Despite the long hours and sacrifices made around here to make this farm a success, we try to remain very much aware of the privilege and opportunities we enjoy. Just as past generations of the Wenk family invested in their kids, we enjoy the opportunity to benefit... many kids! All over our community. We hope you join us and enjoy some delicious food along the way at this two great events that connect kids to good food through leadership and education!
First up is an event in Central PA on Saturday 9/26 hosted by our friends at LEAF Project: "Savor! A Strolling Supper", to benefit the work this great organization does to empower and educate youth through agriculture. We've been a partner farm of this organization from it's inception and are honored to be paired with friend of the farm Chef Carey Ehly for the dessert course in this year's event. See photo and visit the LEAF website for details.
The second event is one we've enjoyed participating in and attending for several years running: Maryland Farm to Chef, benefitting AIWF's Day's Of Taste, Monday October 5th at the B&O Railroad Museum. This chef's competition supports efforts to provide culinary and agricultural education to Baltimore public schools. This year, we're partnered with the Baltimore Bartenders Guild and PlantBar in the Best Beverage competition. It's always a great night out with incredible food and a great vibe - people supporting a great cause. For tickets, just click this link - we'll see you there.
And just because videos are fun, check out some videos about these great organizations and consider joining us in supporting them this year.
I was asked for my reaction to the new bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Courtney & Gibson "Young Farmer Success Act of 2015", as described in this Mark Bittman editorial, that would classify those farming for ten years as public servants in the interest of student loan forgiveness.
First off, I love Mark Bittman. He's a great mouthpiece for the change we need in our food system.
And I love this editorial! I actually have friends who have lobbied on behalf of the NYFC. I also support Rep. Courtney's bill and think you should too but, as Mr. Bittman alludes to early on, the problem is not so simply solved.
In addition to the land access issue, young and beginning farmers are faced with a learning curve. This is the part in this editorial where I point out how fortunate I am to have received a degree from PSU's College of Ag and that I have a family full (moreover, a community full) of experienced advisers and mentors in the field of agriculture, which is a pun that's tired but necessary in this case.
A young, motivated baccalaureate graduate doesn't make a successful farmer overnight. That being said, I know plenty of them that have achieved success. I also know plenty who have wanted to, tried to, and ultimately could not or are not farming presently due to a variety of circumstances. The point of Bittman's article is that, should our society value food production as public service, as I agree we should, then loan forgiveness can solve one of these circumstances to which I'm referring. Maybe it starts the cultural change that can bring the whole situation back into balance.
In a lot of ways, working on a farm has been considered an option of "those who couldn't attend college" for generations. That's how we got to this point in the first place, right? First off, education is a worthy pursuit any way you slice it - it's vital to understanding the richness of life any way you slice it. And while it's not the case that "nothing about your liberal arts education will prepare you for farming" - if we're serious about farming as public service, let's find liberal arts colleges with student farming programs and support them - there are two fine one's in our backyard (Fulton Farm, Dickinson). Let's be real about it - if farming is public service (and it is), tell your sons, daughters, nieces and nephews that farming is an impactful career choice (Cicero sure thought so). Encourage them to learn the sciences! Tell them about PASA, about FutureHarvest CASA. I know it's not for everyone, but when I figured out I wanted to farm, I studied Ag Sciences. It offered me incredible opportunities that were practical, applicable, and not easily learned "in the field" to recycle the expression again, to everyone's irritation. Step one, let's get this bill passed and get some student loan relief for young and beginning farmers. Step Two, let's complete this culture change and talk about farming as public service... not like it's a last resort for people who "couldn't do my job", for example. While the mechanics of farming seem simple, making a farm a successful business (not to mention someday retiring) is incredibly difficult - it's not a lower percentile thing, so let's just put that whole notion to bed. And Step Three, although education of ANY kind is, in and of itself, very important, the more science, training, and practical experience our new farmer-public servants have, the more likely they succeed. Teach young farmers plant science!
All this before we tackle the land access issue!
(or providing farming opportunities to minority and women farmers, but c'mon - I've only so much time I can devote to this stuff... I am farming here, afterall)
Three Cheers for L.E.A.F!
It took a lot of work, sweat, blood, and tears to bring this family farm into its seventh generation of stewardship. In respect of that fact and the privelege I feel, as a seventh generation grower, to have a farm to inherit, we try to give back whenever we can.
And in so doing, we find the rewards come back to us threefold! A fine example of this was our participation in the first season of Project LEAF. Friend of the farm Heidi Witmer has been putting years of effort into getting this project off the ground and, in our opinion, she hit it out of the park. The kids were outstanding and asked terrific questions - they were so engaged when they came to visit us. They worked hard and learned a lot - making cases of value added products from a wide range of our "secondy" farm products. The dinner they served and prepared for the final LEAF Feast was epic and delicious.
I've always said, more than the food, more than the lifestyle, more than pride I feel - the community I work in nearly always wins out as "top perk of the job".
Happy New Year, fruit lovers! I'd mentioned to our email subscribers that we can be found volunteering at the PA Farm Show each year. If you're unfamiliar with this event, it's one of the largest of its kind. It's a great chance to learn a lot about agriculture and, perhaps more famously, a terrific place to eat delicious food! On display will be a wide diversity of animals to check out - plenty of different dairy cows and livestock plus what seems like one hundred different breeds of poultry and fowl - always my favorite fascination since my first trip as a little ag kid. Antique farm equipment, tons of events including very popular rodeo competitions, informative exhibitions from local FFA students and merchants from all PA ag sectors - there's a great "Farm Show Dectective" program for children. Anyone can learn something new at the farm show - I learn something new every year. Of course, the Food Court is the star of the show with booths staffed with volunteers from many of the PA ag commodities (PA apple dumplings, PA fresh cut fries, PA trout sandwiches, PA thick milkshakes, PA lamb stew & beef sandwiches) and it's all prepared on site! The farm show is free to enter, though parking is $10. All those funds go to the PA Dept. of Agriculture which has taken hard and disproportionatey large budget cuts every year. Food court purchases support the commodity boards, that is to say all the profit from our delicious apple dumplings funds vital research in the apple industry - research that benefits growers on the whole east coast, not only in Pennsylvania. If you think you can make time to attend, I know you won't be disappointed. Plus... you can chat it up with us at the following dates and times:
Monday 1/10/11 - Ben is helping at the Apple Exhibition in the Main Hall from sometime right after a delicious Food Court lunch until close (8pm)
Wednesday 1/12/11 - The whole crew: brothers Dave & John, Ben, and possibly (hopefully) a few other familar faces will be pouring cider, warming dumplings and making apple & peach sundaes at the Apple Booth inside the Food Court from 3-9pm
The Farm Show is held annually at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA - a 2 1/2 hr drive from Washington, DC, a 1 1/2 hour drive from Towson, MD, and less than two hours away from sunny Philadelphia, PA.
You're certain to learn at least a little bit, over-eat a little bit, and lend a big hand to local agriculture.