Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 Farm Bill

I admit the Farm Bill is hardly at the top of the mind for most folks. I never gave much thought to the enormous impacts of this behemoth until I heard Wes Jackson speak at the PASA (Pennsylvania Association For Sustainable Agriculture) Conference in State College several years ago. Jackson, President Emeritus of The Land Institute in Kansas, was advocating for a longer view for the Farm Bill. His organization's point of view is detailed in this New York Times op-ed pieceThe op-ed is co-written by Wendell Berry.
"Thoughtful farmers and consumers everywhere are already making many necessary changes in the production and marketing of food. But we also need a national agricultural policy that is based upon ecological principles. We need a 50-year farm bill that addresses forthrightly the problems of soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities. This is a political issue, certainly, but it far transcends the farm politics we are used to. It is an issue as close to every one of us as our own stomachs."
Congress tackles Farm Bills on what should be a five year cycle. In recent history, it's common for delays to trigger extensions of the current bill for periods of a year or more. The Agricultural Act of 2014, or the 2014 Farm Bill, is set to expire, for the the most part, at the end of September 2018.
If you're interested in reading more about how the Farm Bill works, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has this primer. 
The House Agriculture Committee has recently launched a website detailing components of the Farm Bill that will be debated in the coming year.
Our Congressman, Glenn Thompson, is vice chair of this committee and we all need to raise our voices to bring our concerns to his attention. The Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act being proposed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a good starting point.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Listening At The Farm Show

On Saturday, January 6, our Congressman, Glenn Thompson hosted a listening session regarding the 2018 Farm Bill and agriculture policy on the opening day of the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. Thompson serves as House Committee on Agriculture Vice Chairman.

According to a report in the Centre Daily Times, the price of dairy products was an overriding theme as farmers addressed the panel. But it was this comment by one of the panelists, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, that captured my attention.
"They need to get Coca-Cola in there to show them how to mark this stuff. I'm serious because part of the problem is that they're not making consumer-friendly products that look attractive. I think if we changed some of that we'd make a big difference on consumption," 
The idea of considering that it's just a "marketing" problem misses the mark. There are many reasons why the dairy industry continues to struggle and marketing is the least of them.

Daughter Kate Metzger Day (on the left drinking from a jelly jar)
and her pal Melanie Butler Connell.
These photos are from a 1980s-era
June Is Dairy Month promotion in the local newspaper.
Read more about the Pennsylvania Farm Show Listening session in this article in the Centre Daily Times.

Thompson took time on Monday to trumpet the Pennsylvania Farm Show on the floor of the House of Representatives. He acknowledged the important role that agriculture, as the state's biggest employer, plays in the lives of Pennsylvanians. I'm wondering who penned the words he delivered.

You can listen to his address here. (This is a link to C-Span and you'll need to scroll down to find his address.)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Bleak Midwinter

Cold, cold and more cold!
That topic seems to be first in every conversation as folks find ways to cope with winter's deepest chill.

winter on Crandall Hill, circa 1950s
Wanda Gooch Metzger on her way to work in town
I remember many sub-zero winter days on the farm where I've made my home for more than 40 years. Most center around frozen water pipes. (How about Sharon Fitzgerald's recent blog post about water struggles?)

Arthur and sister Carol making the most of winter
During this second week of January in 2018, the weather predictors have promised some relief with temperatures warming above the freezing mark by mid-week.

And, it's only 72 days until spring!

For those who have an interest in such things, this website is one of many where you can find information about temperature and precipitation in Pennsylvania.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


There was lots of chatter about the cost of providing a Thanksgiving feast on social media this season. From where I sit, I do understand that food costs are a big chunk of everyone's budget but here's different perspective (with a nod to fellow farmer Laura Mangan).

When we complain about the high cost of food, let's take a closer look at what we're getting for our food dollars. Are our food choices nourishing our bodies and brains or bathing our cells in a chemical and hormonal stew?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Catering For A Wedding

When son Joseph and his best girl Jennifer first began talking about their nuptials, a fabulous wedding feast was near the top of the list of must-haves. They envisioned a table that brought together all the tastes they've come to love - fresh vegetables, wild-sourced meat and fish and a side of sweets.
Joseph and Jennifer Metzger on their wedding day

Since the bridal couple lives in Alaska but were tying the knot in Elk County, Pennsylvania, much of the planning fell to the parents of the bride and the parents of the groom. And when the parents of the groom are organic farmers, you can imagine where this is heading!
But first, one must find a caterer who is up to the challenge of preparing wild-caught salmon and moose from Alaska and vegetables that still bear traces of the soil in which they were grown. Meet Ben Samick of Just Ben's Catering.
And so the menu was set - Salmon (with choice of two sauces served on the side so the exquisite taste of the fish stands on its own), Alaskan Moose Roast and Moose Sandwiches. That takes care of the protein side of the menu.

For the vegetables, the bride and groom chose an assortment of vegetables grown right here on the Metzger Heritage Farm.

Beets - a selection of Chioggia, Detroit Dark Red, Golden  

Mixed salad greens grown in our high tunnel
Tomatoes complemented the salad - golden, red and black cherry
Carrots are always delicious - especially when used in a
carrot cake baked by the bride's mother
Green beans were also grown in the high tunnel for an October harvest

A colorful potato assortment
And we didn't forget the decorations either ... pots of herbs (many transplanted from the gardens of the bride's parents and the groom's parents along with rosemary acquired from family friend Frank Zitnik) decorated the tables. Many friends and family members contributed hydrangeas, pearly everlasting, Japanese lanterns, thistle, and more - artfully arranged in antique containers by the bride's mother. Bountiful bouquets of zinnias added pops of color.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bird Egg Beans Revisited

Harvest 2017: Bird Egg Beans
We've posted about these beautiful beans before. As a matter of fact, that post has logged the highest number of views in the history of this blog!
We've not had much success in growing these heirloom beans in the past couple of years and thought better of using our stored seed for fear of perpetuating disease. So last year, for the first time in many, many years, no bird egg beans were growing on Crandall Hill.
We decided to try again this year and went to gardener extraordinaire Jack Lent to source seed. Jack's wife, Arthur's cousin Nancy Snyder Lent, shares the Gooch family's love of these old-fashioned beans. One cold spring day, Jack came to the door bearing a small jar of bean seed.
This represents our entire harvest of bird egg beans this year – borne on healthy vines and plump, colorful pods filled with fat, colorful beans.
We're saving all these beans for seed for 2018, hopeful that we can continue this piece of family heritage.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tasty Tomato Tart

I admit it. I have been known to watch cooking shows on television. I've been hooked since Julia Child walked me through the fine points of French cooking on The French Chef. These days I enjoy The Great British Baking Show, America's Test Kitchen, the Barefoot Contessa and of course, Top Chef.
It was Top Chef that first introduced me to Food and Wine magazine, for one of the prizes for the winner each year is a "spread in Food and Wine."

This colorful cover on the August issue sent me to the garden to harvest a colorful variety of heirloom tomatoes to create my own version of this fabulous Tomato Tart. How can one resist these words that accompanied the recipe.
"Taste the Rainbow. You've waited all year for them. Now that ripe tomatoes are here, instead of the usual salad, try piling them on this insanely good (and super easy) tart. We're in love!"

It was so good I made it again to serve
friends who came for dinner the next evening.
If you'd like to try this recipe, comment below and I will post the recipe for you. Though tomato season has been slowed by the cooler than normal weather, we should be able to help you source many of the pictured varieties!