Posted by Jamie Oberdick on 07/03 at 11:10 AM
Post by Maya Althouse, PASA intern
With our calendars now turned to July, that means that Local Foods Week is just a month away! August 3-10 are the dates of a week-long celebration coordinated by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and Buy Fresh Buy Local (BFBL) to connect consumers with all of the agricultural wonders found right here in Centre County. The week will end with PASA’s most anticipated event, the Centre County Farm Tour. This is your chance to visit local farms to meet the farmers and learn how they produce healthy, sustainably raised foods!
**A Farm Tour Pass can be purchased for $15 at BFBL Partner locations (the IngleBean Coffee House, Webster’s Cafe, Tait Farm, and Nature’s Pantry), as well as at weekly farmers markets. Some of the farms will open early to pass holders, and the pass also gives you access to special promotions during Local Foods Week from our Partner businesses.
Here is a preview of some of the farms on the tour—check back next week to read about more!
In the Meat of Things
Rising Spring Meat Company, Spring Mills
There’s nothing quite like a nice, juicy steak. Except, perhaps, a nice juicy steak that you can track all the way from the field to your plate. That’s where Rising Spring Meat Company (RSMC) comes in, devoted to bringing local, top quality cuts to meat lovers throughout the region. Managed by Rich Corl and owned by Jay and Laura Young and Mike and Virginia Byers, Rising Spring opened their doors in June 2012. It is a small-scale USDA Inspected slaughterhouse developed to meet the demands of local meat producers looking for a high-quality processing facility closer to home. Rising Spring is a Certified Organic processing operation, which allows Certified Organic farmers to sell their meat under the organic label. While Rising Spring also processes conventionally raised animals, they are hoping that by providing Certified Organic services, more farmers will take steps towards raising their animals organically.
With every animal that comes through, the workers at Rising Spring take great strides to keep complete transparency throughout production. This helps clients know that the animal they drop off is the same they get back in a box. While nobody actually enjoys the slaughter, it is a necessary step to bring local meat to the table. The animal is kept calm, and the workers make the process as quick as possible. The reward is cutting and preparing the meat - an intense but satisfying job - knowing that what they do goes to feed their community and keeps local farmers in business. Education is another key factor in Rising Spring’s operation. They take time to talk with each client to make sure they understand the overall process, decide on the best cuts, encourage nose-to-tail use of the animal, and that the clients, in turn, will be able to accurately inform their market customers about what they’re selling.
Rising Spring Meat’s products can be purchased at Meyer Dairy on Saturdays, or at the company’s own retail storefront where you can buy deli cuts, local cheeses, and bulk packages. They also do custom slaughters for local farmers, and work with restaurants looking to locally source their menu.
If the thought of locally raised, locally prepared meat has you salivating, this is one stop on the Farm Tour you won’t want to miss. The goal of the tour is to clear up the mystery and misunderstandings often thought of slaughterhouses. The workers at Rising Spring want to help consumers better understand and feel more comfortable about where their meat comes from. You will get to walk through the operation and (don’t worry — for safety purposes there will not be any live animals slaughtered that day). The staff will explain the process and answer questions about slaughtering, butchering, and processing. The retail store will be open, so be sure to bring a cooler to take home some fresh cuts for dinner. If you stop by the store anytime during Local Foods Week, be sure to bring your Farm Tour Pass; if you spend $25 or more, you will be put into a raffle for a $60 value meat bundle.
A Hidden Gem
Bear Meadows Farm, Boalsburg
Jeff Biddle loves his cows, and so will you after visiting Bear Meadows Farm. This 177-acre dairy farm is nestled at the base of Tussey Mountain, easy to drive right past unless you know it’s there. Jeff dreamed of being a dairy farmer nearly all of his life, and finally got the chance eight years ago when he and his wife, Claudia, took over operations from his parents and converted it from a beef to a dairy farm with a herd of guernsey cows, the only one in Centre County. According to Jeff, dairy cows are bursting with personality. They have a friendly, curious disposition, and a calm, gentle nature that makes them great to work with. The Biddle’s cows are valued as more than just milk makers; Opal Ann, the cow who patiently first taught Jeff to milk, has long passed her milk production days. However, she is still a happy resident of the herd, a place she will stay until her time comes to move on to the Great Pasture in the Sky. Opal is quite the celebrity on the farm - she’s the cow in the logo found on the milk bottles and the street sign.
Bear Meadows Farm is known for its delicious raw milk, which is natural, unadulterated milk that has not been heated above the animal’s highest body temperature (101-105 degrees F). Raw milk is just about as pure as it gets: not pasteurized, homogenized, frozen, or doctored with additives or chemicals. Bear Meadows is a grass-based dairy, meaning that the cows are fed through rotational grazing in the farm’s many pastures. A grass diet keeps the cows healthy and makes incredible milk. Jeff and Claudia call themselves milk perfectionists and go to great lengths to ensure that the milk they sell is truly top quality. They pay close attention to each step of the milk production process, and are proud to say that their milk is second to none. For them, the process is simple: a healthy herd, regular vet visits, a modern milking parlour, and keeping the milk cold and the cows clean.
When you visit Bear Meadows on the Farm Tour, you’ll get to meet the 87 fantastic Guernsey cows, say hi to the 108 laying hens, catch a glimpse of some of the 50 cats, and sit on a big farm tractor. They’ll all be glad to see you! Be sure to bring a cooler so you can take home their famous milk and farm fresh eggs.
The Grass is Always Greenmoore
Greenmoore Gardens, Port Matilda
If you like fresh veggies, Greenmoore Gardens is the place for you. The 13-acre farm opened in 2007, and has been Certified Organic since 2011. Run by four to five full time staff and around 20 work traders and volunteers, Greenmoore Gardens runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) program that delivers the freshest, tastiest produce to consumers throughout the county.
They grow a little bit of everything (over 120 varieties of vegetables!) and are always looking for opportunities to add to their patchwork of plots and fields. They are currently expanding their selection of berries, and are researching methods to grow their own wheat. And if that doesn’t sound like enough, Greenmore Gardens doesn’t just stop at plants. They are delving into the expanding world of agritourism with on-farm camping and U-Pick options, so that people can get a true taste of country life. They are especially proud of their sustainability projects featuring a solar-power heated greenhouse and their first completely electric farm truck. Sustainability is on the forefront of the farm’s production, and several other experiments are in the works.
Want to get in on the freshness? Visit them at the North Atherton Farmers Market every Saturday. It’s also not too late to sign up for a CSA share! Greenmoore Gardens is happy to accept new members, even mid-season. They have four drop-points around State College, so you can get your veggies no matter where you are. And, of course, visit them on the Farm Tour to walk through the beautiful fields, pick your own goodies, and see the sustainability projects first hand.
A Little Bit Goes a Long Way
Ecosophy Farm, Woodward
The 13 acres of Ecosophy Farm are teeming with diversity. A veritable homestead, the grounds are home chickens, ducks, and sheep; 155 blueberry bushes (all protected by bird netting); bees in top-bar hives; 10,000 garlic bulbs soon ready for harvesting; a large tree orchard offering peaches, pears, apples, and cherries; a plethora of native plants; shiitake mushrooms; an intensive, organic garden growing in rich alluvial soils; and , of course, the usual dog and two cats.
While that may seem like an overwhelming amount for one family-run farm to produce, owner Warren Leitzel explains that it’s all about moderation. The projects are all relatively small, enough to keep the family stocked with food and medicine with some left over to barter with or sell. Nothing is done on a large-scale, which cuts back on intensity and allows plenty of room, time, and energy keep the projects going.
Warren entered the farm scene as high school student when he was introduced to the Back to the Land movement and the local alternative community. He apprenticed at several farms and really connected with the work; he learned plumbing, gardening, cooking, electric, masonry, horsemanship—everything it takes to run a successful homestead. He moved on to lead homesteads himself on different properties for 30 years, and started Ecosophy Farm at its current location in 1998.
The Leitzel’s efforts for sustainability extend into building projects as well. Their summer project is to finish the greenhouse and the attached straw-bale constructed potting shed. A cold-frame shed will soon be in operation, and they are working to take their house off the grid. Step one is complete: a working electricity-free summer kitchen that uses a wood-burning cook stove, hand washing machine, and cistern pump from a water tank housed beneath the floor.
A visit to Ecosophy Farm will let you get up close and personal with these projects and take home tidbits to make your own home more sustainable. You can explore the gardens, see racks of curing garlic, and experience the homesteading life first hand.
Author: Jamie Oberdick
Bio: Editor, Local Food Journey | Passionate about supporting local food in Central PA
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