Monday, July 17, 2017

German Johnson

I almost hesitated to post a picture of this giant tomato because it definitely will not find its way to the Farmers' Market.
This fine specimen is a German Johnson. It has pinkish skin and dimples! Also known as German Johnson Pink, this heirloom is said to have come with immigrants to Virginia and North Carolina. Aren't heirloom tomatoes intriguing!
Heirloom tomatoes were once simply tomatoes. Those tomatoes are the ones folks grew in their home gardens, perhaps saving seeds year to year. Or tomatoes were grown on local farms, finding their way to your dinner table only in late summer. These tomatoes, with their soft skins that bruise easily, don't ship well.
These days, tomatoes are bred for mechanical harvest, bred to withstand shipping and bred for a long shelf life. That's why you can find tomatoes in the supermarket year round. Of course, you sacrifice taste and texture.
So what determines an heirloom variety? It's generally accepted that "commercial" heirlooms are varieties at least 50 years old. There are also family heirlooms, heirlooms created by crossing open pollinated tomatoes, and mystery heirlooms, a produtc of natural cross pollination.
We're growing many heirloom varieties, along with some carefully selected hybrids and they will find their way to market soon.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Buzzing Of Bees

Every orchard needs bees. That's a fact that did not escape our Emporium friend Bob Stampee who showed up at our orchard gate a couple of years ago with a hive of honey bees.
Bob has been supporting our foray into beekeeping ever since, encouraging membership in the Beekeepers' Association, providing equipment, resources and his vast store of expertise.
The original beehive made it through the worst of the winter this year and on the unseasonably warm February days, bees were coming out to warm themselves in the sunshine. Fast forward to the fickle mont of March when a ferocious windstorm in March dislodged the top of their hive, something that wasn't noticed until some time had passed and alas, we lost the bees.
Upon hearing that sad news, Bob set out to find us more bees and last week, he showed up with this in the back of his van.

With Arthur and Laura's assistance, the bees were unloaded and established in their new home. We are looking forward to a long and happy relationship.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Winner Is ...

Silvery Fir Tree Tomato
finishing in second place

The first tomato of the season was harvested Saturday, July 1 and, neatly sliced, found its place on a BLT featuring home-baked whole wheat bread, bacon from the pig we purchased from neighbors at Thompson Farms, and home-grown lettuce. That superlative sandwich greeted me when I returned from a glorious vacation week at the Chautauqua Institution.
And for those of you who wonder which tomato won the coveted "first tomato of the season" honor .... the winner is .... Stupice! At least, that what the little stick planted next to the tomato told me. However, I'm thinking that perhaps there was a little mixup while planting seeds for the teletale question mark on the aforementioned stick was buried in the soil.  That big Silvery Fir Tree tomato that I was counting on was the second tomato of the year, harvested July 3.
Coming soon ... Gold Nugget cherry tomatoes.

Fuzzy look courtesy of early-morning
dewiness in the high tunnel

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Meanwhile In The High Tunnel

just a few of the tomato varieties grown in our high tunnel
in past years. Recognize any of them?
I estimate that our 2017 high tunnel tomato crop will be beginning to ripen within the next 7-10 days. It's always fun to see which 25+ varieties we grow will begin to take on that reddish cast first. I'm placing my bet on Silvery Fir Tree but Gold Nugget is closing in and the New Girl plants are heavy with fruit.

A past tomato harvest
 ... and what do you think of my latest hair ornament?

after a morning in the tomato patch ...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

First Farmers' Market Of Season

Laura and Rytz harvesting greens from the high tunnel
We're excited to have new energy and enthusiasm on this old farm in 2017. We hope you'll join us at the Potter County Farmers' Market tomorrow (Friday, May 26) to meet Rytz and Laura and have a first look at the certified organic vegetables they've been growing and tending these past months.
This week features a variety of salad greens including mixed lettuces, leafy red and green head lettuce, chard, turnips, radishes and more.
Stop by the market - located on the corner of N. East and E. Second Streets in downtown Coudersport. It's just past the construction zone so we have our fingers crossed that folks won't be dismayed by the new traffic patterns.
We're now accepting debit and credit cards for your purchases as well as cash and checks.

Tomatoes, Peppers And More

Potter County Farmers' Market opens tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. and we'll be bringing our USDA Certified Organic plant starts. Today is your last opportunity to assure that we can provide you the tomato and pepper varieties you're looking for. Alas, some varieties have already sold out.
Please send an email to or call 814-274-8004 and leave a message if we don't answer. We can bring your reserved plants tomorrow or we can make arrangements for pick up at the farm.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Big Deal For A Small Farm

We stopped briefly this morning at a nearby hardware store and stepping out of the car, the breeze brought me the unmistakeable distinctive odor of herbicide. Sure enough, just around the corner of the building a makeshift greenhouse had been set up, the ends open to the passing winds.

I couldn't help but think about my trip to my own greenhouse this morning, of how I had noted the familiar and comforting aroma of damp soil and growing things. Such a contrast to the smell that characterizes herbicide and pesticide.

It's not an easy task for a small farm such as ours to achieve certification through the USDA. But it's your assurance that we are accountable to the standards set for organic production. We're proud to be certified by Pennsylvania Certified Organic for the third year after a five-year transition period. Yes, it's a big deal!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mixed Greens Ready Now!

Choose from mixed greens, spicy mix or mesclun mix
Where else can you customize your salad greens?  Rytz and Laura have carefully tended several beds of salad fixings in the high tunnel since mid-March and they're ready now! They have mixed greens, spicy mix and mesclun mix and can pick and customize your bag just for you!
By buying USDA certified organic salad greens, you have the assurance that your greens were grown without herbicide, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Plus, when you open the bag, your nose won't detect that "off" odor that tells you that the greens have been treated to preserve their freshness. No need for that when you buy local!
Prices are $3 for a small (4 oz.) bag and $6 for a big (8 oz.) bag. Please call 814-274-8004 and leave a message if we don't answer. We'll return your call.  (Another way to order is via email at You can pick up your order here at the farm or local delivery can be arranged.
We can't wait to share this goodness with you.
Coming soon .... radishes, kale and arugula.
And don't forget the certified organic tomato and pepper plants.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Armed Conflict

Here's the conflict: Our early plantings in the high tunnel are being assaulted by these tiny creatures. 

Do you recognize them? I would bet that you've encountered ubiquitous pill bugs (also known as rolly-pollies, sow bugs, doodle bugs, wood lice) in your backyard.
Our raised beds have turned into combat zones! Under the cover of darkness, these voracious armies swarm the tender little seedlings and attack! They've enjoyed a cozy life in the protected environs of the high tunnel, hiding under the wood and in all the organic material. If they had just stuck to the decaying wood and the dark dampness under the ground cover, we could have co-existed.
But now, it's war!
What's in our organic arsenal?
The first line of defense was diatomaecus earth. Not too effective but it did slow them down somewhat.
Golden chard with food-grade
diatomaceous earth sprinkles

Yesterday afternoon we hollowed out reject potatoes and put them face-down in the earth around the plants.

See the potato trap in the upper right?
This morning we plucked the potatoes from the soil and sent the pill bugs to a watery grave! We'll see if these deterrants will allow all the seedlings a fighting start.
How do you combat pill bugs in your organic garden?

Even the tomatoes are fair game!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Let's Get Growing!

Haven't we had a lovely taste of early spring the past couple of days? Here on the farm, it's given us lots of opportunities to get growing.

Garlic - planted last fall, growing this spring!

Tomato plants - is one destined for your garden?

These beautiful broccoli plants have now transitioned
to permanent homes in the garden
Lettuce planned for the opening of
Potter County Farmers' Market
Things are a-changing here on Crandall Hill this spring. We're happy to announce that we have entered into a "Share-Farming" agreement with Rytz Bowman and Laura Mangan, who bring lots of enthusiasm and excitement to their new venture here on Metzger Heritage Farm.
Share farming or "crop share" is a flexible, collaborative approach to farming. Sometimes known as tenant farming, crop share is an agreement where the landowner and farmer work together to grow and harvest the crops.
They have already jumped in with both feet to plant and tend a big selection of vegetables to share with you. Many kinds of kale, summer turnips, radishes, Swiss chard, arugula, lettuce, spicy mesclun and more share some of the beds where the first tomatoes have been transplanted in the high tunnel.
We're looking at our production with a fresh set of eyes and new energy! Laura and Rytz have lots of great new ideas and even plans to put together a modified CSA arrangement to bring you a weekly share of certified organic produce. Watch for details.
And to celebrate the new arrangement, have a look at our new logo (Is my pre-farming life as a graphic designer showing?)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Always Warm In The Greenhouse!

I was awake early enough this morning to see the silvery moonlight brightening the skylights while in the east, the horizon took on muted hues of gold.. Today's predicted sunshine will melt the last vestiges of Friday's snow that linger in shaded spots under pine trees and against outbuildings.
The outdoor thermometer read 26 degrees but it's always warm in the greenhouse, thanks to the supplemental gas heat that lends it glow as I make my early morning visit. Once I turn on the lights, here's what I find.

I am quite pleased with the progress of the tomato plants and pepper plants I am growing for sale this spring.
I have selected many tomato varieties that promise to do well in our northern climate. Click here for descriptions.
55-60 Days
Gold Nugget Cherry
Sophie's Choice
60-65 Days
Silvery Fir Tree
Oregon Spring
New Girl
Organic 506
65-70 Days
Mountain Princess
Northern Ruby (Paste)
Roma (Paste)
75 - 85 Days
Amish Paste

Peppers are a bit of a challenge for home gardeners. I've located some new-to-me varieties to try this year with promised early harvest.
Sweet Peppers
King of the North
California Wonder
Charleston Belle
Carolina Wonder
I will also have extras of the varieties I plant in the high tunnel including Carmen (an Italian red pepper) and Chocolate (dark brown and gnarly).
Hot Peppers
Early Jalapeno
Ring Of Fire
Hungarian Wax
Click here for complete descriptions.

To ensure the best selection, it is best to pre-order your plants so I can put them aside before I offer plants to the public. They'll continue to have their tender, loving care until you're ready to plant them in your garden.
Please call 814-274-8004 or email for details.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

USDA Certified Organic Pepper Plants

Here is a listing of the USDA Certified Organic pepper plants we're offering for sale this year.
Call 814-274-8004 or email for information.

Now Available In Potter County!

All of the certified organic plants we’re offering for sale are grown the same way we grow seedlings  for our certified organic farm.

Years ago when we were just beginning our transition to organic, we set out to find organic plants. We thought it would be easy but discovered that there were no local sources. That first year we went all the way to Ithaca, N.Y. to buy plants that were “grown organically” but were not USDA certified organic.
Later we made the acquaintance of Bridget and Dennis Reynolds of Quest Farm in Almond, N.Y. , a USDA certified organic farm, and purchased our plant starts from them for several years. At the same time, we began to work on a system to begin to grow our own organic seedlings.

Beginning in March, the carefully selected USDA certified organic seeds are sown in seeding trays with Organic Mechanics seed starting mix. The seedlings are transitioned to their individual pots after the grow true leaves. We’ve chosen OMRI listed peat pots for this step and the soil is Vermont Compost Company’s Fort Vee.
The plants are tended daily and spend time in the sunshine behind the glass of our heated greenhouse as well as under grow lights.
Let us grow for you! Call 814-274-8004 or email us at for details.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

16 Varieties Of USDA Certified Organic Tomato Plants

It's April 1 and it's been cold, rainy and gloomy outside the past few days. However, inside the plants are warm and enjoying the time under the grow lights.  As I was working on this listing, big fluffy snowflakes were flying around outside my window.
It's always exciting to watch the seeds poke through the soil and open their leaves to the light.
We've expanded our offering of USDA certified organic tomato plants after launching plant sales in 2016. There are 16 varieties from which to choose.
Tomatoes with very short growing seasons - best suited for our climate

Enjoy these later in the growing season - canning and sauce varieties
The next posting will list the hot and sweet pepper varieties for 2017.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

USDA Certified Organic Statistics

We recently received and completed the survey for Certified Organic farms distributed by the US Department of Agriculture.
By "agriculture" standards, we're a pretty small producer but we are committed to the organic standards and the rigorous process for organic certification.
Here's information about the survey process.
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will begin conducting the 2016 Certified Organic Survey to gather up-to-date data on certified organic crops and livestock in the United States. This special survey effort is critical to help determine the economic impact of certified organic agriculture production across the nation. NASS is mailing the survey to all known certified organic farms. The form asks farmers to provide information on acreage, production, and sales for a variety of certified organic crop and livestock commodities"
As part of our certification, we must use seeds that are USDA Certified Organic. I recently came across a new-to-me seed company, Reimer Seeds, that offered a nice selection of what I thought to be organic seeds, based on the special section that touted them as such. As I clicked through their glitzy website to read more about the various tomato and pepper varieties, I also took note of the icon on each description that indicated they were Certified Organic. I ordered several intriguing varieties of peppers and tomatoes
It was only after I received my seeds did I notice that nowhere was the required USDA Organic insignia that appears prominently on all of my other seed packets, invoices or packing slips. I then went back to the online catalog and determined after clicking through several more windows, that their seeds were "grown organically by our suppliers." Well, that's not good enough.
And, to add insult to injury, there is no published telephone number for this company - all communication is online. So numerous attempts to contact the company to lodge my complaint, have gone into the "live chat" section with no response.
Meanwhile, I was successful in locating most of the varieties from my usual reputable seed dealers.
And the moral of my story is to look for the USDA organic seal if you want to be sure you're getting organic products.
And speaking of organic products, many of the USDA certified organic seeds planted recently haved poked through the USDA certified organic seed starting mix. I'll soon put together a list of varieties of certified organic tomato, pepper and other vegetable starts we'll be offering for sale this spring.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Snow And Starts

from seasons past
Seeds have arrived, seed starting medium, seeding flats and pots are waiting. And, right on schedule, the snow has settled in.
Despite the view out the windows, we are excited about the extensive selection of certified organic plant starts in the works here on Metzger Heritage Farm.
We plan to offer tomatoes and peppers for sale again this year. While we would appreciate having folks pre-order these plants, we will have extras to sell at the Potter County Farmers' Market beginning Memorial Day weekend.
We are also starting a large variety of other plants including onions, squashes, cucumbers, eggplants, herbs and zinnias. We would be happy to grow those for you too.
A detailed listing of the varieties will be posted on the blog this week. You may call 814-274-8004 (that's our home phone) or email with questions or to place your order.
The warm weather last month enticed me to start a small planting of lettuce in the high tunnel.

new lettuce planting with 'poor man's fertilizer'
And if you're wondering about the fertilizer referenced above, check out this blog post from 2012.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Baby 'Carrots'

Are these baby "carrots" typical of school cafeteria fare?
(the penny is photographed to show the diminutive size)
My granddaughter gets these little bags of carrots in her school cafeteria and brings them home in her book bag. She tells me that they don't taste very good. I didn't try them. I can report, however, that the  puppy loves them!

Contrast the baby "carrots" with these beauties grown organically on Metzger Heritage Farm.

How can local farmers get their wholesome produce into the hands and mouths of local school children?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Old Fashioned Food Preservation

When Arthur and I moved back to the farm where he spent his early childhood, we came upon an old piece of equipment, stored in the attic, that he identified as a food dehydrator..
It was a sheet metal box with shelves of hardware cloth, designed to sit upon the type of natural gas space heaters common in the mid-twentieth century. He remembers it being put to use by his great-grandmother who used it to dry apples. He also remembers fondly a dried apple cake and I need to find that recipe to share with you.
Thanks to our future daughter-in-law Jen, we have been introduced to newer ways to dehydrate fruits and vegetables.

Dehydrated peppers, tomatoes and calendula from my pantry
Our Nesco/American Harvest dehydrator features stackable plastic trays with a base-mounted fan. We have used it to dehydrate herbs, hot peppers and tomatoes to store for future use.

Calendula flowers prepared for drying

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Buy Local!

The Metzger Heritage Farm cart at Costa's Shursave Food Shop in Coudersport has been re-stocked with our luscious certified organic potatoes.  By shopping locally and putting a bag of Potter County organic potatoes in your cart, you are supporting the local economy.

Here's a recipe tailored to our gourmet potato assortment. It's adapted from Gourmet magazine. With organic potatoes, you have no fears about pesticide residue on the skins, so why not just scrub them and leave the skins on?

Red White and Blue Potato Salad

    • 1 cup chopped green onions, divided
    • 1/2 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
    • 1/4 cup sour cream
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 2 Tb. white wine vinegar
    • 3 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 2 teaspoons salt (divided)
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 2-lb. bag of Metzger Heritage Farm Certified Organic Gourmet Potato Assortment
    • 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
    • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 4 ounces)
    • Paprika
  1. Whisk 1/2 cup green onions with yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sugar, 1 tsp. salt and pepper in medium bowl. Cover and chill dressing while preparing potatoes.
  2. Place all potatoes in large saucepan. (You may want to chunk them in order to have them all be the same size so they cook evenly.) Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Add teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and boil until tender – time will vary depending on size and variety of potatoes. Drain and cool to room temperature.
  3. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place in large bowl. Add dressing, peas, and blue cheese; toss gently. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
  4. Sprinkle potato salad with paprika and remaining 1/2 cup green onions just before serving.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Summer Dreaming

Known in our neighborhood as "Summer Lilac"

This plant grows at the corner of the parking area in our front lawn. Now a tall, gangly shrub, it started as a small shoot from a plant that lives over the hill from us on Sunset Valley Farm. John Peet shared a cutting with us when I admired a similar plant that grows along Dingman Run Road where Dave and Betty Mottern live.
According to the University of Arkansas website, the name "summer lilac" was given to the early hybrids by French nurserymen, many of whom developed the French lilacs of that same period. During the 1920's the name "butterfly bush" became popular as a common name and seems to have replaced the first common name for the species.
While you're thinking of summer, don't forget that we will be offering our certified organic tomato and pepper plants for sale again in 2017. Details will follow but if you're interested in a particular variety, let us know ( and we'll try to find the certified organic seed to grow them for you.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Organic Production

Are we the only ones who scour the produce department of grocery stores to compare organic vegetables ... and their prices ... with our own?

And when you see a sign for a Farmer's Market, do you stop to take a look ... and have a visit with the growers?

Sale price is $1.98 per pound for USDA Certified Organic apples
These were grown in Washington, where 60% of the apples
in the USA are produced.

Price is $2.99 lb.
And some of us even capture the images on our handy phone cameras.

The price is $4 lb. for USDA Certified Organic Potatoes
From Trader Joe's
So how do we price the certified organic produce we grow on our farm? We have been relying more and more on calculations that help us figure out the actual costs of production. As a result of that work, we have come to the conclusion that there are vegetables we have grown for sale in the past that cannot be sold at a price that compensates us for the cost of production.  And there are others that can be profitable if we pay attention to the variables.

The USDA has the following advice for organic growers regarding pricing:

"Your pricing strategy speaks volumes about your business. You will quickly earn a reputation as fair and ethical if you have a good pricing strategy. The alternative is to be known as cheap, dishonest and desperate among consumers and competitors. Your pricing strategy should be consistent, accurate and reliable. Many people want farmers to have a good quality of life and are willing to pay a fair price for quality products, so price according to what you are spending and add a reasonable markup."
Buying directly from the farmer - either at the farm or at Farmers' Markets puts all profit into the hands of the farmer.

From a Farmers' Market in a nearby town

Friday, January 27, 2017

How About Them Apples?

. . . from the 2016 harvest of USDA Certified Organic Apples
It's nearly the end of January 2017 and we're still taking stock of the 2016 growing season ... our second year as a USDA Certified Organic operation.

After two late spring freezes destroyed much of our 2015 apple crop, we greeted 2016 with optimism.

It was exciting to bring a nice selection of apple varieties to the Farmers' Market in the early fall.

We delivered several varieties to our fellow organic farmers Dennis and Bridget to sell at Quest Farm Produce in Almond, N.Y. We also marketed apples at Costa's Shursave Food Shop in Coudersport.

Certified organic apples that had some defects were sold at a reduced price for folks to use for applesauce and other processed foods. (And our pantry is stocked with jars of certified organic applesauce too!)

Less-Than-Perfect apples make great pie, too!

In looking to the coming year, it's valuable to remind our customers that the average conventionally-grown apple has more pesticide residue on it than any other fruit or vegetable. According to the Environmental Working Group, pesticides showed up on 98 percent of the washed apple samples tested. Apples were found to have up to 48 different kinds of pesticides on them.
You will pay more for USDA certified apples but you will have the assurance that the apples you are eating are free of harmful pesticide residue.