Our trip to visit one of our new vendors of the 2014 season took us right down the road from Indiana to Brush Valley. Route 259 is dotted with farms along both sides of the road, farm stands galore, and frequent sightings of horse and buggies. On the way to visit with the Stauffers of Stauffer's Produce we stopped at the Stauffer Country Market to ask for directions, and found out that within half a mile of each other there are two Stauffers. We found the family that we were looking for by a sign advertising for maple syrup and a long dirt road driveway lined with woods on either side, quite picturesque. If you've spoken with them at the market, you'll know he is a sweet, soft spoken man who grows a lot of produce. The land he farms is his father's, and with his help as well as his two younger brothers he has quite the production. They own a total of 85 acres of land with 2 acres devoted to field corn and around 3 acres devoted to produce. In 2004 they bought the land and farmed mostly corn and hay as well as having beef cattle. Three years ago he apprenticed with Hilltop Produce, a farm right up the road, and found a knack in growing produce.
In 2013 he decided to try it on his own, and with his family's help and a wonderful repurposed greenhouse, he started growing. All of his produce he started himself from seeds in his greenhouse which is heated by a wood burning stove. He told me that during one of the bitterly cold nights we had this past winter, he slept all night in the greenhouse tending to the fire to keep it warm enough for his seedlings. With a -12 degree night, it must have been quite the challenge, but it gives a bit of insight into his dedication and passion for growing your own. As well as his family who helps on the farm, they have horses that help with the manual labor of plowing and planting.
We looked down his rows upon rows of produce and saw some large green tomatoes, then Madelyn excitedly pointed out a beautiful red one just wanting to be picked and enjoyed. Beside his field, his father was in the blueberry patch picking just ripe berries. The patch is covered completely by a soft netting to prevent the birds from having a feast, and the berries looked delicious! Across from the fields he pointed out the four beehives that he's started managing last year, he said it's been a little bit of a challenge and since their so young they only produced enough honey for his family, but he's hoping to have more honey to sell at the market eventually. While walking up towards the greenhouse he saw a bee sitting on the grass as it started to rain. He picked up the bee and placed it gently on a brussel sprout plant saying he wanted to keep it out of the rain.
Overall it was quite the serene experience, like it has been with all of our farm visits, and it makes me feel so lucky to have these experiences meeting these farmers, knowing how fortunate we are to know our food producers. Visiting the Stauffer farm encouraged me to slow down and savor the everyday life experiences, may it be on a farm or chatting with new friends.
The Stauffers sell at the Indiana County Farmers' Market Wednesday and Saturday, at the Pittsburgh Northside Market Friday night, and at Breezy Acres Farm Market in Brush Valley. Every now and then he'll also sell at the Smicksburg Auction if he has extra produce. The list of produce they grow is extensive and they also sell maple syrup and maybe honey soon.
Produce he grows:
Beets--broccoli--carrots--cauliflower--tomatoes--potatoes--cabbage--peppers--spinach--brussel sprouts--peppers--cucumbers--kale--kohlrabi--pumpkins--summer squash--eggplants--green beans--strawberries--peas--blueberries