Farmstead Foods

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How'd you get involved with farming?
My father was a dairy farmer in Pennsylvania so ever since I can remember, I was involved in farming. I did landscaping for a few years in my late teens but ended up finding my way back to the farm.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
While I love planting seeds in the ground and watching them mature, my favorite part of the farming process is probably harvesting the produce. I also enjoy being able to bring a fresh product to the marketplace. When you go to the supermarket, a lot of that stuff isn’t fresh. For me, I know it’s been picked this week, maybe even yesterday. It’s an extremely gratifying experience to be able to take that freshness to the consumer.
Why is local produce better?
Local produce is better because it retains its nutritional value. When items are shipped across the country, they tend to oxidize which drains them of their nutritional value. Local produce is also much tastier since the fruits and vegetables don’t need any wax preservatives! Many supermarket chains will coat their vegetables (like cucumbers) with a wax that makes them look pretty on the outside. Little does the consumer know, these vegetables are composting on the inside.
What is a common misconception about farming?
Many people think that farming is simple! That’s not necessarily true, however. There are a lot of variables that a farmer must examine to ensure the success of his or her harvest.
What is most appealing about the rural lifestyle?
It's quiet! My closest neighbor is a half-mile away. Plus, my family lives around me!
What is most appealing about the rural lifestyle?
We use cover crops and crop rotation to help the soil recover its nutrients. By maintaining the health of our soil, we reduce our bug population and mitigate weed growth. Though we’re not certified organic, we follow many organic practices. Specifically, we seldom use any type of insecticide and instead opt for organic bug prevention techniques. It’s not difficult to grow something naturally if you work with mother nature.
What motivated you to pursue more sustainable practices?
I actually started out with more of a commodity farming mentality… I grew wheat, grain, corn, soybeans, and other crops like that. Our farm evolved, however. Much of this evolution was pushed by my customers. My consumer base educated me, opening my eyes to a new way of farming. We now operate with an awareness of the ways in which our farming practices influence the environment and the humans consuming our products.
Who is the enemy of local, sustainable agriculture?
Sometimes in life, the obvious answer is not the correct answer. What it comes down to is this: you should know your farmer. Find somebody in the area and learn about their growing practices. That, to me, is the safest place to be.
What is different about your farm?
We work with a ton of other farms in a cooperative system in order to bring a variety of items directly to the consumer. Very few other farms offer the type of variety and level of quality that we offer.
Farmstead Foods is committed to using sustainable practices. While Farmstead Foods is not “certified” organic, they do leverage a number of organic practices. For example, Farmstead Foods and its partnering farms employ intercropping and crop rotation to reduce their reliance on external inputs. Additionally, Farmstead Foods uses very few pesticides, instead opting for organic-approved chemicals and contact only spray. Michael Gehman, from Farmstead Foods, emphasizes that his farm’s transition towards sustainable agriculture came from his customers’ increased desire to eat sustainably-produced meats and vegetables. He now recognizes the value of sustainable management practices and has tried to incorporate them into every aspect of his operation. His guiding principle stands: I would never serve my customers meat and vegetables that I wouldn’t serve my own family.
How large is your farming operation?
Double Star Farms has 90 acres
How is the meat raised?
  • No added hormones
  • No antibiotics
  • No nose rings in hogs
  • No synthetic growth promotants
  • Perennial pasture
What are some of the practices you use with the crops?
  • Compost
  • Cover crops
  • Crop rotation
  • Drip irrigation
  • Hand-pulling weeds
  • Integrated pest management
  • No till
  • Pollinator habitat
  • Rainwater capture
  • Soil testing
  • Water testing
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