pearlHello neighbors and soon-to-be friends, I am so thrilled to be joining the Rockland Farm Alliance as the Farm Manager! Accepting the position with the RFA means a lot to me on different levels, and I am looking forward to growing on our farms and settling into the community. A farm isn’t alive without the people that belong to it, and I am very appreciative to join a group of caring, well-minded and hardworking folks. Just as importantly, I look to our customers as a reflection of the farm and our ideals and visions, and I look forward to meeting you in person.

This time of year tends to be hard for me, as the cold short days are when a lot of planning and office work happen, and I feel like I slide into a perpetual state of cabin fever. But a walk through the farm gets my neurons firing as I imagine all the possibilities! I can’t wait for spring when all of the imagining and careful preparation really starts to bear fruit (and veggies!). We are excited to make improvements for the coming year, including investing in a better irrigation system, and creating a bed system that will allow us to grow more on the same amount of land. We are also tweaking our existing cropping systems to allow for more diversity and produce throughout the year by planting earlier and planting more successions of crops. This will allow us to have a longer season and more consistent harvests of crops like tomatoes, summer squash and cucumbers.

One of my passions is to stretch the growing season as much as possible by using greenhouses when it is too cold to grow outside, as well as growing types of produce that will store well through the winter like potatoes, carrots, celeriac, beets, turnips, and butternut squash. We are planning to grow enough to last through the year so that we may launch a winter CSA program!

For the past 8 years I worked on a 40 acre certified organic vegetable farm in southcentral Pennsylvania which has been in production for 45 years. I was honored to learn from and work with a group of very skilled and knowledgeable farmers. While working there I enjoyed learning about every aspect of the farm and developing my knowledge and skills, from crop planning and business management, to field preparation and cultivation, planting, harvesting, and finally, delivering the fresh produce to our market customers. I also love to cook, and being able to enjoy all the fresh vegetables I could ever eat and share recipes with customers was icing on the cake! (…or, fresh pesto on the pizza?)

My interest in farming for a living began in earnest when I was in college. During my first semester I took a class called Intro to Organic Agriculture, and after I spent a few days planting herbs and harvesting lettuce at a nearby farm I was hooked. My parents had taught me the value of hard work and self reliance, and being homeschooled as a child I learned carpentry, woodworking, and arts from my dad, and the importance of health, quality food and good cookin’ from my mom. We always had a big garden, and throughout the years we have had goats, a milking cow, chickens, and other animals. Farming for me is just as much, if not more, of a lifestyle choice as it is a vocation.

Farming allows me to work outside, be directly connected to local ecology and seasonal rhythms, and work with purpose towards an ideal of ecological, economical, and social health and integrity. I continued to work on several farms in New England while in college, and after graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies I returned to my home state of Pennsylvania to work with a non-profit educational farm called Quiet Creek Herb Farm and School of Country Living through an Americorps program. From there I decided to hone my skills as a professional grower.

For the past 3 years I was privileged to be the Field and Production Manager at the farm in Pennsylvania, after spending several years learning how to grow, harvest, and manage the marketing of our produce in Washington, D.C. In that role I have loved the opportunity to have a more direct connection to the soil and fertility planning. I also love the process of envisioning and implementing more diversity of produce through season extension and other growing techniques, as well as looking for types of produce that may be of higher quality, or better suited to growing in the local environment and soil types.

I look forward to being able to use my skills and experience to serve the RFA and deliver high quality, delicious fresh vegetables to our supporters. Don’t forget, spring is right around the corner!

Pearl Wetherall