7686 Herber Rd. New Tripoli 18066 Google Map 610-298-2197

News and blog

Posted 3/21/2011 12:21pm by Reuben DeMaster.

This is the first full season that I am using this greenhouse.   I built it on the south facing side of the larger farm building and designed it as a passive solar greenhouse.  I borrowed all of the ideas from books and other farmers and I thank my farmer friends who taught and advised me. 


In order to grow plants in the winter without any supplemental heat, excess heat during the day must be stored for use at night.  I accomplish this through a variety of methods.  First, the greenhouse is covered with one layer of plastic.  Some growers use two layers of plastic with air blown in between.  I might try this in the future but I have not found it necessary yet.  Second, the rear masonry wall and the ground itself stores heat.  These surfaces gather heat from sunlight and slowly release it after dark.  Third, I have about 15 plastic barrels filled with water or about 300 gallons of water.  Water stores heat even more effectively than masonry and moderates the temperatures in the greenhouse.  Fourth, I constructed bunkers and filled them with animal manure.  As the manure breaks down and begins the composting process, it releases heat and carbon dioxide.  Since plants need carbon dioxide, this is another benefit of the bunker system.  Finally, I cover the bunkers with a layer of plastic.  This holds heat from the composting process and keeps it closer to the plants. 



To construct the bunkers, I stacked 4” concrete block about 4 levels high.  I loaded the bunkers with horse manure and cow manure.  I discovered that some people use wood shavings for bedding and that adds too much carbon to the composting process.  Effective compost requires a carbon to nitrogen ratio within a certain range.  I am not able to use horse manure exclusively, so I added cow manure mixed with straw with the horse manure.   For my small greenhouse, this meant hauling about 3 tons of ‘organic matter’ through the snow in my wheelbarrow.  I especially want to thank Jim for doing some of the hauling.  It was quite a job.  However, the beds have been producing heat since mid-February and should continue until the end of April.  I have noticed that the volume of material in the bunker has decreased by about 12” already.  Some people have asked me about the smell.  I do not smell any manure smell after about day 2.  I also do not set seedling trays on top of raw manure.  The manure is covered with a layer of finished compost and then a layer of landscape fabric. 




In February, there were many nights when temperatures dropped below 20 degrees and even down to 10 degrees.  When this happens, the plastic covering the greenhouse has a layer of ice on the inside.  However, the temperatures inside did not drop below 30 degrees.  I did not take temperature readings on top of the bunkers, but I’m sure that it never dropped below 35 degrees.  I could take additional steps to increase the nighttime temperatures.  As I mentioned earlier, I could add another layer of plastic.   I could add more water storage.  I could seal the edges of the greenhouse more carefully.  I could insulate the east and west walls.  I could add the manure in January to start producing heat earlier in the winter. 

On sunny winter days, the greenhouse temperature soars to over 90 degrees.  This happens even when the outside temperature is 30 degrees.  When the outside temperature is over 60 degrees, I am still learning how to keep the greenhouse temperature below 100.  I may have to use a fan – especially when there is no breeze. 

This is a very simple system that functions by capturing sunlight.  I have to open the greenhouse almost every morning and close it every night.  On sunny days, I have to water at least twice.  If these tasks are neglected even once, I could lose the plants.  So far it works very well and I will continue to learn how to make even better use of this greenhouse. 



Posted 2/8/2011 6:29am by Reuben DeMaster.

Last week, I attended my 3rd PASA conference.  I really enjoy seeing fellow farmers and meeting so many people who care deeply about creating a truly sustainable agriculture that preserves and improves the soils that we farm.  One interesting person I met this year was Ken.  Ken manages a website that shares ideas for vegetable gardening.  A short review of his website impressed me with the topics and well written articles.  His latest article describes the conference well.  I hope you take a few minutes to look at his website.  www.veggiegardeningtips.com  




2011 PASA Conference: Strength from Our Roots

February 2, 2011

While many are looking to that famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil for signs that spring is near, I’ll look no further than the arrival of the annual Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s conference that kicks off today in State College, PA.

This will be the 20th PASA gathering and the theme for this year is; “Strength from Our Roots: Claiming Our Food-System Future” to highlight the relationship between our quality of life and a healthy food system!

Pre-Conference Educational Tracks

Mushroom Foraging Lecture 300x225 2011 PASA Conference: Strength from Our RootsEvents begin today as some of the pre-conference tracks get off to an early start with sessions focused on Forest Farming, Homesteading 101, Soil Management and Assessment, the Promises and Perils of GMO’s, Sustainability in the Classroom, Alternative Energy on the Farm, and more.

I attended the pre-conference track on Forest Farming last year and learned a lot during the two day program. They’ve added some new topics to the track such as Managing Forests for Wildlife, Growing Native Medicinal Forest Plants for Profit, and Producing Mushrooms using Logs and Biomass.

PASA-bilities Leadership Award Series

This year’s opening keynote speaker is Wes Jackson. Wes has authored various books including; the “New Roots for Agriculture,” “Becoming Native to This Place,” and “An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture.” Wes also just happened to be a keynote speaker at the very first PASA conference nineteen years ago.

PASA Keynote Session 300x225 2011 PASA Conference: Strength from Our RootsThe closing keynote session will introduce the new PASA-bilities Leadership Award Series with messages to be delivered by the winners of the Sustainable Ag Leadership Award and the Sustainable Ag Business Leader Award, with an aim of recognizing and utilizing some of the home grown talent from within the ranks of PASA’s membership.

Sustainable Agriculture Workshops

As always, conference attendees are likely to have a hard time deciding between the many concurrent workshops that will be presented on Friday and Saturday. Topics will include:

•    Dig This! Farm & Garden Tools That Work for Women

•    Getting the Most Nutrition from Your Harvest

•    Fossil-Free Agriculture: Kicking Farming’s Addiction to Oil

•    Getting Started with Beekeeping Organically

•    Developing & Integrating Outdoor Classrooms at Your School

•    Family Fish Farming for Fun & Food

•    Swap Your Seeds: What to Know Before You Get Started

•    Human-Powered, Low-Input Vegetable Production System

•    Walk Through the Orchard Season

•    Advantages of Movable High Tunnel Technology

Food Prep Workshop 300x225 2011 PASA Conference: Strength from Our RootsHigh on my list are the sessions on beekeeping, seed saving, and school gardening programs. Then there are the potentially charged discussions; “Let’s Talk GMO’s,” “Save Our Seeds (SOS): Strategies to Curb Corporate Control & Promote Local Control,” and the “Corporate Takeover of Organic/Sustainable Agriculture – Who Owns the Organic Label & Controls Local Food?”

New Events at the 2011 PASA Conference

Bring along a few of your favorite heirloom seeds as there is a seed swap being organized for the first time. Also new on the schedule this year is a New and Beginning Farmers Mixer that will be held on Thursday evening. Those of you interested in fiber crafts may want to head over the knitting circle to learn a new stitch or two.

Don’t forget about the usual PASA auctions, youth programs, ag venders and displays, great food, regional breakout sessions, the winter picnic, a sustainable film theater, and plenty of music including performances by Philadelphia-based Hoots & Hellmouth!

Lots of good stuff for sure, so if you’re in the Central PA region it’s definitely an educational and worthwhile event with a great crowd of farmers, gardeners, families, and friends gathered to learn and share information and practices related to sustainable agriculture. For more information and to see the entire schedule you can download the conference brochure.

Posted 1/21/2011 12:59pm by Reuben DeMaster.

     On Wednesday, I attending a gathering of farmers who operate CSAs ranging in size from 2000 to just beginning.  We listened to the stories of how various farms began and grew and what challenges they faced along the way.  Each farm had its own unique style and mission and each farm had overcome many obstacles to acheive their success. 

    One thing that I noticed during the meeting was that each CSA struggled with both share size and price.  Farmers generally want to provide vegetables at a price that people can afford yet they constantly face steep labor, energy, and equipment costs.  Many farmers find that shares with too many vegetables can have a negative impact on customer satisfaction.  When people are not able to use all of the vegetables in their share, they feel like the food is wasted and do not continue with the CSA.  Several farms have started comparing the cost of the CSA vegetables with the cost of purchasing from a farmer's market.  At the end of the year, a farm can then show the cost effectiveness of a CSA membership. 

     Different CSAs also differ significantly on the question of how much choice to provide.  The CSA model began with almost no choice offered, but it has become more common recently.  After talking with several friends about the issue, I have decided to offer some choice in the Willow Haven CSA this year.  Members who pick up at the farm will be able to choose some of the vegetables that they receive.  For example, members might be able to choose 8 items out of a possible 10.  Members might also choose to pick two of the same item.  I will have to work out more of the details this spring and throughout the season.  Pick-up times for this option will also have to be limited so that the vegetables do not sit out for too long. 

     Farm pick-up customers will also receive more cut flowers this year and I may consider offering a flower share next year. 

      Members of the Willow Haven CSA should also realize that the home delivery service is not offered by most CSAs.  While it may become more common in the future, this service is still unique. 

      I hope that some of you will enjoy the farm pick-up option this season.  Please let me know how we can make it work for you.

Posted 1/16/2011 8:48pm by Reuben DeMaster.

            I remember the first season that my wife and I joined a CSA.  We lived in St. Louis with no chance to grow vegetables.  When we heard about a farm that would drop off a bag of vegetables each week, we knew that we had to try it.  Each week, we drove 10 minutes to the drop off site.  It was a treat to eat those vegetables because they tasted more like the food we had grown up eating than anything that the stores sold.  There were several items to get used to like kale, arugula, and a few other leafy greens but we soon grew to enjoy everything.

             Now that I am the one growing the vegetables, I am interested in what makes some families enjoy the CSA so much and what makes some families unable to adjust.  I receive many kind comments from families who appreciate the weekly surprise of fresh vegetables.  Yet I know that others do not share the same excitement. 

             For those families who might be considering a farm membership this year, I would like to give my perspective of what type of people fit the best with a CSA. 

 1.  You have to enjoy vegetables – or at least be willing to learn to enjoy them more.  Many people think vegetables are a tasteless but necessary addition to a perfectly good meal.  This often is the case when vegetables come out of a can, are not prepared well, and are not eaten fresh.  My experience is that children will eat vegetables when they taste good.

2.  You have to cook 3 times/week.  I know that many families do not make regular meals. Families who cook daily and who enjoy vegetables have no trouble eating the weekly delivery of vegetables.  Families who do not make regular meals and do not eat as many vegetables have trouble eating all of the weekly vegetables.  If you are willing to make at least 3 meals per week, I believe that you not have trouble finishing the vegetables. 

3.  You have to be willing to try new things.  Each week, I attempt to grow a wide variety of vegetables.  Most of the items in your box will be common vegetables that you will recognize.  However, each week you will receive 1 or 2 items that you might not regularly eat like kale, turnips, or beets.  These vegetables require some research, creativity, and willingness to eat new flavors.  Improving your skill in making soup and in stir frying is essential to using new vegetables. 

4.  You must understand the value of a farm membership.  Each week for 22 weeks, you will receive fresh picked, organic vegetables delivered to your home.  This might be more expensive than purchasing vegetables that the grocery store stocks.  However, my vegetables do not travel as far, are handles less, have less time from harvest to your house, and come from a known source.  It will also be more expensive than driving to a farmer’s market each week.  However, you do not have to spend the time driving and shopping.  I understand that most of us shop for the lowest possible price.  But if price is your number one concern, then maybe you would be better off buying vegetables at a discount store or even growing your own. 

       I hope this helps you to decide if you would like to join the Willow Haven Farm CSA this year.  Thank you to all of you who continue to support the local food system. 

Posted 12/7/2010 7:52am by Reuben DeMaster.

The following was written by my mother-in-law, Lois Miles.  She grew up on an Illinois farm and has lived on this PA farm since 1985. 

picking wineberries

Posted by lommiles on Jul 16, 2010
After 4 weeks without rain, our raspberries shriveled up on the brambles. But I vaguely hoped that the wineberries might survive. Wine berries? I had never seen or heard of them before about five years ago. They look  like juicy red raspberries in a fuzzy husk that opens when they’re ripe. Thanks to the internet, we could find out what these odd berries were and whether they were edible berries, “bird berries” or if, upon eating them, we would experience an excruciating demise.  We certainly didn’t plant them. The birds must have sown them as the meadow is full of not only black raspberries not planted by human hands but also these never before seen wineberries. And they are really good. Really, Really, Good! Sweet. Juicy. Not as seedy as other berries. And sooooo delicate that one can only pick them oneself – I doubt that even Farmers Markets could carry them. One of the luxuries of farm living!
Picking bramble berries requires one to wear clothing that completely covers the body no matter what the temperature might be. Closed shoes and socks. Jeans. Long sleeved shirts. And a bandana to keep loose hair from being grasped by thorny twigs. Mind you, I don’t wear gloves and therefore end up with plenty of scratches on my hands. But gloves are not conducive to gently picking hands full of delicate tenderness. Happily, wineberries don’t seem to be as vicious as the other berries we pick. But they resemble berries covered with thin layer of honey. Really sticky! And we are lucky here in PA with a noticeable lack of mosquitoes even in the meadow woods. In IL, I had to use the extra strong woods and camping brand of mosquito repellent in order to pick berries. And reapply every half hour. Annoying. But not here. I heard a few mosquitoes but managed to shoo them away without being attacked and carried away.
I spent two lovely solitary hours harvesting eight quarts of  sweet berries in the meadow sauna.
Well, the temperature is in the nineties again. Or still. I think this is the fifth “heat wave” of the summer with two days of high eighties to “break” the heat each week. I’m loving it. But I thought about the joys of cool showers unavailable to our predecessors even fifty years ago. And I thought of many other things.  And it occurred to me that my urban friends who think we live a pioneer existence might find such activities monotonous. Far from it! Such a wonderful time for ruminating. Or singing. Or storytelling.  So, I now post a selection of my berry picking meditations for the interested and/or the unwary!
On Mosquitoes. What purpose do mosquitoes fulfill? What is their niche in the evolutionary chain of life? Is life simply “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”? violent and bloody?  What purpose other than malaria and other diseases? OR on the other hand, is the mosquito a result of the Fall? A failure of insects to live out their God-given telos? Is there grace for mosquitoes?
On Silence. People speak of the silence of the country. Living here, we listen to the noises of the farm: birds chirping loudly and constantly; hens in hysterics for who knows what reason; roosters defending their cackling harem; dogs announcing farm visitors or the movement of other animals. Song birds singing; locusts and mosquitoes, flies and bees buzzing; wind blowing through the leaves and pine needles; twigs crackling with no visible cause — we don’t have bears here. Do we? We aren’t that far from the mountain. Cats don’t make noise walking through the meadow. Unless they’re large cats. Do we have mountain cats here? Some say so. Foxes for sure since they kept taking our chickens and I think I saw a coyote on our road today. Snakes? We rarely see them but certainly have them.
Spiders are quiet. At least, they make no noise that I can hear. Shelob is probably not a quiet spider but then, what indeed is Shelob? Spiders contribute to the joys of berry picking. And the conversation of grandkids when we pick together. Screams! There’s a spider! Oh, that’s just a nice Daddy Long-legger – he won’t hurt you. But he’s REALLY BIG – I don’t LIKE spiders. But even for confident grandmothers, spiders cause thoughtfulness. Or the webs do. Huh! I didn’t see that web. Oh, there’s a web, where’s the spider? What kind of spider is it? a nice Daddy Long-legger or a tricky harvest spider? Hmm. Never seen that little chartreuse one before. So, self, shall I go around this web or just barge right through? How many berries are on the other side? Yes, this time it is worth whacking one web to pick a quart of berries.
On Children. Children are less of an expense and more of an asset to the farming family.  Farm clothes are different than “going somewhere” clothes that will eventually turn into “staying at home” clothes. Stains are not a problem since very little on the farm does not cause a stain. And, therefore, going somewhere clothes are NOT worn outside the house on the farm. Friends who come must bring play clothes that can endure stains and rips and tears. As long as one has a couple outfits to “go somewhere,” other clothes just need to cover the essential (depending on the project) parts of the body.
Children are capable of an amazing amount of work from an early age. Berry picking is fun, entertaining, delicious, useful, memorable, character building, and productive. Three year olds can pick berries. Really! I heard a story this year that my grandparents discovered their son’s color-blindness when he kept picking unripe berries. Since the berries went to market, he was given other jobs that didn’t require seeing color. Three year olds pick a lot of  berries but a whole afternoon of picking may only produce a single layer in the bottom of the pail — besides the full tummy. Fresh organic snacks, seconds from the source. Five year olds can pick a half a berry basket while words and questions pour out of their mouths non-stop. (Help! I’m talking and I can’t stop!) They can even talk with their mouths full of berries. What kind of spider is this? Is this berry good to eat or just for the birds? What kind of grasshopper/bird/tree is that? Don’t pick up the deer poop – those are not good eating berries. Spiders build webs to catch pests and eat them. Stop pesting your sister!
On Memories. Picking berries with the children creates memories that expand to fill a lifetime.  Daughters-in-law state that their husbands insist  ”we did this every year.” Yea, not so much. We did this a few times; we did that only once! But the memory is so vivid that it saturates their entire childhood. Not every year produces every thing. Some years are good for berries; some are too dry, too wet, too cold, too hot. Some years produce cherries, some do not. This year gave a bumper crop of apricots – that happens about once every five years.
On Luxuries. Ordinary farm life produces luxuries one cannot buy. Hearing and smelling the rain before one feels it. Eating berries plucked seconds ago. Eating berries too delicate to transport. Gorging on berries. Gorging on anything in season. Eating cantalopes by the bushel. Tossing out the ones not sweet enough.  Sweet corn in the pot within five minutes from the stalk. Picking tomatoes and peppers for supper — at five o’clock. Composting produce of the quality one sees for sale in town. Bouquets of roses in every room of the house. Rooms fanned with the fragrance of outdoor lilies. Or lilacs. Perfume of wild honeysuckle that produces berries for birds not us. Watching a tiny bird build a nest.
Remembering that a warm shower is a luxury that grandparents did not enjoy. Indoor plumbing can still be a luxury. Knowing that without electricity, we can still use an old outhouse, butcher  our own meat, pick berries and dig fresh potatoes. And spin yarn and weave cloth. Someone needs to buy some sheep soon.


Posted 11/12/2010 5:45pm by Reuben DeMaster.


Contributed by Christa Held.

Christa is a friend of the DeMaster's who took Reuben up on the offer to barter services for food this summer at the farm. Her tasks included washing and packaging the vegetables; filling the boxes; and a couple trips to the fields. Christa helped at the farm every Tuesday morning throughout the season, including the days that were cold and/or rainy (which were thankfully--for the food and for her--few and far between). Besides her stint at the farm, Christa is married to Chris, manages her home and coaches her children, ages 3-11, through cyber school.


This week marked the end of the CSA season and, with it, my summer 'job'. As I sit here on a cold, rainy morning knowing the farmer will be out again harvesting today, I am somewhat glad to be in my warm house. On the other hand, it was such an awesome experience for my family that part of me wishes I was there today so I could enjoy just one more handful of fresh, organic veggies.

This week's box was no disappointment. Again, it was so full of fresh greens that the box was hard to close. Next season, I definitely plan to take pictures of each week's offering so everyone can see how much food we get. Our two favorites--fresh lettuce and butternut squash--were included again. The farmer also shared onions, cabbage (which I immediately shredded and added to my sauerkraut experiment), chard, kale, arugula, turnips and carrots.

The food seems to be absolutely delicious in the fall. I don't know if it's because I know the season is ending or, as the farmer explained, the cold weather causes the sugars in the food to intensify. Regardless, it makes each bite one to savor and a memory of a season well-lived.

Since my children were such an integral part of this experience, I wanted them to share some thoughts about the summer. When I asked the kids for their favorite memories, they shared the following:
Rachel (age 11) – Knowing that the food I ate for dinner was still in the ground this morning. I thought she would say playing with the new kittens or visiting the horses on the neighboring farm with the farmer’s daughter.
Zack (age 8) – Tell them about how I rode the little bike into the ditch and that riding a little bike is not a good idea. Seriously, he did get the worst injury of his life at the farm this summer. Thankfully, it only involved a brush burn from his forehead to his chin, across his arm and on his knee. From my perspective, it’s the perfect summer injury for a boy—the tough look with no trip to the ER!!
Becky (age 3) – I liked helping with the boxes. Indeed, we were lucky to have the help of one to six kids on any given day.

The kids’ favorite food this summer was the lettuce. Their dislike of hot vegetables led us to be big salad eaters for the past year or so. It wasn’t a huge transition to serve the farm lettuce. The big change came on the few weeks during the summer that we had no farm lettuce and bought salad at the store. We ate it, but knew it just wasn’t the same and we probably shouldn’t waste our money next time. The last week we brought home our farm box, we savored every salad, knowing it would be months before we had anymore.

My favorite food this summer had to be the winter squash. Whether it was an acorn, butternut, or kabocha, it became my focus to find a new and exciting way to prepare a food I had once overlooked as useless (and tasteless). Just a few ways I prepared the squash include baked with butter and brown sugar; filled with a spinach/ricotta mixture and baked; and pureed into a hearty, warm soup. There is one last butternut squash still waiting to realize its purpose. I imagine that, being the last one of the season, the outcome will be amazing!

My initial goal in taking this job was to save money on our grocery budget by bartering my time for some delicious, local, organic vegetables. I left the farm every week knowing that what my family took home (literally and figuratively) was much more than we could offer the farm. My kids were able to spend time in the great outdoors with some truly awesome kids. They learned about food, farming, bugs, and hard work. I learned about farming and was able to pick the brains of the farmer and his wife on everything from baking bread to making yogurt and canning (trust me, they are real experts). I gained a greater understanding of the commitment and heart involved in growing and offering a quality product to people week after week. Finally, I became part of the food chain—so much more than being a consumer or even buying organic. I was able to participate in bringing healthy, new foods to families throughout the Lehigh Valley (and even further in a few cases). I was truly blessed not only to eat this great food and share it with my family, but to know that other families were getting that same experience.

Posted 11/3/2010 11:37am by Reuben DeMaster.

     All of us are used to eating cheap food produced from our super efficient food system.  We have been told to trust the FDA, the EPA, and other government regulators.  But more and more people have been questioning food safety and for good reason.  Here is an example of why you may want to reconsider what you are eating:


     About 84,000 chemicals are used commercially in the United Staes - of these, some 17,000 are kept secret not only from the public, but also from doctors, state regulators, and emergency responders, according to a report in the The Washington Post.  The 1976, Toxic Substances Control Act requires manufacturers to report to the EPA any new chemicals intended for market, but there's a caveat:  they can request that a chemical be kept secret if disclosure "could harm their bottom line". 

      When the 1976 law was enacted, there were "only" 60,000 chemicals on the market.  Since then, the EPA has restricted or banned five and has required testing on another 200.  The agency reports that in recent years 95 percent of new-chemical reports from manufacturers includes a request for secrecy.  Ten of these secret chemicals are used in children's products.  Congress is expected to tackle reform of the 1976 law this year. 

Printed in Acres USA magazine.  Volume 40 No. 3




Posted 10/28/2010 5:56am by Reuben DeMaster.

       It looks like Wal-Mart intends to sell food that it claims are sustainable.  The largest grocer in the world has set a goal of buying 9 percent of its produce from local sources.  It apparently intends to purchase this food from farms within the state from farmers with 50 acres or less.  Wal-Mart will attempt to measure the sustainability of farms by asking questions about water, fertilizer, and chemical use.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/15/business/15walmart.html

      At first glance, this seems like a step in the right direction.  Wal-Mart has enough influence to change our food system very quickly.  For many year, Wal-Mart has successfully sold products that people want to buy at prices they can afford. 

     Small farmers like myself, however, have a lot of questions about what this means.  First, we are concerned about the definition of sustainablity.  Does Wal-Mart really have the expertise to decide what is sustainable?  What kind of farms will Wal-Mart support?  Is it really a good idea to purchase local food from states that has water shortages?  What about the southwest United States?  Is Wal-Mart going to examine the labor practices of the farms that it buys from?  Are farmers going to be paid prices that allow them to continue farming?  http://civileats.com/2010/10/22/wal-mart-goes-local-and-big-ag-gears-up-to-fight/#more-9787

     As more and more producers enter the sustainable system, I encourage all consumers to be extra cautious about what you purchase.  Your purchases shape and change the food that is available.  I am glad that Wal-Mart sees an opportunity to buy from local farms.  I just hope that Wal-Mart's choice does not end up reducing the choices that you can make. 

Posted 8/9/2010 8:30am by Reuben DeMaster.

     Last night I did something that Ididn't want to do.  I started watching a video called "The Future of Food".  I didn't want to watch it because I guessed that it would be full of disheartening information.  It is much easier to think less about our food supply.  After all, we enjoy an abundance of inexpensive food that is always available.  What could be wrong with that? 

      Everything seems fine until we start asking questions.  The first question that someone might ask is, "Where does this food come from?"  You might then discover that almost all of our garlic is grown in China.  China?  Well then, can I trust the source?  Do I want to support a food system in which I have to depend on growers across the country and world?  Who is doing the work?  Who makes the profit?  What sprays or preservatives are applied to the food?  Why is this particular variety being grown?  If you purchase a processed food, you might start to ask, "What are the ingredients?"  The answers to these questions are sometimes troubling and often difficult to discover.  Yes, it much easier to just buy the cheap meat, milk, soda, and lettuce from the shelf and go about your business.

     I did not start farming to challenge "big food" or to criticize conventional agriculture; although I knew that I fit in easily with those who did.  I farm because I love growing and eating fresh food and I find satisfaction in helping other people do the same.  However, as I learn more about the way that our food system works, I feel disheartened and upset at the same time.  I disagree with the ability of corporations like Monsanto to patent seeds.  I'm suspicious of the influence that seed and chemical companies wield.  I too wonder about the future of food and I hope to join others in creating a more hopeful future for our food supply.



Posted 8/1/2010 8:54pm by Reuben DeMaster.

     Several weeks ago, I visited a nearby farm for what was called a 'Bug Walk'.  A Penn State Agricultural Extention agent had organized a time to walk through several vegetable fields accompanied by an entymologist.  As an added bonus, I was able to take my 8-year-old son with me.  He has been showing a normal boylike interest in bugs this summer. 

     I will admit that I have never been fond of insects.  When I was young, I remember the mosquito swarms of the upper midwest, and the fly populations on the dairy and hog farms.  To someone used to "real" bugs like scorpions, my small ticks, ants, and spiders might not seem like a big deal, but I still did not like them. 

      Armed with our nets and our expert, the group of 25 people began searching.  After several hours, the group had discovered a cabbage worm, several colorado potato beetles, a lacewing, several brown beetles, and a cucumber beetle.  However, the most remarkable thing to me was the lack of insect life that we found.  That is, it was surprising unitl I discovered the type and frequency of sprays that they were using on their vegetables. 

      Back at my farm, as I thought more about the insect life that I encounter every day, I am more amazed than ever at the diversity of insect life on this farm.  Each week, I see new insects with a dazzling variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.  Many of these insects are familiar and destructive to the plants that I am growing.  However, many insects are beneficial and harsh chemical sprays would destroy them along with the pests.  For example, I have thousands of ladybugs all around the farm.  I also have an insect called a wheel bug.  Its main task in life is sitting on a leaf and waiting for another bug to get close enough to eat.  I have seen wheel bugs up to 2 inches long and they look vicious.  I guess they are if you happen to be the wrong kind of insect.  Bees are also among the beneficial insects that would be harmed by chemicals.  The farm has many different kinds of bees and each of them seems to prefer pollen from different types of flowers. 

     As an organic farmer, I have chosen to manage insect pests without sprays that would eliminate the good with the bad.  This challenge will require years of observation and trial and error.  There is a chance that I will not be successful with certain crops.  However, the attempt seems valuable to me.  I might even learn to appreciate insects more.  They certainly are fascinating. 


New recipe: Fettucine with ham and napa cabbageOctober 9th, 2017

1/2 pound fettuccine 1 onion, chopped 2 cups chopped Napa cabbage 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1/4 pound cooked ham, chopped 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds 1/3 cup heavy cream In a large saucepan of

New recipe: Napa Cabbage SaladOctober 9th, 2017

2 (3 oz) packages ramen noodles, crushed (flavor packets discarded) 1 cup blanched slivered almonds 2 tsp sesame seeds 1/2 cup butter, melted 1 head napa cabbage, shredded 1 bunch green onions, choppe

New recipe: Beef and Napa Cabbage Stir FryOctober 9th, 2017

1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned) 2 teaspoons oyster sauce 1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 pound flank steak 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided 3 garlic cloves, smashed 1 (1





Have a Question?

Contact Us Online or Call 610-298-2197

Willow Haven Farm, 7686 Herber Rd., New Tripoli, PA 18066

Visit us on: FacebookTwitter