Fruit Geeks- Lisa Kershner from North Star Orchard

Recently I talked with Lisa Kershner from North Star Orchard in Cochranville, Pa.
North Star is synonymous with fruit and producer only farmers markets in the Philadelphia area.

They seem to be at all the best, busiest markets.
Lisa and her husband Ike have grown their orchard business along with the growth in the local food movement.
North Star is no hobby farm; it’s the real deal.

This is an innovative business. They aren’t afraid to try new things; they are excellent marketers and they aren’t afraid to evolve as the local food industry changes.

This episode is brought to you with the generous support of Technology Management, Phoenixville, PA.
Email: support@tekmgmt.com or call 484-393-4843

 

Farming under Glass- Peace Tree Farm

Not all food and agricultural businesses are outdoor, traditional farms; that’s for sure. There is a segment of farm businesses that supply retailers and other growers plants for resale and for growing on. Lloyd and Candy Traven at Peace Tree Farm operate one of those unseen businesses. Peace Tree grows nearly one million herb plants and various other flowering annuals in a 60,000 square foot greenhouse complex. They are USDA Certified Organic.

Their business has evolved away from food items though and now growth is coming from larger Botanical gardens like The Smithsonian, The BiltmoreThe Brooklyn Botanic Garden and more.

It’s a fact that you can make more money in agriculture selling stuff you can’t eat. Ornamentals, flowers, pumpkins and nursery stock all provide margins far superior to food items. Peace Tree Farm has evolved to some of both. Operating in a commodity business is extremely difficult. Farmers of all types must think about value added products to keep the farming business profitable.  Think cheese, custom meat cuts, food processing, even the guacamole you see at local farmers markets. Take that raw agricultural product and turn it into something; that’s where the profit is. The Travens are doing just that by custom growing for a high end niche. They are a smart, hard working, successful couple in the agriculture industry.

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Thanks for listening to JACK’S FARM RADIO!

Tianna Dupont- Co-op Extension Service

Tianna Dupont of the Penn State Cooperative Extension joins me on this episode for a fun and informative conversation.

The Coop Extension Service plays an integral role in supporting agriculture throughout the United States. If you’re a farmer and you have a problem or question, the extension is a great resource. Folks like Tianna are  the behind the scenes people who make agg. hum.

In this episode of JACK’S FARM RADIO you get a lesson in some of the basic terms, trends and issues of agriculture. Tianna is articulate, thoughtful and quite objective. Listen carefully as she characterizes the word, sustainable, as existing in both the organic and the conventional agricultural paradigms. I think that way of looking at the word makes sense.

As an eater, ultimately, it’s your choice of food that drives the methods that food producers use. Supply follows demand. At the same time food producers, as business people, must constantly strive to maintain and reduce the costs of production. This dance between consumers and producers leads to the innovations we see in agricultural production. The practices and concepts of Integrated Pest Management and No Till are terrific examples of the both the benefits and complex outcomes that drive the agg research – training cycle. While pesticide use has dropped dramatically under the no till concept; the use of Genetically Modified Seed has played a major part in it’s success as a production method.

It may surprise you just how much firepower in terms of people and money are behind the agricultural industry in the United States. There are a ton of federal, state and local programs that are available to farmers at little or no cost to help them stay in business. While this episode does not dwell on them’ here’s a random sampling of the help available to the agg. industry.

The most publicized and as a result, controversial program, is direct farm subsidies.  These subsidies are basically a form of insurance that are pegged to the risk of reduced yield or entire loss of a crop due to weather. Other federally funded programs are research based S.A.R.E. grants, Rural Development grants and grants and loans through the Farm Service Agency’s New Farmer and Rancher program. 

Plus there’s money and services to protect wet lands, build fences, heck even offset costs of greenhouses. Even farmland preservation is, quite frankly, a subsidy of sorts. The support and research that goes into food production is monumental.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide your position on what type and how much help the agricultural industry needs.
Just remember, agriculture is 1% of GDP in the US as of 2011.

I mentioned Tim Stark on the podcast and here’s a link to his book: [amazon text=Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer&asin=B005UVUXKG].

Thank you Tin Bird Choir for my intro and outro music. You can subscribe to JACKS FARM RADIO on i Tunes and please rate the show when you do.