread on crostini and used as pasta sauce, among other things. This recipe, adapted from The New Basics by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman 1989), is quick and easy, and is nice with roast lamb. It's rich, so a spoonful or so is enough for one serving.

Makes 4 servings
3 cups shelled fava beans (roughly 3 pounds unshelled)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the beans, reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender, about 20 minutes.
Drain the beans and puree them in a food processor or blender. Add melted butter, cream, and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Fresh Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad

Makes 8 to 12 servings
2 pounds fresh unshelled fava beans (about 2 cups shelled beans)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, snipped with scissors
1/8 teaspoon crushed red peppers (hot red pepper flakes), or to taste
8 ounces soft sheep's milk cheese such as a pecorino or a soft fresh goat's milk cheese, cut in small cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, and toss to blend. Taste for seasoning.

This week, you can also look forward to basil, greens, carrots and scallions.

Please be sure to look at the blog, as the update is posted there … some of you have been responding to the blog and giving some wonderful recipes…. Don’t miss out- it’s easy to find us . You will be sent to The Maysie’s Farm CSA page. Click on the blog on the right hand side , and voila. You can subscribe to the blog by clicking on the big orange button on the right hand side of the page. It should lead you to directions to subscribe. If you are having difficulties, please contact Amy Guskin, our webmaster at
Remember, if you subscribe to the blog, the update will automatically come to your email.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend!!


Chester County Weston A. Price Chapter Presents:
An Afternoon with JERRY BRUNETTI
Agronomist, eco-consultant, cancer survivor and international speaker.
Come listen to Jerry as he talks about the links between healthy soil, truly nutritious food, profitable and sustainable farming practices and rebuilding local food systems.
Learn how use real food to treat disease and maintain optimal health.
July 11th: 11am- 3pm
$25 per person
A Locally sourced lunch will be provided
Maysie’s Farm Conservation Center
15 St. Andrew’s Lane
Glenmoore, PA. 19343
Kick off Chester County’s Buy Fresh Buy Local Week with this exciting presentation!!
Local vendors will have tables set up- bring your coolers!!
RSVP to Annmarie Cantrell at 610-458-8129 or