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  • Ask Farmer Tim - Seeds

    We use heirloom varieties for tomatoes, probably over a dozen varieties. We use a couple heirloom varieties of lettuce, beans, some peppers and kale. We use a wide variety of heirloom seeds, but obviously since we have so many different varieties of tomatoes, they are my favorite. This is true even though the typical heirloom tomato can be ugly. Others, though, can be really beautiful in their shapes and color. Some of mine are two to three colors with green stripes or a yellow blush or a pink blush. The flavor is why I like them so much. There is just no comparison between a hybrid and an heirloom tomato. The heirlooms are always delicious even if by the typical standards of tomatoes, they are not always beautiful. Brandywine is my favorite, because it has the best flavor and it’s just huge. You can cover a whole sandwich in just one slice. That’s pretty awesome. Now my mom is using the heirlooms in her homemade tomato sauce. And that is something that every one of my siblings makes sure that they get some of. We’re all stocked up on that. My mom’s been making sauce since we were kids, but the heirlooms make it that much better. For lettuce, I really like the heirloom black-seeded simpson. It is the easiest one to grow and the color is phenomenal. It’s a really bright green lettuce that gets humongous. This is great for kids especially because it’s so easy to grow. Also, it grows so fast into such a big plant. So that makes it fun for kids. Another great heirloom variety is the new fire red; it’s a red leaf lettuce. It’s good for flavor. You get that color contrast which looks nice in a salad, but you also have higher amounts of nutrients in red leaf lettuce. When it comes to beans, I like the Valentino for a reason that gardeners would probably appreciate. This green bush bean produces smaller amounts of beans over a longer period of time. Since I am not using machinery to pick and I’m selling these retail, it is much better to have something that is easier to harvest and endures throughout the season. Many gardeners would rather go out and get some beans for their dinner over the course of the summer than have a plant that produces them all at once. We also use hybrids for some crops, because they have the advantage of being less prone to bacterial and fungal diseases. And heirlooms may not yield as much, but as with the beans, they will yield more over time. That is a great advantage of heirloom plants which are indeterminate. That means that they will continue to grow as long as you can keep them healthy. Determinate varieties only grow so tall and produce so much in contrast. The best part of heirlooms is that they are all tried and true. Any heirloom has been used over a long period of time. So my recommendations work for me and my purposes and tastes. But I would really encourage our readers to try any heirloom variety. There are so many reputable companies out there now. And trying new varieties is all part of the fun of gardening. Then you get to save the seeds and use them again next year. A Story in a Seed Everyone loves a good story, and in the history of heirloom seeds, there are many. There are stories of trials, tribulations, journeys, family heritage and overwhelming success harbored within them. Heirloom seeds are known as “living antiques” as they are passed down from one generation to the next. Seeds are typically saved due to their resistance to pests, their flavor complexity, unique color or shape characteristics and general hardiness. The most common definition of “heirloom” includes fruit, flower or vegetable varieties that were being grown before World War II. The use of chemical fertilizers was not common practice. Furthermore, this predates the upsurge of hybrids, especially in the vegetable market. So these early gardeners were at the mercy of weather and disease. Breeding resistant varieties was their main defense. The use of manure and mulch [read: “organic gardening”], was standard practice for home gardeners, who accepted risk and variation from weather and disease just as farmers had to. And the heirlooms were generally more flavorful than the hybrids, so sustaining them became its own movement. And they are sustainable by nature, because heirloom varieties are open-pollinated. This means that they carry most the characteristics of the original plant. This is not true with hybrids. In fact, the main downfall of hybrid seeds is that they do not “reproduce true” in the second generation. Otherwise, there is nothing “unnatural” about hybrids. GMOs, on the other hand, are created in laboratories and they are sometimes cross-bred outside of their kingdom. For some GMOs pesticide is inserted into every plant. With heirloom seeds, however, gardeners simply saved seed from their family gardens from year to year. Then they shared their seeds, or they traveled and their seeds traveled with them. Some of these varieties, or at least their stories, date back centuries. Take the Crapaudine Beet. This heirloom is commonly recognized as the oldest beet variety known, dating back 1,000 years. Although its look is prehistoric. The crapaudine is colored like the average beet, but long like a carrot and covered in bark-like skin. It can be difficult to grow, but it is said to be well worth the trouble as the taste is phenomenal. Then there’s the Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Bean. During their winter death march through the Smoky Mountains to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma, the Cherokee carried this hardy pole bean variety which produces shiny, jet black beans in their pockets. The struggle for survival is often part and parcel of the seeds that were saved. One of the most popular, probably because it’s a lot more uplifting, is the tale of the Mortgage Lifter Tomato heirloom variety. An ingenious radiator repairman in West Virginia had cross-pollinated several of the largest breeds of tomato available to him and created this tasty and exceeding large variety. Some tomatoes weighed up to 4 lbs. They became so popular that people would drive far distances to purchase them. He charged them a hefty fee for the tomatoes and a pretty penny (by the standards of the 1930s) for the seedlings. And within six years, MC “Radiator Charlie” Byles paid off his mortgage with the proceeds. The best story of all of the heirloom varieties however is probably not one that you will ever hear. The very best story may be in the one that heirlooms tell your palette.

  • Ask Farmer Pete - Dealing with Predators

    What kind of predators do you deal with on the farm? Mostly, we deal with a lot of avian predators that like to go after the chickens. There are a lot of different species of birds of prey, but we mostly have problems with barred owls, barn owls, and hawks. We also get canines around too, such as coyotes and foxes. In recent years, we’ve had a decline in foxes and a rise in coyotes. This is due to the fact that they reintroduced coyotes in to the area and they like to eat the foxes. But we still have problems with both of them. Raccoons and possums can reach the chicks when they’re young, but don’t really bother them when they’re older. We put the chicks out on pasture when they’re three weeks old and sometimes they’ll nest too close to the mesh part of their enclosure. Raccoons and possums can actually reach in and grab them before they realize what’s going on. There are a few other animals such as weasels and snakes that can be considered predators but we don’t have any real problems with them. I like snakes, they’re my friends. I’ve seen black rat snakes around here but they’re hopefully just killing a bunch of rats. They’re not a real problem. Which of your livestock are most at risk to predators? Definitely the chickens. They’re basically at risk from the time they’re born. Rats can kill up to 100 chicks a night if they get into the enclosure. They don’t eat them right away, they just drag them out and stuff them in their holes. Then I’ll get up in the morning and find a hole full of dead chicks. You can tell if something has happened because you’ll typically find a few injured chicks and as a whole, they’ll seem stressed out. Rats are ruthless, they’re pretty mean little guys. And then once the chickens are grown, they’re at risk to all the predators I mentioned before. The turkeys can be at risk too, but we keep them in the chicken tractors for the first eight weeks to help protect them from predators. Once they’re out on pasture, the birds of prey won’t really bother them because they’re too big and coyotes don’t mess with the electric fence. The cows are extremely tough animals. The only way they could be hurt by coyotes is if one gets to a newborn calf. But the calves are almost always in close range of the mother and she’ll start bawling in distress, which will bring the other cows running. Usually when I hear someone say a coyote killed one of their calves, it’s more likely that the calf died and then a coyote started eating it. Cows are very protective of their young and they would run off pretty much anything. Mountain lions may be a problem for the cows, but I haven’t seen any around here. The pigs are about the same as the cows. Pigs will squeal and scream if they’re in distress, which brings all the other pigs around to protect. They’ll start snorting a low, deep, short growl in chorus and they’re able to back off any problem by intimidating the threat . I’ve never had an issue with predators eating our pigs or cows. What methods do you use to help keep predators away? There’s not much you can do when it comes to birds of prey. It’s a war of attrition. You start with larger numbers and you have to expect losses. Birds of prey are protected so you can’t kill them. There’s no hunting season for owls or hawks. I am starting to use what I call Purple Martin Gourds. A Purple Martin is a sparrow-looking bird that migrate from South America in the springtime. They come in numbers and they’re looking for good housing in early spring. I took some gooseneck gourds this fall and hollowed them out once they were dry to make houses for the Purple Martins. I’m going to hang about 20 up in a selected location and hopefully they make them they’re homes. If you get a big enough colony of Purple Martins, they will fend off birds of prey. They’re great for flies too. The cows and pigs are in electric fencing and I do keep the egg layers in electric fencing too. Coyotes and foxes won’t go through the fence. They sense the pulse in the wire and they don’t mess with it. The meat chickens are completely closed in and pretty well protected. The only problem they have is with the raccoons and possums when they’re young. Sometimes a hawk or an owl will get into the chicken tractor and they can’t get back out. I’ll find them there in the morning with one dead chicken and the rest are all huddled in a corner. It’s just catch and release, so I let them go. You can hunt and trap coyotes legally during season with the proper license. I typically set traps because I don’t have time to sit around and wait to shoot them. Jillian and I will live trap rabbits and put them on a reserve. And we have friends and family that like to shoot the groundhogs. We used to smoke them out of their holes but we don’t have the time to do it that way right now. The groundhogs and rabbits only bother the crops though, not the animals. You never want to eliminate a species or population in your area, only do what you have to do. What other kinds of predators bother the crops? Besides the groundhogs and rabbits, it’s mostly deer. Any herbivore is going to be a threat to your crops. Electric fencing is all you can do. Tim takes preventative measures before he plants too. When he’s prepping the field, he puts up an electric fence, even if nothing is growing yet. That way it trains the deer to stay out of that area. Deer don’t have the best eyesight, but they can see something obstructing their walkway and if they get zapped once, they typically won’t come back. You’re basically training the animal not to go in the field. If you wait till the crop is already growing and then put the fence up, it’s too late. The animal will know there’s food there and it will hop your fence. Raccoons are always a threat for corn. Tim typically just counts his losses but he does trap some too. Not many people hunt raccoons anymore. If you find a problem with your livestock, how can you tell which predator is responsible? If a significant number of chickens are dead, it’s most likely that a fox or coyote got to them. They’ll just kill and play with them. It’s a way for them to practice their hunting skills. They may drag a couple off and eat them, but they typically just kill them and leave them there. What I’ve found with coyotes and foxes is that once they find a hunting ground, they tend to come back. They’ll kill one night, rest the next night, and then come back the night after that. It’s best to get out in front of the problem right away once you know they’ve been there. Birds of prey will usually only kill one chicken and sit in the coop and eat it. Hawks will pick the neck completely clean. So if there’s many dead, it’s probably some kind of canine but if there’s only one or two dead, it’s most likely a bird of prey. Have you ever had a significant loss of livestock? It’s funny that you ask that because I just had coyotes get in the other night and kill about 20 chickens. This rarely happens, but the cold and hunger drives the predators closer to the home. On average, I lose at least one chicken a day and there’s not much you can do. Having larger numbers will help in the survival rate. I’ve actually seen a hawk hunting my chickens. Once one chicken sees the hawk, they’ll all panic and gather in a group. Then the hawk swoops down and it’s like watching a bomb go off - the chickens will all scatter trying to get away from the hawk. The most significant loss I’ve had is probably chicks. I’ve lost 100-150 chicks in one night. That’s how I learned about the rats and the threat that they pose. You’ve just got to be prepared for it. Seal up the enclosure and kill the rats any way you can before you start putting chicks in. Rats find the feed pretty quickly and then they find the chicks. Do Pup and Holdem help protect the livestock? I hear my dogs going off in the middle of the night all the time. They hear things that I can’t hear. If they’re faced with it, they’re certainly going to protect the livestock. They’d run off pretty much any predator. I’ve seen them chase hawks, they seem to enjoy it. I’ve seen Holdem chase a coyote before too. They’re very protective, they understand that the livestock animals shouldn’t be eaten. When it comes to the foxes and coyotes, it becomes an issue of dominance. They’re genetically related so when foxes and coyotes come into our area, it’s a threat to their domain. If they caught one, they’d kill it. They’ll chase rabbits and possums and that’s some of the best food they can get. I’m sure if they could catch a deer, they’d probably kill that too. They understand that the livestock aren’t to be messed with unless I specifically tell them to do something. It’s mostly Pup now that Holdem is older, but he still gets the concept. There has been research that shows that farmers can also use falcons, llamas, and donkeys to protect various areas of the farm. What are your thoughts on that? I’ve definitely heard of using those animals. If you know a falconer, I’d say definitely bring them around. They might be few and far between though. I’ve heard that donkeys and llamas can act as guard animals. You can use guinea fowls as an alarm animal too and I think some people even hunt with ferrets. You can definitely incorporate multiple species into a flock for protection. You’re supposed to use multiple species anyway, so why not a donkey or a llama? We just don’t really need something like that. Our cows will fend off pretty much anything, they don’t need any extra protection. I’d be surprised if they ran away from a bear. All mamas turn into mama bears when it comes to their kids. In our case, our cow Little Ear will run through anything for her calf - a fence, you, a wall. Usually I check on the calf right after it’s born to make sure everything is ok but she started plowing straight towards me and didn’t stop. It’s a mother’s instinct to protect so it really wouldn’t be worth it to have a donkey. My presence is daily, and usually multiple times a day. It helps having a human presence all the time. And the dogs can hear and smell and cover a lot more ground than I can. This time of year, coyotes are getting hungry and they’re a little more comfortable getting closer to humans and closer to that threat. So donkeys and llamas could probably help, but we just don’t need them. But if you know a falconer, definitely invite him over. That’s something I’ve always wanted to get into and hopefully someday I will.

  • 28 Reasons to Support Your Local Farm Market

    It builds a sense of community. By stopping into small, local businesses, you can enjoy casual encounters with neighbors, friends, and people who support a similar cause. Public spaces such as a farmers market promotes a sense of community cohesiveness and positive relationships. It’s social networking in real life! You can reduce your negative impact on the environment. Local businesses make local purchases, therefore reducing transportation and carbon emissions. They are also generally set up on the fringes of concentrated civilization, encouraging others to step away from the pollution and congestion often found in towns or cities. The product is often much more nutritious and beneficial to you. Much of the food found in larger, chain corporations is highly processed and grown with the aid of pesticides, GMOs, and antibiotics or hormones. Some of it has even been gassed in transit to ensure it is at it’s peak ripeness when delivered. In contrast, most food found at farmers markets is minimally processed, making it cleaner and healthier. Along with that, the food found at farmers markets is simply fresher. At Freedom Farms, much of the produce we sell has been picked in the last 24 hours and it is a similar story for many local farms. You really can’t get fresher than that. You may not be able to get tomatoes from us in the middle of January, but what you will get from us is going to be fresh and delicious. Farmers markets and other local businesses don’t have the frenzied pace and hurried feel of larger chain stores. People support local to support their friends or neighbors, and part of supporting is stopping in to visit. We tend to want to run in and out of a store as fast as possible to make sure we get everything done in the day. Stopping into a local farmers market encourages you to slow down, enjoy where you are, and engage with the people around you. The more you support local, the more they can invest in their product. At Freedom Farms, the more of our meat and produce you purchase, the more we can afford to put into ensuring that we continue to bring you the best product possible. This is true of all local businesses. If you love a local store near you, the best thing you can do is to be a patron. The more you shop, the more we can bring you. Local farms and other businesses create local jobs and opportunities for members of the community. For example, a local farm is more likely to use a local printer, local accountant, or local attorney. Supporting local businesses gives them the chance to expand opportunities for other local entrepreneurs. Local farms are also more likely to employ people with deep ties to their surrounding community. When you buy meat or produce from your local farm, you know exactly where that food is coming from. Many times, you can even physically see the fields it was grown in from the farmers market. And if the store isn’t located at the farm, many farms offer tours or festivals to give their customers a chance to see the exact fields where their produce was grown or their meat grazed each day. In addition, you also know who grew your food. At Freedom Farms, our farmers are always willing to speak with customers about our methods and growing plans. You can shake the hand of the person who personally tended to the steak or broccoli you’re about to purchase. It’s satisfying to know that your food was grown with integrity. When you do meet your farmer and buy that steak, you know that you are also supporting the humane treatment of animals. Much of the meat you may purchase at a larger chain corporation was raised in cramped, unnatural, and uncomfortable conditions. It was raised with quantity in mind, and not necessarily quality. Local farms often produce meat that was raised without hormones or antibiotics and the farmers go to great lengths to ensure that their animals live happy, healthy, stress-free lives. It can be fun to support your local farm! Farmers markets specifically were created with a sense of community and togetherness in mind. Many stands will allow and even encourage you to sample their product before you purchase it. Many families make a day of it. You never know who you may meet. With fuel costs seemingly always on the rise, supporting your local farm can also be a way to support fuel conservation. Larger corporations tend to receive their product from hundreds or even thousands of miles away in refrigerated trucks. At Freedom Farms, the farthest our produce ever travels is to one of our traveling farmers markets, therefore significantly reducing the amount of fuel used. Local farms support the local economy. Studies show that every dollar spent at an independent business can return three times more money than a dollar spent at a chain, and that’s a benefit we can all appreciate. Your dollar spent at the local farmers market is guaranteed to stay in your community. You’ll love the knowledge available at your local farm. They often hire people with a deeper understanding of the product they’re selling. The employees will take more time getting to know you and making sure you know exactly what you’re purchasing. You’ve got questions, they’ve got answers. Supporting a local farm supports a sustainable system. Agriculture that uses pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, and other harmful products is not a sustainable practice. They may be getting excellent yield now, but all of that is hard on the land and on the ecosystem. At Freedom Farms, sustainability and natural practices are crucial to our mission. Make a trip to your local farm or farmers market a tradition. In generations past, the weekly Sunday trip to the market was something to look forward to and to treasure. Build that tradition with your kids and get them excited about food. Supporting local food preserves genetic diversity. Many heirloom varieties have gone by the wayside because they require a patience and gentle touch to harvest that large industry farms don’t have the time or interest in practicing. At Freedom Farms, all of our produce is harvested by hand. This gives Farmer Tim the opportunity to grow these unique and rare heirloom varieties that you may not get at a larger store. Love your local farm, love your community. Local farms have deep ties to the community and often have had those ties for many generations. In times of trouble, a community is a wonderful thing to have around you. When you support your local farm, you get to experience each season even more deeply. The food is always going to be produced seasonally and therefore, you get to cook with timely products. This process will help you reconnect with the natural cycles of weather and temperatures in your specific region of the country. You’re more in tune with the turning of the year. With those seasonal foods, you may also get meal ideas and cooking tips from your local farmers. At Freedom Farms especially, Miss Lisa is famous for sharing her tried and true recipes with our customers. Farmers are used to eating seasonally and never wasting food, so they often come up with the most delicious, as well as unique, ideas for dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. You may also be encouraged to try something new. Ever tried Swiss chard or a donut peach? You’ll have these opportunities and more at your local farm. You may just discover your new favorite fruit or vegetable! Farmers markets are a fun thing to do as a family. It’s family-oriented and family-friendly. Let your kids pick out something special and then encourage them to help you in preparing it. They won’t even realize they’re building lifelong lessons, knowledge, and memories. You’ll love the true and real flavors you encounter at your local farm. Our produce is fully ripened in the field and not in a truck on the way to the store. Farmer Tim picks fruits and vegetables to grow, based specifically on how tasty they are, not how much he will be able to harvest. In addition to the flavors, you’ll also love the taste. Locally grown foods simply taste better. Once you buy produce from your local farmers market, you may never be able to eat it from a grocery store again. When you support your local farm, you’re helping to keep your community unique. Where you shop or eat or hang out is all part of what makes your community a home. The one-of-a-kind local businesses that you support help ensure that the community is not overrun with chain stores and large corporations. That gives people the feeling of being someplace special, instead of what could be any town in the US. Because variety is the spice of life, after all. Did you know we offer purple asparagus and yellow carrots? You’ll find varieties at your local farm market that you may not find at a larger grocery store. Explore the diversity that our planet has to offer. Industrialized farming has become the norm in the United States, but your local farm is non-industrial and therefore, pays more attention to their product. We focus on quality, not quantity. We cultivate and care for our land, and we take great pride in what we do. Why not? You have nothing to lose by supporting and loving your local farm! We always appreciate your business and won’t turn down the opportunity to educate our customers!

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  • Goat Yoga | freedomfarmspa

    GOAT YOGA ON THE FARM Goat Yoga Goat Yoga Goat Yoga Goat Yoga 1/8 Spend a couple hours on the farm for a girls night out or date night! All dates include one hour of yoga with the goats and one hour of wine or beer, cheese, and goat cuddles! Check out our dates for the upcoming season. 2023 Dates Sunday, May 14th Wine - TBA Sunday, June 11th Wine- TBA Sunday, July 2nd Beer - North Country Brewery Sunday, August 13th Beer - North Country Brewery ​ All dates include one hour of yoga and one hour for samplings and goat cuddling. Please bring your own yoga mat and water. The event is from 5:30-7:30. Please arrive before 5:00 for check in. GET TICKETS NOW! PLEASE NOTE: All event tickets and deposits on private events are non-refundable. No exceptions.

  • Home | freedomfarmspa

    FREEDOM FARMS What's in Season? TODAY ON THE FARM Farm Fresh Meat Farmers Market MON-TUE 9:30-5:30 WED-SUN 9:30-6:30 Farm-to-Fork Kitchen WED - SUN 11-8 Corn Crib WED - THURS 11-10 FRI - SAT 11-11 SUN 11-9 Subscribe to our Farm-to-Fork newsletter • Don’t miss out! Email Join Thanks for subscribing!

  • Farm-to-Fork Kitchen | freedomfarmspa

    FREEDOM FARM-TO-FORK KITCHEN Freedom Farm-to-Fork Kitchen is a local kitchen using fresh ingredients in each order. The Farm-to-Fork Kitchen is located inside of Freedom Farms Farmers Market on 795 Pittsburgh Road, Butler, PA 16002. Guests can also find North Country Corn Crib at this location with indoor and outdoor seating. To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key. HOURS Wednesday-Sunday 11am-8pm PHONE 724-481-1444 ADDRESS 795 Pittsburgh Road Butler, PA 16002 Menu & catering Menu ORDER ONLINE NOW

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