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Friday, July 1, 2011

Farm Tour 2011 - Summer Edition

If you recall my last posting, Spring Farm Tour 2011, you’ll remember that I was wishing away the endless rain that fell almost daily during spring. Well, the rain has finally stopped, and the farmers have been hard at work. Those soggy days of April and May have passed, and they’ve been replaced with fields of veggies. It’s quite amazing to see the transformation. I really felt the rain was going to slow down the start of local produce. Boy, was I wrong.

On June 30, I visited with Dan, Lynette and their son Joey at Yarnick’s Farm in Indiana, PA. The Yarnicks are some of the nicest folks you every wanted to meet, and they’re not bad farmers either. I arrived at the farm and was greeted by Dan. He took me up to their home where Lynette was busy preparing breakfast. We had eggs, hand-formed sausage patties, and potatoes with hot peppers and assorted tomatoes. If Lynette ever decides to open her own restaurant, we’ll cross our fingers that it won’t be anywhere near Eat’n Park!

The Yarnicks’ farm is one of the most advanced and innovative farms that I’ve visited. They’ve instituted some very creative farming techniques that delivery high quality and great tasting vegetables. In fact, these high-tech farming methods allow the farm to have vine-ripened tomatoes 10 months out of the year and the earliest, freshest, sweetest corn a full month before other area farms. Believe it or not, that’s me eating fresh corn in the field in the photo below. The old corn standard, “knee-high by the Fourth of July” certainly doesn’t apply here!

 Local sweet corn - before July!

During an earlier visit back in May, Dan gave me a sneak peak at some of the innovations his family uses to deliver such early crops. One of these innovations was the use of plastic blankets, which keep the plants and ground free from frost. Of course, this isn’t cheap, but it allows the Yarnicks to get 2 and sometime 3 crops planted and harvested in one growing season.

Checking crops under the plastic blanket back in May

I know what you’re REALLY wondering: How on earth do they get ten months of vine-ripened tomatoes in Pennsylvania’s climate?? Well, let me explain. Not only do the Yarnicks grow crops in their fields, but they also have an extensive and elaborate system of greenhouses. In mid-February, the Yarnicks start many of their crops in these greenhouses, then later transplant them to the field.

In addition, to get some of those early veggies, Dan grows some crops hydroponically. Hydroponic means that they are grown without soil in a nutrient-rich water solution in a controlled environment. While the Yarnicks also grow tomatoes in their fields, the addition of hydroponic growing allows them to plant and harvest tomatoes for a much longer period of time. This is truly a competitive advantage that separates the Yarnicks from other local farmers.

Those tomatoes are looking good!

Right now, they’re only growing enough of these tasty tomatoes to supply their own farm market, which is located on site at the farm. However, thanks to the Yarnicks’ innovation, they’re able to supply Eat’n Park restaurants with local cabbage, zucchini, and yellow squash before July. We’re fortunate to be working with the Yarnicks, and I’m looking forward to seeing what new farming techniques they’ll try next!

If you’d like to read more about the Yarnicks, or perhaps visit their farm market, click here.

Until next time,


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