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Week 7 Newsletter 7/30/18

pastured pork pittsburgh pork

It's been a whirlwind of a weekend.  Usually we try to reserve Sunday as our day off - but we switched things up.  On Sunday/Monday, we hosted a Tractor Safety and Maintenance workshop with the Pennsylvania Women in Agriculture Network (PAWAgN).  We pulled out our fleet of tractors (4) for the instructor to use for educating and pontificating.  All of our tractors were inherited with this farm from the previous owners.... in various states of repair.  We've then used, and in some cases, abused these machines for 10+ years, naming Greg as the  maintenance and repair man for the majority of the time.

Shane LeBrake, the instructor, was hired by PAWAgN to run a few workshops based around tractors and small engines with the intent of educating women farmers.  Now, no offense to any of the guys out there, but when it comes to tractors, a lot of them think they know more than they do and will dominate the whole workshop.  When it's a bunch of women farmers, we tend to be more willing to ask more of the basic questions.... like, what's a crankshaft? What's the difference between RPMs and PTOs?  All the farmers (or want to be farmers) in attendance were of various "tractor" skill levels, but by the end of the two-day class, we all had a very thorough understanding of the workings of  (most) tractors and how to change fluids, filters, and check batteries and fan belts.  

Neither Greg nor I grew up around tractor/equipment maintenance and only had one season to absorb all we could from the previous owners (who were ex bankers anyway, not really tractor people, honestly).  Our knowledge we've gleaned over the years was from the school of hard knocks and a few morsels dropped by some old fellow farmers.  Shane helped to tie a lot of loose ends together and put an emphasis on the health and safety steps necessary when  owning and operating tractors.  

So many times here, something will break on the tractor, and I just dump it on Greg.  He's got the where-with-all to figure it out and knows where all the tools are anyway.  Now, I have an understanding of what, how, and why certain procedures should be done before and after using the tractor each time, what to look for when something's amiss and how to help prevent future catastrophes.... since maintenance is a lot easier than repair.  Our big red tractor got a tune up this weekend and it's going to appreciate our new level of attention that it'll receive from now on.



Hopefully we've enticed you with our ground pork this year and you're craving more!  Now's the time to place an order!  

Buy 5 + lbs of ground pork for only $4/lb!! (normally $7/lb).  



The Economy of Scale.... in Pigs.

We love growing food.  From January seed orders through the absolute bounty of September, transforming Earth, Air, Water and Sun into delicious and nutritious food is our way of life.  It's the toil that we love to labor. 

Our biggest trouble is knowing when to say when. It may take as much as  6-10 months for a crop to mature here at Blackberry Meadows. From the perusal of a seed catalog or the farrowing of a sow to harvest, it's 6 months to a year.  It take 2 years to raise 100% grass fed beef.  

To get a sustainable economic return, while providing a nurtitious product to the customers, we need to accurately predict the market nearly a year in advance... which is nearly impossible.    

Such is the current situation with our pork. We are trying to scale up to reach a sustainable return, as the amount of energy and resources to raise 15 hogs is not significantly different than raising 50 hogs.  We still have to feed, move pastures, water and care for these animals on a daily basis.  Clearly we can meet our current consumer demand, but we are having a hard time reaching new customers.  We would like to sell our pork for $4-6 per pound instead of $8-$10.  To do this, we must achieve a scale which allows us to charge less.  We've found a comfortable spot for pork production.  The capacity of our land, our time and our resources seems to balance around 60 hogs per year.  

To that end, we're  lowering prices to balance out the supply and demand!  Spread the word to the folks you know care about what they eat - or to the folks who should start caring!  We are the only farm in Allegheny County that supplies you with pastured pork raised on certified organic pastures, and fed verified non-GMO feed.  

Earl Butz, the  USDA Secretary in 1970, who once said about agriculture "Get big or get out" understood the economy of scale when it comes to farming.  But what he never took into consideration was the triple bottom line.  What's the quality of life for the farmer, for the animals, for the environment and for the land?  You can only get so big beofre something starts to break down.  

We're happy at 60 hogs a year and think our land can handle this, while making it economically feasible to run a sustainable hog operation.  Therefore, we're lowering our pork prices to make it economically feasible for you too!  

For now- take advantage of our ground pork sale (5 lbs or more for $4/lb) and look for our new pricing in the Cropolis link next week!  


CROPOLIS ONLINE ORDERING: Click here to place your order  Please indicate if you're picking up at:

1) the farm on Wednesdays - place your order by Tuesday night.
2) the farm on Saturday - place your order by Thursday night
3) Regent Square on Wednesdays - place your order by Tuesday night.
4) Northside Farmer's Market on Friday - place your order by Thursday night.

If you have problems or questions, let us know at


This Wednesday is Pickle Day!  We've got quite a few garlic scapes and cucumbers to deal with.  

The Garlic Scapes are currently a free-for all.  Take as many as you'd like!  It's time to start freezing, pickling, and processing those scapes!!  Come hang out in the kitchen and help with our Scape management strategy! 


Several folks have expressed an interest and/or have tried out Restore - We've had another shipment in and are happy to provide you with bulk orders.  We're about $5 cheaper then ordering the same product on Amazon.  Literature and product claims can be found at 

If you have ANY inflammation, digestive issues or associated health problems, Please check it out and let us know if you'd like to trial this amazing product.  
This week's expected harvest: Beet/chard greens (maybe beets too, they are still kinda small), onions, lettuce , beans, basil, squash, cucumbers, garlic scapes, green garlic, and herbs.
What's Cookin'?
So far, we've settled on Pizza Days being the last Wednesday of every month.  In the end, it works out the both the "even" and "odd" week 1/2 shares will all have opportunities to get some of our amazing pizza!  We overheard someone say "this (the Pizza oven) is the best thing in Fawn!" 

You do know, that you can come any and every week that we're open, no matter if you're a 1/2 share, whole share or market card member.  You don't even have to be a member to shop with us!  Just come out - Wednesdays 11 - 7.  We'll show you the ropes! 



The Details:

Farm pick up: Wednesdays 11-7.  7115 Ridge Rd Natrona Heights, PA 15065.  Come up the lane between the barn and the purple garage (follow parking/event signs) and park at the top of the hill (more parking signs).  Head on over to the farm house's (stone house with white roof) patio kitchen.  It's big - you shouldn't miss it.  We'll have your CSA pick up ready for you there.  As in year's past - we'll have the veggies set out and you'll need to collect them, as listed on the blackboard. Bring your own bags.  Make sure you take time to get familiar with our community kitchen, talk to us about this resource  our plans and how you can use it!  Both Greg and I will be around to answer questions and help.

Half Share folks: If you didn't come last week - you'd better come this week!

Market card holders can purchase items that are made from or on our farm.  Some items may be limited to CSA members only (if there isn't extra).  You can also purchase value added items, eggs, and pork.  Other items that we buy in  (such as chicken, beef and bread) must be purchased with cash, check or credit.  

City pick up: Wednesday Folks (I will be in contact directly with your pick up address and time).  Since our market at Phipps closed down, we've finally figured out a new location for our city drop - two locations, in fact!  Wednesday drops are in Regent Square and Friday drops are at the Northside Market 3-7 pm.  Please indicate your preferred drop off location, if you haven't already.  
"I'm interested in getting produce and meats from you all - how do I go about it?"

1 - Be a regular CSA member.
 It's not too late to join and we will pro-rate for missed weeks.  Come out weekly or bi-weekly and pick up a share of produce for 20 weeks (10 weeks if you're a bi-weekly pick up).  Our season starts in mid-June and runs until late October.  Options range from $350 - $850.  You can purchase online or send in a check (if paying by check - you can pay 1/2 now and 1/2 by August 1).  You get the best deal and support us the most by being a CSA member.  You help with our upfront cost in the spring and receive the bulk of the bounty throughout the growing season. 

2 - Need flexibility?  Buy a market card. This allows you to purchase items that we grow or make here on the farm.  You don't have to be a CSA member to buy products from us - just stop in on Wednesdays from 11 - 7 (or call to make an appointment). Buying market cards up front, still helps to support the farm, prior to the crops coming in.  With a market card, you get a deal, $60 worth of purchases for $50! 
3 - Have a garden already? Become a Garden Share member.  It's not too late to join!  We've packed up several extra shares and they are ready for your garden now! We'll supply you with the seeds and seedlings and a bit of guidance to get you through the growing season.  All you need is 100 sq ft and a desire to eat a lot of veggies!  This is the best deal - grow your own!


Additional items available:

Pastured Pork - (in the little white freezer) We have just about every pork cut available and are sending hogs to the butcher regularly.  Our pigs are raised on pasture and eat verified Non GMO grains and veggie scraps from the farm.  

Grass Fed Beef -  (in the little white freezer) This year, we're partnering up with Starr Valley Farm.  The Starr Family raises a herd of grass-fed (only) black angus/hereford cattle just about 20 minutes down the road from us.  Their stock  and pastures are certified organic, and the meat would be too, if only we had a butcher/processor that was certified organic near Western PA. We have 1/4 beef packages available and individual cuts as well.  We also have some beef from our own herd.  Mostly ground and lean.  The ground is $7/lb and mixes really well with our ground pork in meatloaf or meatballs.    

Eggs - We'll supplement our hen's egg production with eggs from Kevin Jarosinski or our neighbor Lenny.  All great eggs and much fresher than the ones you get from the supermarket!

Bread - For almost 10 years, we bring in fresh bread from Allegro Hearth Bakery.  They have a high quality product and make some memorable Chocolate Chip cookies too.

Beverages - Red Ribbon Pop - just down the hill is one of our region's famous pop makers.  We'll have a variety of flavors on hand! We have a display of flavors set out and the rest we keep in the walk in - so they are cold ($1.50 - $2 each).  We also are known to make our own Kombucha on occasion.

Maple Syrup - We buy in bulk and repackage maple syrup from the award winning Hurry Hill Maple Farm in Edinboro.  Their extra dark syrup is unbelievable!   $15/pint or $25/quart.

Jams and Jellies - Kathy Montgomery cranks out some seasonal flavors - all made with organic fruits and sugars.  She also uses Pamon's Pectin, which is an all natural low-sugar pectin option and brings out the fruity flavors more than the sugar laden sure-gel. Usually $5 each.

Hand Made Soaps
- we render the lard from our pastured pigs, and make our own soaps with certified organic essential oils.  LEMONGRASS SOAP NOW AVAILABLE!


Thanks for choosing our CSA.  We strive to grow nutrient dense, wholesome foods for you.  We think what we do is hard work - but important for our family, friends, and community.  There's a few things that we find important: growing good food, participating in the local economy, being good stewards to the environment, providing our community with access to a farm, farm animals and the outdoors, and teaching new and beginning farmers what we know.  By being a CSA member and supporting our endeavors, you're helping us to achieve our goals.  Thanks!

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