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On the Road: Raccoon Valley Farm

Posted: September 28, 2015

On an overcast day we headed to Millerstown in Perry County to meet up with Darryl Dressler and visit Raccoon Valley Farm. Farmer Lester Brubaker and his family moved here from Lancaster after purchasing the 150 acre farm.

Most of the farm is planted to field corn and soybeans. Nine acres are devoted to vegetables, strawberries and mums. 2015 was the Brubaker’s first year growing vegetables.

Being a new farmer Lester was confronted with the proverbial problem of how to find information. He gets information from 4 main sources. He met Darryl at the Juniata Produce Auction where Darryl said he is with Penn State Extension and would help out how ever he could. Lester says that Darryl’s really helped him out. Their relationship was obvious to us with Darryl following up on water testing that had been done on the well water at the farm while we were there.

Personnel at Nolt’s Produce are another source of information and farming supplies. For example, Lester asked them which cultivars are the most popular at the auction for the various vegetables he grows. He used that information to select the cultivars he is currently growing. As the growing season progresses and he gains more experience with the cultivars he is fine tuning his plans for next year.

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A view of part of the vegetable fields where asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, pumpkins and numerous crops are grown.

He also uses information he gets from talking to other growers at the produce auction to fine tune his plans. When he has a production problem he talks to other growers who grow the same crop to gain information on how they’ve approached the problem.

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Lester Brubaker holding a bell pepper. Cultivars are picked after talking with seed sales people and other auction growers.

His immediate and extended family is also an important part of his support system, helping when needed.

Using this approach he is ready for potential problems. For example, if late blight appears on his tomatoes he has products in his pesticide shed to manage the disease.

Lester is taking notes and making changes as he goes. He says that this is a year of learning and that when he makes a mistake, he plans to avoid making it a second time.

On our visit, we saw the assimilation of all that information put into a workable production system. The entire area is drip irrigated using water from a well. Using the system, up to an acre of vegetables is irrigated at one time. With the recent dry weather, even the sweet corn is drip irrigated. Lester is working with Darryl to inject acid through the drip lines to lower the pH of the well water based on results of water testing through Penn State’s Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory.

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Mums irrigated using a drip irrigation system.

Vegetables are sold primarily through the produce auction. Lester also built a farm stand located on the front of the farm. He hopes to expand sales through the farm stand in the future. Right now the farm stand opens with strawberries on Memorial Day weekend and goes through the fall season with pumpkins and mums. Fifteen to 18 cultivars of pumpkins and several colors of mums are grown on the farm.

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Lester Brubaker and Darryl Dressler standing in front of the Raccoon Valley Farm produce stand which Lester built.

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Produce displayed in the farm stand. The display and signage was created by Mrs. Brubaker.

We wish to thank Lester for an enjoyable afternoon at Raccoon Valley Farm.

Raccoon Valley Farm
593 Raccoon Valley Road
Millerstown, PA 17062

Contact Information

Elsa Sánchez
  • Associate Professor of Horticultural Systems Management
Email:
Phone: 814-863-2433