Lettuce Introduce Ourselves
Blackberry Meadows Farm is a Certified Organic fruit and vegetable CSA farm, and one of few organic farms in the area that also raises pigs, turkeys and chickens for producing pork, poultry, and eggs. We serve our neighbors in the Alle-Kiski Valley with fresh meat and vegetables from our farm store and the Pittsburgh Region through Garden Shares, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership program, and food system support.
Jen Montgomery and Greg Boulos purchased the farm in 2008, nurturing the oldest certified organic produce farm in Allegheny County along with one of the first well established regional CSAs, dating back to the late 1980’s.
Over the years we have added service operations including hosting farm weddings, community events, field tours, Little Homesteaders farm learning opportunities and children’s camps. We also offer knowledge sharing sessions and work-along opportunities with aspiring farmers, rustic overnight canvas cabin camping and stone ranch house B&B experiences. Farmers Grill and Farm Store are our latest extension of service offerings available online.
We are a uniquely open-door farm
We provide our community with access to both nutrient dense, fresh, organic, local produce, AND the opportunity to join us in the fields and learn how to produce your own.
As passionate supporters of community agriculture, we swing our doors
wide for community members interested in learning how to grow food.
From day-trippers to bus loads, we structure tours to be inclusive of
anyone crazy enough to pick up a hoe and wonder what to do with it. Buy
a pass from the store or come out on a member day!
Opportunities here can be an eye opener for many who previously had
taken their food for granted. We try to share a meal or at least a snack
of the farms’ current offerings with everyone who stops by and
explores. Once you are oriented with a tour, members can participate in
the farm without much advance notice.
It is, however, very hard for us to accept unannounced guests! While
we try to be hospitable and welcoming, no matter which days are good for
you, we farm full time. Random visits may be awkward or intense,
depending on our particular chores (like pig castration). We also don’t
have a full time housekeeper… which means that this place is actively
being used, manured and/or reorganized. If you have sensitivities to
raw unfiltered farming… please call ahead.
As active barterers, we often discuss trading CSA/Garden memberships
and products for professional services (such as web and graphic design,
legal work, marketing, construction labor and mechanics, etc). For many
people, their daily lives are so busy, they can’t physically be here on
the farm, but their passion to be a part of the movement leads them to
reach out to us and offer up a trade. We are always glad to entertain
and negotiate a good trade!
With 19 years of organic farming experience behind her, Jen and Greg decided to take on the challenge of Blackberry Meadows Farm in 2007. She’s worked on farms in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and as far away as Scotland and New Zealand. After all of her worldly farm travels, she took time out to earn her Masters in Sustainable Systems from Slippery Rock University, where she studied the science and theory behind the various styles of Sustainable Agriculture. It’s important to keep farm work flowing. Along with being a Mom she helps to make this farm enjoyable and productive.
Olivia is the “explorer” on the farm, at 6 years old, she is experiencing everything for the first time! Her enthusiasm and sense of wonder is contagious! Far from being the boss, she is anxiously repeating every word she hears and touching (and tasting) everything she can get her hands on.
Greg is the on-farm handyman and can fix just about anything. With a Masters in Sustainable Systems from Slippery Rock University he’s put to use his knowledge of alternative energy, green building and ecological design to catalyze green projects around the Pittsburgh region. He’s got the ‘black thumb’ from fixing equipment and moving rocks. Besides heavy lifting, he works to develop the ‘systems’ which provide fertility and efficiency to the farm operation. He’s also our business manager, wrote our stellar business plan, and keeps coming up with new ideas! He spends his “time off” being a Dad and rough housing!
Evelyn is the “watcher” on the farm, she observes chores and tasks, then tells the farmers if they are doing things right or wrong. Currently, she’s helping us to train the apprentices – showing them the proper way to plant onions and pull weeds. She’s also a taste tester for our delicious heirloom tomatoes.
Real Food for our Neighbors
Community is the reason we farm with a Community Supported Agriculture method. While it seems like a cyclical argument… Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs aren’t all the same. Many of our regional CSAs are either 1) programmed subscriptions offered by coops and logistics companies or 2) customized drop-offs where customers will rarely meet each other or their farmers. Our CSA takes a much different approach… we grow food while getting to know, meet and assist ALL of our members in enjoying the most nutritious food in the region.
There is no 3rd party handling the relationship between our members and us, the farmers. This website to facilitate payments and present introductory information is about as far as any customer will ever be from us. The money paid through subscriptions directly offsets our costs of operations and mortgages. Our members are our Risk Management System, paying for us to grow difficult heirloom crops with their rare, fragile flavors and also to work with over 50 aspiring farmers and customers to produce this unique food. Every dollar spent on subscriptions ensures our continued operation year to year.
Our form of farm operations is a Social Enterprise. Our decisions are made to serve the community of eaters who support our farm. Our Subscription members are our first priority in how we design and grow our business (as we hope is evident in ALL of our product offerings). It’s clearly not the ‘easy money’ we are after… it is the deeper and longer lasting personal connections with the human beings who are being nourished by our work.
Fresh Air, Water, Soil
We have also taken the official position to not sell any of our Marcellus gas rights. While the rush is on and our neighbors laugh in our faces, we refuse to sign away our future air and water rights to multinational corporations for money. To us, it would be selling the soul of the Earth that we so carefully steward on your behalf. We produced this document with the University of Pittsburgh’s Environmental Law Center to explain the risks to farmers who frack.
Our systems of producing food are constantly improving. As we learn new techniques for soil and water conservation, establishing microbial habitat and reducing our fertilizer inputs, we adapt our production systems to ensure that we are producing the healthiest most nutrient dense food offered in our region.
Empowering Regional Resilience
Some achievements we’ve made along the way include extensive work in informing the design of the regional food system. On the rare occasion that schedules align for us to attend meetings with local, regional and statewide agencies to discuss how to rebuild our local food connections, we take the time. We are currently serving on the Mayor of Pittsburgh’s Regional Resilience Steering Committee and as a regional representative for the Pennsylvania Women’s Agriculture Network.
Launched in 2012, our Garden Share program helps members who can’t afford the time and money to travel to our farm each week. Their early success in growing bumper crops of their own CSA shares allowed us to expand to over 50 members in 2015. We have not found any CSA program in the country that is comparable.
Join our Farm to Support Community Agriculture
Did you know that human nutrition comes from the soil? Microbiology interacts with plants to produce foods that are healthy and resilient against disease. This combination results in the formation of nearly all the vitamins and minerals we need to thrive.
In these strange times, many folks are realizing that our food system is NOT secure, and NOT healthy. Growing your own food (especially vegetables), by making the investment your soil’s health and connecting with a local farm are two great ways to bring stability to your life, improve your health and save money at the store.
At Blackberry Meadows, we BOTH grow food and empower the community to do the same. We are here to provide our neighbors with a higher octane fuel for their family.
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