Country View: Barbara and Charlie Gerlach – Berry Fields Farm – New Albany, PA
Hear how Charlie and Barbara Gerlach began utilizing their resources to create their own food.
Photo courtesy of Berry Fields Farm
Radio interview source: Barbara and Charlie Gerlach, Owners, Berry Fields Farm
Several years ago, Charlie and Barbara Gerlach of New Albany, Pennsylvania, decided to move onto land they owned that was used for hunting. The couple was concerned about where their food was coming from, and wanted to grow their own.
An orchard on the property had already been established, so the next project was a garden. Charlie and Barbara discovered that the soil needed amendments and had no time to create green manure, so they decided to buy a different manure source – three cows. And that's why they now have a host of farm animals.
"We soon learned that you don't just put raw manure onto your garden," Barbara says. "You need to compost it, and that's why we got three pigs. The pigs were purchased as a way to speed up the composting process because they actually use their snouts, and throw it around, and turn it for you."
The Gerlachs realized they didn't have enough pasture on their wooded land for the cows, so they bought six goats to clear away leaves and brush. They later added a donkey, chickens, and turkeys.
Before long, the Gerlachs had more produce, meat, and eggs than they knew what to do with, and they also needed a way to keep the farm sustainable. This led to the creation of a farm store and vacation rental on the property.
"We decided to go ahead and open up everything for sale," she says. "More as a service to the community than actual business, we had no business plan. It just sort of all evolved. Most of it became possible because we had opportunities to mentor with other farms through the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Without that organization we would not have been able to get the answers to the questions we had every day."
Barbara says they're now seeing more demand than product. They could expand, but she says they don't want to become overextended.
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