Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Tour Time!

If you live on a small farm, it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll be asked to do tours from time to time. People don't have personal connections to how their food is grown anymore, and lots of people don't have connections to animals either, not even pets.  So it's no wonder that a farm like ours is a source of interest.  In my previous life I was in adult education, and I do think it's important to give people of all ages the opportunity to learn new things, and as farmers I believe we have a duty to engage those interested in learning more if we want to succeed both as businesses and as advocates for knowing and supporting where your food comes from.  It's really impossible to tell people that they need to take personal responsibility for knowing what they are putting into their bodies, but not allow anyone to ever look around our own farms.  That being said (and as I talked about in my last entry) my farm is also my home, and I'm not going to indulge everyone who just shows up and wants to walk around, I couldn't or I wouldn't get my farming done!  I am however, willing to coordinate with groups, especially for educational purposes, as long as we can get it set up far enough ahead of time.

So yesterday, I was excited to host a group of youth from Clarion University's Educational Talent Search program.  This is a program open to kids in grades 7-12, as a way to tour different places and give them some new perspectives on what careers are out there, perhaps introducing the kids to something they never thought of as a viable occupation before.  I had talked with their advisor and had set up that they would arrive in the morning, we would tour the barn and the animals, they would go to nearby Tionesta Lake for their bagged lunch (call me selfish, but I just wasn't willing to have 20-30 kids tromping through my house to use the single bathroom, so that was a nice alternative!) and when they returned we would take a look at the garden, talk a bit about the plants, they would plant a seed to take home, and we would have time for a question and answer session about anything they had seen before the bus pulled away.  The weather was perfect, not too hot, and sunny, and everything else went almost flawlessly.  Almost, in that the horses refused to come into the barn in the morning before the kids arrived, except Sara.  So I was able to let the kids pet her before turning her back out with the other (misbehaving) equines.  The cows were almost too friendly, sneaking into the open barn while we looked at the pigs, but the kids got to see them up close as well.  Even the rabbits seemed charmed by the kids, and Scotchie patiently ate blades of grass out of as many hands as cared to feed her.  The boys in particular seemed to enjoy looking at the horse drawn equipment.  The kids were great listeners and stayed together as a group, heeding my requests to watch where they stepped in the garden.  The kids all had the option of planting something to take home with them; basil, sage, chive or Swiss Chard, and I had enough that everyone was able to plant their first choice.  As we got to the Q & A, I got some thoughtful questions, like "how do you water your garden?"  and "Do deer eat your plants?" to some unexpected ones- "Are there any palomino colored cows besides Guernseys?" or "Do you trim the turkeys' beards?"  We talked a bit about the different careers a small farm like this encompasses- from horticulture to animal husbandry, to being an entrepreneur or a butcher or advertising & web design.

 We probably would have come up with many more, but some of the kids noticed that the big horses had come out of the far reaches of the pasture and were under the trees by the barn.  I was able to put all the horses in their stalls, so we ended the day by seeing all the horses up close, and all were gracious about letting many hands pet them, even Ponyboy, who can be quite skittish (even with Dan and I) at times.  The most popular question by far was whether it was possible to ride our impressively large Belgians, which I assured the kids we were able to do.  At that point, it was time to board the bus for the return trip, each youth armed with a planted seed and instructions for its care and use, as well as a paper listing resources for finding our more about farms and food.  I sincerely hope that the little seeds in the paper cups grow for each and every one who was here, and I also hope, even in a small way, I was able to plant some seeds in their mind, whether it is just to look for small farm to connect with instead of only shopping at Wal-Mart, up to introducing the idea that farmer is still an occupational choice, even in this modern age.  We need all the good ones we can get! 


Full of Surprises!

Monday was a real emotional rollercoster.  I found out the agency I work for (away from the farm) is laying everyone off for the month of August due to the fact that as the Pennsylvania state government can't pass the budget, so our agency won't receive the grant money they use to pay us.  While  I feel for the families who depend on our services and the employees who rely soley on that paycheck, I am kind of excited to have a whole summer month to be on the farm.  Dan and I had just been discussing plans for reopening the farm stand, so for me, the timing couldn't be better. But knowing I still had to spread the bad news to the employee I supervise the next day, I started evening chores with a lot on my mind. The animals always seem to have a way of taking your thoughts back to the present though, and this day was no exception.  I heard the sound of newborn goats as I was tending to the chickens and found both Lolly, a Boer, and Callie, a Boer/Pygmy cross, had kidded.  In the same spot.  The babies were all mixed up.  But Dan and I got everyone down to the nursery barn, both mothers and all 4 babies.  We determined that Callie again had a single baby and that Lolly had triplets!  However, Callie was feeling so maternal she wanted to take care of all 4 babies, even the little triplet who wasn't looking so good.  Sometimes when there are 3, one is weak and won't make it.  This appeared to be the case- the poor little guy wouldn't stand and appeared he might die before we even left the barn.  So we put him in with Callie and her little girl, figuring if she had an interest in him, he might have a little better chance of making it.  But as he was on death's door, we didn't think it mattered very much anyway, so that was pretty sad.  But chores needed to be finished, and the suprises were not over.  I found a litter of 5 healthy baby rabbits!  And as we were finishing up the chicken chores, Dan asked me "Why do I hear peeping?"...a little bantam had been sitting on a nest and hatched a little bantam chick, who was making all that noise!

After dinner, Dan checked on the goats again, and I expected to hear that the little guy had died.  But when Dan checked on them, he was standing on his own, nursing.  I'm happy to report that as of last night he seemed to be healthy and doing well, although I always hold my breath and usually don't name them for the first week or so.  They always seem so frail!  But the 3 born on Thursday are doing splendidly.  Mama's little girl is the picture of heath and quite possibly the cutest thing ever born.  Mocha has settled into motherhood as well, and her twins are also healthy and active.  We're even getting a fair amount of milk from Mama, so it looks like one less thing I'll have to worry about buying while I'm laid off, which is always good.

We are looking to open the farm stand, located roadside at the farm, on Saturdays for the remainder of the summer.  We are hoping to open July 25, but are in the process of rearranging some other commitments.  I will be posting dates and times on our website,, as soon as the details are finalized. 

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