The Seed Farm Gearing Up for Another Big Year in the Lehigh Valley
By Colin McEvoy on December 4, 2018
As a successful and eventful year draws to a close, the Seed Farm is looking ahead to 2019 to continue successfully meeting the needs of new farmers and providing access to land, training, and equipment for farms in the Lehigh Valley.
With its merger with the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV) expected to be finalized early in the new year, the Seed Farm is currently taking applications for its farm incubator program, as well as working with farmers already in the incubator program looking to return next year.
“Agriculture is such an important piece of the Lehigh Valley’s history, and it’s critical to our future because it preserves farmland and the environment, and improves quality of life,” said Lindsey Parks, Executive Director of the Seed Farm.
“Many people don’t realize this, but it’s possible and affordable to start farming on even a very small scale,” Parks said. “We’re thrilled that our upcoming merger with CACLV will help us to spread this message and to assist more people in pursuing their farming dreams.”
The Seed Farm is also gearing up for its eighth annual Farm-To-Feast Dinner & Auction on Sunday, Jan. 27, which includes local, farm-fresh foods prepared by top local chefs, makers of craft beverages, farmers, and artisans. The proceeds from the event will help support the organization’s agricultural efforts in 2019.
Held at the Bell Gate Farm in Coopersburg, one of the oldest farms in Lehigh County, the dinner will include demonstrations, an auction, and “meet the makers” sessions of everything from flowers and trees to gourmet food to craft beer.
Food will also prepared on-site by Chef Josh Palmer, owner of the Sette Luna and Maxim’s 22 restaurants in Easton. The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is a sponsor of the event. Visit here for more information or to purchase tickets.
“The Seed Farm is one of the most important economic development programs in the Lehigh Valley,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham, who has written about the Seed Farm before. “Its efforts to incubate farmers is as important as vocational and technical schools and state incubators to develop new technology companies.”
Launched in 2009, the Seed Farm seeks to educate the next generation of farmers and provide them the hands-on training and solid business plans they need to operate their farms, obtain equipment and infrastructure, and produce and market their own products.
The Seed Farm accomplishes this through two main programs. One is new farmer training, which provides training opportunities on all aspects of running an agricultural business, including production, equipment use, marketing, and the management of infrastructure like greenhouses, high tunnels, and irrigation systems.
The other is the farm incubator program, which allows new farmers who can demonstrate adequate skills and solid business plans to launch their own farms on 42 acres in Upper Milford Township, as well as receive continued guidance from experienced local farm mentors and Seed Farm staff.
Applications are still being accepted for the incubator program, and anyone interested can contact Parks via email or at 610-391-9583 ext. 16.
“We’re excited that the word getting out that there are more opportunities than growing vegetables,” Parks said. “You can grow small grains, start a compost operation, raise livestock, or any number of things. We’re hoping to have a really diverse community of new farms on the site.”
The incubator program launched three new businesses in 2018, including a beekeeper for the first time in the Seed Farm’s history. This past year also marked the first time that businesses starting on the incubator site were growing cut flowers, Parks said.
The Seed Farm is now being acquired by CACLV, a move that both sides say will ensure the Seed Farm has the financial means to continue serving farmers and agricultural business in the Lehigh Valley.
The move will also provide the Seed Farm the opportunity to reach communities they couldn’t reach before, Parks said, and will be a good fit with the Second Harvest Food Bank, a CACLV program aiding individuals at-risk for hunger in a six-county service area.
“What the Seed Farm does is very popular because it addresses some key issues in our society,” said Alan Jennings, Executive Director of CACLV. “We thought we could bring the missions of the two organizations together, because food matters to every single human being, whether they’re poor or wealthy.”
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This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in The Morning Call and on the newspaper's website on November 28, 2018. (Click here to rea[...]Continue to Next Page