2015 Summer Harvest CSA Share Week #3

This week’s featured farm is Blackberry Meadows Farm:

Blackberry Meadows Farm is an 85-acre organic farm located in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania.  Jen Montgomery and Greg Boulos purchased the farm in 2008 and along with their apprentices, interns, volunteers, and three year old daughter, have been running the farm ever since.

Jen was able to take a few moments out of her busy schedule and answer some questions about her life on the farm.  We hope you enjoy getting to know Jen and Blackberry Meadows Farm.

Farm girl Evelyn feeding the hens.
Farm girl Evelyn feeding the hens.
Jen and her daughter Evelyn making a delicious "dirt" pizza.
Jen and her daughter Evelyn making a delicious “dirt” pizza.


How do you make it work being a full time farmer and mother?
It’s not easy and it’s not always fun.  I’ve certainly stepped back a lot on the farm.  Now that our daughter is 3 1/2 years old, she’s more independent and tolerant of some of the farm tasks and has more staying power in the fields.  Greg has taken on more of the farm load and we try to have apprentices that can help defray the workload and responsibility.  Thank goodness for our parents, they watch our daughter a couple days throughout the week.
It’s an amazing place to raise a family, I can’t think of anything better.  Someone asked me what we do for family fun….. I was stumped.  We work long days, hardly see each other as a family except for short stints throughout the day.  We work 6 days a week and still have to be around for the animals on Sundays too.  We do watch fireflies, swim in the pond, play with baby bunnies, get dirty, grow things, run freely around the farm, watch the barn swallows grow, eat raspberries and forage for wild edibles.  Each day is an adventure and we make sure to take time out with our daughter, to slow down and be a part of the amazing diversity of life that’s going on at the farm.
What is a positive way that working with your husband has impacted your relationship?

I think that Greg and I balance each other out.  And working together has really exacerbated that difference.  He’s intense and always thinking ahead.  I’m calm and always trying to keep the train moving.  I hear that it’s often hard for couples to be in business together, but in general, I think it’s great for both of us.  We’re not the type to clock in and out of a job…. we’d rather just keep busy doing things, whether it’s farming, fixing things, being crafty or cooking.  We don’t sit down until we lay down for the night.  I’m sure, not having a TV around makes keeping busy a lot easier.

Is there anything that you would like to tell consumers/members that they may not understand about farming?

Most farmers do everything on their farm:  They are marketers, bookkeepers, web designers, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, agronomists, biologists, horticulturists, road workers, landscapers, therapists, motivational speakers, etc.  It takes every waking hour to keep a farm functioning smoothly.  When you see us smiling at market, please remember all of the effort it takes to provide you with beautiful, fresh, produce (when you haggle over fifty cents).

With the abundance of fresh produce on the farm, do you find time to cook?  If so (or not) what is a typical dinner like for you? 
With our apprenticeship program, we have a rotational arrangement that we also participate in.  The Homesteader, the Stockman, and the Cropper.  Each week, we and the apprentices rotate through these positions.  The Homesteader cooks a big lunch for everyone each day – we all sit down together in the afternoon and enjoy a big meal together.  So – yes, we do eat a lot of our own fresh veggies.  We like to say that “we eat like kings, and work like dogs”.  Another nice thing about our rotation system, is that I get a break from making lunches for everyone, every day.  Our apprentices learn how to cook a diverse selection of veggies for a large group of people – so it’s a great learning experience for them too!
Of the many tasks and demands on the farm, what is your favorite chore?
I like putting the chickens away at night.  Now that it’s getting dark later, we have to go out around 9:30 p.m. and close up the chicken coop.  I love the walk back to the house.  Our huge oak tree is loaded with fireflies, the tree frogs and bullfrogs are singing away and the night is cool and calm. So refreshing!
I actually really like to weed.  I don’t get a whole lot of time to do it, because our daughter gets bored rather quickly but I love seeing the path of destruction behind me as I crawl down a row of beans and tear out that thistle!
I also love picking cherry tomatoes, when they first start to ripen.  They taste so good, so summery. I can’t eat enough of them.  By late September…. they’ve lost their novelty.  Still good, but I’m onto other crops by then.
Do you have any yearly traditions on the farm?
Two things…. one more successful than the other.  1 – I like to take everyone (us and the apprentices) tubing down the Clarion River in August.  It’s a nice break – but hard to actually take time off the farm.  2 – we have a big Thanksgiving dinner for everyone who works and volunteers on the farm.  We raise our own turkeys and make one heck of a meal.  It’s quite and event, a lot of fun and a good send off for the crew.
What are your top three favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh?
Legume, hands down.  If we’re going to take the time to leave the farm and spend money, it’s going to be for something amazing and high quality.
What’s something that significantly improved your life on the farm?
Definitely having our apprenticeship program.  We used to take on interns – which  meant that kids would either live with us or commute to the farm.  I told them what and when to do everything.  Now, with our apprenticeships broken into the 3 positions, within a month, everyone has a good idea of what’s going on.  There’s a bit more responsibility evenly dispersed and more autonomy.
The team and  "supervisor" getting plants in for the season.
The team and “supervisor” getting plants in for the season.
Blackberry Meadows Farm at dusk.
Blackberry Meadows Farm at dusk.
What is something about your farm that folks may not know?
We’ve noticed that more people are turning to home gardening.  As an answer to that, we’ve started a Garden Share program.  We supply you with the seeds and seedlings you need to grow a 100 sq ft garden from March to October.  Each month, you’ll get a new distribution of seeds and seedlings, the same varieties that we grow on our farm.  It’s a grow your own CSA!

This week’s featured food is garlic scapes

garlicscapesWhat are these mysterious curly green things that keep showing up in your CSA box? Garlic scapes, also called “serpent garlic”, are the flower stems of hardneck garlic plants. While garlic doesn’t actually flower, the plant does send up these crazy, curly shoots. Garlic growers often trim the scapes from the plants so the plants can put more of their energy into the bulbs. That’s good news for us because scapes are delicious!

Garlic scapes are only available for a few weeks every year, which is why we try to include them in your shares as often as possible. They are milder than garlic cloves and don’t require any peeling. They are versatile and can be used in all the same ways you would use garlic. They will last for quite a while if they are kept in a plastic bag in your refrigerator so don’t feel overwhelmed if you’ve collected a few bags of them.

If you want to use up a lot of garlic scapes at once, try making Garlic Scape and Basil Pesto. You can freeze the pesto in ice cube trays, then transfer the pesto cubes to a freezer bag. Anytime you need a quick meal, cook some pasta and pull out a handful of pesto cubes. For more ideas, check out the recipes below:

Zucchini and Garlic Scape Frittata

Garlic Scape and Beef Satay

Vegetarian Stir-Fried Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scape Dip




A Route

Z Route

green cabbage, Weeping Willow Farm

pac choi, Clarion River Organics (OG)

snow peas or shell peas, Hostetler Farm or pea shoots, Clarion River Organics (OG)

tomatillo salsa, Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance

zucchini, Weeping Willow Farm

zucchini, Weeping Willow Farm, Blue Goose Farm (CNG) or Clarion River Organics (OG)

garlic scapes, River View Farm (OG), Blackberry Meadows (OG) or Clubhouse Gardens

garlic scapes, Blackberry Meadows (OG)

romaine lettuce, River View Farm (OG)

red or green leaf lettuce, Blue Goose Farm (CNG)

kale, Kistaco Farm or River View Farm (OG)

kale, River View Farm (OG)

romanesco, Clarion River Organics (OG)

broccoli, Clarion River Organics (OG)

applesauce, Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance

applesauce, Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance

OG = Certified Organic, CNG = Certified Naturally Grown

HERE to check your delivery route



Green Cabbage

Weeping Willow Farm

Store:  Keep cabbage in the refrigerator. Wrap with plastic to prolong freshness.

Recipe:  Cabbage and Kale Slaw with Caraway Ranch Dressing, Fish Tacos with Quick Cabbage Slaw




Pac Choi

Clarion River Organics

Store:  Keep pac choi in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.





Snow Peas

Hostetler Farm

Store:  In refrigerator

Recipe:  Quick Sesame Snow Peas



shell peasShell Peas

Hostetler Farm

Store:  In refrigerator.

Recipe:  Fresh Shelling Peas: Four Ways




Pea Shoots

Clarion River Organics

Store:  In refrigerator

Uses:  Pea shoots have the same flavor as peas and are delicious on sandwiches, salads and as a garnish for just about anything.



tomatillo salsa

Tomatillo Salsa

Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance

Store:   Refrigerate after opening.





Weeping Willow Farm, Blue Goose Farm or Clarion River Organics

Store:  In refrigerator





Garlic Scapes

Blue Goose Farm, Clubhouse Gardens or Crighton Farm

Store:  Keep garlic scapes in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.





Romaine Lettuce

River View Farm

Store:   Keep lettuce in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. If you notice that it’s wet place a paper towel in the bag to absorb some of the moisture.




Red Leaf Lettuce

Blue Goose Farm

Store:  Keep lettuce in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. If you notice that it’s wet place a paper towel in the bag to absorb some of the moisture.






Kistaco Farm or River View Farm

Store:  Keep kale in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.

Note:  This week’s shares contain a variety of kale types including red russian, blue scotch, red scarlet and green curly. For recipe ideas check out 50 Things To Do With Kale




Clarion River Organics

Store:   Place romanesco in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Uses:    Romanesco is a relative of broccoli and cauliflower and can be used in the same ways.

Recipe:  Roasted Romanesco




Clarion River Organics

Store:  Place broccoli in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.






Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance

Store:  Refrigerate after opening




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s