Even in a tough winter, Greenmore Gardens offers community fresh, local produce

Posted by Jordan Reabold on 02/25, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Even in winter, Greenmore Gardens can grow fresh, local produce in their greenhouses

Referring to this winter as “freezing” would be an understatement. The snow was relentless, not to mention temperatures were lower than I had ever experienced. Nevertheless, as brutal as Pennsylvania winters may be, I try to remind myself, while laboriously scraping the ice off my windshield, that spring will arrive in just a short while. In fact, farmers in the area are also anticipating warm weather by planting their spring harvest right now! Greenmoore Gardens, an organic farm located just outside of State College, began planting this week in hopes of a healthy spring harvest.

Laura Zaino, an employee of Greenmoore Gardens, gives the ins and outs of preparation. “We seed onions in mid-February, which is the first of the spring crops to get seeded.” Using their own potting mix, the seeds are planted in a greenhouse where the seedlings germinate and begin to grow. “Then we either put them into bigger pots or transplant them outside in the fields. The larger pots are for plants like tomatoes that need warm soil to grow,” explains Laura.

She goes on to further explain that the bigger pots allow for longer time in the greenhouse, hence, more growth before being transported outside. “Other crops, like turnips, carrots and beets, we seed directly into rows in the fields,” she says.

Thankfully, the temperature has risen a bit recently, but Greenmoore did not have an easy winter. “The snow is not as much of a problem as the low night time temperatures. The soil is unable to hold the heat, and so we did lose a bunch of lettuces and seedlings to the cold.”
Things like this are unavoidable with sub-zero temperatures—especially for delicate seedlings, as opposed to more substantial kale and spinach—but the farmers at Greenmoore Gardens do their best to prevent it at all costs. According to Laura, “We use coverings over the rows and heaters in the smaller greenhouses to keep as much as possible from suffering from the weather.”

Regardless of the cold, winter requires different methods than would be used throughout the warmer months. For instance, “We grow only in the tunnels and greenhouses, so we can’t use any equipment beyond hand tools. Things grow a lot more slowly in cold weather, and the soil holds more moisture, so we don’t have to do much in the winter besides keep things weeded and watered occasionally.”

As for what exactly is tended to and harvested during the winter, there’s quite an array. Crops include lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, bok choy, parsley, dill, and other greens and herbs. Stored items to be sold throughout the winter include garlic, potatoes, onions, and carrots.


Tatsoi, a mustard with spoon-shaped leaves, and other greens at Greenmore Gardens

Perhaps one of the most unique characteristics of Greenmoore Gardens is their participation in Community Supported Agriculture. Otherwise referred to as CSA, it is simply a way for people to buy produce directly from the farm. They subscribe, so to speak, to a “share” according to the variety and amount of produce they’d prefer, and once a week throughout a particular season, members receive a basket with those specific items. Laura adds, “We have a winter share that we offer, although because of space limits and slow growth limits, we cannot have nearly as many members during our winter CSA than we do during the summer.”

Despite the smaller variety, winter is still a great time for the community to support their local farms, and Greenmoore Gardens is very community-based. “It would be great if we could encourage more people to buy local produce in the winter, because it would give farms incentive (and be cost effective) to build greenhouses and other infrastructure that can support a more year round approach to local foods.”

Part of their mission statement says, “Our growing methods have always focused on being gentle to the earth and committed to sustainability. Our mission is not only to strive for excellence in quality, variety, and nutritional value, but also to serve the local community with a safe and secure local food source.”

I found this to be genuine upon visiting the farm and meeting Laura, who enthusiastically explained that Greenmoore Gardens welcomes community members to visit at their convenience. This way, people can see the source of their food, from the soil it grows in, to the hands that harvest it, to the basket that they take home to their families.

You can reach Greenmore Gardens at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

{name} Author: Jordan Reabold

Bio: Tamaqua, Pennsylvania native - English major at Penn State - Loves cupcakes, coffee, and campfires"

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