Friday, April 24, 2009

Tuned into Nature

She knew there were birds down the road in the patch of woods. She’d hung a bird feeder, but for over two years, the seed remained uneaten. Looking around at her farm, she noticed all the spaces nearby were wide open. There were lots of cultivated farm fields. There was a lawn.

In one of her many moments of tuned-into-nature clarity, Jackie Doyle, of Doyle Farm Nursery, realized there was no place for the birds to rest or hide or find food near her home. That was 1986.

Today, at Doyle’s farm, birds sing a symphony, actually kinda loud, as Doyle’s peacocks show off their tail feathers and Jackie, as she has for most of her life, tends her plants. Her home is now surrounded by gardens with tall trees and shrubs. Birders travel to her farm to watch the birds she has attracted with her plantings.

Doyle Farm Nursery specializes in native plants and is located in Southern York county. Perennials, grasses and ferns are featured.

Tuned into Nature

Doyle’s evolution to native plant grower has been a curvy path through the woods illuminated by those tuned-into-nature moments of clarity. She has an extensive horticulture background and has meandered through growing organic vegetables and herbs for sale at farm markets, to finally setting up her nursery at her home.

“I like to do as nature does.” said Jackie. Describing herself as a gardener’s gardener, she hopes to share her experience with others. “ The idea is to bring more people into Natives,” said Doyle.

Explaining that she wouldn’t advocate tearing out all non-native plants, she tells her customers, “ wouldn’t it be nice to provide a host plant for a butterfly while planting a beautiful plant?” A host plant is a place where a butterfly or other species lay their eggs. Native species can only use specific native plants for hosts.

Doyle’s gardens demonstrate another of her observations from nature. Noticing how trees and shrubs regenerate themselves in woods, Doyle said a light bulb went off in her head and she came to understand what she calls, “mother planting.”

Tuned into Nature

In nature, small seedlings grow up protected from wind, harsh rains or heavy snow, at the feet of large trees and shrubs. The seedling is mothered by the larger plants. The seedling grows, and as the larger plants die, the new tree is now established and strong enough to replace the original tree.

Mother planting can be used as a way to gracefully add more native plants to the landscape. Doyle has planted small native trees and shrubs inter-mixed with her older plantings. She plans to take out older non-native species as the new plantings fill in.

She has “mother planted” in another way. Doyle has inspired a community of native plant enthusiasts in the area.

Judy Bono, a knowledgeable native plant gardener and proprietor of The Gardener of the Owl Valley said, “ We started working with Jackie more than 10 years ago. She was our source of learning and a plant source. The quality of her plant material is so good.” Bono said, “She is my favorite person to talk to about herbaceous plants.” Jan Getgood of Meadowood Nursery, an all native nursery in Dauphin County, called Doyle a mentor.

Doyle is considering slowing down. She said her favorite thing in the world is sowing seeds. She may slow down by growing fewer plants, but let’s hope she continues to sow the seeds of passion for native plants and continues to share her experience.

Tuned into Nature

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Produce Direct from Producer

There’s a surprise in each box. And the prize is perhaps the opposite of the cheap plastic toy we used to find at the bottom of a box of sugar-laden cereal.

As a member of a CSA, each week, it’s fun to open your box and peer inside at the selection of healthy, locally grown produce your farmers have provided for you.

The farmers take pride in their produce and enjoy knowing who they are growing for. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Members buy shares of produce grown by local farms. Members get to know the people growing their food. You get to know the face behind your food. Typically, CSA farms grow sustainably.

We are lucky to have several great CSA’s in Central PA. But they are filling up fast. Beth Weaver-Kreider of Goldfinch Farm near Wrightsville in York County, PA, said they’ve had more first time inquiries about the CSA this year and they have sold out of shares faster this year than any time in their years of farming.

Seeing the pleased reaction of their shareholders each week is a great joy for Beth and for Amy Leber of Shared Earth Farm in Mechanicsburg, PA.

Produce Direct from Producer

Produce Direct from Producer

Shared Earth Farm CSA started small. Like a seedling, really. Amy Leber started growing vegetables “part-time” on her farm while remodeling her home and raising a newborn. Her first year, she served 7 shares. In her fourth season, she’s offering 120.

Amy and her mom provide most of the labor on the farm. They’ve found the growth of their farm to be a natural evolution. Its hard work and they love it. Similarly, when they’ve needed something they’ve found it.

When they needed two doors for the new greenhouse, they found exactly two doors stored on the property. When they started running out of refrigeration room, a member offered a refrigerator. They recently asked their members for help in covering their greenhouse. Thirty members turned out to help.

Shared Earth Farm members pick up the produce at the farm and can pick from a choice table of goods in addition to their shares. At the table, they offer interesting veggies like yard long beans or a miniature cucumber that a member nick named, “cuca melon” because they resemble tiny watermelons. Members can pick their own flowers and herbs as they are available. Other locally produced food can also be picked up at the farm.

Amy’s committed to sustainable agriculture and to the importance of locally grown food. This she shares with Jon and Beth Weaver-Kreider of Goldfinch Farm.

Produce Direct from Producer

Beth Weaver-Kreider remembers it was a rainy Monday morning when her husband Jon purchased the land at auction for Goldfinch farm. When they initially looked at the rolling York County acreage, they weren’t sure it would work for their CSA. Looking closely, they saw the hills offered plenty of level space for planting. In their 9th season now, their beautiful farm will provide 180 shares to their customers.

Jon Weaver-Kreider studied agriculture in several forms, including an internship on an organic farm, before he and Beth started their first farm on rented Lancaster County land in 1999. They follow strict organic farming guidelines.

They also feel it’s important to be in contact with their customers. As often as possible, Jon and Beth personally greet shareholders at their pick-up locations at the Farm and in Lancaster County.

Along with more than 30 vegetables, Goldfinch farm offers strawberries and raspberries in their shares. Members can pick their own variety of berries along the fence rows at the farm and flowers later in the season. The produce is picked less than a day before pickup.

Some other local CSA are:

- Dickinson College Farm: Serving only the Dickinson College Community based near Carlisle, PA. Organic Farming practices used.
- Garden of Edenbo: A salad CSA.
- Joshua Farm: Harrisburg, PA. Supporting at-risk youth in Harrisburg.
- Prescott's Patch: Fruit and Veggies with pick-ups in Bainbridge and Hellam.
- Spiral Path Farm: One of the largest and oldest. Perry County.
- Spoutwood Farm: Southern York County.

Produce Direct from Producer