On the Road: Plowshare Produce

We visited with Micah and Bethany Spicher Schonberg and Gabby Bedeian at Plowshare Produce, a certified organic farm located in McAlevys Fort in Huntingdon County.
On the Road: Plowshare Produce - Articles

Updated: August 8, 2017

On the Road: Plowshare Produce

Micah and Bethany rent the 2.5 acres they farm from Bethany’s parents who own 50-60 acres. Micah and Bethany got their start in farming by interning at Village Acres Farms with Roy and Hope Brubaker. For the last 8 years they have been growing a wide diversity of vegetables for their 80 member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. The CSA runs from the last week of May through the first week of November. Depending on the year, they also have a winter share. CSA memberships are divided between State College and Huntingdon with a few members picking up their share at the farm. About 10% of the vegetables produced are sold to Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative.

A large majority of crops are grown by transplants started in a small greenhouse. Larger transplants including for brassicas, solanaceous and early sweet corn crops are grown in 72-celled flats while leafy greens and onions are grown in 128-celled flats. For direct-seeded crops Micah uses a trio of seeders: a Jang seeder for most crops, a Planet Jr for parsnips, and an Earthway seeder for larger seeded crops like sweet corn.


Greenhouse for starting transplants.

Cool-season crops such as, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnip, kohlrabi, rutabaga, beet, parsnip and carrot, are planted both in the spring and fall. So on 2.5 acres of land, their cropping system actually allows them to farm the equivalent of 3.5 to 4 acres. Warm-season crops included tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, beans, muskmelons, watermelons and cucumbers and a large planting of Beauregard sweet potatoes. Perennial crops of rhubarb and asparagus and a variety of herbs have been planted on the farm.


Micah, Gabby and Elsa in the Beauregard sweet potato patch.


Micah in the rhubarb patch. Asparagus in the background.


Beans flanked by sweet corn.


Onions almost ready for harvest.

Weed management is accomplished by hand weeding and some tractor cultivation. The farm is not equipped to lay plastic. This method is working well as the fields were very clean of weeds.


Ruth, a farm worker, hand weeding parsnips with a long-sleeved shirt and gloves. (Do you know why?)

Drip irrigation is used throughout the farm. A 6 horsepower pump moves water from a nearby creek. Micah back flushes his fiberglass sand filter after every 5 irrigations or so to maintain good water quality. Drip tape was installed on the surface of the soil and is reused for several years. His emitter spacings were 6 or 12 inches, depending on the crop. Almost all crops were drip irrigated, including sweet corn and potatoes.

Leaf and grass compost from State College and at times manure from area farms supplies the bulk of crop nutrients. Micah also uses foliar feeding of micronutrients. He expressed an interested in doing more tissue and soil testing to fine tune his program. Row covers are used for season extension and insect pest management. Additionally two high tunnels are used for winter greens, tomatoes and eggplants.


Season extension with row cover and high tunnels.

Micah is conducting an experiment to manage weeds. A special oat variety was planted in the spring and was allowed to grow to chin height. The oats were mowed and a sheet of white-on-black plastic or the reverse was placed over the residue for 10 days. Then lettuce and brassica transplants were planted into the remaining residue. He was also looking at keeping the plastic on for a longer period. Plants were recently transplanted and growing well.


Brassicas transplanted into oat residue. Oats were mowed and covered with white-on-black plastic or the reverse for 10 days before planting.

Once produce is harvested it is taken to a packing and storage shed. The shed included stainless steel benches for packing, a walk-in cooler, a warm cooler and a concrete floor that allowed for the delivery truck to drive inside the shed.


Gabby, Bethany, Daniel and Micah in the packing shed.

Thank you to Micah, Bethany and Gabby for allowing us to visit the farm and showing us what they do.

Plowshare Produce
12936 Greenwood Road,
Huntingdon, PA 16652
814-667-2756
plowshareproduce@gmail.com

Instructors

Sustainable vegetable systems Organic vegetable systems Field vegetable production systems High tunnel vegetable production systems

More by Elsa Sanchez, Ph.D.