Sunday, May 25, 2008

Field Trip to Organic Market Garden

DD11 likes to roll down the car windows and yell "Moo!" at cows when we drive through rural areas. On Saturday, she found some that yelled back.

Yesterday, DD11 and Mom and I took a trip to the open house of B&H Produce, an organic market garden in Morgantown. They will start selling produce at the producer market that opens its season in West Reading on June 1. I heard that they had local grain, so wanted to look for flour, and just generally see how they do stuff.

It was a beautiful day to drive around. The farm is owned by Paul Hartz, and partner Erica Bowers runs the garden operation. The farm has great old barns and houses. They produce grass-fed beef, chicken, and vegetables. There is a health food store on the premises ("Hartz Natural Foods") with a lot of supplements and packaged organic stuff, as well as products of the farm itself. We had samples of farm-made all-beef hot dogs with no nitrates (very good), organic ice cream (also good, but not local), and Greek yogurt (fabulous, but not local). I gotta buy a yogurt maker on eBay.

We took a tour of the gardens. They had cool germinating racks mounted on the south side of a barn, with plexiglass covers - a wall-mounted hothouse. They also had simple cold frames made out of plastic sheeting, that gave them Sept-planted spinach through April. They buy compost from a local bulk producer, to be sure they have enough of the consistently good soil they need for organic vegetable production. They rely on compost and a few mineral supplements, avoiding even the permitted organic pest and weed treatments that certified organic farms are permitted.

When the tour group started around the garden plot, the cows one field over noticed the activity and ran across the field to see what was going on - they all lined up at the fence and kept calling to us, walking along the fence line as we walked along the garden plot. It was like a Far Side cartoon come to life.

There were a few vendors - a dietary supplement peddler, the compost producer, a ground grower, and two plant nurseries. Of course, I left with a few new plants. Another tomato "Black Zebra", with golf-ball-sized yellow fruit, and three herbs I will put in pots: chocolate mint (below), Roman chamomile, and Epazote (Mexican Tea). The Epazote is new to me, apparently a popular herb in Mexican cooking. It is supposed to reduce gas when added to bean recipes.

The store had fresh-ground flour, but not from locally grain, as far as I could find out. It was fun to visit, but I am not interested in supplements or pricey packaged organic groceries. I just want meat and produce, and local sources of whole grain and other staples. It's not worth it for me to drive down to this farm - they bring produce to the West Reading market every week, and I could probably order meat for pick-up.

Update: I emailed B&H, just to make sure I was right about the grain - the cashier sounded a little vague about it. Turns out they DO grow spelt and offer both whole spelt and spelt flour. They also grow wheat, but it is sold to a local mill. This is great! Two leads - one for spelt, and one for a local mill I can chase down.

DD11 greatly enjoyed the chicks

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