Wednesday, September 16, 2015

USDA Organic Certification In Sight!

Arthur and I spent the afternoon on Friday with the inspector from Pennsylvania Certified Organic. He sat down at our dining room table, opened his laptop and began a painstaking review of our organic systems plan. We had prepared for his visit by pulling out binders, receipts and notes, gathering seeds, fertilizer and other inputs and anything else we thought he might need. Then together we toured the fields, gardens, orchards, high tunnel and barns.

He will submit his report to PCO early this week and we're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll have the certificate in hand by month's end.
Here's the description of Organic Agriculture from the USDA Website:

What is Organic Agriculture?

Organic agriculture produces products using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics. USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise livestock and which materials they may use.
Organic farmers, ranchers, and food processors follow a defined set of standards to produce organic food and fiber. Congress described general organic principles in the Organic Foods Production Act, and the USDA defines specific organic standards. These standards cover the product from farm to table, including soil and water quality, pest control, livestock practices, and rules for food additives.
Organic farms and processors:
  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

We'll see you at the Potter County Farmers' Market on Friday,  offering for sale our vegetables grown organically right here in our own community. This week we will have peppers of all temperatures and colors; winter squash including acorn, butternut, buttercup, Red Kuri, delicata; leafy head lettuce; fresh herbs; string beans; carrots; beets ... and whatever else is still growing. And be sure to ask us about Organic Certification!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Summer's End

Sweetie Cherry Tomatoes
If you read the sidebar on this blog, you'll see that we were selected to participate in the Path To Organic program administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The program was designed to assist farmers in transitioning to certified organic production.
On Friday, an inspector from Pennsylvania Certified Organic will be coming to Crandall Hill for a site visit. He has reviewed our Organic Systems Plan and will sit down with us to go over details and then tour our farm.
We're excited about taking this step in the process and have been working hard to have everything ready for this visit.
And since we won't be at the Farmers' Market Friday, let me update you on our late-summer garden.
Hungarian Hot Wax

Ancho Poblano Peppers

Grandpa Admire's Lettuce
Rosa Bianca Eggplant
Cauliflower On A Dewy Morning

Ring Of Fire Cayenne Peppers
Golden California Wonder Sweet Pepper

Mid-Summer Tomato Crop

Ready To Become Roasted Tomato Sauce

It's Edamame Time

Every year about this time, the edible-podded soybeans are ready. For the uninitiated, they're known as edamame and you can find them on the menu at the Chinese restaurant in Coudersport and the Japanese restaurant in Olean. They're available in the freezer cases at Wegmann's, TOPS and Genesee Natural Foods - either shelled or still in their fuzzy pods.
And, for a limited time, they're available fresh from the vines at Metzger Heritage Farm.
We're not going to be at the Farmers' Market on Friday ... I'll tell you more in another post ... so if you want some, please get in touch as soon as possible. Telephone is best at 274-8004 (814 area code). Our email is
If you've never tried edamame, here's a recipe I have adapated from one that appeared in Bon Appetit magazine.

Blistered Edamame
Sizzling in the cast iron frying pan
1/2 pound fresh edamame
1 Tb. olive oil
2 dried chiles (I dry my own each year. Pictured is one half of a Ring of Fire cayenne and one half of a Maya Red habenero.)
3 cloves of garlic, smashed (leave peel on)
Zest from half a lime
Lime wedges
Kosher salt
Wash edamame and steam gently over boiling water for a couple minutes until the pods turn bright green. Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan (I prefer cast iron) over high heat and add olive oil to coat pan. Drop edamame from the steamer basket into the hot skillet, add chiles and garlic cloves. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5-7 minutes until pods are golden and blistered. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with lime zest and Kosher salt to taste. Serve with lime wedges. To eat, hold the pods with your fingers and put in your mouth, slide the tender little morsels out between your teeth and discard the shells. Sometimes the little fuzzies on the pods tickle your lips!
If you like things spicy, add a few hot pepper flakes too!

Here they are, ready to enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Thinking About Heritage


Property that is or may be inherited; an inheritance.
• Valued objects and qualities such as cultural traditions,
unspoiled countryside, and historic buildings that have been
passed down from previous generations
Standing in the back Dawn Thompson Matteson holding Arthur Metzger,
Arthur Matteson, Thelma Matteson Metzger, J. Walter Metzger
A faded photograph stored in a box in the barn caught my attention this morning as I was searching for something else. And now, instead of continuing my search, I've carried the photo inside to study details captured on that 1924 late summer day. We've dated the photo from the age of the little boy in the arms of his grandma. He's Arthur Metzger Sr., named for his grandfather standing next to him. Neither Arthur Jr. nor I can positively identify the stern folks seated in front but perhaps others from our family will.
And so on this August day well into the 21st Century, I'm thinking about the past and the future as I must follow the same path to the garden that those folks did and  pick beans for tomorrow's Farmers' Market.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Catching Up With Cukes!

I know we've been crazy busy but I was shocked when I logged in here today to discover how long it's been since I've written anything on my blog. I love reading other blogs and understand that it's a common story. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more are immediate and require less thought.
But, that being said, I made these refrigerator pickles this morning utilizing some of my burgeoning harvest of cucumbers and would like to share the recipe and process. It's a great way to make just a quart of pickles with no need to haul out the canner. They are ready after 24 hours but I have found that they really need at least a week to best develop the flavor.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles
(Makes 1 quart)
Fill a quart jar with whole pickling cucumbers or sliced cucumbers. Don't be afraid to pack it full.
Add 4 garlic cloves (peeled), 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds, a pinch of hot pepper flakes (more if you like heat), 1 Tb. coriander seeds and a generous handful of fresh dill sprigs. (Later in the season you can use the seed heads instead).
In a non-reactive saucepan combine 1/2 cup + 1 Tb. distilled white vinegar, 1 1/2 Tb. Kosher or pickling salt, 1 Tb. sugar. Heat until sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat and add 1 cup cold water. Pour over cucumbers in the jar. It should cover all the cukes.
Cover and place the jar in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to develop. The pickles should keep for at least a month - but in my experience, they won't last that long.

We're not taking our produce to the Potter County Farmers' Market thus far this summer. However, we do have some vegetables available now and more will be ready in coming weeks. If you have interest, call (274-8004) or email ( and we'll talk about how we can connect.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Season Planning

April 22, 2015 - Earth Day
Tomato plants in greenhouse and snow on the ground
Farming - even on the small scale that we're practicing - requires a great deal of the folks who call themselves farmers. Beginning long before the end of the growing season, you are determining which of your crops are successful and which are not. It's not a black and white process, for you need to take into consideration many factors - some of which you can control and so many more that you cannot.
Since we began farming, we've planned to participate in the Potter County Farmers' Market on a weekly basis. Our plantings were geared for that market and we chose varieties that would have appeal for potential customers.
Using the lessons learned from several years of direct marketing on the square in downtown Coudersport every Friday afternoon, we've decided to limit our participation in the market this year. Our attention is being directed to our orchard and to growing gourmet organic potatoes. Our inspection for Organic Certification through Pennsylvania Certified Organic will also happen this summer in addition to several large infrastructure improvements to our farm.

Last of the tomato seedlings for 2015
 But if you've become accustomed to the high quality organic vegetables that we have offered for sale at the Potter County Farmers' Market each week, consider making arrangements with us for pickup or delivery. As a matter of fact, I have two high tunnel beds of leafy head lettuce that's two to three weeks from first harvest. Lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard is coming along well too.

For 2015, I have staggered planting of tomato
seedlings to all for High Tunnerl harvest
from July - October
In addition, the greenhouse is filling up with plant starts - heirloom tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant to name a few. All of these delicious organic vegetables will be offered for sale to individual and wholesale customers. We're developing an email and text message system to let folks know when produce is available. If you're interested, please send an email to or send a text to 814-335-6561. In addition to the contact information, please give me your name as well. Let's begin a conversation!
My next post on this blog will include a timetable of when you can expect various crops. With some advance planning and notice, I can provide quantities of vegetables suitable for canning or freezing.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


The weather rollercoaster we've experienced in northcentral Pennsylvania this year is forecast to continue this week with temperatures in the 50s tomorrow followed by several days in the 20s.
The good news from my perspective is that some of the snow and ice has melted and the mud left in its place has frozen again.

A view from my front porch
As many of you know, Arthur had bilateral knee replacement surgery last month and he's been working hard at the business of recovering by doing his exercises and following the orders of his caregivers.

On Friday he made his way carefully to the cellar where the potatoes are stored and helped me figure out his system as we filled two orders, including a delivery to Costa's ShurSave Food Shop in Coudersport. Those of you who have missed the colorful assortment of organic potatoes can now find them again.

We're also supplying our organic potatoes to the Genesee Environmental Center for their Sunday breakfasts. In fact, we need to put together another shipment for later this week. The Crittenden also uses our potatoes regularly.

At the same time we're finishing up with the 2014 season, we've been working toward the future. This quiet time has allowed us to devote blocks of time to work on our Organic Systems Plan and put together plans for the 2015 growing season.

The seed orders have been placed and many have arrived. I'm excited about growing some new tomato varieties as well as some different peppers. I have yet to find a sweet bell pepper that fits our growing season though some of the old-fashioned Italian varieties have done well in the high tunnel and taste superb.

There are some new apple trees stored in the cellar waiting for the snow to melt in the orchard. I've spent some time in the high tunnel getting ready for the coming year. Temperatures in there have been measured at 85+ degrees on sunny afternoons while the snow is piled high against the sides. The overwintered spinach had a drink of water last week and has begun to come to life again.

I continue to be intrigued at four season growing, especially after attending a workshop offered by Clara Coleman at the PASA conference this year. Many of the seeds I ordered are on the list of cold-hardy crop varieties she recommended.

I couldn't resist starting a few plants (200+) even though the water in the greenhouse is frozen and the project had to be moved inside the house. I took this picture yesterday but today there are a few lettuce seedlings poking through the Organic Mechanics seed starting mixture! They'll have to go under the grow lights in the next couple of days.

If you're driving by here, you may notice this silhouette in the window watching over my seedlings. This particular statue was a gift from Kathryn Schaub Thompson, a neighbor and friend. It's known as a Kokopelli.

While there are many legends about Kokopelli and his origins in the desert southwest, I like the one that tells how he went from village to village to bring the change from winter to spring, melting the snow and bringing rain for a productive harvest. It is also said that he carried sacks of seeds and songs for his flute in the hunch on his back.

Kathryn (and husband Bill) moved from our neighborhood years ago and finished their days in Coudersport but maintained close ties to Crandall Hill. I don't know if Kathryn knew the fertility legends when she presented this to Arthur. She wanted him to have it based on Kokopelli's joyful song and dance but I think she'd smile to think we're still enjoying it.