Friday, April 29, 2016

It's All In The Seeds

The USDA Certified Organic tomato and pepper plants we are offering for sale this spring began their lives as certified organic seed. Each seed was nestled in Organic Mechanics Seed Starting Mix and transitioned to OMRI certified peat pots filled with Vermont Compost Fort Vee Potting Soil.

Photo taken April 22,
just after transplant 
We've been growing a garden for many years and began growing for market relatively recently. While we always followed "organic" techniques, it wasn't until we joined the Path To Organic program from Pa. Department of Agriculture that we began to understand how this way of farming begins with the seeds.

When faced with certified organic and conventional seeds in the colorful displays that spring up everywhere just after the Christmas decorations come down, a look at the price difference often makes your buying decision more difficult.

As with any certified organic product, certified organic seeds are grown without synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. What I hadn't realized was that seed producers in conventional settings are permitted to use more of those harmful substances because the plant is not intended for the food supply.

The Organic Seeds Growers and Trade Alliance reports that conventional seed production allows for heavier application of chemical pesticides as the crops intended for seed are in the ground for much longer periods.

Seeds bearing the USDA Certified Organic label must be grown at an organic-certified farm with inputs (fertilizer, pest controls, etc.) approved for certified organic production. Those seeds must then be packaged and handled by a certified facility.

We are excited to be offering to our community the choice of USDA Certified Organic vegetable starts. Remember that we have selected tomato and pepper varieties  best suited to our northern climate. Call (814-274-8004) or email ( to reserve your plants as soon as possible as quantities are limited (especially sweet peppers).

Aren't they gorgeous?
Here are a couple of links with more information about the differences between organic and conventional seeds.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Farmers' Market Preparations

I have lived in Potter County long enough to know that winter weather will find its way back to us for at least one more visit in April. There's snow on the ground and this morning, it was 11 degrees here on Crandall Hill.

Peas planted on Good Friday
under blanket of snow on April 5
Brave garlic peeking out through the
snow on April 5

This morning the sun is shining and in the heated (gulp!) greenhouse, I was greeted by newly-emerged parsley and broccoli. By day's end, the eggplants will be ready come out of the germination chamber into the light.
Arthur has been building us a new light cart for the plants with the launching of our certified organic pepper and tomato plant endeavor. That gives us additional space under the lights for your plants, providing them with the best possible start before being planted in your garden.

Ready for the grow lights
Our Farmers' Market growers meet at the Coudersport Public Library this evening. We're wrestling with figuring out the best time to hold the market each week for the convenience of both the vendors and the customers. It looks like we really need to stick to Fridays as the day but would a later start benefit you (looking at beginning at 3:00 p.m. and running to 6:00 p.m.)? For the last few years, we've been open from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. If you haven't weighed in, please comment here or email me ( with your thoughts.

Lettuce grown
under the lights this spring

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pepper Varieties Available

Photo From Johnny's Selected Seeds

Lunchbox Sweet Assortment • $4 per plant
These beautiful, mini-sized peppers are remarkably sweet and flavorful. They are delicious sauted, as an addition to salads and perfect for a healthy snack. All three varieties have tall strong plants that yield well for snack-type peppers. Luck of the draw -- red, yellow, orange. In 3" peat pot. (From Johnny's Selected Seeds) 

Photo From High Mowing
Organic Seeds

King Of The North Pepper • $3.75 per plantReliable set of green to glossy red fruits in short seasons. Known for its ability to produce good sized peppers with three to four lobes in short, cool seasons. Strong plants support heavy yields. 3-4” fruits, 57 days green, 68 red. In 3” peat pot.

Photo From High Mowing
Organic Seeds

California Wonder Pepper • $3.75 per plant
Sturdy, upright 22-30” plants are everbearing and pendant. One of the best open-pollinated gold peppers available! Cool-toleran, 4-4.5” fruits, 60 days green, 78 gold. In 3” peat pot.

Photo From High Mowing
Organic Seeds

Early Jalapeno Hot Pepper • $3.75 per plant
Small, moderately spicy fruits with thick walls are traditionally harvested dark green but can be allowed to ripen to red. A classic eaten fresh or pickled with Mexican dishes! Compact plants are sturdy and work well in containers. 3-3.5” fruits; 65 days green, 85 red. In 3” peat pot.

Photo From High Mowing
Organic Seeds

Ring Of Fire Cayenne Hot Pepper • $3.75 per plant
“And it burns, burns, burns,” just like Johnny Cash said. Ring-O-Fire has a glossy sheen with a fire engine red color. Prolific and dependable plants produce loads of fruits great for eating fresh, dried or powdered. This variety has always been a favorite at the Potter County Farmers' Market. 4” fruits;  45 days green, 60 red. In 3” peat pot.

Photo From High Mowing
Organic Seeds

Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers • $3.75 per plant
Long, banana-shaped waxy pepper used for frying, stuffing and pickled peppers. May be harvested at any stage but heat intensifies as peppers mature. Very productive even in cool weather. Spicy but not overly hot. Excellent pickler 1.5-5.5” fruits; 59 days yellow, 84 red. In 3” peat pot.

This is the listing of the sweet and hot pepper varieties we're offering for sale this spring. Please call the farm at 814-274-8004 or email to pre-order your plants. Remember, all of our plants are USDA Certified Organic.

Greenhouse Report

Despite the abrupt departure of our springlike weather, the plants I've started in my heated greenhouse space have been growing nicely. Many tomatoes are coming along nicely and the peppers (which always seem to take FOREVER to germinate) have started to appear above the potting mix.
Things look to be on schedule for having certified organic tomato and pepper plants available for sale by early to mid-May.
As promised, here is a flyer highlighting the pepper varieties I will have available for sale. I have picked peppers that should adapt well to the cooler and shorter growing season of northcentral Pennsylvania.
I appreciate all the interest expressed thus far and to ensure the best selection, I recommend you reserve your plants soon.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Certified Organic Tomato Plants

Here is a listing of the certified organic tomato plants that we are growing to sell for the 2016 season.  These varieties were selected from several different seed companies to provide a good selection of the determinate (or bush type) organic varieties. The descriptions and photographys below come from the seed catalogs.
Please note that we also grow many varieties of indeterminate tomatoes for our own use and we would be willing to plant addition seeds from our supply if customers are looking for an indeterminate variety. Please contact us as soon as possible to see if we have seeds for your favorites.
If you are interested in reserving tomato plants, please call us at 814-274-8004 or send an email to to place your orders. Quantities are limited and by reserving your plants now, you are offered a better selection.
I will also be listing the sweet and hot peppers in a separate blog post.

Photo From
Seed Savers Exchange

Silvery Fir Tree Tomato
Traditional Russian variety with distinctive carrot-like silvery-gray foliage on compact 24” p;lants Heavy crops of round, slightly flattened 3”-3 1/2” red fruit. Does well in hanging baskets or on patios. Determinate. 60 days from transplant.
$4.00 per plant in 3-inch peat pot.

Photo From High Mowing
Organic Seeds

Roma VF Paste
Productive plum tomato with great disease resistance! Vigorous and strong, producing heavy yields of picture-perfect, thick-walled fruits with deep red color and mild flavor. Open pollinated. 65 days from transplant
$3.75 per plant in 3” peat pot.

Photo From High
Mowing Organic Seeds

Iron Lady F1 Hybrid
Fight the blight with this disease-resistant red slicer! Impressive resistance to late blight, early blight, septoria and more. Fine-textured fruit is both dense and juicy with good tomato flavor. Determinate. 75 days from transplant.
$4.25 per plant in 3” peat pot.

Photo From Southern
Exposure Organic Seeds

Mountain Princess
Perfectly round fruits with crowd-pleasing mild sweet flavor. Very productive and early, great for short, cool seasons. A customer favorite for containers. Grown for generations in the Monongahela National Forest region of West Virginia. Determinate. 68 days from transplant.
$4 per plant in 3” peat pot.

Photo From Southern
Exposure Organic Seeds

Rutgers Tomato
Hearty tomato flavor and meaty texture. Bright red fruit with a small seed cavity and good color throughout. Good for slicing or canning. Resists cracking. Open pollinated. Determinate. 75 days from transplant.
$4 per plant in 3” peat pot.

Photo From Johnny's
Selected Seeds

Gold Nugget Cherry Tomato
An early prolific golden cherry tomato. Deep yellow color. Compact plants with concentrated early set.  Determinate. 56 days from transplant.
$3.75 per plant in 3” peat pot.

Photo From Johnny's
Selected Seeds

Oregon Spring Tomato
Medium sized, early cold tolerant. First early harvest for cool northern locations. Compact plants bearing 6-7 oz. fruit.  Determinate. 60 days from transplant.
$3.75 per plant in 3” peat pot.

Photo From High Mowing
Organic Seeds

Heinz 1350 VF
A productive garden variety with concentrated fruit set and an excellent processing tomato for canning or cooking. Widely 
adapted and good for salad use too. Round 4 - 6” fruits. Determinate. 75 days from transplant. 
$4.00 per plant in 3” peat pot.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Certified Organic Plants Available

Building on the success of growing our own organic plant starts for several years, we are offering certified organic tomato and pepper seedlings for sale this spring.

Silvery Fir Tree is one of the varieties available
To grow organic plants, we begin by choosing only USDA Certified Organic seeds. We will be growing for sale varieties with a relatively short growing season, which helps to ensure home gardening success in our climate.
We selected tomatoes that have a determinate habit, also called "bush" tomatoes. These tomatoes grow to a more compact height than the indeterminate tomatoes that need a trellis or staking system. Most of the tomato varieties we're offering for sale are ones that we have grown for years.
For peppers, we're offering a sweet green bell pepper, as well as three different hot peppers.
We start the seedlings in a organic seed starting mixture in seedling flats. When the plants develop leaves, they are transplanted into three-inch square peat pots with a compost-based potting soil. We have found that using a seed starting mix allows for better development of strong root systems.
Our plants are grown in our heated greenhouse under lights.

Cost for individual plants will range from $3.75 to $4.25, depending upon the seed costs. We will be developing a list of available certified organic plant starts and suggest that you reserve your plants in advance by either calling the farm (814-274-8004) or via email at

Monday, March 7, 2016


The Fedco Seed catalog quotes Gene Logsdon who suggested that humans have much to learn from parsnips about how to achieve long life.
"First cultivate an independent ornery reliability that will draw admiration from everyone. Second develop a distinctive personality as parsnips do, with a taste appreciated only by the discerning minority, not the herd-like majority, and third, don't try to look too pretty in public."
There is lots of folklore about parsnips in our Crandall Hill community. Much of it comes from the guy considered the consummate parsnip grower in these parts, Steven Snyder. Steven could be depended upon to arrive on the doorstep with a mess of parsnips just as soon as he could work the ground in the spring. "Get them in the pot as soon as you can," he advised ... and he was right. There is little that matches a dish of braised parsnips dripping in butter for a taste treat.
Steven also offered advice about parsnip seed, noting that one should be sure to use fresh seed every year. That advice is echoed in the Fedco catalog:
"Seed is short lived; if you are planning to use old seed, germ test in paper towels before sowing."
Steven's son, Paul, grows great parsnips in his garden patch every year and is generous to share with us in the years we haven't been successful in their cultivation. However, this spring, we're headed to our own garden patch to harvest this early spring treat.... and the pot will already be warming!