Maysie's FarmMaysie's Farm Newsletter: Fresh from the Fields
April 2005
What a difference a year makes! Last spring and "throughout the 2004 CSA season", Maysie's Farm experienced an unprecedented (and inexplicable) shortage of interns. Although the Farm Manager and the few interns we had worked hard, they could never quite catch up with all there was to do, and this had an impact on what the farm was able to produce. Now, as we go into the 2005 season, not only do we have a brand new tractor, but we've had a solid intern team, all winter as well.

Charlie Blume arrived at Maysie's in mid-October of last year and will continue part-time through the 2005 season. Originally from Pittsburgh, Charlie graduated from Harvard, where he majored in English and Latin. After selling investments for a year, he decided to return to school and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Law School. After practicing law for 10 years and becoming increasingly dissatisfied, Charlie realized through coaching soccer that he'd like to teach. He went to California and taught Latin, English and history for about five years, then came back to Pennsylvania to become a headmaster and teacher at a private school in Wyndmoor. Charlie's interest in farming had been brewing for several years as he became disillusioned over industrial farming and how that has affected our culture and communities. He came to Maysie's to learn more about organic, sustainable farming. Charlie has enjoyed the perspective of seeing the different seasons at the farm, and is very much looking forward to the CSA season arriving again. He is currently taking courses in Greek at Temple, and teaches adults Latin at the Philadelphia Latin and Greek Institute. He will co-teach the Summer Intensive Program in Latin and Greek this summer and hopes to attend Penn in the fall. Charlie is also available to tutor both Latin and Greek should you know anyone needing assistance with either of those languages. Ultimately, he'd like to integrate his interest in farming with his classics and teaching background, maybe by someday having his own farm that fosters a local community and economy.

Johnny Riley arrived at Maysie's just as the CSA season was ending and worked here all winter. Although he was born in Massachusetts, Johnny spent almost of his entire life in Florida. He lived on a beach for about six years there and has a total of about 15 years experience working in restaurant kitchens. He enjoys hard labor, and finds satisfaction in farm work that connects him to the earth. Johnny has a interesting hobby of crafting things out of copper wire; he wraps crystals, stones and seashells, and has even made his own eyeglasses!

Johnny moved to Pennsylvania last year to work at Covered Bridge Produce in Olney, PA. He transferred to Maysie's Farm in November when the season ended at Covered Bridge, but as planned, returned there in March. Johnny feels that working on an organic farm is the best thing he can do for the Creator, himself, other people, and our planet. Although someday he'd like a family of his own, his only definite future plan is to help as many people as he can.

David Sumners, of Nashville, Tennessee, is a December 2004 graduate of Tennessee Tech. He majored in geology and computer geography (GIS). He found out about Maysie's through the internet and started here in February, just in time to attend the PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) Conference. He's worked at nurseries with trees, flowers and shrubs, but wanted to gain experience with food crops to prepare for his future — this September David will be going to eastern Europe with the Peace Corps on a two-year agriculture assignment. David, whose hobby is bicycling, is very excited about the spring and is eager to meet the CSA members.

George Macros started at Maysie's at the same time as David. Originally from Long Island, George is a 2002 graduate of Swarthmore College, where he majored in biology. At Swarthmore he took an education class in which he started a garden with elementary school students in Chester. This sparked an interest in teaching; George received his Master's Degree in secondary biology education from Brooklyn College while he taught biology in a public school in Brooklyn, where he incorporated plants and gardening into the curriculum and even started an after-school gardening club. George has been working with plants since he was a bean picker at age 8, and thinks the hands-on approach with teaching is the most successful. In the future he would like to maybe combine agriculture/gardening with education. For now he's happy to be back in a familiar area, and when he's not hard at work at Maysie's he enjoys birding, photography and drawing.

Jonathan Imboden came to Maysie's Farm in March. Though he has spent most of his life near Harrisburg, he worked in Berwyn six years ago so is somewhat familiar with this area. Jonathan graduated from Messiah College as a math major. He worked in an actuarial department and then began developing software applications.

He enjoyed his work in computer programming, but while doing government contract job, he began to question how the whole system worked and realized there was not much regard for individual people and their needs. He wanted to drop out of the mainstream and help more local community and social structures. Jonathan took a job at the Paxton Street Home in Harrisburg, which is affiliated with the Brethren in Christ Church. In this personal care facility, which houses over 100 people many of whom have mental health issues, he worked in maintenance and as a therapeutic caregiver. He also gardened there, and is intrigued by the idea of possibly starting a larger farm or CSA there. Jonathan's parents were gardeners, and he comes from a mixed background that includes Anabaptist qualities of frugality and self-sufficiency. He comes to Maysie's interested in learning more about local, sustainable agriculture and is eager to see the CSA in action. When not working, Jonathan enjoys tennis, landscape photography, and road trips.

As we get into the busy spring season, there's a ton of work to be done! The interns do a great job at growing the vegetables, but there are lots of other jobs around the farm that are begging for volunteers. We've come up with the list below, and hope that these spark an interest for some of you. Notice that some of these jobs are ongoing, while some are one-time efforts.

  • Establish and maintain the culinary herb beds (these were a disaster last year because they were not tended to!).

  • Restore and maintain the Children's Garden (ditto!).

  • Landscape an "island" behind the new barn office (after trenching for solar electric lines is completed). Take down the mulberry tree.

  • Establish native ground cover in full sun along the rock wall on the southern side of the hoophouse.

  • Construct a bio-diesel processing facility (instructions and examples are available).

Once again this year, we also put the call out to members to volunteer some extra time on their pick up day to act as Distribution Managers in the barn. No experience is necessary, and their presence helps the distribution go much more smoothly.

To volunteer for any of these jobs (or if you think of others...weeding, mowing, etc!) call Sam at 610-458-8129. Thank you!

Things slow down at the farm during the winter. Although there are still plenty of jobs to do (equipment maintenance, seed inventory and ordering, crop planning for the new season, etc.) farmers take advantage of the slow season to attend various workshops and conferences. Sam and the interns spent several days in February at local workshops such as Chester County's "Keep Farming First" conference, "Keep Farming in Montgomery County" conference, and "New and Beginner Farmer" conference near Harrisburg. They also traveled to State College for PASA's (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) three day "Farming for the Future" conference. The interns came back enthused about what they learned and the people they met, particularly at PASA. George Macros, who spent his first few days as an intern at PASA, said that the conference reaffirmed his beliefs about sustainable agriculture being the best system for growing food. He enjoyed hearing farmers talk about their operations and how they evolved.

David Sumners also found the workshops to be informative. He was taken by how much work it is to farm; after hearing about how some of the farmers struggled he realized that you have to have a passion to farm. Charlie Blume was grateful for the practical knowledge he gained at the conferences. He attended workshops about berry plants, growing garlic, and tips on marketing. Charlie too was encouraged by the stories of how some of the farmers got started; he found them to be motivational and inspiring.

In January, Sam took a trip to California to attend the 25th annual "Ecological Farming" conference which, with something like 1400 attendees, was almost as large as the PASA conference (which is only in it's 14th year). Unlike PASA, which strives to involve all farmers in the movement towards sustainable, ECOFARM appeals only to organic producers and whereas people at PASA are constantly stressing local food production, the idea was hardly mentioned at ECOFARM, since California farmers are used to feeding the country. Sam found "Sustainable Farmers" in California, many of whom farm hundreds of acres to be much more satisfied with their financial situation then his counterparts back here who seem to be defined by their unsustainable income.

Some of the workshops Sam enjoyed most were on farm and school partnerships, growth of the organic movement, and chemical residue in the human body. Sam came back with a list of potential speakers he'd like to recruit for PASA or "Keep Farming First", on who's conference planning committee he serves.

There's a garden at Lionville Elementary School that helps teach nearly 600 children. This garden produced about 800 pounds of fresh produce last season on only 540 square feet in 15 raised beds. The schoolchildren are involved in all aspects of growing the food — planting seeds, transplanting, weeding, and harvesting. After harvesting, the vegetables are weighed, cleaned, and donated to the Lord's Pantry in Downingtown as part of the Chester County Gleaning Program. In the 2003 season, 650 pounds of produce were sent to the food pantry, and the 2004 season exceeded that!

Forty-four families kept the garden going over the summer months. The children have seen 54 vegetables, three fruits, six herbs and 15 different flowers growing in the garden. There is also a 12-foot round butterfly garden that attracted many butterflies and some beneficial insects to the area.

The goals for the garden were planned to meet the Pennsylvania academic standards. A garden helps the children learn the importance of agriculture, identify common food plants and what is necessary to grow them well, become familiar with the tools needed to produce food crops, appreciate rich soil and what it can do, and experience the joy of sharing produce with needy people.

The children are encouraged to take small tastes of vegetables growing in the garden. Some things the children have tried are a sip of potato leek soup, a fresh green pea straight from a pod just picked, a piece of fresh spinach, a green soy bean just blanched, a cherry tomato right from the plant on a sunny day, a taste of baby arugula and mesclun lettuce, and a piece of baked celery root.

One of the best bug and weed controls for a garden is a class of first graders who quickly spot any bugs or small weeds and delight in catching them or pulling them out!

In the spring and fall, all 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders have an opportunity to sign up for an after school garden club. This club and the garden are directed by teachers Mary Ann Wittle and Jackie McCalla.

Each CSA season brings a new crop of farm interns. If you've ever taken the time to talk to them, you'll find that they have interesting backgrounds and fascinating plans for their futures! In this continuing series, I'll be tracking down past interns and updating you on what they've been doing since leaving Maysie's Farm.

Returning shareholders from two years ago will probably remember Lucy Holliday, the British intern who spent six months at Maysie's in 2003. She's back home in England, working as a research scientist at an engineering company that specializes in anaerobic digesters (biogas plants). In this technology, organic waste is broken down by bacteria in the absence of oxygen, which then produces a bio-fertilizer and a renewable energy - methane. Her specific research project looks at the different types of grass that can fuel a biogas plant. Lucy also grows vegetables at work and runs experiments to see the effects of using bio-fertilizer on them. She's now living with her boyfriend Jonathan on his family's organic beef farm, and happily reports that she maintains a vegetable garden there too.

You go back a long time with Maysie's Farm if you remember Abby Youngblood, who interned in 1999. After Maysie's, she won a fellowship to study sustainable agriculture and food security in Kenya, India, and Russia (see Feb. 2002 and July 2002 issues of this newsletter to read more about her experiences there), and is now working on a website about the farmers she met and what she learned during her travels. When she returned to the U.S., Abby worked for two years with the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger helping low-income families sign up for food stamps. She recently finished a year-long apprenticeship at Caretaker Farm, a CSA in Williamstown, MA. Abby plans to continue farming; her dream job is managing an urban farm that produces food for the surrounding community and educates people about where their food comes from.

Winter has never been my favorite season. I'm not a big fan of the snow and cold. I don't like the shortened hours of sunlight. And although I try to see the beauty in the starkness I miss the colors of living plants and trees. Now, over the past few years, I have another reason to dislike the winter — it means no more fresh, locally grown vegetables for awhile.

I didn't always feel this way. Five years ago, when I first joined Maysie's, the end of the season was almost a relief — I didn't have to think about how to prepare the bags and bags of fresh vegetables I'd get each week! I went back to my old ways, bought more processed food, ate out more, gained weight. But by the time the following spring rolled around, I was ready for the fresh vegetables again, and made a conscientious effort to take everything that was offered at Maysie's (even all those greens!) and learn how to prepare and enjoy them. It's been a learning process, and it's not always easy (fast food and processed food are so convenient and cheap!) but I've found that making fresh, organic vegetables a central part of my diet has been well worth the effort. I feel much healthier, I have more energy, and I surprisingly don't crave the "junk" food that used to be a staple in my diet.

Sure, I could go to the supermarket and get the vegetables; in fact this is what I have to do during the CSA off-season. But even though our local stores are offering more of an organic selection, I'll still be back at Maysie's in the spring. I've come to be a believer and advocate of the whole CSA system. I'm happy to be supporting one of the few small farms that still exist in this area. I like the idea of eating locally grown food, not only for its freshness, but to make my own little statement about how I value our rich Chester County soil and to help preserve our area's heritage in agriculture. Five years ago, my weekly drive to Maysie's was a pleasantly rural drive through the sleepy village of Eagle and past open fields along Rt. 100. Now the same drive is clogged with traffic, lights, retail establishments and housing developments. It's made me increasingly aware of the importance of doing my small part to promote sustainable agriculture and preserve our earth. Eating locally grown food helps towards this goal. Belonging to a CSA makes sense to me.

And over these past five years I've truly felt like I've become part of the community at Maysie's. My children feel comfortable at the farm and definitely have a good sense of where a lot of their food comes from. We enjoy getting to know the interns and other CSA families each season. I'm grateful to Maysie for allowing the CSA on her property, and I have a great deal of respect for Sam, who is devoting his life to this concept that he so firmly believes in.

I hope to see you at Maysie's again in May!

Maysie's Farm is pleased to be offering the following workshops in 2005. We hope you can join us for some of these fun-filled days, and, please, tell your family and friends about them. All workshops are open to members and nonmembers alike, and people who have attended them in the past agree that they were days well spent!

On Saturday, May 7, 2005, from 1:00-5:00 pm we'll be conducting our "Growing Families, Growing Gardens" Workshop. The idea of this workshop is to teach families — parents and kids working together — how to go home and — working together — start a garden at their own house. During this workshop we'll be waking up our Children's Garden by applying compost, preparing the soil, planting seeds and transplanting seedlings. We'll send you home with the knowledge necessary to start your own garden and some seeds or plants to facilitate the project. The cost is $25/family, which includes the materials to take home.

On Tuesday, June 28 (and offered again on Thursday, July 21) from 8:30-2:00 we'll hold our "Down To Earth Gardening" Workshop for children ages 6 and up. In this workshop, kids will experience the process of growing vegetables from seeding trays, transplanting seedlings, mulching and watering to harvesting the mature crops. Then they'll turn them into a big salad for lunch. We'll also go on a scavenger hunt, do some artwork, and go on pest patrol. The cost is $30/child ($25 for members), which includes the organic lunch and plants to take home.

Our "Understanding Agriculture" Workshop for Teachers will be held on Tuesday and Thursday, July 12 and 14 for kindergarten to middle school teachers and on August 2 and 4 for middle and high school teachers. In these two-day workshops (8:30-3:00 both days) teachers will learn hands-on activities that they can utilize to help them meet the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Agriculture & Society and Integrated Pest Management Standards. Teachers will also learn about the many benefits of a school garden and how to implement one at their school. The $125 registration fee includes 13 hours of Act 48 credit, lunches, resource lists, take home plants, and follow-up consultations.

To register for any of the workshops, call Sam at 610-458-8129.

Of the three different vultures found in the United States, the most common is the turkey vulture. Its scientific name, Cathartes aura, means "cleanser"; its common name comes from its facial resemblance to a turkey. These are the large birds you often see rocking on the air currents, their wings forming a slight V-shape. Their job as "cleansers," or carrion eaters, keeps the number of carcasses lying on the ground to a minimum. Vultures eat all kinds of carrion ranging in size from mice to deer.

The Cherokee call the turkey vulture the "peace eagle." It resembles an eagle from a distance, but the turkey vulture does not kill because it lacks the strength in its grasping claw to do so. (The black vulture, also found in the United States, is often aggressive; it can kill small animals, and will even attack horses, cows, and people.) The lack of feathers on its face and neck allow the vulture to probe deeply into carrion without getting too messy.

Turkey vultures are daytime birds and are not accustomed to flying at night. They have very keen senses of sight, smell and hearing. They find their favorite food — dead animals — by sight and also by an extremely acute sense of smell. With their sense of smell alone, vultures can find a carcass completely screened by the forest canopy.

Turkey vultures are family-oriented in that they form a roost — a group of vultures living together. Nests are located on a rock ledge on the face of a cliff, in a cave, a hollow tree, or even in an abandoned shed or barn. It is quite common for the same family of vultures to use the same location as their home for many generations. They may move for the season (for some unknown reason) to a different place in the immediate neighborhood (perhaps it's the vulture's version of going "down the shore"?!). Some vultures may wander up to 200 miles away, visiting different roosts each night, and then return to their home roost a week or two later.

Turkey vultures live and work together, in cooperation and friendliness. They communicate with friends and neighbors when they find something to eat. They let the others know where the food is. And when there is a big feast they communicate with neighboring flocks in distant roosts. They also enjoy playing games. Almost every evening when they return to the roost there will be about half an hour of follow-the-leader, tag, and speed soaring — swooping down to the level of the roost and then soaring straight up into the sky until they can no longer be seen.

The next time you see these majestic birds circling overhead, be thankful that they're around to help keep our countryside clean.

Source:, website of the Turkey Vulture Society, a non-profit corporation registered in Nevada.

On Sunday, February 27, Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown hosted an event that was the first of its kind for this area. "A Taste of Chester County" introduced the public to various local farmers and organizations who set up booths and offered samples and information. The major objective of the day was to increase public awareness of the very notion that we are relentlessly promoting at Maysie's Farm — that supporting local, organic food production is to everyone's benefit.

The day was a huge success; the brew pub was jammed. There were children's activities, free food samples, lots of exciting conversations and, of course, the ever-popular Victory beers! Many of the people who attended were learning about these local farms for the first time. Maysie's Farm was well represented, as were other CSAs, several farmer's markets, family farms and agricultural preservation organizations.

Brian Moyer of Green Haven Farm, our "chicken man," was particularly pleased with the strong turn out. "It was encouraging to see so many people interested in locally produced food," said Brian. Big thank yous go out to Claire Murray of Inverbrook Farm CSA for all her organizing work and especially to Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing Company for hosting what we hope will become an annual event.

CSA memberships for the 2005 season are going fast! Spread the word about Maysie's Farm to anyone you think may be interested in joining, and register BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

Wish List
Looking to get rid of any of the following items? Maysie's Farm will put them to good use! The first three needs are for our new "office," which is (still) under construction in the old "staff room":

• Wooden file cabinets
• Small electric range/oven
• Sink base, under-counter cabinets, wall cabinets and a short length of countertop material
• Picnic table(s)
• Large outdoor canopy
• Solar powered walkway lights (ideally to match the two donated by Martha Thomae)
• Straw bale chopper (for mulching large areas)
• Assistance building a bio-diesel production system or a compost tea brewing system
• Diesel station wagon or delivery vehicle for use as our produce hauler (for the Farmers Market and our Farm and School partnership) that we could run on bio-diesel or vegetable oil
• Housing for potential Farm Manager
Please contact Sam at (610) 458-8129 if you can donate any of these items.

The Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE) is sponsoring a curriculum contest based on sustainable agriculture for school teachers in grades 5-8. The Units will be based on the award-winning film The Meatrix ( Grand prize is $1000 for classroom supplies and equipment. Contest ends June 30, 2005. CLICK HERE for more information and an application form.

If you're looking for a new restaurant to go to in Philadelphia, check out Farmicia in Old City (15 S. 3rd Street, 215-627-6274). They specialize in reasonably priced, simply prepared dishes made from locally produced organic food.

Do you have unwanted hazardous waste such as automotive products, lawn and pest control products or home maintenance products?
You can bring them to the following Regional Household Hazardous Waste collection sites: on April 23 at the Tredyffrin Township Building (computers can be recycled at this one) and on May 14 at the Owen J. Roberts High School, both days from 9:00 - 3:00. Call 610-344-6692 for more information or visit
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