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The Seed Farm

Posted 1/14/2011 9:26am by Gayle Ganser.

Over the years as Steve and I attended conferences, trade shows and the like we noticed a disturbing trend. The farmers were getting older and there was very little new blood entering our industry. At times we were the youngest in attendance(and for those who know us we are not "young'). With todays focus on materialism and physical wealth, it is hard for any farm family member to feel the "call" to stay in there forefathers livlihood. Long hours, backbraking work and low pay are not on the top ten list of popular careers. Fortunately, we were not the only ones concerned about this dilemma.

In 1974 the beautiful 400 some acre Seem family farm located in Emmaus was sold to Lehigh County. Over the years many propositions for its use, like a golf course, were brought forward. In 2003 an "incubator farm"  to train new farmers was propsed. Groups like Friends of the Seed Farm, fought to keep the farm in an agricultural use. No decison was made and the farm remained a conventional farm for the time being. In 2006 Don Cunningham, Lehigh County, presented the "incubator farm" idea again along with enrolling the farm in farmland preservation. Finally, in 2007 the proposition was accepted, the farm was put in preservation and 25 acres of the 400 acres was set aside for this use. In 2008 Gerge De Vault suggested the name The Seed Farm, and it became so. In 2009 Tianna Du Pont, Northampton County Ag Extension, applied and recieived a $159,000 grant to implement the incubator farm. The demonstration grant enabled the farm to hire a manager, buy equipment and get started. In return the farm must periodically hold demonstrations on various farming practices, eg. irrigation, crop rotation, etc.

In 2010 a full time manager was hired and the first apprentices started planting in spring. Five apprentices started and three finished. Those three will now continue at the farm as stewards, leasing land and venturing on their own with the support of the farm. In addition they will serve as mentors to the incoming apprentices, of which there are five for 2011. We are proud to say that one of our employees Blake Unis has been accepted into this program.

This brings us to present day. Last night Steve and I were at the first official board meeting for The Seed Farm, of which we were asked to be members. I didn't know very much about this program but found it intriguing. I have learned much and am thrilled with the ideas and plans that were brought forth. This incubator farms makes it possible for people who are interested in farming to "test the waters", learn and experience farming before they jump in head first. I believe it is a great step in securing a future to agriculture in Lehigh County. Hopefully this can serve as a pilot for other programs throughout our commonwealth and continue to bring more young people into our industry. For more info check out www.theseedfarm.org.