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  • Weddings at Freedom Farms

    Are you recently engaged? Are you looking for the perfect farm venue? Do you want farm fresh catering? Freedom Farms Wedding Venue in Western Pennsylvania has you covered! From our rustic barn, rolling fields and farm to fork catering, let us guide you along the way. Just 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh, tucked away from all the hustle and bustle, Freedom Farms is the one-stop venue that can accommodate all of your wedding services: Ceremony Reception Scenery for gorgeous photos in between Ceremony Whether you dream of a simplistic wedding or an extravagant wedding, our venue can meet your expectations. We have not 1, but 2 ceremony locations for you to choose from: The Dock Say your vows in a hand-built gazebo with a pond and trees serving as the backdrop. The Dock option seats up to 350 people. Open Air Barn Say your “I dos” in a covered space built out of an 1830 reclaimed barn that is surrounded by wildflower fields.The Open Air Barn option seats up to 200 people. Reception From catering to entertainment, we’ve thought of all the details to make your reception memorable: Catering If you love farm-to-fork eating, then you’re going to love our catering! Each menu option is a true farm-to-fork selection. We raise, butcher, and create your choice of meat and grow and create your choice of vegetable. Entertainment Along with easily fitting 350 people into our wedding reception center, you can also enjoy a spacious dance floor. Scenery for Photography While your guests enjoy each other’s company on our cocktail lawn with hand-hewn tables, you and your wedding party can take advantage of the various breathtaking photo backdrops that our farm offers, all while staying in one location and never moving your vehicles. Some of our photo opportunities include: Rustic barn Rolling hills Wildflower fields Newly crafted veranda framed with local wild bittersweet vines Sunsets Once you decide to have your wedding at Freedom Farms in Western Pennsylvania, these are the benefits you’ll reap: 48 hour private access to our grounds Vendor selection Package selection 48 Hour Private Access When Freedom Farms gets the opportunity to host your wedding, you get 48 hour private access to our grounds, starting at 10 am on Friday morning through 10 am Sunday morning. You’ll be able to take your time preparing for your once-in-a-lifetime event. You’ll have access to: The ceremony location of your choice The reception area The newly constructed bridal suite Spacious parking area Partnered Vendors We have partnerships with the following vendors who are familiar with our grounds and will make the process as easy and stress-free as possible: Flowers: Maggie’s Bundles and Berries DJ/MC: Loyalty Entertainment Nicole Cookies: Pastries A La Carte (When you schedule a wedding at Freedom Farms, the only vendor you are required to use is Freedom Farms catering. You are not required to select the above mentioned vendors.) Packages You spend months, if not years, preparing for your wedding day. You don’t just want your guests to come to a wedding; you want them to have an experience that they’ll talk about for years to come. We would love the opportunity to be a part of making your wedding dreams come true. We offer different wedding packages to work with your budget. Would you like to see Freedom Farms in Western Pennsylvania in person? Email us today to schedule your tour at Testimonials Don’t believe us? Check out these rave reviews from brides who got married at Freedom Farms in Western PA. “For me, weddings are all about celebrating your new beginnings in life with the people you love most. I am so grateful for the staff at Freedom Farms for providing that experience for us. I was able to customize what I wanted & provide a fun experience for all of my guests without breaking the bank, but also not compromising for a cookie cutter wedding. The food was phenomenal & the atmosphere both lively & comforting - it truly felt like home! I am so happy I can always go back to Freedom Farms for other wonderful events, to remind myself that a little piece of my wedding day is always alive & well. I cannot recommend Freedom Farms enough!” -Maggie Kelly Brown, Bride “Freedom Farms was the perfect venue for our rustic September wedding. Our cocktail hour included tractor rides through the sunflower fields, cornhole and games outside. The best part of Freedom Farms is the amazing staff that covered every area of our wedding from flowers, catering, desserts, coordination and great recommendations for DJs and housing accommodations for our guests. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience for our special day" - Mattie Gold, Bride “Freedom Farms is beautiful from top to bottom. The fields of crops, the barns, the lake, and mostly - the people. Amy was open to any and all ideas (within reason of course) to make our fairytale wedding and walked alongside us to be sure those dreams came true. The day of the wedding was no exception. Amy and the staff were accessible to us all day, at any moment we needed them. Catering was right from the farm! Literally a farm to table meal. And WOW, it was amazing. Planning a wedding is stressful enough, but we never anticipated throwing in a pandemic as a curveball. Freedom Farms was our safe haven in a scary and uncertain world. We have no regrets about this decision and cannot wait to return to their regular events on the farm and admire the versatile space we chose to say “I do!” - Julia Moore, Bride “Our Freedom Farms wedding was perfect. Everyone was so kind and helpful. I can’t say enough how wonderful the space and everyone was. We wouldn’t change a thing we did and we’d do it again in a heartbeat!” - Katy Schoff, Bride “We had our wedding reception at Freedom Farms and it was the best day of our lives. The venue is so beautiful and the staff is wonderful. Amy, the event coordinator, was up to help in any way she could and is just a really sweet girl. They are willing to work with you and try to make your visions happen. I got so many compliments that it was the funnest and most beautiful wedding people have gone to. The bartenders that came with the package I chose had great personalities and did a wonderful job. The only vendor they require you to use is their catering, to me that was one last thing I had to worry about figuring out. The food was to die for and I wouldn’t have chosen a different caterer after having our dinner. I could go on and on. If you're looking for a venue for your wedding, check out Freedom Farms. You’ll be sure to fall in love. I wish I could do it all over again!” - Brooke Hunkele, Bride Add on Service or Stand-alone Service Our grounds may be used for engagement photo sessions.

  • What is a CSA?

    Have you ever heard the letters C-S-A together and wondered what it meant? This article will help you to define a CSA and learn all the ins and outs of how it works at Freedom Farms in Valencia, PA. Community Supported Agriculture To begin, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Customers pay for their CSA up-front in one lump sum. They then get a share each week at 10% off the retail value. CSAs are typically produce, but at Freedom Farms in Valencia, PA, there are meat and dairy options as well. Benefits to Farmers CSA programs enable local farmers to stock up on seeds for the season, fix equipment from last year, and prepare the fields for a new harvest, among other tasks and initiatives. Benefits to Members When participating in a CSA, members are committing to a healthy and true farm to fork diet. Members save time and the hassle of going to the big box stores, but enjoy stopping at one location to get local and seasonal ingredients, all while supporting local farmers. The optimal time to sign up for a CSA is in the fall and winter months, during the farm’s downtime. This allows Freedom Farms to plan accordingly by buying the accurate amount of seeds and allotting space for crops on the farm. CSA at Freedom Farms The CSA program at Freedom Farms runs for 24 weeks from May 25th through November 2nd. As mentioned above, there are 3 full season options to choose from: Meat Share Produce Share Dairy Share Meat Share The Meat Share is worth ~$50. Each share provides ~6 pounds of local meat. A weekly example could be: 1 package of bacon 1 package of Italian sausage 1 package of chicken thighs 1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 package of ground beef Based on availability, there may be weeks where members will receive higher priced cuts of meat and less quantity. Produce Share There are 2 options to select from in the Produce Share: Small Large The small produce share provides roughly 3-5 pounds of in-season produce and is worth ~$25. The large produce share provides roughly 5-8 pounds of produce and is worth ~$35. A large weekly example could be: 1 pint of blueberries 1 kale or Swiss chard 4 squash 1 bunch of beets 1 bunch of radishes 1 pint of strawberries 1 quart of pickles At Freedom Farms, you’re guaranteed a variety of local, seasonal, and nutrient-dense produce. Dairy Share The Dairy Share is worth ~$21 and provides 2-3 dairy items as well as eggs. A weekly example could be: 1/2 gallon of milk 1 dozen eggs 1 block of cheese At Freedom Farms, we curate our CSAs based on what is fresh and bountiful that week. Due to the nature of the Freedom Farms CSA, all purchases are final and non-refundable. Pick-up Locations Are you concerned that Freedom Farms is too far of a drive for you each week? There are 7 convenient locations to accommodate weekly pick up in different areas: Freedom Farms—Valencia, PA Freedom Farms Traveling Market—Bloomfield, PA Freedom Farms Traveling Market—Aspinwall, PA Three Little Birds— Allison Park, PA Butler Hospital—Butler, PA Harvest Moon—Tarentum, PA Pick-up Details Pick up day for Bloomfield is on Saturdays and Aspinwall is on Sundays. For all other locations, pick-up day is on Thursday. If members choose Freedom Farms as their pick-up location, they get the opportunity to explore the farm and see where their food is coming from on the days they pick up their share. They also have the opportunity to pick up additional items right on the farm. If someone has 10 or more CSA shares sold, they can become a pick-up location. Learn more about specific locations. Member Perks of Freedom Farms CSA As a member of Freedom Farms CSA program, you not only get local, seasonal, nutrient-dense food each week, you get a couple added perks: weekly recipes and the option to add on to your weekly CSA share. Weekly Recipes Do you like the idea of being a part of the Freedom Farms CSA program, but you’re hesitant to try because you’re unsure if you’ll know how to prepare and serve the meat, produce, or dairy items each week? An added perk to the Freedom Farms CSA is that you get weekly recipes delivered directly to your email inbox each week from the farm and kitchen experts at Freedom Farms. These recipes include the ingredients that will be in your weekly CSA share. CSA Add Ons Each Monday members get the option to add on items to their CSA share. Add-on items could be: homemade baked goods, a bouquet of flowers, 2+ dozen of eggs, bulk produce, and more. An added perk is that these items are offered to members at a special discounted price. Members have until the end of the day on Wednesday to add these items to their CSA share for pick-up on Thursday, Saturday (Bloomfield), or Sunday (Aspinwall). Undecided? If you’re on the fence about purchasing a CSA, please remember that your investment is more than a commitment to the best nutrition for your family. When you purchase a CSA share, you are helping to support your farmer for the season to come. Please reach out with any questions you may have to help you make the best decision for your family. Decided? If you’re ready to move forward as a Freedom Farms CSA member, you can purchase your share at the Freedom Farms website: Meat Share Produce Share Dairy Share Whether you participate in a CSA or not, we hope this article has educated you on the importance of Community Supported Agriculture and shown you just one reason why farming is king.

  • 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!

  • Tools of the Farm - Tractors with Farmer Tim

    We use John Deere tractors at Freedom Farms, but we really aren’t prejudice to any one brand over another. At the time we were buying, John Deere had 0% financing for five years, so that’s what we went with. Really, I would use any tractor as long as it gets the work done. We have a total of four tractors at the farm right now. We have three John Deere and one old Farmall that belonged to my grandfather. The oldest of our John Deere tractors is about four years old. I’m actually not a fan of the newer tractors. With the new technology, there’s too many sensors. That makes it really hard for the farmer to work on the tractor because it is so high-tech. To even diagnose an issue is kind of outrageous. Everything has to do with the computer inside the tractor, which is something that farmers generally can’t fix themselves and have to get help from the company who made it. Parts are generally cheaper for the older tractors too. To give you an example, we had just bought a brand new tractor and within a month, it wouldn’t move. It was telling us the tractor was in neutral even though we had it in gear. So we called John Deere and they rebooted the computer. The tractor worked for a day and then it stopped again. They had to come get it and they brought it back in a few days. We continued to have the same problem. So they came back and got it again. When we still had the same problem after all that, they ended up having to get us a whole new tractor. Old tractors just run. We rarely have problems with the old Farmall 560. It was my grandfather’s but it’s still running just fine. The older tractors are so simple, anyone with good common sense could fix them. All equipment breaks sometimes, but the point of buying new should be that you don’t have issues anymore. As farmers, we don’t have a lot of downtime. For a tractor to break and us not to be able to fix it on the job is a major issue. We do have breakdowns with the Farmall 560, but within a few hours, either Pete or I have figured it out and fixed the problem. Most of them are simple fixes, but we’re always learning. I love learning how to repair old equipment. People are afraid to get their hands dirty. Or they think they’ll mess something up with the equipment. But once you realize how simple some of these older machines are, you realize that you can fix them yourself and it’s rewarding. Like I mentioned before, we have four tractors at the farm right now and three of them are newer John Deeres. They all have their specific jobs. We have a 7230, which is our workhorse. It has six cylinders, 135 horsepower, and is diesel. We use it to do all of our primary tillage, plowing, and discing. We also have a 6125, which has 125 horsepower. We use that one to do our final tillage. And finally we have a 6430, which has 105 horsepower. We use it to lay the plastic because it has the narrowest width. It helps keep the rows tight so we can get as much planted in an acre as we can. All of our tractors are four-wheel drive except for the Farmall. That’s pretty important for a hilly farm in western PA. When you’re looking at the tractors, the differences aren’t blatant. It can be hard to tell which one is which if you aren’t used to them. It’s really not about the size of the tractor anyway. What’s really important is the weight and size of the engine. If you have six cylinders instead of four, that gives you a lot more power and the weight gives you good traction. Working with the tractors can be intimidating to some people but they’re actually pretty easy to operate. Once you do it for awhile, it’s like riding a bike. I’ve been doing it since I was 10 years old, so I’m definitely used to it. It’s exciting to a lot of people at first, to get to drive this huge piece of machinery. But it quickly becomes monotonous and can be pretty boring. Sitting in a tractor for an entire day isn’t fun. You’re bouncing around a lot and that’s hard on your back and your neck. Working with the tractors can also be very dangerous. Farming is still one of the most dangerous jobs out there. It’s frustrating when you have breakdowns in the field. Everything is heavy to fix and everything is really tight, which makes it hard to get to certain parts. When you’re hooking up equipment, you’re always bumping into the equipment with your head or another body part. Typically it’s summer, so it’s very hot. It’s easy to lose your temper and want to walk away. I’m not an equipment guy, but it’s the most efficient way to farm right now. Equipment is a necessity for what we do. If I could eliminate it, I would. We do a lot with our hands like planting, weeding, and harvesting. But for tillage, I don’t really want to pull a plow with a team of horses. We’re working to eliminate a lot of unnecessary equipment. We’re trying to reduce tillage so we’re reducing soil compaction. The more you run over the ground, the more you compact the soil, and that’s not good for living organisms or root systems. Produce farming is a lot of working by hand though. People think we can harvest crops easily with our equipment, but we don’t harvest our crops with any equipment at all. Everything is picked by hand and I prefer it that way. We grow varieties of produce that are higher quality, better tasting, and more tender. Typically, heirloom varieties are way too sensitive to be mechanically picked. Even on a commercial scale, a lot of produce still has to be picked by hand. They do have firm varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables that commercial growers can pick mechanically, but those are grown for their ability to be mechanically picked. We aim for quality of texture and taste, not quality of mechanical harvest. That being said, I don’t ever see us eliminating tractors all together, especially with the animals. Pete needs to be able to haul water and feed out to the animals in the pasture. We are trying to reduce tillage and do more no till work, but we’ll always need tractors. They’re extremely valuable with the growing methods that we use. Especially for things like baling hay, you really can’t avoid using equipment. But when it comes to produce production, we can reduce a lot of equipment use. We’d have to really simplify without equipment. I’d do a lot more high tunnel growing to extend the seasons in both ways in a smaller area, which would increase yields. Most things would take a lot longer. Tractor maintenance is a constant job. We try to do the majority of it in the fall and spring. But with all of the equipment we use, including our trucks that run produce to vendors or go to market, we have at least a couple of breakdowns every week. As far as regular tractor maintenance though, it’s important to check tire pressure, oil, and coolant, and clean the air filters. It’s also essential that you grease heavy equipment. There’s a lot of friction in these machines and without grease, two metal parts will wear on each other and the tractor won’t last as long. When you’re working with tools on the farm, it’s all about trying to prolong the life of a very expensive investment.

  • Natural and Home Remedies and Cleaning Tips

    There are many things in the world that people are passionate about. Some are passionate about sports, some are passionate about helping others, and a few that we know are even passionate about farming. Everyone has their own interests, some more interesting than others. Jess Sunseri’s happens to be fascinating. “We don’t keep any chemicals in our house,” she explained. “I try to find all-natural remedies for everything that ails us and for cleaning my house too. That way when I’m cleaning and little Peter picks up the bottle and sprays himself in the face, I don’t have to worry because it’s completely natural and won’t hurt him.” Her staples are Thieves Household Cleaner and essential oils. You can find these products through Young Living Essential Oils or if you live near the farm and want to support local, you can most likely find them at Dewalt’s in Butler. “If you want to start your own essential oils collection, start with a few basics,” Jess advises. “I would recommend lavender, tea tree, rosemary, chamomile, and peppermint. I have a whole cupboard full, but those are my favorites.” Jess and partner Pete King, along with their children Jillian and little Peter, don’t use any manufactured products in their house. Jess has found ways to cure and clean almost anything using plants and herbs, many that are grown right outside her front door. And many can be used for more than one thing. “That’s the nice thing about it,” she explains. “You don’t have to have a specific herb. There are so many options available, all based on where you live.” The following remedies and cleaning tips are a collection of Jess’s favorites. There are countless more that we didn’t get to and you may see them in a future issue of the magazine. Jess warns that when you use the essential oils she mentions, always check and make sure they’re approved for your child’s age range, and always use a carrier oil. You don’t want to use full-strength essential oils unless you specifically read that you can. “I believe that everything on this Earth can heal, even if it hasn’t been researched or discovered,” Jess explains. “That’s why animals know what to eat in the wild. Everything is there for a reason and flowers aren’t there just to look pretty.” Replacement for Vick’s Vapo Rub I use a combination of oils that I mix myself. The carrier is jojoba oil, which I get at either Mountain Rose Herbs or Piping Rock. If you’re local you can probably get it from Dewalt’s in Butler. With the jojoba oil, I mix 5 drops of peppermint, 5 drops of lavender, and 5 drops of rosemary essential oils. Peppermint is very relaxing and it has antispasmodic and antimicrobial properties. Lavender is calming and it soothes exhaustion, and the rosemary is antiseptic. You can actually use it in any household cleaners because of that property. It helps sore muscles and dandruff too. I keep my Vick’s replacement in a little dispenser with a roll on the top to apply it. I put it behind Peter’s ears, on his chest, and on the bottom of his feet. Your feet absorb everything. So if you’re stepping on chemicals, your feet are absorbing them. Colds I do a couple different things when we all have colds. First, I’ll make a vinegar drink. It’s warm water, a tablespoon of vinegar, a splash of fresh lemon juice, a dash of cayenne, and honey to taste. The honey helps break up congestion, and the cayenne opens up your circulation, delivering fresh blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your whole body. Cayenne also has a ton of Vitamin C and aids in digestion. All of those ingredients are just naturally good for your body. We’ll drink that pretty often throughout the day if we have a cold or if you are just feeling sick. Another thing we’ll do is chew up and swallow a half a clove of raw garlic. Garlic is a natural antibiotic. If you chew it up really quickly and swallow it with water, it’s not that bad. We do this three times a day when we’re sick. For little Peter, I’ll put it in warm water and honey. He takes it easier that way and the honey soothes a sore throat too. You can also make echinacea root. Echinacea is a purple daisy flower, but we just use the roots to make a tincture. I soak the root of the plant in alcohol for 6-8 weeks in a cool, dark place, then jar it. We then take this tincture once a day with water to help boost the immune system when we’re sick. If you’re sick, anything with Vitamin C in it is going to be really helpful. We take the echinacea root up to three times a day if we’re really sick. It’s antibiotic and antiviral. You can replicate this process with dandelion root. Dandelion is a natural detox for the body. It’s even been shown to help heal cancer. It’s really high in potassium and Vitamin A. The key is to harvest it in early spring before it flowers. We take 30-40 drops (or two droppers) of the dandelion root with water once a day. It’s a natural supplement. Asthma I have pretty severe asthma. I asked my doctor if I would ever be able to be off my medication and he said I wouldn’t. I started look at herbs and plants and natural remedies for asthma. The first thing I found was mullein, which is an herb that helps in things like bronchitis, pneumonia, and coughing. You can make tea from it’s leaves and sip that while you’re having an attack. This has worked for me but it doesn’t work for everybody. The second thing I tried was red clover. I take just the flower from the plant, break up two of them, and roll them up in cigarette paper. I smoke it and within 10 minutes, I’m not wheezing anymore. To me, that’s the most amazing thing I’ve discovered. I’ve been able to replace my inhaler with red clover cigarettes. I was very leery at first. You would think that smoking with asthma would only complicate the condition, but it works. For someone who used an inhaler for 22 years, not having to rely on it for the past six months has been amazing. Poison Ivy Jewelweed is a natural antidote for poison ivy. It grows right next to it, actually. There are two ways you can use it. First, if you know you’ve touched poison ivy, take a few jewelweed leaves, chew them up, and then rub that mixture on the affected area. You can do this immediately after you touch the poison ivy, or you can do it after the rash appears. The second way you can use jewelweed is to harvest about two handfuls worth. Boil that in a large pot of water until the water turns brown. Let the water cool and strain it. Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. When you have poison ivy, just grab an ice cube and rub it on the affected area. The next day it will be totally gone. It’s hard to believe. One time Miss Lisa had poison ivy all over her face and near her eyes. She didn’t believe me either, but she used one of my ice cubes and the next day, the poison ivy was gone. Bee Stings or Stinging Nettle Stings For these, you can use a plantain. It’s a weed that grows everywhere around here. You just need to find a clean leaf, not one that’s been stepped on or run over. Find a clean leaf, chew it up and put that on your sting. It works on wounds too. Plantain is a confirmed antimicrobial and it stimulates the healing process. You can also use it as a leaf tea for coughs, diarrhea, dysentery, or bronchitis. You can use it on any kind of blister, sore, swelling, or insect bite since it is antimicrobial and an anti-inflammatory. It’s almost a cure-all. Almost, but not quite. When you aren’t being stung by them, you can actually use stinging nettles in tea too. Combine it with chamomile and rosebuds, and it’s a great way to replace minerals and nutrients in your body. It’s also a good way to give kids a midday boost. There’s no caffeine in it, but it replaces minerals to give you more energy. Earaches I have two different remedies for earaches. First, you can use mullein flowers like I use for my asthma sometimes. Put the flowers in a jar, pour oil over them, and keep the jar in a cool, dark place for six weeks. After the six weeks, strain it and put it in a dark-colored jar. Add a teaspoon of Vitamin E oil to keep the carrier oil from going rancid. Then when you have an earache, just put a few drops in each ear, as long as the eardrum isn’t ruptured. The other thing we do for earaches is to use an onion. Cut it in half and put it in the oven for a while to warm it up. When you bring it out, wrap it in a towel and put that on your ear. Onions have antibiotic properties that help the healing. You can also put half an onion on your chest to help when you have a cold. Garlic oil works for ear and chest infections too. Mouth Problems or Infections If you’re having gum problems or find an infection in your mouth, you can use coconut oil. The process is called pulling. You take a spoonful in your mouth and swish it around for about 20 minutes. It sounds like a long time and it can feel like a long time too. I’ve found that it helps if you find something to do while you’re swishing. Check your email or fold laundry. Just something to keep you busy. The properties of coconut oil allow it to attach to bacteria. When you spit it out after 20 minutes, you’re also spitting out that bacteria. You’re removing the bad bacteria from your mouth, while also promoting healthy teeth and gums. We use coconut oil for a lot of things. We use it as a moisturizer and we also use it in Pete’s hair to keep the frizz down. You can wash with it, but it tends to clog the drain, which is a problem we’ve had a few times. Natural Face Wash This isn’t exactly a remedy but you can use it as one if you have acne or an irritation on your face. The face wash that I make is a mixture of one part each of jojoba oil, avocado oil, and castor oil. Then I just add 15 drops of lavender and 15 drops of tea tree essential oils in a two ounce bottle. The lavender is an anti-inflammatory and the tea tree is antiseptic so it helps treat skin problems and infections. Scientifically, oil dissolves oil. So when I wash my face with this combination of oils, I’m clearing away all the bad oils. I’m not stripping my skin, but replacing the negative oils with good ones. Your skin needs oils and your face stays hydrated. If you use harsh chemicals or soap, you’re taking away that hydration and oil, which can cause irritation, infection, pimples, and blackheads. Cleaning Your House It’s important to treat your body with natural products, but you also need to treat the things around you with natural products as well, since you come into contact with them on a daily basis. I use Seventh Generation for dish soap and detergent and I use Thieves Essential Oil Blend Household Cleaner for pretty much everything else. It even works on the toilet. It kills bacteria so you don’t have to use bleach. I do use a non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner with it too. But for almost everything else in the house, I use only Thieves. I combine two cap-fuls of Thieves with water and lavender essential oil to make it smell nice. I use it on the stove, sink, bathroom, countertops, appliances, windows...I always have my Thieves spray. It can be kind of expensive. I think my bottle cost $24. But I’ve had it since January, so it’s lasted me almost an entire year. For the shower, I use the Seventh Generation dish soap or sometimes I’ll use Dawn if we have it. I combine dish soap and vinegar in a spray bottle and just add water. We have a lot of iron in our water at the farm and it turns everything orange. If I can keep up with the cleaning and I use the dish soap, the shower won’t turn orange. To scrub it, I use a crocheted rag made out of tulle. I keep one in the shower and one in the sink and they work really well. I’m going to need more soon, actually. For the floors, when I’m not using Thieves, I use either a quarter cup of apple cider or a quarter cup of white vinegar. Combine that with 20 drops of an essential oil, and it’ll clean the floor right up. My favorite combination of essential oils to use in the mixture is lavender, tea tree, and rosemary. Lavender and tea tree have powerful cleaning agents in them. I get my laundry detergent from Young’s Mercantile, the same people who make the soaps we sell at the Market. It’s called Linda’s Old-Fashioned Laundry Soap. All that’s in it is water, a blend of coconut, palm, and soybean oils, citric acid, sodium carbonate, and sodium tetraborate. One gallon can do up to 100 loads of laundry. I get five gallons for $35, which I think is a great deal. Sometimes we’ll trade for goat milk too. I use two tablespoons of detergent, a shake of Arm & Hammer All-Natural Super Washing Soda, and throw in 10 drops of an essential oil. The detergent has no scent so the essential oil is to make sure the clothes come out smelling clean and fresh.

  • 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

    Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the farm Many Kings were still bustling, led by Miss Lisa’s charm. Her greens were hung on the hearth with care In hopes that Luke and Dan soon would be there. The grandkids were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of tractors danced in their heads. And Pete in his kerchief, and Joe in his cap, Had just settled down for a very brief nap. When out in the field, there arose such a clatter, Tim sprang from his bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window he flew like a flash, Jumped in the Ranger and drove with a dash. The headlights shone bright on the new fallen snow, Revealing the culprit, St. Nick in the glow. His reindeer were chomping on Farmer Tim’s sprouts, And just would not stop, even when he would shout. “What are you doing! You’re wrecking my crops” Farmer Tim was so angry, he thought he might pop. “I just couldn’t stop them, we’ve so much flying to do, They were so hungry, my reindeer need vitamins too.” Farmer Tim did ponder what St. Nick had said, So into the house St. Nick was there led. “Come into our home and enjoy the night Before you have to get back to your flight!” Farmer Tim knew his family would be ready to help And to them he called, with a whistle and a yelp. “Now Joseph! Now Peter! Now Bitty and Dan! On Ben and on Paul! On Luke, John, and Sam! Get up and get going We have us a guest There’s no time for sleeping There’s no time for rest!” The Kings sprang into action, Miss Lisa included This night was special, they all soon concluded. St. Nick settled in and was given some soup, He couldn’t imagine a more welcoming group. Warm donuts, hot coffee, all from their shop A star shone bright from the very treetop. Miss Lisa was busy baking a pie St. Nick did not yet want to say goodbye. All the brothers and Bitty were so warm and so kind, For years to come, he would keep them in mind. He would never forget his time on the farm, The Kings and their kids would do him no harm. “Thank you for welcoming me into your life, Without Mrs. Claus, Miss Lisa would be my wife. Now I have more energy for tonight My reindeer and I will fly to great heights.” He summoned his reindeer from Farmer Tim’s field, His joy from the visit could not be concealed. The Kings heard him call as he drove out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

  • Farmer Tim's Christmas Tree Tips

    We have four different kinds of Christmas trees this year. We have Norway Spruce, Canaan Fir, Fraser Fir, and Concolor. As far as picking a good Christmas tree, it’s all based on people’s preferences. Personally, I love a short, fat tree. I don’t know why. I don’t care if there’s a branch missing on one side because that’s probably going to be the side that goes towards the wall anyway. I like adopting a Charlie Brown tree. But it’s all in what you’re looking for. I love the Concolor. I think it’s a new, up and coming variety. It smells like citrus and it will never drop its needles, even when they turn brown. What more could you ask for in a Christmas tree? Fraser has been number one for a long time, but I think that will balance out. I would pick a Concolor. Make sure you know where your Christmas tree is coming from. A lot of them come from out of state and are harvested in early October. Ours come from Pennsylvania. They actually come from a farm that neighbors our livestock farm. So we know they’re excellent quality. Ours are also harvested a week or two before Thanksgiving. That’s almost a month’s difference from the ones that are harvested out of state in early October. You definitely want a fresh tree, so ask your salesman where they get their trees. Always have them cut the bottom for you so you have a fresh cut when you take it home. This allows the tree to absorb water easier and hold needles longer. You also have to consider how many ornaments you have and the weight of those decorations. If you have a lot of heavy ornaments, you want a tree that’s a little narrower. That way, the branches are closer to the stalk and are thicker and able to hold more weight on them.

  • Hunting with the Farm Kings

    Tim Memories - It was another benefit of having a big family. We went out as brothers and had a strong sense of companionship. I think we enjoyed it more because we had that companionship available to us and a lot of people don’t have that. We had a lot of adventures together. We went trout fishing in Emporium every year. We were able to fish on native trout streams, when most people fish on stock streams. We were lucky. We spent a lot of time together and had a lot of laughs. We also went to Coudersport for a traditional bow shoot. We learned to shoot recurve bows when we were very young. We hunted raccoons in Altoona. We just loved camping out in tents or sleeping by the fire. We’d shoot targets up and down the mountain. We had two Redbone Coonhounds named Dixie and Queen. Pete had Dixie and Queen was mine. We’d take them out with us. We also started a tradition of camping out after Christmas, no matter what the elements were at the time. Once we were out there in negative temperatures. But we would build shelters and fires. Sometimes we’d be out there for a day or a few days. One time I was out there for two weeks. We used to put up a bunch of tree stands and number them on a map. Then we’d draw them out of a hat and go out together. It’s not even really about hunting though. It’s about spending time together and putting food in the freezer. Best shot - That’s me. Either me or Sam. I prefer to shoot archery because it’s more of a challenge. It gives the animal a fighting chance. But you better be good. Funny story - One time we were all out in the woods in different places and I heard a loud boom. I thought somebody had gotten a deer. But we got back to camp and found that a log had rolled off the fire and our camp was destroyed. Pete Memories - Hunting was something we always did together when we were younger. We would go camping and hunt in the woods. The best part about it (besides having time off) was just being together. We’re around each other all the time, but we’re always working. It’s nice to be able to relax, get a break, and to take it easy for a change. We just talk about life that doesn’t pertain to business or our workload. Don’t get me wrong, we still talk about work sometimes. But it’s a different kind of bonding experience. I think muzzleloader hunting was the most fun. It’s not our busy season - it’s the dead of winter. We would all take our muskets and make a trip of it. It didn’t matter where we went, sometimes we’d just camp at the farm. But it’s fun to pretend like you’re a mountain man for awhile. Hunting is a change of pace. It’s the way we used to relax. We had a lot of good experiences. We all love being outdoors and have a general love for nature so it’s how we bonded. Now we’re old and boring. It seems like now, life is pointing us in different directions and we don’t have as much time. But in the back of everyone’s minds, I think we all hope we find time for it again. Best shot - Everyone probably said me. I’ll just say me. From a realistic standpoint though, the older brothers were usually better because we’d been doing it longer and had more confidence. Really, Tim and Joe might be better shots than me. But I’ve gotten better. I haven’t hunted lately so it’s hard to say, but I do shoot a gun on a weekly basis. So I’m keeping up. Funny story - We all had makeshift lean-to huts to sleep in and we bedded them with straw. We were out hunting that morning and everyone heard what we thought were gunshots. But then we got back and realized nobody got anything and the fire had caught the straw, then clothes, then the gunpowder. I don’t know who’s lean-to caught fire first. But nothing expensive got ruined. It would have been unfortunate if someone’s gun caught fire. Joe Memories - My favorite times were when we went out with our muzzleloaders for a week after Christmas. We would build our own shelters, teepees or lean-tos, and camp somewhere near the farm. We really only brought our hunting supplies, whiskey to keep warm, and ketchup to put on whatever we got. We would eat whatever we killed that day. We used to ice fish too and trout fish in the spring. We would cook everything over an open fire. It was really fun. When we were kids, we would pack up the horses and ride over to our grandpap’s farm. It made it feel like we were so far from home, when we were really only a short horse ride away. Hunting is about meditation for me. It’s a long session of looking inward. It’s a nice way to spend an hour before dark. There’s a sport to it. It’s fun to challenge yourself and it’s definitely a competition between us brothers to see who can bag the biggest fish or the meatiest dove. We taught our younger brothers and I look forward to teaching my kids. It’s an awesome family activity. Best shot - I really don’t know who is the best shot. It depends on what you’re talking about. We shot archery, rifles, and muzzleloaders. We used recurve bows for archery. But we’d probably all say we’re the best shot. Funny story - One year we built lean-tos around the fire for muzzleloader season. We’d had a really bad week and nobody got anything good. It was the last day and we were all still itching to bag something. We’re all spread out in the woods and I heard “bang, bang, bang” and I got excited because I thought somebody got something big. We came back to our camp to find that a log had rolled off the fire and burned all our lean-tos down. The “bang, bang, bang” we all heard was the log igniting extra gunpowder we had stored at camp. Thankfully, our most valuable items were with us at the time, but we lost everything that was back at camp, including our sleeping bags. It was a bad week - nobody shot anything and we burned our camp down. It was an effective way to clean up camp though.

  • Ask Farmer Pete - Grass Fed vs. Pastured Beef

    What does it mean for beef to be grass-fed? I guess it’s kind of a broad topic. It could mean different things to different people. But for us, for it to be done successfully and for us to be producing and growing well, there has to be some type of rotational grazing method. In our area, most people don’t have the acreage to do anything else. Out west, they’re raising thousands of cattle on thousands of acres. Here we have to utilize what we have and work with it the best we can. I only have 100 acres and only 90 for beef. At our other property, I have even less land than that. It’s all about rotating the cattle. I move ours at least daily, and sometimes twice a day. It increases your yield because you’re never overworking the forage. You’re never stressing it because the cattle are only on it for a short period of time. They aren’t stomping or eating it down too much. This encourages growth in the ground and life in the soil. The cows collect soil energy from the grass and then give it back in their waste. So the grass-fed beef eats only grass? They eat only grass and minerals. I’ve found that kelp meal is the best and they seem to like it. So they get only grass and minerals, no grain supplements. I like to call the nutritional grass “ice cream.” It’s about 8-12 inches tall and very palatable. The cows do a good job of eating it down pretty clean. So I’m constantly putting them on new “ice cream.” The cows grow well on it, they get excited every day. They’re smart animals, they get used to the routine. All I have to do is call them and they’ll come straight into the next paddock. They’re literally kicking up their heels. You can tell they appreciate it. By working with these animals every day, you can tell that it’s unnatural for them to be in one area for a long period of time. In nature, they move and eat, move and eat. And out west, they’re able to do this on the big farms because they have the acreage. We try to simulate that here as best we can by using electric temporary fencing and moving them daily. You don’t realize how heavy these animals are. Just walking around works the grass. And when they compact the soil too much, that stresses the forage and the perennial grass won’t grow back. We make the most out of what we have here, moving them as frequently as possible. The grass-fed are truly grass-fed. They get new grass every day, which also encourages the ecosystem on the farm. And you get a higher quality meat. All the way around, it’s eco-friendly, humane, ethical. It’s how the cows like to be raised. What does it mean for beef to be pastured? The pastured beef are grown on grain. This would be for people who want a fattier meat. We don’t sell quite as many of these as the grass-fed. The pastured beef are supplemented with hay or grain. They’re still on pasture, so they’re still getting fresh air and sunlight every day, but they aren’t being moved as frequently. They get everything they want - forage, grain, corn. It’s a fattier beef. Typically, they’re put out on pasture and they have a shelter where they come in to feed. There’s multiple paddocks, but they aren’t intensively grazed. Our neighbors raise our pastured beef right now. Tim has talked about doing it ourselves and that might be something we want to do down the line to get the best of both worlds. Is there a difference when cooking these meats? The grass-fed is leaner. So if you’re cooking a steak, you’re going to need to slow cook it. Somebody out there might have a good way of making it work on a grill, but I haven’t figured it out yet. As far as I know, the grass-fed beef doesn’t go on the grill. The pastured beef is fattier, so you can just throw it on the grill, sear it on both sides, and it’s ready to eat. Which meat do you prefer? I prefer the grass-fed. That may be because it’s what I grow and I know that my cows are spoiled. People think I’m crazy for raising them the way I do, but I love it. Nothing beats the taste of that grass-fed beef after it’s been slow-cooked for awhile. Which method is more labor-intensive? The grass-fed is pretty labor-intensive. The grain supplemented cows grow faster, so they’re ready in about a year. The grass-fed takes more like a year and a half to two years to fully mature, so you’re working with them longer. Actually, most of my work revolves around getting water where I need it. I have around 20 paddocks set up and all of them need water at some point. The cattle are well trained, so all I have to do is open the gate and they walk right in. There’s always fence work to be done though. Deer tend to run through them pretty often. I have to maintain the electricity and make sure nothing is shorted out. I’ve used dummy wire a few times though and never had a problem. The cattle will start to know the paddock and they’ll stay inside. It’s the pigs who get out. The cattle come to know the lines and they don’t push them. They’re never hungry so they have no reason to try and get out. Which meat do you think customers prefer? We get a lot of customers asking about our grass-fed beef. It’s really a personal preference though. Some people were brought up to only eat the pastured beef. I try not to press people too hard either way. Some people come into the market and they’re really interested in the whole process. I always take the time to explain our methods if they’re interested. Then you get some other people who don’t care as much and they’re certainly entitled to that attitude. But if people come in asking about our meat, I love talking to them. It’s something that’s really fun for me and I enjoy sharing it with people. It sounds like raising the cattle is a labor of love for you. It definitely is. I love the way we raise beef. One of my favorite things to do in the morning is to go out and move the cattle. I play the harmonica and call to them and they call right back. They’ll come running over, make some thunder and stop at the gate. They go right in after I open it. I love that we’re supporting the entire ecosystem of the farm too. We’re building a solid soil structure and it shows. There’s a difference in the ground. Anywhere you dig in our pastures, there’s worms everywhere. The ground breeds well and tills well because we don’t overgraze it. We’re making the ground stronger every year. I’m constantly trying to build new pastures so I can move the cattle more frequently. Mob grazing would be the goal. That would mean moving the cattle up to four or five times a day. But right now, I’m just trying to set the landscape. The gameplan is to use the living hedgerow as a barrier for the cattle because they won’t push it if they’re well-fed. It provides a place for more wildlife to mingle and the more life the better. We encourage all life on the farm. If we have more diversity, that only makes the ecosystem stronger. That’s why we have so many different types of livestock on the farm and multiple species getting rotated. That all makes it hard for a species-specific pathogen to target. We don’t give them medicine, growth stimulants or hormones. They’re healthy animals without any extra help and it really shows in our meat. Are there any other farms around who raise cattle the way you do? I don’t know many of them personally but there are other farms around here. I’m not sure of their methods. I know of at least one who raises them the same way I do. They’re around but a lot of farmers aren’t very good at marketing themselves. I’m definitely one of them. But I can talk all day about it if you ask me. Any final thoughts on grass-fed and pastured beef? Winter is the time to buy red meat. It’s warm food. We’re going to have plenty of beef ready for the winter, so buy now. You’ll have some of the freshest meat around, all winter long. Eat your cold mood foods. Red meat is one of the best.

  • Apple Cider Recipes

    Apple Cider Donut Muffins 1 ½ c all purpose flour ½ c granulated sugar ½ c light brown sugar 1 tsp baking powder ½ tsp baking soda ¼ tsp salt ¾ tsp cinnamon ¼ tsp nutmeg ¾ c apple cider 1 egg ½ tsp vanilla extract 7 tbsp unsalted butter, melted ¾ c granulated sugar 1 ¼ tsp cinnamon Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin pan and set aside. In medium bowl, combine apple cider, egg, and vanilla extract. In large bowl or stand mixer, combine flour, ½ c granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. With mixer running on low, slowly incorporate wet ingredients. Mix until batter is combined and no streaks remain. Divide batter between prepared muffin cavities. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Immediately turn out onto a baking sheet or cutting board. For topping, combine remaining granulated sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Coat each muffin entirely in melted butter then roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Transfer to wire cooling rack. Apple Cider Syrup ½ c. brown sugar ½ c. white sugar 2 T. cornstarch 2 tsp. cinnamon ⅛ tsp. nutmeg 2 c. apple cider 2 T. lemon juice ½ tsp. vanilla ¼ c. butter Add sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch to saucepan. Whisk together. Gradually add apple cider and lemon juice. Cook and whisk over medium heat until thickened to desired consistency. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter. Serve warm over pancakes, waffles, French toast or ice cream. Slow Cooker Apple Cider Pulled Pork 5-4 lb pork shoulder, bone-in 2 tsp salt 1 tsp black pepper 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 yellow onion, sliced 1 ½ c apple cider Add sliced onions to bottom of 5-6 q slow cooker. Place pork shoulder on top of onions. Sprinkle with seasonings and garlic. Pour apple cider over all. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours, or low for 8-10 hours. Pork is ready when internal temperature reaches at least 145degrees. Carefully remove and shred using forks. Slow Cooker Apple Cider Maple Meatballs 50 meatballs 2 c apple cider ½ c maple syrup 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar 2 apples, cored and chopped Spray slow cooker with cooking spray. Turn on low. Place meatballs inside. Combine apple cider, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar and pour over meatballs. Place apples on top. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on low heat for 4-8 hours. Turn to warm after that. Serve warm with additional chopped apples if desired. Caramel Apple Sangria 1 750 ml bottle of pino grigio or your favorite mild white wine 1 c caramel flavored vodka 6 c apple cider 2 medium apples, cored and chopped Stir wine, vodka, and apple cider together in large pitcher. Add chopped apples to pitcher or individual glasses. Serve sangria over ice. Apple cider settles. If sangria sits for awhile, it will need to be stirred before serving Apple Cider Cinnamon Glaze 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted 1 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted ½ tsp pure vanilla extract 2 tbsp apple cider ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon In medium bowl, mix together all ingredients. Whisk until smooth. Apple Cider Floats Sparkling apple cider FF apple cider French vanilla ice cream Whipped cream - optional Apple slice - optional Ground cinnamon - optional Cinnamon stick - optional Caramel sauce - optional Scoop ice cream into glass and pour equal parts sparkling apple cider and fresh apple cider. Top with whipped cream, apple slice, sprinkle of ground cinnamon, cinnamon stick, and caramel sauce. If you freeze your cup for at least 30 minutes your drink will stay cold longer and won’t melt as quickly.

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