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May 28, 2017
Happy Birthday to the Farmer!
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer's Dad always tells a story about the Farmer's birth at a Memorial Day swim party...well not exactly at it, but dramatically almost at it. Now, a little grey speckles the Farmer's beard and swim parties remain a distant memory. His mind is focused on things like dirt, what's growing, including weeds and what needs to be done. With the CSA main season beginning this week, we are all distracted from thinking much about celebrations. Still, I want to take a moment to celebrate this hard-working guy in front of anyone who cares to listen.
It takes a special kind of guy to farm vegetables sustainably. He needs endurance, perseverance and vision. He must like the outdoors extremely muchly. Blazing heat, pouring rain, chilly mornings and long days cannot deter him. Dirt must be one of his best friends, since he has little time for socializing. Working 7 days a week during the growing season, from dawn to dusk, must seem like a great idea. Multi-tasking is essential as is managing a crew of 20 people simultaneously performing a variety of chores. And then we he is finished the farm work, he must be a cheerful, available Dad for his kids and a patient, kind ear for his Wife. That's me.
This is my Farmer, honest as the sky is big and hard-working as the ocean is deep. I am proud to stand by him on this journey we have chosen. And happy to make him a big, sloppy, strawberry cake in his honor! Happy birthday my love!
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February 22, 2017
CSA Day is Feb 24!
A Word from Small Farm Central
In honor of CSA Week, Simon Huntley, Small Farm Central, asked us to share this letter he recently posted. We thought he had some great ideas!

Why You Should Consider Joining a CSA Farm this Season:
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a personal relationship between a farmer and eater. You join the farm as a member and you get a box of food from the farm throughout the growing season. The CSA Charter describes this relationship well.
As our culture and economy becomes more homogenized and centralized, CSA is the opposite. It is about a personal relationship between a farmer and the CSA members.
It is an intimate connection between local farmland and your dinner table.
You get the freshest possible ingredients from a farmer that you know and the farm gets advance knowledge of demand so he or she can focus on growing healthy food and getting the food to you.
In world of intractable problems - take your pick: political and economic instability, nuclear weapons, global warming, and on and on - joining a CSA is a positive act that you can take today that has profound impacts on your health, your local economy, and the environment.
CSA farmers spend money with other local businesses which circulates money in our local economies. CSA farmers take care of their land. CSA farmers treat their employees well. You know all this because you can go visit your CSA farmer and see for yourself.
CSA keeps small scale, local farms in business so they can continue producing food for you.
To be frank, joining a CSA is not the easiest path to eating healthy. You can continue to shop at the grocery store and maybe visit the farmers market a few times throughout the season. However, joining a CSA puts you in partnership with a local farmer.
A CSA membership enriches your life with high quality food as you spend your food dollars in a way that you will feel good about.
The investment you make in your CSA farm is modest. The average CSA share costs $25/week during the season, so that is $100/month. (editor's note: Red Earth Farm CSA is just $21/week for a Partial Share) and $30/week for a Full Share). That’s probably less than your cable bill and less than your cell phone bill - for food grown with care in local soil and delivered directly to your neighborhood! There usually is some up-front investment, though most farms will offer payment plans (if not, ask your farmer for a payment plan if you need it!).
Thank you for supporting local farms and making the commitment to a CSA share. Your support makes all the difference and keeps our farms running.
If there is something that is preventing you from joining your CSA farm, you should let your farmer know so they can improve their program in the future!
Simon Huntley
Founder, Small Farm Central

Sign up for Red Earth Farm CSA by midnight Feb 24 (CSA Day) and win two tickets to our gourmet Farm to Table VIP Dinner!
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January 7, 2017
A Note from the Farmer
by Michael Ahlert
The Farmer’s Wife reminded me recently that it has been some time since The Farmer wrote to all of you who support our farm and eat the wonderful food it produces. As many of you may relate to, I often think of things I would like to say to people I care about, but life distracts me from saying them. This New Years, I am not letting the opportunity slip past.
In many ways, 2016 was a challenging year for our family and farm. We have struggled to make our packhouse GAP food safety certified, while still making ends meet. We worked through a summer that brought extended hot weather which tested crew and crops alike. Our younger son broke his leg at camp and I worked with walking pneumonia for much of the Fall. At the same time, our country went through a drawn-out and contentious election. Communities and even families have been left stinging and divided from many harsh words.
I know many of you have struggled with even more serious challenges this past year. I share ours only by way of saying thank you for all your support and to let you know, that you are an inspiration for me. I believe that the growth of our farm over the years is concrete evidence of the power of people to choose the kind of world they want to live in and their ability to make that a reality. Choosing to eat fresh, locally grown food, choosing to support a local family run business, choosing to buy food produced without the use of dangerous pesticides and herbicides, all help to shape this small part of our world in very real ways. These choices are conscious acts that make ideas into reality.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
This quote is attributed to Margaret Mead, the famous 20th century author and anthropologist. It is not certain that she in fact coined the phrase, but the sentiment rings true. The choices we make as individuals on a daily basis help to make the change that we wish to see in our broader society. It is by making conscious choices and following them with actions, albeit as small as where to buy the veggies we will eat for supper, that positive change is created.
Thank you for your choice to support our farm. Whether it has been for one year or fifteen, we value the members who sustain our work. We believe your choice to support our farm is a choice to eat food that is produced in a way that provides careful stewardship of our land and water resources while lifting up, rather than marginalizing, the men and women who bring it to our table. This is our work and our mission.
We wish you the very best in the coming year and look forward to spring and the opportunity to recommit ourselves to creating a more just and healthy world. We are grateful for your help in making that effort possible.
All the best,
Michael, a.k.a. ‘The Farmer’
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December 21, 2016
Ode to the Farmer
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
This is it. The final week of the 2017 CSA.
For the first time in the history of Red Earth Farm we will be delivering our final CSA boxes on the first day of Winter (truth be told, we have a tiny delivery a few days later at the West Chester Grower’s Market).
This feels like a true accomplishment.
The Winter Solstice invites us to slow down, to stop, to listen. I thought I might invite you to remember the Farmer, who finds it challenging to slow down even when the summer’s heat is finally off. If you’ve never met him, you might not know how hard he works, or how much heart and soul he pours into everything he does. Every single customer matters to him, and the thought that someone might receive sub-par produce in one of his boxes distresses him to the core. He takes vegetables, and life in general, seriously.
He is honest, generous and earnest. And incredibly humble. He cares deeply about the land he stewards and is fed by the good brown earth and all that springs from it. He makes time for his family, especially the littlest, even when the abundance of summer drives him to his last thread of strength.
This is of course just a picture of him, painted by the Farmer’s Wife, full of bias. Here’s to the Farmer!
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March 24, 2016
Wild Goose Party
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Photo used with permission from Microsoft.
If you notice dark circles around the Farmer’s eyes these days, or his Wife’s, I can tell you why.
Many urban-dwellers grow accustomed to night time noises, such as sirens, people yelling and traffic. Here in the country, sleep time is usually more serene. Crickets, the hoot of an owl or a yap of a coyote become akin to a sleep machine for us. But lately, there’s been a racket that permeates the dreams of even the soundest sleeper. Across the street from us lies a lovely small pond. It’s fresh waters attract all sorts of wild-life. We’ve seen migrating osprey dive at blinding speed to it’s surface and snatch up dinner. Kingfishers perch on the telephone wires that stretch across the field there, keeping a constant watch on potential opportunities for food. Deer pause to drink. It’s all very picturesque.
Then the waterfowl return to nest, notably the Canada goose. Most of the time, they spend daylight hours honking their courtship messages at each other. Most birds, owls and mockingbirds excepted, are instantly asleep when the sun goes down. You can walk right up and pluck one from it’s nest, as long as its dark. Inspired, or fooled, by the moony-ful brilliance however, these rambunctious geese start to party.
Last night as I lay in bed, eyes wide open, listening to their racket, I gazed outside. Indeed I could see every detail of the barn and grounds, not quite as bright as day, but clear enough that I could imagine the geese decided to waste no time. Honking and splashing, there could've been a thousand of them for all the noise they made. At dawn this morning, the usual time for birdsong, the pond was silent. The partiers had either completely worn themselves out, or they had finally accomplished their mission. As proof, we soon will see them proudly swimming in circles around the little pond, followed by a trail of fuzzy, lemon-gray little darlings. And that makes the lost sleep all worth while!
Spring is truly here. The birds and beasts know it and so does the Farmer. Our tractors are in full use already, whereas last year at this time they were snowed in, or close to it. We guess you are starting to fantasize about tender young fresh things (vegetables, that is, not goslings) on your plates. We have plenty of space in both our Spring Share and Main Season, so please keep spouting good things to your friends and relations! I also want to say a personal "thank you!" to Dish Works for their recent blog post, "Weekly Pick: A Farm Blog with Character," featuring Notes from the Farmer's Wife! Nice to get a little encouragement to keep at it! And thanks to all of you who take the time to read these notes...its nice to know someone is out there!
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March 5, 2016
A Farmer's Inspiration
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
I couldn't resist re-posting this photo that we shared with March 7, 2015. Just one year ago we had a heavy snowfall that slowed our plans for an early start significantly. This late winter is decidedly more friendly. Yesterday we replaced the cover on the triple-bay greenhouse and it already feels like Florida when you walk in there. Soon it will be filled with babies destined for your Spring Share boxes.
The sun’s strength increases noticeably in late February. On a sunny afternoon and one can feel the sun's warmth in a way that inspired hope. It feels stronger. Early in morning the returning birds chatter, preparing for the days task of foraging and flirting. As the angle of the sun’s light changes, all of us, people, animals, plants, and the soil can feel it. Soon winter’s grip will slip away and the bounty return.
A farmer who isn’t ready loses precious time. The soil is full of moisture after the long winter. Plow too early and the weight of tractor and plow pack the muddy earth, damaging its structure, destroying valuable air spaces. Wait too long and we may lose the benefit of that moisture as the increasing sun’s intensity slowly dries the earth. Working and planting that moist spring earth is key to the success of our early crops. The soil never turns better than soon after the first spring thaw. Crumbly, soft and sweet smelling. That beautiful earthy smell is full of vigor and potential for the farmer. Few things inspire him more.
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September 10, 2015
Teamed Up
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
A decade ago on this day, the Farmer married one of his CSA members; that was me. A full moon rose in the late afternoon and smiled at the beautiful ceremony set right in the middle of a hillside. I am sure some guests were too hot, and others got restless during the longer speeches, but I remember the sweet smell of the dry meadow grass, the intensity of the blue sky over us and the feeling of love and joy radiating at us from the friends that surrounded us.
Reflecting on our journey over the past ten years, I am struck by the value our partnership brings to Red Earth Farm. Truly, the farm is like one of our off-spring, unruly, temperamental, worrisome and at times, deeply rewarding. Together we have raised this "terrestrial" child through ups and downs, comparable to the trials and tribulations we have endured as parents of "real" children.
I remember pack days in the early years of our marriage. In those days a good portion of our crew lived with us which made it easy to work extra long days. We harvested all day and then packed our boxes in the afternoon...or evening...or night. We played raucous music and laughed and tried to stay awake as we tried to pack each box accurately. Needless to say, we made lots of mistakes.
In fact, the one lesson we have learned about farming...and about parenting.. and about being married is that all three of these processes are a set up for making mistakes. We've become quite skilled at making mistakes, rolling with the punches and then making it up as gracefully as possible.
Accepting mistakes, forgiving each other, trusting that we each are trying our best to do our best combined with lots of cuddling are the essential ingredients in the first decade of our marital happiness. I will let you know how the next one turns out!
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June 21, 2015
The Farmer's Daughter - a reprise
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
This is a re-post from last year...lots of new things about these too to write about, but I am enjoying the sweetness of revisiting this post...plus life is a little crazy right now!
Only recently did the Farmer's Daughter identify herself as a "Farm Girl." Since her 5th birthday names have captivated her attention. In addition to Farm Girl, she prefers names like Pinky, Snowflake, Rosie Rose and Flower over her own. She tells me she is going to change her name, and I say okay.
I think Daddies and daughters often have their own special pet names for each other. Punkin Bug, Little Bean, Girl Bugs (after Earl Scruggs banjo player) are some of her favorites. Only he can use these names, along with a special sing-song whistle to announce that he is home.
I love to watch the farming part of this special relationship. Together they harvest beets, wash squash, weed carrots, water the greenhouse. Sometimes she is intimately involved in the chore, eager to learn, and other times she absorbs herself watching a trail of ants on the hill near him, or sitting amongst the fennel, munching fronds. Truly, he is the one who has taught her the best way to eat vegetables, straight from the ground. While she may turn her nose up at a dinner plate of vegetables, she will sit in a row of the very same items and eat platefuls.
At home, their relationship is perhaps more typical, and as sweet as anything I have ever witnessed. One of their favorite past times is to "jam." He on his banjo or guitar and she singing and dancing. In honor of Father's Day am posting a link to an original song that they came up with called "Birdies Fly." May all the Dads and Daughters love each other this much.
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May 30, 2015
Happy Birthday to the Farmer!
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer's Dad always tells a story about the Farmer's birth at a Memorial Day swim party...well not exactly at it, but dramatically almost at it. Now, a little grey speckles the Farmer's beard and swim parties remain a distant memory. His mind is focused on things like dirt, what's growing, including weeds and what needs to be done. With the CSA main season beginning this week, we are all distracted from thinking much about celebrations. Still, I want to take a moment to celebrate this hard-working guy in front of anyone who cares to listen.
It takes a special kind of guy to farm vegetables sustainably. He needs endurance, perseverance and vision. He must like the outdoors extremely muchly. Blazing heat, pouring rain, chilly mornings and long days cannot deter him. Dirt must be one of his best friends, since he has little time for socializing. Working 7 days a week during the growing season, from dawn to dusk, must seem like a great idea. Multi-tasking is essential as is managing a crew of 20 people simultaneously performing a variety of chores. And then we he is finished the farm work, he must be a cheerful, available Dad for his kids and a patient, kind ear for his Wife. That's me.
This is my Farmer, honest as the sky is big and hard-working as the ocean is deep. I am proud to stand by him on this journey we have chosen. And happy to make him a big, sloppy, strawberry cake in his honor! Happy birthday my love!
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April 30, 2015
A CSA Farmer's Day
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
You might think the Farmer is a recluse. A man who rides his tractor in glorious weather, keeping this thoughts to himself. You might think farming provides and escape from the "real world," with its fast pace and people politics. Imagine a man walking out of his corporate high-rise, donning a pair of worn Carhartts, shedding his tie and arriving on 90 acres. Outside. What is this man's day like?
What few people realize is that farming has as much to do with people as it has to do with crops. In the height of the season as many as 20 employees populate our fields, greenhouses and pack house. Arriving at the something-crack of dawn, they scurry, or saunter to their respective positions. Field crew gather tools, for planting, weeding, harvesting, staking, stringing, did I mention weeding? No Roundup (herbicide) on this farm! One guy tends to tractor maintenance and repair, and then motors across the lengthy fields, spreading compost, tilling, laying beds and cultivating. A full time job at the height of the season. One person heads to the nursery, seeding, pricking out babies and carefully monitoring the health of your future supper.
The Pack House crew heads for the pack house, go figure! They prepare for the onslaught of the day's harvest. They wash, glean and pack each crop. When the CSA begins they assemble online orders and custom pack each box. The driver loads the truck on delivery days and wends his way through the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia, dropping boxes at over 20 locations. And don't forget the Farmer's wife, communicating with the vegetable eaters while keeping her finger in the cut-flower operation.
Where does that leave the Farmer? With a long list of people to talk to! Field manager, pack house manager first. Nursery manager, driver and employees with needs, questions, or problems that need to be addressed. Farmer's Wife sprinkled throughout the day, but mostly after dark. Of course supplies need to be ordered, tacked on to a long list of vendors to communicate with. Let's not forget the customers at markets and the duties as market manager.
Now if you really knew the Farmer, you might think he would be perfectly happy to have a small plot of land, head out alone in the morning and work the fields in solitude. Perhaps he'd happily accept a little visit by his Wife, bringing an iced tea and sandwich. How romantic!
But this ever-growing CSA community invites him to broaden his world. He must call on his higher faculties of political and diplomatic verse day in and day out. Every day is a reminder of how diverse, and yet how common humanity is. The Farm has created a community of people connected by vegetables. The hard work and effort to grow these relationships brings richness and life to our work. In the end it is these human interactions that feed us, as much as the vegetables we grow.
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April 12, 2015
CSA Romance
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer wooed me with sun gold tomatoes and fennel hearts. For our first date he took me on a picnic. In clean overalls, I kid you not, he picked me up and took me to a field of gold. There he unwrapped his carefully prepared vegetables, melons and aged cheeses. Did we have wine too? I don't remember. But I do remember that the early morning’s frost had vanished in the warm autumn sun. We were friends already, sparked that day at my Open House (see previous blog post). But this marked a new beginning for us. The sweetness of nature, the simple meal and the ease of being together made this moment memorable.
In my next CSA box I found two small cucumbers and another box of sun golds, treasures back in those early farming days. Each week a new surprise in my box, melon, fennel, eggplant, and love notes. By the time the growing season ended we were in love. A year later we gathered with friends and family on a beautiful hillside on a sunny afternoon. I remember walking up the field towards the gathering. I looked back over my shoulder to see the full moon rising. The big smiling “child’s moon” was giving me away.
We celebrate our tenth anniversary this September. While we have thoughts of romantic trips to exotic distant lands, most likely we will wander up the hillside of our beautiful farm, spread a blanket on the warm grass, and share a simple meal grown by our own hands. Sun gold tomatoes for sweetness. Fennel hearts for love. Kale salad for groundedness. Somehow, it doesn't get better than that.
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March 7, 2015
A Farmer's Inspiration
A Note from the Farmer
Spring is here, or is it? As we watch yet another layer of white stuff deposited on our farm it feels almost silly to be gearing up for planting, yet that is exactly what we are doing. This snowy weather is just a short delay of the inevitable change that is at hand.
The sun’s strength increases by the day (when we get to see it). Every year in late February we get a sunny afternoon and I look up and feel the sun's warmth on my face and realize that it suddenly feels different. It's stronger. There may be snow and ice on the ground and the air may be 25 degrees but the sun feels warm. As the angle of the sun’s light changes, we, and the plants in the greenhouse, can feel it. Soon winter’s grip will slip away.
It takes only a day or two for the farm to transform. A couple sunny March afternoons in the 50s and the snow will be gone. Two more blustery days to dry the soil and it is time to plow. We can go from winter white to plowing up beautiful rich earth in less than a week.
A farmer who isn’t ready loses precious time. The soil is full of moisture after the long winter. Plow too early and the weight of tractor and plow pack the muddy earth, damaging its structure, destroying valuable air spaces. Wait too long and we may lose the benefit of that moisture as the increasing sun’s intensity slowly dries the earth. Working and planting that moist spring earth is key to the success of our early crops. The soil never turns better than soon after the first spring thaw. Crumbly, soft and sweet smelling. That beautiful earthy smell is full of vigor and potential for the farmer. Few things inspire him more.
So we go out to shovel the path one or two more times, knowing that the sun will return. It's strength builds and one day we walk outside to the signs of spring flooding us. Why wait? Look for them now. As sure as the whiteness all around us, the awakening of Spring is already here. Bird song, smells on the wind, the swelling buds and rays of the sun. Enjoy every moment, it will be hot summertime before you know it.
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