Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Thanks

On this Thanksgiving Day, I share with you with well-chosen words of Wendell Berry and photos from gardens past.

"The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet. People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best.

"Such a memory involves itself with the food and is one of the pleasures of eating. The knowledge of the good health if the garden relieves and frees and comforts the eater. ...

"A significant part of the pleasure of eating is one's accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. The pleasure of eating, then, may be the best available standard of our health. And this pleasure, I think, is pretty fully available to the urban consumer who will make the necessary effort.

"I mentioned earlier the politics, esthetics, and ethics of food. But to speak of the pleasure of eating is to go beyond those categories. Eating with the fullest pleasure - pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance - is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world."

"In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend. ..."

(Wendell Berry from the 1989 essay "The Pleasures of Eating" as republished in Bringing it to the Table, 2009.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lessons From Apples

Beautiful rosy red certified organic applesauce
By all accounts, 2016 was a great apple year in Potter County! Here on Crandall Hill, we were excited to harvest apples of many varieties from our fledgling certified organic orchard.
Last year we weren't so fortunate as late-spring frosts prevented the setting of fruit.
It was fun to experiment with the different kinds of apples going into the big old stock pot that has served through many canning seasons. This batch featured many different kinds of apples, including some that lent their rosy hue to the finished product. We're going to enjoy some for dinner tonight!

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Joy Of Beets

Beets are a crop we love to grow here on Crandall Hill. Whether they're planted early in the spring or later in the summer, they thrive in our garden spot.

Detroit Dark Red along with a couple Chioggia in the mix
They were planted mid-summer this year and we've been harvesting for about a month and a half. Today they're all coming out the ground and it's your last chance to buy these certified organic jewels.
Many folks are into juicing and finding fresh beets - let alone certified organic beets - is a chore in this area. Beets are high in fiber and rich in vitamins A & C. Here's a local, convenient source so call today 814-274-8004 to reserve yours.
Beets are high in fiber and rich in vitamins A & C.
I have found they keep well for several months in the refrigerator when they're lightly wrapped and when there's a paper towel to absorb any extra moisure that accumulates.
Here's a recipe to get you started.
Onion Beet Salad
2 1/2 lbs. of whole fresh beets
5 Tb. olive oil
1 large red onion, chipped
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tb. honey
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. pepper
Scrub beets and place on a large square of aluminum foil. Drizzle with some of the olive oil and turn to coat. Fold foil over beets and seal tightly. Bake in 400-degree oven for about an hour or until tender. Allow beets to cool and the skins will slip off.
Cut beets into cubes and place in large bowl. Add the onion. In separate bowl whisk together the vineyard, honey, salt, basil pepper and rest of the olive oil. Pour over beet mixture and gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. Serve with a slotted spoon.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Autumn Reflections

It seems like an older brother can get one's attention like no one else! Oldest brother Steven is visiting from Alaska with his wife, Johanna, and he mentioned that it seems I don't update the blog often. And he's right!
So today, while looking for photos needed by another sister-in-law, I downloaded a bunch of recent photos taken a couple of weeks ago on two sunny mornings in October.

Morning sun hits the venerable
old Northern Spy apple trees

The nearly-full moon was
still in the western sky as the
sun rose in the east.
Johanna mentioned that the beauty of fall in northern Pennsylvania was especially dear to her after all her years in Alaska where autumn "falls like a curtain and it's winter." And our autumn has been particularly beautiful this year - even today on the next-to-the-last day of October when the most colorful of the leaves have fallen.

The view from my back porch on Oct. 18.
Old orchard in the foreground and
potato field at the top of the hill.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 Potato Harvest Complete

Arthur completed the 2016 potato harvest before the rains came on Thursday and they're all in storage. Now begins the sorting and packaging process.
We worked yesterday and this morning to sort, package and label an order for Todd Williams at Costa's Shursave Food Shop in Coudersport.
And that work really reminded me of my father. Some of my local readers will remember my father, Joe Heimel, who worked at the family's grocery store on Main Street in downtown Coudersport. Dad was the produce guy and he was a speed demon at sorting and preparing produce for display. And he was artistic to boot - hand-lettering signs and putting together attractive displays on benches out in the front of the store. His fruit baskets were works of art!
Our potatoes are on display at Costa's in a beautiful wooden rack, created by Arthur especially for this purpose. We've bagged our popular gourmet assortments as well as bags of individual varieties including red, purple and yellow potatoes.
Our USDA Certified Organic potatoes will also soon be available at Genesee Natural Foods.

Todd Williams from Costa's checking
out our new display rack.

Friday, September 30, 2016

USDA Organic Certification, Year Two

Wednesday morning we met with our certifier from Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) for our annual site visit. This visit is the culmination of a process that began in January as we submitted our organic systems plan for managing our farm.

Binders containing
pertinent information such
as invoices, product labels,
receipts & other data
along with the PCO-provided
accordion file filled with paperwork.
And yes, the zinnias in the
vase on the dining room table
are certified organic, too!
The purpose of the annual inspection is to verify the information submitted electronically to PCO and to take a look at fields, storage facilities, etc. This year our fellow PATH participant, Alvie Fourness of Wooleylot Farm, was along to audit the process in his quest to become a USDA Organic inspector. Between them, they were very thorough and I was delighted to be able to locate all the documentation they requested.

We are pleased to report that we met all the criteria for year two of USDA Organic Certification for this old family farm. 

When we set our on the path to USDA Certified Organic certification, we knew that it would add additional expense and lots more record keeping than we were used to in all of our years of "organic" farming. But, we also felt we owe our customers the assurance that our farming practices – from the sourcing of organic seeds (and seed potatoes) to the management of disease and pests, to soil health and fertilization – meet the standards of organic production.

By achieving this certification, our customers can be assured that all of our farming practices meet the National Organic Program standards. In the words of PCO, this process provides "evidence of the operation’s adherence to a prescribed system of agriculture and food production that involves the building and enhancing of the soil naturally, protection of the environment, humane treatment of animals and avoidance of toxic synthetic substances."

And now it's on to complete our 2016 harvest  of certified organic potatoes and apples along with the last of the vegetables in the high tunnel.

Though the Farmers' Market is now done for 2016, please call us (274-8004) or email metzgerfarm@gmail if you're interested in buying any of our offerings. Presently we have lots of hot peppers (mostly Maya Red and Ring of Fire but some Hungarian Hot Wax, JalapeƱo, Czech Black, Hot Portugal); Swiss Chard; limited green beans in 1# quantities; lots of beets along with potatoes and apples.
We'll have potatoes soon at Costa's Shursave in Coudersport and at Genesee Natural Foods.
Thank you all for your support during the Farmers' Market season. I know I speak for all of the participants when I tell you that we appreciate your encouragement and friendly faces every bit as much as your purchases!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

South From Alaska

We've been back from our Alaska adventure for a week and, after a morning spent picking, washing and sorting tomatoes and beans, watering in the high tunnel, making a batch of oven-roasted spaghetti sauce, I'm stealing a couple of minutes of time to update the blog before working on freezing a batch of sweet corn.
We spent nearly two weeks in the Matanuska Valley in Alaska, where son Joe, Jen and their dog Niles have been making their home this past year.

The view from Joe & Jen's front yard
This area of Alaska is know for producing giant vegetables and the borough of Palmer takes full advantage of this distinction with lots of tourist promotion. Palmer is also the site of the Alaska State Fair which opens next week for its annual run.

You can read more about it at this link.

Of course we visited a couple of Farmers' Markets while we were visiting in Alaska and I'll post some photos of the market in Palmer in a later post.

And speaking of Farmers' Markets, we were on hand at the Potter County Farmers' Market last week with a nice supply of tomatoes, potatoes and more. That is due in a large part to the help of Elaine and Kristen Russell, who so conscientiously tended the farm in our absence. Thank you wonderful friends!

This week we'll be setting up with the other Potter County Farmers' Market vendors on Friday afternoon. Because we have evening plans, our booth will be closing up shop by 3:30 p.m. so come early if you are looking for luscious heirloom tomatoes and more!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Things To Come

This is the time of year when it would seem things might slow down ... the plants have found their permanent homes in my garden or yours, the seeds have been planted, and one of the farmers has gone on a weeklong vacation.
But ...
Calendula just coming into blossom

My first try growing melons

Coming very soon ... Haricot Verts

Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomatoes

Gold Nugget cherry tomatoes
are destined to win the
race to ripeness in 2016!

Have already enjoyed the first cucumbers
in our salads

Heirloom zucchini hiding in foliage

Sweet corn is more than knee-high
on this third of July

Red Cabbage in the Sunday morning sunshine

Apples in the new orchard.
See the protective layer of kaolin clay
For those of you who have missed us at the Potter County Farmers' Market, we are thinking we'll have some produce to sell this week. However, the best way to ensure you'll have first choice is to give us a call (274-8004) to see what's available and we'll reserve it for you. Emailing also works –

Monday, June 13, 2016

Potato Planting Crew

Arthur Metzger, Wanda Metzger, Barbara Heimel
& Jerry Phillips
Spring is always a busy season for farmers, leaving no time to catch up on blogging. When you're racing the clock to get all the plantings in the right spaces to take advantage of our short growing season, spending time taking and editing photos and sitting down to write a post, seems impossible.

On the Saturday afternoon that the potatoes were all in the ground, I gathered the crew for a quick picture. Our nonagenarian mothers have, for many years, been our potato cutters and this year was no exception as they sat in the doorway of the shady shop chatting and preparing hundreds of pounds of certified organic potato seed for the planter. We couldn't do it without them!

This year our neighbor, Jerry Phillips, rode the potato planter as it deposited its seeds in the waiting warm soil.

Potato planting has been checked off the to-do list for 2016.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ready To Grow For You!

Certifed Organic Tomato Plants
Spending Their Last Few Days in High Tunnel
(Note the apple trees in blossom outdoors)
Friday's the day! The Potter County Farmers' Market opens for the season and Metzger Heritage Farm will be there with our beautiful tomato and pepper plants - all certified organic.

Being Certifed Organic (through PCO) ensures that our practices meet the exacting standards to bear the USDA Certifed Organic label. Starting with the seeds, through the various seed starting and potting mixes to the OMRI certified peat pots, NOTHING in the process includes herbicides, pesticides and the other chemicals that most commercial growers use.

We've selected the varieties that are especially suited to our growing conditions with shorter seasons and other adaptations. In addition to the varieties listed in our flyer, we also have extras of the heirloom and other varieties we grow on the trellis system in our high tunnel. If you're interested in those varieties, please either call or email for information.

While the pepper plants are still a bit small,
they are adding new growth daily
To reserve your plants, please call us at 814-274-8004 or email Reserving ahead of time ensures we'll have the ones you need in time for planting.
See you at the Farmers' Market on Friday, May 27 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Won't these look great in your garden spot?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Certified Organic Garden Plants For Sale

Certified Organic Tomato Plants
As advertised, Metzger Heritage Farm has USDA Certified Organic Tomato and Pepper Plants available for sale. Some varieties could be ready to go this week while others will benefit from another week or two in the protected greenhouse.

And, as of last evening (Tuesday, May 10), Verizon has repaired our telephone line. The answering machine is ready to take your calls if we're out in the greenhouse. Also, email is good at

These tomatoes are about four inches high this morning
They have been grown in organic seed starting mix and organic compost potting soil in individual peat pots. These plants are raised in a heated greenhouse space with supplemental lighting. They are healthy and sturdy. We have taken care to selected varieties with a short growing season to help ensure success in your home garden. We are offering discount for the purchase of six or more plants.

We planted the first of our tomatoes in the high tunnel on Wednesday. They have great root systems and have already begun their ascent up the twine.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Certified Organic Plants

As luck would have it, our telephone is having its annual hiatus just after we placed a couple of advertisements to promote the beautiful certified organic tomato and pepper plants we've been lovingly nurturing for the past several weeks. Telephone troubles along our rural route are common and often take several days to resolve even when Verizon isn't on strike.

If you've landed here to find out more about our tomato and pepper varieties, you'll find detailed descriptions here and here.

Email us at or try the cell phone (814) 335-6561 and leave a message there because it doesn't dependably work here at the farm. We'll do our best to get in touch to fill your order.

If you order 6 or more plants, we'll give you a 10% discount on your order.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Vicissitudes Of Farming

Our friend and fellow certified organic farmer Denny Reynolds of Quest Farm gently reminded me last week that farming is far from an exact science.
You might think you have put all the pieces together when one unexpected variable (like a cold snap, a dry spell, an invasion of insects or bad seed or --- you name it) can change the outcome.
So then, what explains the utter failure of my first crop of lettuce starts? I planned for more than 50 lettuce plants and what did I put in the ground? Only 7! I have no good way to explain why the seeds did not germinate. Did I allow the seeds to get too warm in the germination chamber? Did I water the soil too much? Did they get too cold?
No answers for my questions. The outcome is that I probably won't have much lettuce to sell when the Potter County Farmers' Market opens on May 27. The good news is that the second planting (ready to be transplanted today) grew beautifully so by the second or third week of the Market, I will have a continuing supply of the red and green leafy heads my customers appreciate.

An early planting of leaf lettuce
mix we've been enjoying since
late winter. Grown under the
lights in the greenhouse.

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.