Crew profiles

Jen Malkoun has joined the Blooming Glen Farm crew as Assistant Farm Manager, an important year-round position here at the farm. As we describe in our employee manual, the assistant farm manager works closely with the farm owners, Tom and I, to ensure the daily functioning of the farm. She’s our third arm, and after just a few months, we already feel like she’s family. Besides being an amazing crew leader, a thoughtful encouraging person, and a curious and intentional farmer, she’s an excellent writer- as you’ll see from her answers to the following questions I asked her. We are thrilled to have her on board and we hope you’ll help us welcome her to Perkasie and Blooming Glen Farm.  

How did you get into farming- what are some of the paths in your life that led to a life of soil.

Although it was just four years ago, it’s hard for me to draw a direct path from memory. I have always been engaged in and drawn to work that seeks to address social and/or economic disparities, but to be honest, agriculture was never a part of that equation. I grew up in Media, located in Delaware County. I went to college just outside of Baltimore and studied sociology and peace studies. While in college I was fortunate enough to intern with the Philadelphia-based non-profit The Food Trust, and was able to work on incredibly illuminating research around food access within the city. So, in a way, my path to farming began with action research in an urban setting.

After graduating, I spent a few years doing the young-professional thing in Philly, but felt incredibly unfulfilled in both the nature of the work and the cubicle environment. Around the same time I was beginning to read more about health and nutrition and explore our food system. I surrounded myself with the voices and writings of Vandana Shiva, Wendell Berry, and Eric Holt-Gimenez and learned of the brilliant and self-reliant organizing of communities as they sought to secure access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food, and reconnect with the source of their health.

These examples inspired something inside of me that had been stirring: I began to draw broader connections among the well-being of our communities, the health of our landscapes and how and by what means our food is grown and distributed. I quickly learned just how powerful agriculture is in our every day lives and the potential it has for creating unity, beauty and inspiration. But, to a great extent, these revelations were theoretical.

I decided that if I was to advocate for a change in our industrialized and disconnected food system, I had to know what it meant to actually do the work. So, I left my office job and life in the city and set out to see what this agriculture thing was all about. While the journey may have been sparked by rather romantic ideals about social and environmental change, I find myself here four years later, the path still unfolding and the discoveries ever more rich and diverse with each season.

What has kept you farming- what are some of the joys and what are some of the challenges?

So very many things have kept me on this train – some being both joys and challenges. Farming by nature is unnatural, yet in order to be sustainable (meaning farming that can be, as Wendell Berry describes, ‘continued indefinitely because it conforms to the terms imposed upon it by the nature of places and the nature of people’), farmers must learn from and work in concert with nature. This, by its very means demands humility and what sometimes feels like an unending reservoir of patience.

I am constantly humbled by the work, always learning new things and discovering just how little I know. Farming also brings to the fore the utter fragility of life: what is here today could very well be gone tomorrow, wiped out by extreme weather patterns, pests or disease. Despite this fragility, or perhaps more accurately, balancing out this delicately temporal reality is the strongly innate drive of all living things to survive. It’s something we say a lot in the fields and the greenhouses: things want to live! It’s truly an incredibly awe inspiring process to observe and be a part of.

I have also found that farming pushes people to tap into an inner strength, to uncover what they are capable of, both physically and mentally. Tasks that are seemingly insurmountable are accomplished by teamwork, collaboration and strategy. There’s more science, intuition, creativity, teamwork and collaboration in farming than any other field I’ve every worked.

If there’s one thing that has kept me going it’s the possibility that each season brings to build and reaffirm community.  It is truly the kind of community that I have longed for, the connection to one another and to the land. Although farming can be repetitive, it’s never the same because each day is unique and we have to account for that and move our plans with rather than against it.

Farming is essentially at its root about growing food. Tell us about your relationship with food.

Food was always a big part of my childhood. With an Italian-American mother and a father who emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon, we always celebrated around the dinner table. 

Anything you want to share about your life beyond farming- your hobbies and interests?

I’m drawn to learning more about the nutritional and medicinal properties of food and am beginning to truly understand the meaning of food as medicine. I love the mountains and find refuge in parks with lots of trees. I am capable of eating an entire watermelon in one sitting and am perfectly content to do just that every single day that they are in season. 

What specifically drew you to Blooming Glen Farm, any thoughts on being a part of this community and this farm?

Honestly, the genuineness of both Tom and Tricia and their dedication to continuing to build a successful and sustainable farm business. I wanted to learn how two farmers made the successful leap from working for others to operating their own business. In the short months that I’ve been with BGF, I’ve already learned so much about running a farm business, but equally as important, they have taught me how to find and hold the balance between serious dedication and letting go and having fun.

Post and photos by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.

One of my favorite things to do on the farm is harvest tomatillos. Just today I found myself with a black crate, walking through the tomatillo jungle, feeling the husks for ripeness.

A tomatillo is ripe when it’s green bulge of a body pushes it’s leafy husk to the brink of splitting.  And there is digging for potatoes; pulling up garlic cloves by their stalks; torpedo and sweet onions surprising us with robustness.  Intimate interactions compose farming.

There were also strawberries with sunrise, which my boyfriend was not happy to help with, but he did!  He also helped me move here, to Perkasie.  We drove in a U-Haul on a snowy day in March, all so that I could become a member of the 2013 Blooming Glen Farm team.  I was leaving my home on 53rd street in West Philadelphia; international house (a great movie theater in Philadelphia); a job I felt so fortunate to hold with Project HOME; tons of friends; some furniture; and a guinea pig.  

But my departure felt like a new beginning and I believe that with my time here at Blooming Glen, I have only grown as a person.  I do miss my home on 53rd street, and my great neighbors.

So many people have opened their homes and hearts to me this past growing season.  I would like to thank all my coworkers, admiration abounds; to my family and friends for supporting me; and especially to Tom and Tricia- your vision is profound and important, thank you for letting me take part.

I don’t know what the future beholds. One day I’m planning for a return to the city, the next a puppeteer career, and last week an adventurous bike trip. But I continue to feel fortunate. I am fortunate to have been able to leave a full time job to join Blooming Glen; to have had a job; to have a job; to have a job where people care about me; to have had the opportunity to travel and attend college; to speak a second language, conversationally; to be accepted and tolerated; and to be able to change.

There are so many people I have missed, or have never met, but nonetheless have had a profound effect on my life. I am grateful for the experiences that have facilitated my belief in the dignity and worth of each person, like taking a class inside a maximum security prison, or being with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Mexico. In seeing society as a macro organism, I know that my choices as a United States citizen and consumer matter and will affect people across the world. A purchase is like a vote, and while I still contradict my intentions (and probably always will), I strive to participate in practices that contribute positively to the world, and as a white woman in America, often a choice in consumption is an easy place to begin.

Post written by Robin Hernandez. Photos by Tricia Borneman and Rebecca Metcalf.

Fourth grade teacher Jared Grace reflects on his summers as a farm hand at Blooming Glen.

Over the last two summers, I have had the privilege of being a member of the crew at Blooming Glen Farm.  As a CSA member for the last four years, I have had the unique opportunity to be on both sides of the operation. It has been an incredible experience for me, as well as for my wife, Aimee, who also shares a strong passion for supporting local farmers and living and eating well.

I grew up in South Perkasie, minutes from these vast fields that have become the beautiful landscape of the farm.  I spent a large majority of my childhood outdoors – building forts, fishing, playing Wiffle Ball, and generally, doing what boys do.  I spent 10 years, during my middle school, high school, and college summers, working at Clair’s Flowers, in town.  While most of my friends thought I was insane for choosing to work in the 100+ degree conditions of the greenhouse all day, I absolutely loved every minute.  All the dirt, sweat, and dizzying heat was worth it, when I’d look out and see how beautiful everything was growing.  I believe these early life experiences of working in the dirt and feeling the pride that comes with a hard day’s work led me to my eventual time at Blooming Glen Farm.

Nine years ago, with Aimee’s encouragement and support, I entered the field of education.  While I have experience teaching all of grades K-6, I have primarily been a 6th and now 4th Grade teacher.  Among all the topics I teach, and all the hats I wear in a day, one of the greatest joys of being a teacher is sharing my passions with students and seeing their faces light up when they are connecting to what I’m saying.  Having now added farming to my repertoire, many lively conversations occur in my classroom. My school district’s curriculum includes a reading thematic unit on “Living Green”.  Topics include the “3 R’s” of reducing, reusing, and recycling, composting, and the health and community benefits of consuming locally grown produce. Needless to say, this is where my enthusiasm skyrockets!  I am thoroughly delighted to be an authority on the topic of living and eating well!

My time at BGF has been invaluable to my teaching of these topics to kids.  In addition to discussion, I have learned that children love to be actively involved in growing, choosing, and cooking food.  Kids practically jump out of their seats at the opportunity to share stories of cooking, composting, canning, or recycling with their parents and siblings. I cannot emphasize how important it is for parents, family members, teachers, etc. to talk to kids about the benefits of being a wise consumer, not only for their own well being, but also for the greater good of their communities.  It has also been important to share and discuss the harmful effects of not taking care of the Earth. 

Jared Grace, standing far left, with the 2013 farm crew.

While sharing stories and teaching children about the process of organic farming is exhilarating in its own right, my work experience at Blooming Glen Farm has also had a positive impact on how I live my personal life.  I have been blessed with spending many hours working under the sun and enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of nature all around me.  Though farm work is, without a doubt, the most physically demanding I’ve ever done, each task was completed with pride by sharing the workload with some of the most amazing people I’ve met in my life.  My crewmates are well-traveled, intelligent, and informed citizens.  They are committed, hard workers who never complain, and my life has been enriched by their enthusiasm for sustainable agriculture, their genuine kindness, and respect they showed towards me every day.

So, with autumn and all it’s majesty on the horizon, I must once again depart my beautiful outdoor classroom, one in which I have been a curious student every day.  I now reenter the walls of my wonderful elementary school – taking with me memories of picking strawberries as the sun comes up, harvesting basil in the dark hours of the morning, learning tractor skills, taking my nieces on a farm tour, having spirited conversations with fellow crew, and enjoying every minute of seeding, planting, weeding, harvesting, and eating a bounty of delicious, soul-satisfying food…and getting filthy in the process!

Post and photos courtesy of Jared Grace.

I grew up in Cold Spring, KY, somewhere on the cusp of the country and suburbia just outside of Cincinnati, OH.  We had a set of encyclopedias that were referenced often after dinners, usually the result of some disagreement or just plain ignorance of a particular topic.  I think this part of my life instilled in me the notion that we have a whole lifetime to learn as much as we can and it is most likely a never-ending endeavor.  Following this curiosity has led me, formally and informally, to be a musician, a long-distance hiker, a geographer, a community organizer and data nerd, a traveler of the Americas, and now a farmer.  My partner, Rebecca, mentioned in her apprentice profile how the visibility of farms in Latin America inspired us to help create that reality closer to home and ultimately brought us to Blooming Glen Farm.  Here, I find myself being educated on the most essential task of survival and wondering how it took so long to arrive at this.   

Farming so far has amazed me in its strange paradox of being complicatedly simple, in its constant presence and persistent pace, in its demand for improvisation and flexibility, and in the length of time it takes transforming a seed into something somebody wants to buy. My appreciation for where food comes from and what effort that goes into it has grown. I can only compare the physical demand required for this occupation to when I hiked over 2,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail in 2005.  Never since then have I felt the level of exhaustion at the end of every day until now.  I can honestly say it is one of my favorite feelings in life.  It’s the feeling of satisfaction that I was gifted an able body and I am using it to it’s fullest potential and that potential is helping promote health and knowledge. 

As I have worked in the field for the past two months, my thoughts have been revolving around the history of this country’s physical laborers and how farming creates a connection to a complex and deep past. It also has drawn my attention to what the future looks like as farmers become increasingly more scarce.  With around 2% of the population claiming farming as their full time occupation and the average age of a farmer at 57 there is an urgency to figure out why farming has or is fallen out of favor. Simultaneously I see a growing excitement that is shared by many of my peers in the possibility of reclaiming how we produce and consume food in a healthy and sustainable manner.

My previous occupation at the Network Center for Community Change in Louisville, KY taught me more than I ever thought I would learn about how to take ideas and make them work by getting as many people as possible thinking about these ideas, having discussions, and turning those discussions into action.  I think that is why I am here today.  I want to work on how we connect two worlds: the world that produces the obscurely tangible ideas like better communities and the absolutely tangible world of scale production of real food.  I want to find the answer to why it has taken 30 years for me to figure out how many people 30+ acres of land can feed.  I want to join the others already working on these issues and learn how we can make sure future generations know what food actually is from a young age. Rebecca and I are lucky to have found an opportunity to pursue these desires and pay the bills while doing so. Thanks to Tricia and Tom, my fellow farmers, and all the people reading this who support people who grow food and understand that the decisions we make in our daily lives are real and have implications that reach way beyond where we live and work.

Text and photos courtesy of Bob Dixon.

Rebecca Metcalf, our second featured apprentice, joined the farm at the beginning of April with her partner Bob. Her steady, willing presence, laid-back attitude, and the unique life perspective she brings, is all such a wonderful addition to Blooming Glen. When she’s not here working hard at the farm, you’ll also see Rebecca’s smiling face at our booth at the Saturday Easton Farmer’s market.

Some of my earliest memories are of going to my grandmothers’ houses and learning to string green beans in the kitchen or to find the strawberries that were ripe enough to pick in the field. The hardest part was not eating them all before I got them back to the house. I was born into a family of tobacco farmers and vegetable gardeners in Lexington, Kentucky. So, farming is something that feels familiar to me. Yet, by age six my parents moved away from farming and into a more suburban life. I still visited my grandparents’ farms as I grew up, but lost the close connection to growing food that I had started to develop as a young child.

Until recently, I hadn’t thought too much about becoming a farmer. I’ve dabbled in other areas, such as hairstyling for a few years and then moving on to work in the social service arena. During these years I was a supporter of local agriculture in and around Louisville, Kentucky, where I lived. I bought CSA shares and frequented farmer’s markets and I even tried my hand at backyard gardening. But, I never dreamed I would find myself as a full time farmer at this point in my life.

Rebecca and her bike in Ecuador in 2012.

Life drastically changed course, though, when my partner Bob (who is farming at Blooming Glen with me) and I decided to save up money and take a year off to travel the Americas. We both love experiencing new places and cultures and wanted to embark on an adventure together. So we sold most of the things we had accumulated in our twenties and hit the road in January of 2012. We headed out on our motorcycle loaded down with all the belongings we would have for the next year. Needless to say, it was quite an adventure.

Rebecca at eco-reserve Miraflor in Nicaragua.

The things that really struck us during our travels were how little we really needed to live on and how far away from our food sources we had been while living in the U.S. I still miss being able to run down the street, in almost any city we visited, to grab a few fresh vegetables from the corner store. They were like micro-farmer’s markets where you could get whatever you needed to cook a healthy meal without having to leave the block. We also knew where the food was coming from because we could see it being transported straight into town from the outlying farms. The huge box grocery store was virtually non-existent during our travels. And, we came to appreciate that change in a profound way.

When we returned to the U.S. we knew that we didn’t want to fall back into a lifestyle that was absent of this connection to food. We also wanted to find a way to acclimate back into U.S. culture without being bombarded by the parts we weren’t so fond of upon returning. So, we decided that working hard, getting our hands dirty and connecting to a movement that we already believed in would be a kind of therapy for our new found state of culture shock in our own home country.

Rebecca planting tomatoes this spring at Blooming Glen Farm.

That’s how we landed at Blooming Glen Farm. As a first year farmer there are quite a lot of exciting discoveries that come along with learning a new skill. Major sources of inspiration for me so far include: seeing a flat of seeds that I’ve sown begin to sprout its first seedlings, the realization of just how many people we are going to feed with our vegetables when the weekly market harvest is accumulated, and seeing the excitement in our customers’ faces at being able to buy fresh, nourishing vegetables from our stand. Working the outdoor market has been one of the best ways to reconnect to our travels for me so far, as it was more of the norm for food buying in the countries we visited.

I’m still awaiting the harvest of those nostalgic vegetables from childhood, though I expect to display a bit more self-control in the strawberry patch than I did at age five. I can already feel my connection to food growing and I look forward to all the opportunities for learning that lay ahead. As this new adventure unfolds, I can’t wait to see (and taste!) all that the season has in store.

Text by Rebecca Metcalf, photos provided by Rebecca.

Blooming Glen farm apprentice Carly Freedman has an equal love for crafting and root vegetables, for her faith and for her family. She brings to our farm crew a big heart and infectious enthusiasm. Below she shares her journey to farming.

I was born and raised in Ambler, PA surrounded by loud and loving family and friends. As the youngest of three, my parents, Michael and Audrey, were always on the run and keeping us busy with many different activities. From dance, to soccer, to softball, to swimming, to singing, to theatre, my childhood was filled with different experiences which shaped my personality and morals. In college and beyond, my passions shifted greatly from biology, to the environment, to cooking, to Judaism, to environmental education, to dairy goats, to vegetable farming. 

Carly at Kayam Farm in 2008.

My passion for farming started at Ursinus College, when I heard a talk about Judaism and the environment, which led me to participate in a 2 week experiential program at Kayam, a Jewish educational farm. There, I was introduced to what it feels like to grow food, connect with the earth, community, and my religious traditions. This ignited a spark within me and I started to delve more into environmental studies, gardening, environmental education with children, and their relationship with Judaism. After much studying and learning in school and on my own, I graduated college in December 2010 with a dual degree in Biology and Environmental Studies and the mission to live the values I had developed and learn the skills that I lacked.

I began my next chapter in Spain, Morocco, and Israel, where I learned about herbal medicine, different cultures, gardening, and living in a Jewish society. From there, I went to Oregon, where I lived on a small sustainable homestead and learned animal husbandry, raising dairy goats, processing wool from sheep to sweater, preserving food, and much more.

Then I moved to southern California where I worked as a nature and farm educator at a Jewish nature reserve and conference center.  I learned survival skills, Native American crafts, gardening in a chaparral climate, and how to aide in connecting children with nature.

Carly with new mama and baby goat at the Pearlstone Center.

From California, I moved to Maryland where I worked at the farm at the Pearlstone Center as a farm and educator apprentice. I cared for dairy goats and chickens, grew vegetables on 4 acres, and helped to run a 40 share CSA with a small and passionate farming community. We also served the Baltimore Jewish community with farm and nature education. That experience left me inspired to really focus on vegetable production on a larger scale.

This led me to Blooming Glen! Here, I have been able to work with an amazing crew and have begun to learn successful, sustainable, and effective systems to growing beautiful vegetables.  I believe that as spiritual, physical, social, and emotional beings, when we engage all of those sides of ourselves, we connect to a whole and meaningful experience. Farming is able to engage a person on all levels; the physical labor, the social implications of participating in the sustainable agriculture movement and engaging in the farm and larger community, the emotional experience of growing food and feeding a community, and the spiritual connection developed as you connect with life! Farming is always exciting and presents new challenges and rewards.  I love to harvest root vegetables (like beets and radishes) because it is always surprising and exciting to see what you will pull out of the ground.  Every day is exciting as I learn new skills, recall old ones, and challenge myself at Blooming Glen.

Learning new tractor skills at Blooming Glen Farm.

When I am not farming, I love to cook, read, craft, hike, spend time with my family, play games with my grandma, and go on adventures with my friends.

I look forward to all that this season will bring- from the cold and hard days of preparing the farm in the spring, to the hard work that follows during the summer harvest and fall plantings, to the fall harvest and prep for winter in the fall. I hope to continue learning more and more each day and I look forward to meeting everyone in the greater Blooming Glen Farm community. Until then, remember to breathe properly, stay curious, and eat your beets!

Photos and text by Carly Freedman.

Lisa Miskelly joins our crew for the 2013 season. Not just a farmer, but a wonderful writer as well, I asked her to introduce herself to our Blooming Glen Farm community, and speak a bit about her journey into farming- below you will find her response. We look forward to hearing more from her on the Blooming Glen Beet this season!

Beet Harvest at Orchard Hill Farm, Ontario.

“My story into farming seems to echo that of so many young and beginning farmers in this up-and-coming generation who comprise the local food “movement;” my tale follows the same trend, the same thread of being called to the land, the outdoors, the work of physical stamina and mental flexibility, the care of plants, animals, and soils, the enriching of a community through strengthening the local economy, the growing of nutritious food to inspire culinary creativity and highlight the rich flavors of the earth, and the desire for food justice.

A Maryland-born-and-raised suburbanite, I began farming 6 years ago in Southeastern Vermont.  After acquiring a degree in Political Theory from a small liberal arts college, spending a summer milking sheep and setting up pasture fencing felt like a welcome relief from the world of reading, writing, and computers.  I didn’t begin the internship on a sheep dairy anticipating I was opening a new career-path for myself, but by the end of the season I found myself smitten, enveloped into the daily cadence of chores and milking, the necessity of early morning work, the tiredness of my body at the close of each day, and the taste of such delicacies which were a product, in part, of my labor. 

While I have always loved cooking, learning about, eating, and sharing food, growing and raising food brought this love to a new level of infatuation and understanding.  I believe the sharing of food with friends and family unites people through the bond of caring for the physical health and well-being of one another, while allowing for us to slow down, listen to one another’s stories, and gather in appreciation of digestion and digression, cooking and conversation.  Bringing children and young adults into the realities of food’s source—carrots pulled up out of the ground, milk still warm from the udder—and the work required to grow and raise those carrots and cows offers them an understanding of the practical purposefulness of work and a delight in the farm food they eat.

After my first season farming, I spent the next five years traversing the diverse world of small-and-medium-scale farming in the North-East, spending seasons working on farms with a variety of approaches and focuses: hand, horse, and tractor-scale vegetable production, farm-based education, cow and sheep dairying, and draft-horse powered grain-growing and hay-making. 

Horses Sunny and Kate discing with Lisa at Great Song Farm in Milan, NY

These experiences have now brought me to join the community of farmers at Blooming Glen where I continue my farm-education, to work amidst a group of talented and high-energy growers on a scale much larger than I have ever farmed before—seeking to learn tractor skills and experience first-hand the benefits of diverse marketing (selling vegetables through wholesale, CSA, and farmer’s markets).  Three weeks in, I am in admiration of the efficiencies of growing on such extensive acreage, excited to observe and learn the finesses of managing land, people, and production, and trying my best not to be too intimidated by how much work we are going to collectively accomplish in the coming eight months.  The propagation houses are full of germinating seeds and plants ready for transplanting, Tom has already started Spring plowing, and our crew of workers seems to be growing in number each week: Summer, here we come!

Winter scallion harvest at Blooming Glen Farm.

Farming provides me with a livelihood which fulfills my physical need for healthy food, food which retains its connection to its source—the land on which it was grown and the farmers who grew it.  I farm to remain connected with my body, to feel the strength and soreness of my muscles as a result of my work each day.  I farm to awaken my spiritual connection with the Earth, the elements, and the unknown.  I farm to be nourished by the visceral challenges of working with living beings and uncontrollable forces, to be confronted with my limitations in the face of environmental conditions.  I farm to find my place in service to, and in being served by, a community of growers, consumers, producers, share-holders, and friends, as we together partake in the intoxicating adventure and delight of seasonal eating.  I farm to practice the crafts of listening, learning, and paying attention.

I look forward to meeting all of you in the season before us—to help to grow food for you and your families, learn your favorite recipes and share some of mine, and join you in this Blooming Glen Farm Community. 

In Celebration of Spring, (Happy Equinox!)”

Lisa Miskelly

Spring has officially arrived at Blooming Glen, and with it has come three new interns! This newest crop of folks joins us from far and wide across the country. With a few weeks of farming now under their belts, the interns are getting to know Blooming Glen, but the greater farm community still needs to get to know them! Over the next several weeks you will be introduced to all the new faces on the farm. This week we meet Mike Lasecki.

Mike, 25, comes to us from the Madison suburb of Middleton, Wisconsin. After graduating from UW-Madison with a BA in History and Conservation Biology, Mike has been working and living all across the country. From park ranging for the Middleton and Madison Parks Departments, to fighting wildfires in Washington State, Mike has been keeping busy with a wide range of adventures. Most recently, he and his girlfriend (Claudia, a fellow Blooming Glen Farm intern) lived and worked at Plowshare Farm, a residential community for adults with special needs. At Plowshare, Mike had the opportunity to do extensive land management work and try his hand at vegetable and dairy farming. 

“After I graduated from college I really didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living. I had a lot of different interests that I thought might be possible life pursuits, so I just decided to immerse myself in each to see what really fits me best. So far it has been fun and very educational.”

Mike describes his childhood as a “farm boy without the farm.”  He spent much of his formative years out in the garage with his dad and grandpa, splitting wood, fixing old tractors, and generally learning to do things with his own hands. Mike’s family has been in Wisconsin for more than 6 generations. However, a lot has changed even just within Mike’s own lifetime. During middle school, Mike’s neighborhood transitioned from waving corn fields to a gated community with a manicured golf course. The homestead (as he calls his family’s home) is now essentially an island-surrounded on all sides by a suburban country club. These changes in the land affected Mike deeply and contributed to his fascination with the relationships between people and natural places.

“I’ve always been attracted to farming.  I come from a family of farmers, been around farms most my life, and have always been an active vegetable gardener.  I think what attracts me the most to farming as a life pursuit is the combining of hard manual labor that’s rewarding with the mental challenges of planning and understanding a farm’s ecology.  That combination of physical and mental work just really excites me.  As for my first season here at Blooming Glen Farm I’d like to master the necessary physical skills needed to farm and increase my mental capacity and ability to plan a small farm.”

When he’s not farming, Mike enjoys picking his mandolin, practicing air bass, and hunting for wild edibles. He recently purchased a fishing license and can’t wait to get casting. We are excited to have Mike in our farm family!

Written by Claudia Hartley, first year Blooming Glen Farm intern, Washington grown, weasel enthusiast.

It’s almost March- I guess on most other years it would be already! As busy as we’ve been, it kind of feels like this leap day, we get a “free” day. It’s been an incredibly mild winter- I don’t need to tell anyone it feels like Spring. Tom was able to work up some ground yesterday to get ready to plant our onion sets, it’s been that dry. The propagation greenhouse underwent a makeover. Thanks to some “new” used greenhouse benching, our flats now actually lie flat- no more wavy gravy, which means less water pooling and more even germination. Today the onions are being seeded, and already you’ll see tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, kale, swiss chard, kohlrabi and cabbage sprouting in the greenhouse flats.

Garlic sprout

One of the great things about Blooming Glen Farm is the influx of new faces and energy every season. One of our highly valued missions here at the farm is to mentor and train future farmers. In another month our interns will be joining us, a great new group of young people from Washington, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, as well as Kate, returning for another year from Colorado. You’ll be hearing more about all of the new farmers joining us this season, so you can have an idea of the many hands behind the harvest headed for your dinner plate. Our skeleton crew of employees has been busy these past few weeks, seeding, working on construction projects and winter repair, and thinning out the thick blanket of straw that covered the garlic all winter, so that the new pale green garlic shoots can poke through. Our early crew consists of: Jillian Herschlag, our assistant manager, returning for year three; Brian Smyth newly engaged and returning for year two and a half; and a new face on the farm, Brandon Grossman.

Brandon, 24, comes to Blooming Glen Farm with a few years of experience working on a farm on Mount Desert Island in Maine that he started with his girlfriend’s family. Together they ran a small CSA and market garden, growing throughout the summer and into the cold winter months in Maine using a wood heated greenhouse for season extension.

Brandon graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in Neuro-Science. Not too long after graduation, a job in his area of study brought him to Maine. However, he quickly decided to trade in a laboratory of beakers and research for the broader laboratory of farming.

“I think I was initially rebelling from the standard path of what was expected of me- get a degree, get a job in your career path. The idea of what a farmer was- an uneducated tobacco spitter- I wanted to break down those misconceptions. Farming was so different then how I grew up. I grew up eating Wonder Bread and Dunk-a-roos. I was always that kid in class and in the office, fidgeting, and wanting to be outdoors. So I chose to go down a path that would get me outside, living a healthy lifestyle.”

Brandon at his farm in Maine.

However after three years living in a half-insulated shed, struggling to make ends meet and chopping firewood all winter, both his hands and soul grew cold and homesick. He decided to return to Bucks County where he grew up- Brandon attended CB West and when his folks moved to New Hope area, he graduated from New Hope Solebury High School.

“Most of the things I learned about farming were self-taught, through trial and error. I’m ready to learn farming from professionals, and be closer to family.”

When Brandon’s not at the farm, you can find him and Chad, his close friend and identical twin brother, on Sundays down in Suburban Station in Philadelphia playing music to the subway riders. Brandon comes from a very musically gifted family. Lately you’ll find him on guitar and his brother on ukulele, both doing the vocals, but Brandon also plays the saxophone, drums and ukulele. We’re happy to have him on the farm!

David Koschak, 36, joins us for his second season of farming, having spent last season pasturing chickens, pigs, and cows with Forks Farm near Bloomsburg, PA. David is an architectural designer by training, having first studied English and Environmental Science at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA and then receiving a Masters degree in Architecture from the University of Oregon.  He has spent the last six years working in architectural firms in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  David’s hometown is Dushore, Pennsylvania, a small town in the Northern Tier.  He currently resides in Wilkes-Barre.

“I grew up in a very rural and poor area.  I was very affected by the physical and cultural changes I saw occurring during my childhood.  I wanted to better understand why these small northern Pennsylvanian towns were shrinking, why beautiful old buildings were neglected or torn down, why farms continued to disappear, why everyone young moved away, why so many people were extremely poor, and why my own family’s farm, now owned by my uncle, may no longer be ours after 150 years.

The story was always that it was no longer possible to make a living milking, there was no longer a market for small-scale egg production, or there was no longer money in lumber. To me, it seemed crazy that we were creating a world where only large-scale commercial production existed. Why didn’t we buy eggs and meat and veggies from each other? For me personally, the large-scale alternative meant that the world I loved was being phased out.

I studied Architecture to be a part of the physical changes that occur in our communities.  I wanted to be more involved in the decisions about what kind of buildings we built and what part of our history we chose to tear down.  I moved to Oregon to study Architecture and ended up also learning about local sustainable agriculture and local economies.  It was the first time I saw a community that overwhelmingly valued local organic food (and may even have bought some veggies from Tom and Tricia at the Saturday Market in Eugene, Oregon).  I was inspired and excited to see this as a possible way for us to move forward and I wondered how this may become true back home in Pennsylvania.

Since coming back to the east coast I have been interested in not only working to create better buildings, but also richer communities through a stronger more vibrant local food system.  A highlight of the last few years was to have worked on the adaptive reuse of a historic silk mill.  This project included the design of a café featuring local produce and local pastured chicken from Forks Farm where I also worked.  I am with Blooming Glen this season to continue to better understand what role I can play in the growing network of people and food.  I hope one day that I’ll be able to combine my architectural and agricultural experience and possibly help tend my family’s farm for another generation. 

I remember, as a kid, believing there was a garden behind our town’s grocery store.  And I remember being very confused when I didn’t see one there.  I wish I hadn’t been wrong.  But for now, I am happy to be currently living on a farm where there is some truth to that idea.”

David Koschak

Posted by Tricia Borneman, Blooming Glen farmer and co-owner.