Monday, December 30, 2013

Who Needs Potatoes?

A trip to our cellar these days is like navigating an obstacle course for there are many boxes of potatoes stored in the cool darkness. The harvest of potatoes was much easier this year due to a new (to us, anyway) potato digger and a new storage system. Arthur built a series of these beautiful storage crates and each variety is neatly sorted and stacked in the coolness of our cellar.
I can almost understand why folks might choose to purchase conventionally-grown potatoes if one is shopping based only on price. But for folks making efforts to make food choices beneficial to their health, there are many experts who have targeted potatoes as one of the dirtiest of the dirty dozen.
In 2006, the U.S.D.A. found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the potato has one of the the highest pesticide content of 43 fruits and vegetables tested.
But pesticides are only part of the picture in conventional potato production. Potatoes are treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting and after they're dug, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting.
Michael Pollan sums it all up in "Botany of Desire:
"The typical potato grower stands in the middle of a bright green circle of plants that have been doused with so much pesticide that their leaves wear a dull white chemical bloom and the soil they're rooted in is a lifeless gray powder."
How's your organic potato store this winter? We still have a nice supply of organic potatoes in many colors, tastes and textures. If you buy 20 lbs. or more, the price is now just 50 cents a pound. Call or send an email to We can also deliver.

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Here on the farm, the short days and the frozen ground mean we're pulling gleaming jars off the pantry shelves and hearing that sound that happens when the lid is popped. It's a special pleasure to catch the first scent of whatever is preserved inside - the slightly tart tomato-y scent, sweet and spicy applesauce, the tang of salsa, and that particular canned bean smell.
There are also the delights buried in the freezer – roasted tomato sauce, peppers, bird egg beans, corn, peas – oh so good!
The peppers that occupied the dehydrator in the early fall have yielded fiery hot pepper flakes that have delighted friends and family alike.
The cellar holds our stores of potatoes, onions, shallots and sweet potatoes.
A good hunting season and connections with area meat producers (thanks Thompson Farm and Miles Farm Produce) provide a freezer full of meat.
I'm counting my many blessings on this day after Christmas, feeling truly thankful for living in a little space on this planet that allows us to grow our own food - while at the same time providing an opportunity for others to share those bounties as well. Thank you to all our customers for supporting our efforts and for taking steps to eat locally-grown food.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Last Of The ...

As I mentioned in my last post, we had a killing freeze in our high tunnel on October 27 that marked the end of the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and basil for 2013.
Today, Arthur sliced a tomato for our lunchtime sandwiches and remarked "That's the last of the tomatoes. Soon the bags of peppers in the vegetable crisper will prompt a similar comment "That's the last of the peppers" and so it goes.
I'm posting a photo of the last tomato/pepper harvest, taken just a few days before the freeze. Weren't they beautiful?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Grandkids On The Farm

Racing down the hill from the apple orchard
We have been entertaining our grandchildren (and their parents) for the past two weeks as family gathered from far and wide to celebrate the 90th Halloween birthday of my mother. Our friends at the Genesee Environmental Center helped us put on a great celebration to mark the occasion.
Here are a couple of pictures of my grandkids enjoying farm life ... because I just can't resist!

Sweet potatoes were great fun to harvest

We cooked these beauties for supper
The growing season is officially over here on Crandall Hill. The tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and tender herbs succumbed when the temperatures dipped to the mid-teens on October 27. This is ten days later than last year but it's always a bittersweet time.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Potter County Potatoes

The proud history of potato growing in Potter County was presented to a new audience recently as longtime potato farmer Everett "Sonny" Blass was a guest at the Coudersport Rotary Club.
At the Potter County Farmers' Market, there are three growers marketing naturally grown or organic potatoes – Wooleylot Farm, Miles Farm Produce and us - Metzger Heritage Farm. While our acreage cannot match the bigger growers, I know we're all proud of the potatoes we offer to folks interested in vegetables grown without chemical herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.
And speaking of potatoes, we were excited when two customers stopped by the farm to buy potatoes. We enjoyed lively discussions about GMOs, organic vs. conventional methods and the rhythm of weekly Farmers' Market trips.
Here's a photo of our new potato digger. We've experimented with two other diggers during our venture and this is, by far, the most efficient.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chef At The Market!

I've always had a sense of how the rhythm of life on a farm rises to a fever pitch as the days begin to shorten. Perhaps it's because my extended family used to gather annually for a family reunion in nearby Allegany County (N.Y.) on a great-uncle's dairy farm with farmhands were busy in the fields and milking cows even as we enjoyed potato salad, hot dogs and hamburgers. Or maybe I recollect how my childhood friends who lived on farms were relieved to get back to school each fall, wearing their deep suntans as badges of honor.

These days, we're gaining a new appreciation of the busy-ness of farm life in August. In the midst of everyone's busiest season, the growers who comprise the Potter County Farmers' Market added another task to their to-do lists - orchestrating an outdoor cooking demonstration.
Chef At The Market came together with barrages of e-mails, telephone calls and hurried exchanges of information at the weekly Farmers' Market. This event was the brainchild of Alvie Fourness of Wooleylot Farm and his careful leadership is to be applauded!
As we all tended our tables at the Farmers' Market on Friday, our guests, Chef Butch Davis and Chef Colin Jack, demonstrated ways to use locally-grown vegetables and fruits and locally-made baked goods to concoct mock crab cakes (with zucchini) garnished with beet slaw and corn relish, brushetta (using some of our colorful heirloom tomatoes) and a delicious fruit compote served over pound cake for dessert.
Growing a local food movement is exciting to all of us who are setting up our canopies and tables on a grassy lot in downtown Coudersport each Friday afternoon. I delight in introducing a customer to a carefully-nurtured tomato that is yellow with red stripes or dark brown. And then we'll talk about the potatoes that are red and purple and blue and yellow inside!
It's very satisfying to see folks walk through the Market, making their selections at each canopy and I can only imagine the ways they'll enjoy local foods.
One of the stated goals of the Potter County Farmers' Market is to: 
Cultivate a community in which the values of eating locally are celebrated and promoted.
With our first "Chef At The Market" event, we've taken a giant step forward in realizing this goal for it truly was a celebration Friday afternoon.
Next week it will be business as usual at our Potter County Farmers' Market - Friday afternoon beginning at 1:00 o'clock. If you haven't come before, this is a perfect time to see what it's all about!
A riot of tomatoes - all colors, shapes and sizes!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Heirloom Tomatoes

There has been lots of talk about "heirloom" tomatoes in the past few years. There are thousands of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, each marked by different tastes, colors, traits and origins. This makes them different from the tomatoes in the supermarket – hybrids grown with genetic modifications for optimal size, color, and durability. These modifications make the tomatoes look pretty and last for weeks while they're transported to far flung supermarkets. However, they have very little taste!
Here's a picture of some of the heirloom tomatoes from our farm. Among these you'll find Cherokee Purple (a favorite in our family), Stupice, Brandywine, Black Krim, Amish Paste, Black Trifele, Silvery Fir Tree, Moonglow and more. I also grew some specialty tomatoes this year including Indigo Rose, Green Zebra, Austin's Red Pear, Black Cherry and Sweetie Cherry.
Are you wondering how they taste? Come to the Potter County Farmers' Market this week (Friday, August 30) to watch two guest chefs prepare delectable food with locally-sourced and locally-grown products. There will be free samples to enjoy.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Growing For Market

Since its opening day on a cold Friday in late May, our Potter County Farmers' Market continues to attract more customers and more vendors.
Now that we're deep into July, more farm-fresh produce is available, transitioning from the cool-loving crops like lettuce, spinach and scallions to the heat-loving crops like peppers, tomatoes, berries and soon-to-ripen sweet corn.
On our farm, we put a lot of emphasis on tomatoes this year after having been seduced by the descriptions and photos in the seed catalogs. We've tried many new varieties this year including Speckled Roman, Green Zebra and Moonglow. I've found it difficult to come away from the high tunnel with any of the Sweetie Cherries in my basket - they all go right in my mouth!

Monday, July 8, 2013


When we moved to Potter County back in the spring of 1976, we planted a garden here under the watchful eyes of Arthur's grandfather and grandmother. Grandma Metzger told me her goal was to have peas with new potatoes for the Fourth of July and that meant getting the peas in the ground by Good Friday and the potatoes soon after.
Pictured above are the peas we enjoyed for supper on July 3. Now I have a confession ... they were from the "volunteer" peas that grew where peas were allowed to dry on the vine last summer to be saved for seed. Yes, we missed a few!
This week we begin harvest of the peas planted just a little later than Good Friday. We hope to have them for sale at the Farmers' Market Friday afternoon.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Taking Stock

Summer has finally arrived in Potter County. It's been downright hot the last couple of days. The cool of the morning, just after sunrise, is the perfect time to work in the fields, gardens and high tunnel.
Come, take a walk out to the high tunnel with me before it gets too hot . . .
The very first ripening tomato on a Stupice bush.

These little gems are known as "Sweetie Cherry."

Look closely to see "Ring Of Fire" peppers. They turn red when ripe.

The first green bell pepper – a "King of the North."

Lettuce destined for the Farmers' Market this Friday.
On the way to the high tunnel, you'll pass summer squash plants,  Swiss chard just peeking through the soil, and a planting of soybeans, to be harvested as edamame in late summer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

The sun's shining today and gentle breezes blow. We've been outside all day – weeding, putting up fence, laying down weed barrier, pruning tomatoes, planting seeds, even mowing the lawn - whew! Tomorrow it's going to rain again so the window of opportunity is small for work like this.
Here are a few pictures of tomatoes in the high tunnel, most of which have been in their raised beds since mid-May. We started a large variety of all-heirloom seed this year and have well over 150 tomato plants in the high tunnel and even more planted outside.
"Sweetie Cherry" Tomatoes

Tomato plants growing on their trellis.
Lettuce for the Farmers' Market ... and for us!
... and in the yard a glorious Summer Lilac has burst into bloom!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Week Two At Market

We had the first of the 2013 new potatoes available for sale at the Farmers' Market on Friday afternoon. These potatoes were grown in the high tunnel and had been planted on a snow March day. We also had a few carrots too. As much as I grumble about it, I really appreciate the benefits of growing things in there!
And looking at this photo, here's an appropriate quotation from one of my favorite bloggers ... "This is National Dirty Fingernail Week. Wear them proudly, and give up the notion that you’ll remember or be able to wear gloves transplanting small sets or pulling tiny weeds. Black is beautiful. "

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Farmers' Market Opens Tomorrow

It was the first warm March Sunday when we ventured into the high tunnel to plant a few crops for the opening weeks of the Farmers' Market. I remember that we trudged through snow to get out to the high tunnel and were greeted with welcomed warmth inside those plastic-covered hoops.
On that day we sowed an assortment of potatoes, three varieties of carrots, three varieties of beets, Swiss chard, leaf lettuce and radishes.
In the greenhouse, I had started seedings of leafy head lettuce, spinach, parsley, cilantro and two kinds of basil. Those went into the high tunnel beginning in mid April.
We've been tending these plantings – covering and uncovering, opening and closing the high tunnel, watering, weeding, thinning and picking off bugs.
Tomorrow we'll be among the vendors at the opening day of the Potter County Farmers' Market.
Stop by in downtown Coudersport from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. to pick up some lettuce, beet greens, Swiss chard, parsley, sage, cilantro and rhubarb.
Coming very soon ... carrots, beets, basil, radishes and new baby potatoes. Coming later ... peas, peppers (hot and sweet), lots of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, beans, squash, eggplant... the list goes on and on.
Parsley • Sage • Cilantro
Leafy head lettuce – green and red varieties
Potatoes growing in the high tunnel - already blossoming!
I've had little time to blog recently but things are progressing here on the farm as we continue in high gear to get plants and seeds in the ground.
Here are a few photos of things to come ....
Peas planted and trellised by Joe and Jen
Bird Egg Beans soaked overnight and ready to go in the ground. We save seed from year to year.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Rouge De Grenoblouse

This is Rouge  De Grenoblouse. From my years of high school French (thanks to Randall Halter), I know rouge is red but Grenoblouse? Perhaps it's a location?
I planted a half flat of this beautiful lettuce in early March in the greenhouse and then transplanted it into the high tunnel in early April in anticipation of having it ready for the opening of the Farmers' Market in late May. Well, it's ready – and delicious – now!
From the Seeds Of Change catalog: This full-flavored heirloom lettuce has beautiful, thick, puckered green leaves with purplish-red edges that make sweet and succulent salads. Tolerant to both summer heat and heavy fall frosts, it is an outstanding variety for the home garden from spring to fall.
If you're interested in buying some now, call or send me a comment, and I'll pick some for you. We also have a green leafy head lettuce that's ready but it's not quite as photogenic as this beauty.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Morning Has Broken

The morning chores take a lot longer these days. The plant starts in the greenhouse (350+ tomatoes and peppers as yet uncounted along with assorted other vegetables and a lone apple tree) need to be watered, moved from light source to light source and looked after. The high tunnel needs attention too -- should we unzip the ends or raise them? How cold did it get in there last night? Should we uncover the raised beds? The chickens need to be watered and let out.
But there's something about working through the morning chores that pleases me. It's a combination of the glorious light, the rejuvenation of my body from a night's sleep, the smell of the damp earth, the coolness of the air (too cold, sometimes!) and the thought that the whole day is spread out before me.
Sometimes you just need to sing "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning" with Grandpa! (May 2012)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Growing Season

Growing season is well underway on Crandall Hill. In the high tunnel, heads of lettuce, rows of spinach and radishes are growing in preparation for the opening of the Farmers' Market on Friday, May 24. I'm also hoping to have some Swiss chard too.
Swiss Chard overwintered in the high tunnel
Lettuce planted in preparation for May 24 Farmers' Market opening
The rhubarb patch is looking promising too but the roller-coaster weather makes it difficult! The carrots, beets and potatoes planted in late March in the high tunnel are starting to take off though I don't think they'll be ready until mid-June.
In the heated greenhouse space, I have completed the re-potting of the tomatoes and some of the peppers. We have selected a number of new varieties of heirloom tomatoes for the market this summer. Of course, we won't see ripe tomatoes until mid-summer!
Tomatoes in greenhouse on April 11
Tomatoes in greenhouse one week later – April 18
I also have started a beautiful crop of basil, parsley and cilantro. There are eggplants, cabbages and broccoli starts coming along too.
It's a busy time on the farm but the Potter County Farmers' Market growers are taking time out to work together for enhancements to our local market. We're meeting again Sunday. We all appreciate your support as we work to provide wholesome, nutritious, high quality local produce.

Friday, March 29, 2013

More Light For The Greenhouse

Last year's plant starts were terrific but became quite "leggy" as we simply cannot depend on enough natural sunlight – even in the greenhouse. We have had a few "official" grow lights and moved the plants in and out of that artificial light but it still wasn't enough.
I did some research on artificial light and came up with a plan to add light to our growing carts with less expense than an investment in "official" grow lights and stands.
Arthur attaching the lights to the plant carts
We used 48" shop lights with T8 or T12 fluorescent tubes and selected (after much deliberating) natural sunlight tubes. The lights are on chains so they can be easily moved up and down to accommodate the growing plants.
Seedlings waiting to get under the new lights
These carts have been extremely helpful for the greenhouse. They were created from a couple of old broken library carts that had been put in the dumpster at the school where Arthur taught. He modified them to accommodate cell flats and plant trays. We've even used the carts to display potatoes in baskets at the Potter County Farmers' Market!
Grow Lights on Greenhouse Carts
The plants you see in the window behind the cart are headed to the high tunnel this afternoon. It's the first planting of lettuce and spinach.
Speaking of the high tunnel, here's a photo of the carrot/beet/potato planting with its extra layer of protection. I hope to see some of those little seedlings peeking up through the earth before the end of the weekend! The seed-grown shallots deemed too small to harvest last fall are also pictured here. It will be interesting to see what happens with them this spring.
At the other end of the high tunnel, the wintered-over Swiss chard and lettuce have awakened from  winter dormancy and are growing again along with some radishes recently planted.
And lest all this conversation about green things leads you to believe it's really spring here in northcentral Pennsylvania, I leave you with this photo to show that as we make out way back and forth to the greenhouse and high tunnel, we do so in barn boots, crunching along in the snow pack!

This post linked to the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Monsanto Protection Act?

It looks like Monsanto has scored another victory in the U.S. Congress as a last-minute addition to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill for 2013 includes a provision protecting genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks.
Opposing the inclusion of the rider was Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.), who is quoted as saying the deal worked out with Monsanto was simply bad policy. “These provisions are giveaways, pure and simple, and will be a boon worth millions of dollars to a handful of the biggest corporations in this country."
Read more about it here:
Here's a place to find more information about GMO.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring In The Greenhouse

Two Kinds Of Basil

Lettuce Destined For Farmers' Market

Spinach For Farmers' Market

Yesterday as I watched the ever-present snow flurries and observed the thermometer at 21 degrees, a bit of discouragement crept in. Instead of focusing on the pepper seeds languishing in their cells, or the seeds planted in the high tunnel waiting for light and warmth to germinate, I turned my attention to the green-ness in the greenhouse.
What do you think? Some of these plantings I had hoped to replant in the high tunnel this week. Unfortunately, they'll have to wait until I can be confident that temperatures will be a bit warmer than forecast for the next 10 days.
We have lots of other seeds in their cells in the greenhouse – tomatoes, peppers, more lettuce, herbs – all at various stages of development. When I step inside the greenhouse with its own earthy smell, I can almost believe it's spring – if I don't look outside at the snow drifts.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Eating O' The Green

We have been growing soybeans in our gardens for several years and saving seed to plant for the next year's crop. We sowed the seeds in late May, watching as they flowered and grew pods - and striving to keep the hungry deer away! When the pods were turning yellow, beginning to dry and the beans inside were plump, we picked and shelled them and allowed the beans to dry with the intention of using them as a protein source (dried beans).
Somewhere along the line we learned of edamame. Edamame are green soybeans, harvested just as the pods begin to fill. There are many ways to serve them (some of which I've written about before) and they can be shelled, blanched and frozen for later use.
Some of those frozen shelled edamame from the summer of 2012 have made their way into this delicious concoction. Isn't it a pretty green for St. Patrick's Day?
It's on its way to tonight's meeting of the Potter County Farmers' Market growers/producers.
Though I've published a similar recipe before, here it is in the latest version. (If you didn't preserve edamame, you can purchase them in the freezer section at Genesee Natural Foods or in larger grocery stores – I haven't seen them in the Coudersport grocery stores.)
Edamame Hummus
2 cups frozen shelled edamame (thawed and lightly steamed, then cooled to room temperature)
1/4 cup sesame paste (tahini)
Juice of one large lemon
3 cloves of garlic
Put these ingredients in a food processor, pulse a couple of times to lightly blend and then add a stream of olive oil while processing to desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. Some may enjoy the kick of adding a little cayenne pepper or hot sauce. Serve with pita bread, pita crisps, whole grain tortilla chips or crackers.
We'll be growing soybeans (edamame) again this year from our own saved seed so look for them at the Potter County Farmers' Market probably in August.

This post linked to FarmGirl Friday Blog Fest:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Home For Chickens

The "new chickens" (not to be confused with the old lady hens and the teenage hens) have moved from their corner of the old chicken coop into this new coop, lovingly constructed by Arthur from "found materials." I remember when those brown doors that provide access to the nesting boxes (and the cute little eggs) were closet doors in the old downstairs bedroom in our house. The siding came from a garage that stood next to my parents' home. Roofing shingles were left over from our house project and the windows were samples that were scavenged from a building supply store.
Much of the snow has melted since these pictures were taken last week. I love hearing the chickens clucking back and forth and the rooster's proud crowing as I make my way down to tend the greenhouse plants.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Reading Material

I've been sneaking some time with Barbara Kingsolver lately, seeking a change from the seed catalogs, gardening books and record-keeping.
Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" is subtitled "A Year Of Food Life" and was written with her husband, Steven Hopp and daughter Camille Kingsolver. It's a chronicle of a family's food journey, packed full of information, recipes and love.
"This is not a how-to book aimed at getting you cranking out your own food. We ourselves live in a region where every other house has a garden out back, but to many urban people the idea of growing your food must seem as plausible as writing and conducting your own symphonies for your personal listening pleasure. If that is your case, think of the agricultural parts of the story as a music appreciation course for food – acquainting yourself with the composers and conductors can improve the quality of your experience. Knowing the secret natural history of potatoes, melons or asparagus gives you a leg up on detecting whether those in your market are wholesome kids from a nearby farm or vagrants who idled away their precious youth in a boxcar. Knowing how foods grow is to know how and when to look for them; such expertise is useful for certain kinds of people, namely the ones who eat, no matter where they live or grocery shop."*
It's kind of nice for me to think of myself as a farmer composer and conductor as I continue scooping planting mixture into cells, adding seeds and water as a well-orchestrated prelude to the symphony of green! You have the opportunity to experience the first movement which begins with fanfare at the Potter County Farmers' Market on May 24.

*ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE. Copyright 2007 by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver. All rights reserved. (If you haven't read this book, you can find it at the Coudersport Public Library.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Local Dirt!

I've been spending lots of time in front of the computer in the past weeks with welcomed breaks to tend the greenhouse plant starts and play in the dirt to plant more seeds.
AgSquared is a web-based record-keeping system for small farms. I learned about it at the PASA Conference two years ago and have been following its progress since it was launched that year in beta test.
This year, I've renewed my efforts to get a better handle on the record-keeping for our business and been working at inputting the inventory – everything related to the farm business – and developing a complete crop plan for 2013. AgSquared promises lots of flexibility and the developers are continuing to add features to address issues identified by the farmer/users.
The other project that's putting me in front of the computer screen is Local Dirt.
Local Dirt is a website to help connect folks with local food sources. This site gives readers the ability to search for specific products and to pre-order or reserve the products. Of course, here in the northeast, most of the local growers (us included) have limited selections this time of the year. But as we move into the growing season, we'll all be updating regularly to show our customers exactly what is available. Here's the link to our page on the Local Dirt website:
There's also a site for the Potter County Farmers' Market: