Choosing Hope or Fear in the Life of a Farmer

Hi folks, as a fourth-generation full-time farmer, our family has had decades of challenges, and one silent partner has always been Mother Nature. You never know what kind of weather is dawning on the horizon. With challenges, there are lessons learned, and that has been a blessing with farming and generations of our family members. I have a saying that I model, “When you accept adversities in life, you lose, and when you challenge adversity, you have another day.”  

We all have had adversities for the last 19 months and with being told that we will never have normalcy again. That news is troublesome. I loved seeing and hearing all the creative ways businesses have made lemonade out of lemons. However, it is worrisome when companies are labeled as either essential or non-essential. The outcomes have been that many families and small businesses have been hampered in the process. 

As a farmer, when raising livestock and or growing fruits and vegetables, supportive science gives us insight and guidance to work through most issues that can occur, and it truly supports hopes to mitigate fear! 

We have raised and processed our fresh turkeys for over 80 years on our farm and have been responsible for over 550 families for the last 40 years, which is year-round customers supporting our family farm. Raising turkeys starts ten months before the holidays with ordering two flocks of day-old poults. Six months of nurturing, feeding, and raising the turkeys, then we process them for the joy they will bring to the table. Our challenge for the second year is trying to sell turkeys without instilling any fear. Reestablishing what our Thanksgiving holiday is about with family and friends coming together to give thanks for our blessings. 

So, folks, God gives us all free will, and, as American citizens, our cherished constitutional rights give us a free will to choose. Knowledge is power, and all I can say is I want to inspire hope and have our family farm continue to support our community, only to have community support. 

It feels good to have folks patronize our small establishment. We are prepared for it in lieu of what kind of weather Mother Nature may bestow upon us since we just said goodbye to summer and have ushered in fall and all the beauty she has to offer. No matter what the season, we have plenty of fresh crops available to tantalize your tastebuds. Our farm is small but mighty, and it houses a delicious variety of fruits and vegetables. We’ve been farming our land since 1897. As a bonus, we are open seven days a week for your shopping convenience. 

You are welcome to stop by Eichner’s Whole Farm & Greenhouses and enjoy our “super sweet” bi-color sweet corn and all of our homegrown, seasonal vegetables at 285 Richard Road, Wexford, and get “the rest of the story.” 

By: Ron Eichner

Is It a Messenger with a Message? 

By Ron Eichner 

 Hi Folks,  

As you know a farm can be a year-round destination for every season, for many reasons, like our farm market and greenhouses which are open seven-days-a-week throughout the year. Our farm hosts area critters and birds, thinking the fields are a well-developed salad bar, free to eat and or destroy. Animal behavior can tell you a lot if you take the time or had the opportunity to be taught about it like me by my parents and grandparents. If we take the time, nature can teach and tell us a lot throughout the year. 

    This year, Father’s Day was on June 20, and every Father’s Day has been special for my family and me. Those who know or follow our farm family are aware that it was our first Father’s Day without our dad. This past Father’s Day weekend had moments that I want to share with all of you. 

     It started Saturday of Father’s Day Eve when my niece Michelle and my great niece Isabella saw a massive heart in the sky over our farm around 8:30 p.m. Their camera did capture the moment. 

     Father’s Day each year starts with church, then coming home and getting all of the farm chores done. First, we needed to take care of our laying hens, gathering and washing the fresh eggs, and tending to the needs of our greenhouses, crops and field work. Then we could have our farm market and greenhouses open for our great customers. 

     I had to get our John Deere tractor and John Deere corn planter hooked up to plant our ninth field of non-GMO, bi-color sweet corn in the early afternoon. When I returned to the barnyard with three varieties of bi-color sweet corn to plant, I noticed a “white dove” on the ridge of our roof. To catch the moment of time, I called my two best ‘shutter bugs,” Michelle and my cousin Kathy to take a few pictures. I was called to our farmhouse by my mom, Vi, and going back to the barnyard, I noticed the white dove was still on the barn roof. Then I loaded the two seed hoppers on the JD corn planter, and after being called back to the farmhouse, I came back five minutes later, and the white dove was gone. So, I took the tractor and the corn planter up on our hill to plant 14 rows of corn in the field. It was business as usual. When I got to rows five and six, lo and behold, 80 feet away from the end of the third row was the white dove observing what I was doing. 

       I then planted four more rows of the second sweet corn variety, stopped the tractor, unloaded, and reloaded the second seed hopper for the third sweet corn variety. To my surprise, the white dove never moved. I then planted the last four rows, and then stopped to unload the first seed hopper and, once again, the white dove did not move. I unloaded the second seed hopper only to see that the white dove must have flown away.  

 Surprisingly, the white dove was working its way towards me, and I found it parked on the equipment in the field; it was less than 12 inches away. Our Grandpap Brimmeier had pigeons years ago, and I mimicked the pigeon sounds. It took me about nine tries and ten minutes, until I had the white dove in my hand.  

 There was no one to share the story with, and who would believe me? I decided to drive the tractor and equipment back down the barn yard, only to find Kathy walking up to the farm. I surprised her with the white dove, which sent her back to her house to get her camera for a few pictures to capture the moment. I then set the white dove down on a concrete block next to our farm market to answer the farm phone at our market. When I came out, the dove had flown away.  

 Folks, the story doesn’t end yet! 

        An hour later, I took care of our young chickens in the barn only to exit the barn and look across the front garden; l walked the garden looking over the crops. Then I noticed our newest employee, the white dove. I called Kathy and said, “If you have a chance look out your kitchen window and see where the white dove is now.” 

       The next morning, Kathy called me to say that the white dove had been watching her work in the garden, and she said it left. I walked behind her garage and on her retaining wall was our new friend. I communicated with it, then picked it up and took it back to the barn for some feed and water. 

      Anyone is welcome to put some meaning into what I experienced on my Father’s Day weekend 2021. So, you are welcome to stop by Eichner’s Whole Farm & Greenhouses and experience “farm fresh” and bring a friend and be a friend at 285 Richard Road, Wexford, and get “the rest of the story.” 

 

Who Do We Trust and Believe? 

By Ron Eichner 

      Hi folks, COVID-19 and the last year, 2020, were something we all could live without. One phrase echoed was to “follow the experts and science.” So, it kindled my mind to share a story with you about all those experts and science has also supported.  

 Looking back in the 1960s, we were told by the experts that a high-carb, low-fat diet was the best for us, and it turned into a full-fledged attack on the incredible-edible egg and raw milk. We were told that both are unhealthy and should be avoided. 

     Interestingly, eggs and raw milk were, and still are, the number one and two sources for complete protein. Eggs are a complete protein source; they have all the vitamins from A to Z, except vitamin C, 14 minerals, and antioxidants. Heck, God created the original multi-vitamin encapsulated in a shell. Fertilized eggs have all the nutritional values needed to have a chick fully develop and the energy to peck out of their eggshells in 21 days. Also, when a cow has a calf, her raw milk is all the calf needs to develop in their early stage of growth. If you give a calf processed milk, the calf isn’t long for this world. 

      As a family farm, we were up to 7,000 laying hens producing our eggs in the mid-1960s. The high-carb, low-fat diet was encouraged to open the door for processed cereals and suggested eggs don’t support our health. The untruths cast on eggs forced us to match our retail demands for eggs. Our laying hens count dropped to 2,000 hens, and we have been at that count for the last 50 years. At the same time, the banning of selling raw milk, forced us to sell our milk cows. Just think of all the family farms that were producing eggs and raw milk for decades when the assault by experts and science put a lot of farms in a negative way. 

     Now the experts with science support nutritional facts that show a diet of low-carbs and good fats can improve our health in several ways including promoting weight loss and decreasing body fat. Also, it benefits many health conditions including diabetes, heart disease and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. This should resurrect eggs and raw milk back to where they rightly belong as number one and number two. 

     The medical schools are like our Ag schools, not educating the students about the importance of nutrition. We have been told for decades that eggs should be avoided to manage our cholesterol levels. Fortunately, this claim is untrue! Although white eggs are high in dietary cholesterol, the effects on blood cholesterol levels are minimal. 

      My grandfather and dad instilled in me “that if you want to eat nutritionally smart it has to be grown nutritionally smart.” It all starts with our soils where our crops are grown. If our Ag schools are paying attention to the nutritional blights of our fruits and vegetables as nutritionists are reporting, there would be corrections on how crops are grown. Sadly, the focus is on crop growth, production and yield. Recent science has developed GMO seeds, and GMOs have been a three-letter buzzword that stirs attention. 

        I have never made a good follower. Always question the experts and science behind the agenda. But from time to time, asking God if I need inspiration I would welcome it, and inspiration always comes. 

        I hope you all have a safe July 4th, and it you want to talk about experts and science, you are welcome to stop by Eichner’s Whole Farm & Greenhouses and experience “Farm Fresh” at 285 Richard Road, Wexford, and get “the rest of the story.” 

A Time to Sow

By Ron Eichner 

       Hi folks, Each year most farm and garden crops get started by putting seeds in seed trays filled with potting soil or even direct sowing out in the farm fields or gardens where seeds will germinate and grow. Soil temperatures and moisture levels are important to get the seeds to germinate. First, having the soil ready to plant and fertilized for the crops’ nutritional benefits to grow and produce a crop to harvest is essential. You may want to mulch with hay or natural grass clippings for moisture retention and/or manage the competing weeds during the growing stages. Then keep scouting for insect and wildlife damages, along with fungus issues. 

       The farming wisdom of billionaire Mike Bloomberg who has no agricultural or farming skills, said, “I can teach anybody to be a farmer. It’s a process; you dig a hole, put in a seed, fill the hole with dirt, add water, and up comes the corn.” Well, I don’t know any billionaire farmers, but maybe Bloomberg could team up with the billionaire duo of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos who have expanded their fortunes by purchasing enormous tracts of U.S. farmland. All three would be natural for farming. Here is a unanimous farm quote, “Farmers don’t farm to make money; they make money to farm.” 

        Most farmers and gardeners have learned from their parents and or grandparents or from an agricultural school where you can get a horticulture degree. I wish farming and growing crops was as simple as what Mike Bloomberg says or thinks. Farming has become one of the most advanced industries because of all of the growing conditions and challenges faced each year. 

        Mother Nature is our silent partner, and weather for a growing season is truly unpredictable each year. Most crops want 70 to 80-degree soil temperatures for seed germination. In April or May, the sun can warm the soil temperatures. However, cold spring showers and rains can drop the soil temperatures back down. This is why for generations most tender vegetables and flowers were planted later in May because a couple of frosts and/or cold soil temperatures can still kill your crop. 

       At one point, 98% of the world worked in agriculture, and now it’s about 2% across the United States. There is a big difference between true family farms, those who work their farms every day throughout the year, and the rich businesspeople who are buying up countless farms throughout the United States. 

       My grandfather and dad have instilled in me to always pay attention to the full moon cycles of April and May in the spring and September and October in the fall. Generally, when you have clear nights within a five-day window of a full moon cycle it can be the coldest period. This year, May 26 is the last full moon of the spring, which could be a factor. 

        The success of a farm is lies in growing the crops and being able to sell the yields your crops produce. In our area we have four full-time family farms – Kaelin, Shenot, Soergel, and ours, Eichnerand we share a common goal of supporting our community.  All we need is community support. So “Farm to Table” is a unique two-step from the farm to your table, where for most stores it is a four to fivestep process. 

        There are no days off with farming, and by no means is it as easy as digging a hole, dropping a seed, filling the hole and up pops a crop. Feel free to stop by Eichner’s Whole Farm & Green houses and experience “Farm Fresh” at 285 Richard Road, Wexford, and get the “rest of the story.” 

 

Facts from the Farm

stack of pancakes on white background

Hi Folks,

We are in the still of winter with a blanket of snow on the ground. When most people think of snow, they think of activities like skiing, cross country skiing, sled riding, snowtubing, and even making snow angels. But it’s also the time for maple syrup producers across the northeastern United States and Canada to get ready for another maple syrup season. And Pennsylvania has a big part to play.

Maple syrup production has spanned centuries with the practices of preparation, gathering the maple water, boiling or cooking, bottling, selling, and enjoying it on tables across America.

The best trees to tap are sugar maples, which are found in abundance in Pennsylvania. You begin tapping by either drilling or driving a small hole to install a small tube called a spile into the trees to vent the maple sap or water. The water is gathered in buckets or in a network of plastic tubes, which end up in the maple house, where it is processed into maple syrup.

The production really begins in the late fall and early winter when the maple trees store starch in their trunks to prepare for the winter period. Giving the right temperature in late winter and early spring, which can span 4-8 weeks, each year is important. Maple producers want to see below freezing temperatures at night and around 40 degrees during the day. The trees will never give anymore of the sap or water than it can without harming themselves.

It takes 40-50 gallons of maple water to make one gallon of syrup. Maple water is 2% sugar and 98% water and then is boiled down to a concentration of 65% maple sugar. The cooking and boiling process is achieved by heating with either hardwood, natural gas or propane, which is all very costly.

Modern approaches like reverse osmosis for producing maple syrup separates the maple water from the natural sugar, minerals and other impurities into a more concentrated maple liquid to finish by boiling or cooking into maple syrup. Another modern approach is to use a stainless-steel turbo evaporator that can do the cooking process in one hour instead of the 18-24 hours over an open flame or fire.

Maple syrup comes in different grades, and in most cases, it depends on the times of the maple season. Maple syrup is graded based on light transmission through the syrup. Grade A is a lighter amber, which generally comes from early to midseason. Grade B is a darker amber, which is more robust in both color and flavor and generally comes in late season. Some maple syrup producers are finding that customers’ tastes are moving toward darker amber or Grade B because it has a stronger maple flavor.

Maple producers say their worst enemy is the porcupine as it likes to chew on the plastic tubing or lines. A good natural predator for the porcupine is the fisher or fisher cat, a type of carnivorous weasel. Nature does have a balance.

So, if you think maple syrup is expensive, maybe tap a couple of maple trees, gather the maple water, buy or make a heatbased evaporator and either cut and split a cord of wood or use natural gas or propane to cook and boil the maple water down to make the precious maple syrup.
It may be cheaper and easier to stop by our farm market for some of the Grade A and B maple syrup found in pints, quarts, half-gallon and one-gallon sizes produced by Jeff Yatzor from his working farm in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, from the northwest region of Pennsylvania. Yatzor’s is having its 20th Maple Weekend, March 13-14, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Feel free to stop by Eichner’s Whole Farm and Greenhouse and experience Farm Fresh at 285 Richard Road, Wexford, and get the “rest of the story.”