CSA apprentice Quentin Kruger and Spoutwood Farm Manager Brett Sheppard work in a garden at Spoutwood Farm.
CSA apprentice Quentin Kruger and Spoutwood Farm Manager Brett Sheppard work in a garden at Spoutwood Farm.

There is an advantage to living near farm markets that offer a wide array of locally grown, fresh-picked fruits and vegetables.

According to the spring newsletter from the York County Conservation District, people in some parts of the country live in "food deserts," a term that describes areas where no one has access to fresh local foods. There are, according to the newsletter, "entire neighborhoods where the only food available is packaged or canned."

Each year, the National Association of Conservation Districts sponsors an annual Stewardship Week. This year's topic is Soil to Spoon, an "effort to remind people that food originates on farms, not in stores."

York County has an abundance of places to shop for locally grown food, from markets in the city to roadside farm stands, all selling vegetables and fruits in season, a variety of locally made pastries and candies and fresh milk and dairy products.

The availability of locally grown produce should remind us that it is important to support and preserve the agricultural heritage we see around us.

"My thought about the future of agriculture is the more we can expose people to farming, the more we can emphasize the importance of preserving the land and farming," said Christopher Thompson, assistant manager of the York County Conservation District.

There is nothing like growing your own fresh produce, digging and planting, then harvesting the fruits of your labors. Consider a small backyard plot with a few vegetables as a way to get started. Make it a family project and get the children involved in the project.

You might want to consider teaming up with friends to plant a garden, and while that means sharing the results of your hard work, it also means sharing the planning and fun or working as a group.

The Plot Thickens

GINA AND GREG MUMAW of York Township teamed up with two other couples, rented a plot at the Horn Farm and are enjoying the benefits of raising their own vegetables.

From left, Lorraine Feinour, Kayleigh Gross and Ann Merrick have just finished weeding and laying straw throughout The Plot Thickens group’s garden
From left, Lorraine Feinour, Kayleigh Gross and Ann Merrick have just finished weeding and laying straw throughout The Plot Thickens group's garden plot at Horn Farm Center in Hellam Township. (submitted)

It is a great opportunity for people who don't have space or don't want to dig up their backyard to grow their own food, and partnering with friends adds to the fun.

"We're not only working with a friend but we're working with a friend in the dirt," Gina Mumaw said.

They call their project "The Plot Thickens," a reflection of their love of reading.

There are health benefits to harvesting vegetables at the peak of freshness, the comfort of knowing their food is safe and the satisfaction of saving money.

"This is how it was back in the day, when everybody had a garden and the family worked together to raise their food," Mumaw said.

The six planned their garden ahead of time, deciding what to plant and where each vegetable would be planted.

Their straight and regimented rows include different varieties of tomatoes and peppers, squash, green beans, onions, eggplant and, in one corner, a cutting garden with a choice of colorful flowers to cut and take home to brighten a room and bring a bit of the outdoors inside.

Mumaw would recommend the idea to others, but has some advice for those who might be considering it.

"For anyone who is thinking about doing this, there is a lot of planning and preparation but it is worth the time," she said.

Gardening as a group has led to a second cooperative effort they call Partners in Grime.

"We work together at each other's houses doing projects we would not otherwise do, things we have been putting off, like cleaning attics and closets," she said.

At Horn Farm, Leonard Leiphart teaches incubator farmers Jeremy Kilgore and Kevin Strousel (on tractor) how to use the Case IH tractor purchased in part
At Horn Farm, Leonard Leiphart teaches incubator farmers Jeremy Kilgore and Kevin Strousel (on tractor) how to use the Case IH tractor purchased in part with a Hogg Grant. (submitted)

It is easier to get rid of things, and cleaning before everyone else comes to clean is not allowed, she said.

Incubator farms

THE HORN FARM provides help to small-scale farmers through its Incubator Farms Project.

"We have the Incubator Farms Project, which gives selected participants a chance to start farming," David Dietz, chairperson of the Modern Homestead Farm Committee wrote in an email. "We are connecting them with interested local restaurants, and doing what we can to promote the farm stand at the Horn Farm, encouraging the public to buy fresh, buy local. We share with whoever will listen just how much buying local can boost the local economy, as currently York countians spend less than ½ of one percent of their food dollars buying directly from York County farmers.

From left, Spoutwood Farm Manager Brett Sheppard, CSA member Speedoo McFadden and Spoutwood Farm CSA apprentice Quentin Kruger work in one of
From left, Spoutwood Farm Manager Brett Sheppard, CSA member Speedoo McFadden and Spoutwood Farm CSA apprentice Quentin Kruger work in one of Spoutwood's gardens. (submitted)
 It wouldn't take much of a change in buying habits for York countians to support a thriving revival in local agriculture, helping to preserve farms in the process by making small local sustainable farms profitable."

Four farmers are part of this project.

This is the second year for Jon Darby, farm manager and founder of the Sterling Farm, and Jeremy Kilgore. New this year are Chris Roe and Emily Kelly.

They will sell their produce through the Horn Farm Center's crib, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

There is still some land available for future expansion of the

Incubator Farms Project. Anyone interested should email

farmmanager@hornfarmcenter.org.

CSAs

IN COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE, shareholders pay a fee at the start of the season and receive a regular weekly share of the harvest throughout the growing season.

With some CSAs, a limited number of shareholders work for a set number of hours to reduce the cost of their shares.

Spoutwood Farm near Glen Rock is a CSA that produces a wide variety of vegetables. More information is available at www.spoutwood.com.

Sunnyside Farm, near Dover offers heirloom vegetables, eggs, chickens, turkey for Thanksgiving, and sides of pork and beef.

Its animals live outside on grass, are raised in smaller paddocks and pens and moved to a new patch of grass every day. Vegetables are raised in compost with no chemicals.

More information is available online at

www.sunny-sidefarm.com.

This year, two of the four farmers participating in the Horn Farm's Incubator Project have CSA memberships available.

For details, call the Kilgore Family Farm at 717-968-5285 or the Sterling Farm at 717-332-8710.

York Urban Garden Association

THE YORK URBAN GARDEN ASSOCIATION offers community gardens throughout the city. More information is available at www.yorkurbangarden.org or by calling Tia Underkoffer at the York County Extension Office, 717-840-7408.

Underkoffer is a 4-H Educator working with urban youth who takes her message of proper nutrition to local classrooms.

Companions

WHEN PLANTING YOUR GARDEN, consider companion plants, plants that benefit one another. Read "Carrots Love Tomatoes" or "Roses Love Garlic" by Louise Riotte, or check online to find which plants should be planted together.

We now understand why Grandpa planted corn with potatoes or peas, pumpkins or squash but not tomatoes. Why he put beans next to potatoes, carrots or cucumbers but kept the beans away from onions, garlic and chives.

Carrots and tomatoes are good companions for chives, but peas and beans are not.

Sunflowers do well next to cucumbers but not potatoes, and turnips and peas do well together.

Scavenger hunt

THE YORK COUNTY BUY FRESH, BUY LOCAL SCAVENGER HUNT continues through Aug. 11. Consumers are invited to make their way through up to 29 of the county's freshest local food destinations.

Scavenger hunt maps can be found inside the 2012 Local Food Guide, which is available at local libraries and Buy Fresh, Buy Local partner farmers markets and businesses. You can also download a copy of the map at www.buyfreshbuylocal

york.com.

To play, visit the locations and have your map stamped. When you're finished, return your map to any scavenger hunt location by Aug. 11 to be eligible for discounts and prizes. Those who collect at least 10 stamps will receive discount coupons from select BFBL partners.

Maps with 12 stamps or more will also be entered into a drawing for prizes including a private tour and wine-tasting at Allegro Wines, a $50 gift certificate for Brown's Orchard & Farm Market and a turkey from Sunnyside Farms, among others.

Community gardens

IF BACKYARD SPACE is not available, or if you want to team up with friends, you might consider the community gardens available at the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education.

This program, now in its fourth year, offers 20-by-20-foot garden plots that can be rented for $35 each. The plots, open from mid-April through October, provide the opportunity for people to reap the benefits of raising their own food.

"The Horn Farm has Community Gardens in which people are able to grow their own food," said David Dietz, chairman of the Modern Homestead Farm Committee. "This is one way for people to become more self-sufficient and also appreciate the realities and pleasures of food production. Not only are individual gardeners educated, but also people in their circle of friends."

A new system has been put in place to bring water from a spring north of the gardens area down to faucets on the northern edge of the gardens. This water supply will supplement the rain-collection cisterns at the farmhouse during the hot, dry summer months.

This year, beneficial parasitic wasps will be introduced to help control Mexican bean beetles and other crop-damaging insects organically. Farm Manager Jon Darby said the Horn Farm Center community garden plots will be fully organic in 2013.

Although the plots are all taken this season, you can put your name on the list for next year. For details, email Darby at farmmanager@hornfarmcenter.org.

The Horn Farm is at 4945 Horn Road in Hellam Township.

Containers

IF YOU DON'T HAVE SPACE for a garden, think about container gardening. Herbs are a great way to start, as well as small salad greens, vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, baby carrots, radishes or spring onions.

Consider what your family will enjoy eating and check online for resources to help you choose what to plant.