2011-05-26 / Local & State

New Morning Farm Tour May 31

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Anyone who joins an upcoming tour at a Maddensville, Huntingdon County, farm and the produce cooperative beside it will have the chance for some serious education about organic vegetable and fruit production operations from field to market.

But some people taking the tour on May 31 might just want to satisfy a gnawing curiosity about what’s going on back that long dirt lane where New Morning Farm fields lies tucked among woodlands along a winding creek.

Either kind of visitor is welcome.

“A lot of people wonder what we’re doing down here,” said farm owner Jim Crawford. “They hear we’re an organic farm. What’s organic?”

It’s far from a mystery to Crawford and his wife, Moie, who are in their 40th season at New Morning Farm. They have been growing nd selling vegetables organically since long before organic was having anywhere near the kind of impact on the market that it is today.

The tour will be just one of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s many Summer Farm Start events happening across Pennsylvania through May and June. PASA has organized the Summer Farm Start series as a way to celebrate and draw attention to Pennsylvania farmers and farming at the beginning of the growing season, as a complement to harvest festivals, which are far more common.

Crawford is looking foward to opening up the 97-acre farm to anyone who’s interested – neighbors and local communities surely included. He’s ready to host all from the merely curious to those who want to dig in and take away some real knowledge about organic farming and marketing.

With several of his longtime employees and interns on hand to help on tour day, visitors will be able to choose what they want to see and learn. “Well try to have mini-tours slanted toward people’s interests,” Crawford said.

Among the sights visitors will be able to see are more than 50 vegetable crops already in the round, despite a “terrible, terrible” wet spring, Crawford said. The farm’s system of transplanting has become so streamlined that the crew only missed one planting so far, even with all the rain.

Visitors to the farm will also be welcome to tour the adjoining facilities of Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative, of which Crawford was one of three founding members.

Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative (TOG) is a farmerowned coop with 38 organic produce farmer members from the region, according to Jeff Taylor, who is in his fourth season as general manger.

Altogether, about 50 farmers supply TOG with a vast selection of fresh greens, vegetables and fruits throughout the growing season – from numerous varieties of popular crops such as lettuces, beets, raspberries and tomatoes to more “niche” edible crops such as stinging nettles and chickweed.

“We offer more than 1,200 fresh produce items over the course of a year,” Taylor said. “We think we probably have the most diverse list out there.”

TOG is in its 24th season and has grown into one of the most successful models of organic marketing in the East, supplying restaurants and stores throughout the region, especially in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas.

Taylor will offer visitors a walkthrough of the facility, the central part of which is a produce holding warehouse built in 2004 – under expansion again this spring. He said the co-op is seeing growth in institutional buying, while the local, seasonal and organic market remains strong all around.

“People will be able to see how a farmer’s co-op works successfully,” Taylor said. Admission is free for farm and coop tours, which are scheduled at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Directions are available at http://newmorningfarm.net/

For more information on this event and PASA’s entire Summer Farm Start series, see www.pasafarming.org. Summer Farm Start features a variety of events across the state, ranging from farm tours to picnics to artisan cheese tastings and even talks about how to foster a thriving local food system.

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