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March 26, 2017
A Little History Lesson
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer was barely a farmer when he first heard the term “CSA.” In 1999 the phrase “Community Supported Agriculture” was still a new concept in the Philadelphia area. The first CSA in this country began in the mid 80s when Jan Vander Tuin, a Swiss biodynamic farmer, introduced the model to a small farm in Massachusetts.
When the owner of a small farm where Michael (the Farmer) worked approached him about starting a CSA, he was dubious.
The idea of selling a season’s-worth of organic produce up front before the first field had been tilled seemed half-crazy, if not nerve-wracking. But even more concerning to him was that the customer had to accept anything the farmer wanted to stick in their box. Don’t like kale? Well if the kale harvest was good you might get half a box of the stuff. Eat it or compost it, right?
This concept seemed both unfair and un-modern to the Farmer. He he decided to offer their shareholders the ability to choose which vegetables landed in their boxes.
Four years later the Farmer began his own farm, and the Future Farmer’s Wife was one of his first CSA members. With about thirty members, the then-Bachelor-Farmer collected each week’s orders off an ancient answering machine. In an even ancienter Ford van he delivered boxes to several drop off locations. One of these was the Future Farmer’s Wife’s chiropractic clinic. Her staff and patients raved about the fresh food and the following spring attended an Open House to hear the Farmer speak on organic gardening. Okay, that day is a whole story in itself. Suffice it to say that two years later the Future Farmer’s Wife became the Farmer’s Wife and they founded Red Earth Farm together.
More than fifteen years later, the Farmer feeds a growing number of avid vegetable eaters. He is still adamant about offering his customers the ability to choose what goes in their weekly box. And ordering is now streamline through online accounts - no more dreaded evenings of handwriting orders from a scratchy answering machine recording! We are still the only CSA in the Philadelphia region that offers online weekly ordering.
And the Farmer’s Wife? Believe it or not, she is still a member, and loves ordering her veggies online each week. Getting that box (she has home delivery!) each week still feels like a birthday present!
Does "The CSA that Let's You Choose" resonate with you? How much does choice matter in a CSA? Are there other factors that are key to your positive CSA experience? We'd love to hear from you!
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September 10, 2016
Love that Farmer!
By Charis Lindrooth
The Farmer and his Wife are celebrating their anniversary. It is not an auspicious one - who makes a big deal about eleven? “11,” like the two of us standing side by side, ready to face what lies ahead together.
For us we have plenty to celebrate, like the fact that we have a babysitter lined up for tonight and the Farmer’s Wife has a "Plan!” I would tell you what it is, but the Farmer occasionally reads this post and it would give away the surprise.
Traditionally on this day we reflect on the past years that we have been together, the milestones that have marked the way as well as the status of our relationship and where it might need nurturing. As you might guess the Farm plays a significant role in that conversation.
Although the Farmer was farming before he got married, Red Earth Farm was born about 6 months after the wedding. This means that the relationship has grown and evolved intertwined with the evolution of the farm. Many of you have heard stories of the early days of Red Earth, but I thought I might highlight some of them here, as I prep for my date tonight.
Year One: Red Earth Farm was established on 14 acres in Orwigsburg. The Farmer came up with the name one day after working the iron rich, red soil. The red represented a connection to our ancestors who might have farmed long before our time. We hoped they would kick in a hand now and then.
Year Two: We dug out the bottom of the bank barn and poured a concrete floor to make a safer, cleaner pack area. We also covered the ceiling to prevent dust and dirt from sifting through from above.
Year Three: With help with our Land Project we purchased a 90 acre tract of land in Kempton Pa with the hopes of expanding and stewarding the land with crop rotation.
Year Four: With no irrigation in place we planted for the first time on the new land - a big field of potatoes. By July after days of dry weather, we finally were able to water the field, using a generator-powered well.
Year Five: We put up a pole building to house equipment and brought electricity to that building and the well - you cannot imagine how much that electric company charged us to get electricity to the property, since there was no residence. We purchase an Isuzu refrigerated box truck - this means we aren’t using refrigerated blankets with bags and bags of ice to deliver on hot summer days.
Year Six - Eight: We continued to farm both the Orwigsburg property and the Kempton land. We erected another pole building outfitted with a concrete floor, two used walk-in coolers and office space. The commute between the farms was about 25 minutes and managing both places at once wasn’t always smooth and easy. In that period of time, thanks in part to a grant, we also put up three large hoop houses. One of these became our beautiful new nursery where we tend the seedlings. Heat to a concrete pad in that house provided a cozy spot for early seedlings to germinate. We install a second well for irrigation and establish underground piping to the fields, augmented by above ground firehoses.
Year Nine: We built the Haygrove - a triple bay hoop house covering enough ground to provide early greens and roots for our Spring Share, plus expand our Fall Share.
Year Ten: We offer our first Spring Share to our most eager and enthusiastic vegetable-eating customers. We move our entire farming operation to the Kempton property, and only used the Orwigsburg location as our residence. We open about 30 acres in produce and cut-flowers; this is like having 300 good-sized home gardens. No problem, we got this!
Year Eleven: We hire a new manager with the skills to GAP certify the farm and enroll us as a vendor for the new Whole Foods opening soon in the Lehigh Valley. We expand our Fall Share by three weeks, enabling our most dedicated customers to eat local vegetables from our farm for 34 weeks of 2016.
Now that I have this outline, which the Farmer will surely edit and correct over dinner tonight, I think of so many details that flesh it into a real story, about real people and the food they eat. This includes the many wonderful people who have worked hard on this farm, the many people who have been dedicated consumers of our produce, our children who have grown up on the farm, and of course the Farmer and his Wife. The people make the story the most interesting. That is the part I love, and if I ever sit down for a really long time, and weave this history into a book, it is the people that will bring it all to life. It is a beautiful thing how food brings us together. That is after all how the Farmer met his Wife!
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March 28, 2015
The History of the Red Earth CSA
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer was barely a farmer when he first heard the term “CSA.” In 1999 the phrase “Community Supported Agriculture” was still a new concept in the Philadelphia area. The first CSA in this country began in the mid 80s when Jan Vander Tuin, a Swiss biodynamic farmer, introduced the model to a small farm in Massachusetts.
When the owner of the small farm where Michael (the Farmer) worked approached him about starting a CSA, he was dubious.
The idea of selling a season’s-worth of organic produce up front before the first field had been tilled seemed half-crazy, if not nerve-wracking. But even more concerning to him was that the customer had to accept anything the farmer wanted to stick in their box. Don’t like kale? Well if the kale harvest was good you might get half a box of the stuff. Eat it or compost it, right? This concept seemed both unfair and un-modern to the Farmer. He proposed that they offer their shareholders the ability to choose which vegetables landed in their boxes.
Four years later the Farmer began his own farm, and the Future Farmer’s Wife was one of his first CSA members. With about thirty members, the then-Bachelor-Farmer collected each week’s orders off an ancient answering machine. In an even ancienter Ford van he delivered boxes to several drop off locations. One of these was the Future Farmer’s Wife’s chiropractic clinic. Her staff and patients raved about the fresh food and the following spring attended an Open House to hear the Farmer speak on organic gardening. Okay, that day is a whole story in itself. Suffice it to say that two years later the Future Farmer’s Wife became the Farmer’s Wife and they founded Red Earth Farm together.
More than fifteen years later, the Farmer feeds a growing number of avid vegetable eaters. He is still adamant about offering his customers the ability to choose what goes in their weekly box. And ordering is now streamline through online accounts - no more dreaded evenings of handwriting orders from a scratchy answering machine recording! We are still the only CSA in the Philadelphia region that offers online weekly ordering. And the Farmer’s Wife? Believe it or not, she is still a member, and loves ordering her veggies online each week. Getting that box (she has home delivery!) each week still feels like a birthday present! And now I am wondering, is there anyone, besides me, who has been a member since the days of Oley Valley Produce, the Farmer’s first CSA?
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