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On the Road: 4 Seasons Farm Market

Posted: September 28, 2015

On another bright and beautiful day on the road we headed up to Susquehanna county in northern Pennsylvania to link up with Tom Maloney to visit 4 Seasons Farm Market. 4 Seasons Farm Market is a 143 acre farm owned and operated by Tina and Gerald Carlin.

The farm was started by Gerald’s family in 1903 as an agronomic and dairy operation. Today most of the acreage is planted to feed crops for the 55-75 beef cattle on the farm. Four years ago, the Carlin’s started farming 4 acres of various vegetables. While not certified organic, they use organic practices as much as possible. Gerald gave us a tour of his vegetable production.

The farm has 3 passive solar greenhouses that are used to grow vegetables year-round. Two of the greenhouses are used for growing vegetables and one is used for starting seedlings. The greenhouses are oriented for a southern exposure, having an angled front facing south, and are covered with corrugated ribbed plastic sheets or greenhouse grade plastic.

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The passive solar greenhouses are built using one of these two designs.

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The inside of the north facing wall is lined with drums painted black and filled with water which acts as a heat sink. Propane heaters are used as a backup heat source. Gerald said that they only used 40 gallons of propane for each of the two vegetable greenhouses and around 150 gallons for the starter greenhouse last winter.

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Three stacked rows of black metal barrels holding water on the north wall of one of the greenhouses.

Seedlings are started in soil blocks made from Frey’s Special Blend and placed in a greenhouse kept at a minimum of 50°F.

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Soil blocks planted with lettuce placed on plastic trays.

Seedlings are then set in the field or in one of three high tunnels. The Carlin’s grow everything they sell, except blueberries. We saw everything growing, except asparagus, including rhubarb, horseradish, celery, ground cherry, Jerusalem artichoke, snap beans, red, white, blue and yellow potatoes, turnips, beets, dill, carrots, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, honeydew, muskmelon, cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, watermelons.

All the crops are drip irrigated out of a well that is 480 feet deep yielding 20 gallons per minute. Gerald waters in zones and uses on/off connecters for his drip tape. In a small area sprinkler irrigation is used to start greens.

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Well water is filtered with a screen filter.

Weeds are managed with landscape fabric which has not needed to be replaced since they started growing vegetables. Hay mulch is also placed between rows to suppress weeds.

Cool-season vegetables are overwintered on top of 4-foot-wide black landscape fabric. Conduit pipe is bent over the row in an arc about 2 feet high; however, Gerald would like it to be a bit higher so that he could barely walk in. Heavy weight row cover is placed over the pipe in October. A layer of 6-mil plastic is placed over the row cover in December. Crops are harvested throughout the winter.

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This row is used to overwinter crops.

Garlic is harvested and cured by hanging in a woodshed.

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Gerald Carlin and Tom Maloney standing under drying garlic in the woodshed.

Onions are harvested, left for a couple days in the field and suspended in the rafters of a large machinery storage building for 4 to 6 weeks. Once cured, they are stored in one of two on-farm coolers.

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Onions are hoisted to the rafters for drying in 5 gallon buckets using a pulley and a rope.

In one cooler, root crops are layered and stored in 5 gallon plastic containers filled with masonry sand. This method keeps the root crops from losing moisture and the sand is easy to clean off the crop. Once the sand has been used, it is reused in sand bags. The sand bags are used to secure the row covers used in the overwintering system. Every fall they use 4 tons of masonry sand.

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Carrots layered in a 5 gallon bucket of masonry sand and stored in a cooler.

Vegetables are sold through a small CSA, several farmers markets and a store on the farm. In addition to their vegetables, they sell various food products including Aunt Ninnie’s Kitchen, which is the farm’s unique label.

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Salad dressings, barbeque sauces and various jams and jellies carry the Aunt Ninnie's Kitchen label.

Thank you to Tina and Gerald Carlin for allowing us to visit and sharing their farming experiences with us.

4 Seasons Farm Market
3064 State Route 3005
Meshoppen, PA 18630
570-833-4592

Contact Information

Elsa Sánchez
  • Associate Professor of Horticultural Systems Management
Email:
Phone: 814-863-2433
William Lamont
  • Professor of Vegetable Crops
Email:
Phone: 814-865-7118