Happy Spring! The milder winter offered some relief for those of us who don’t enjoy the cold and snow as much as others. I took time off this winter. If I’m being totally honest, I was really worn out from last year. Not in a worn-down kind of way, but just plain-tired.
I am learning to prioritize the importance of respite and renewal. I know I must model this in order to give other people permission to do the same. It’s also the catalyst to be able to maintain momentum for the responsibility and activities we roll out each year.
This year is no exception. I am motivated more than ever to create a place where people can find some respite and renewal. I was recently honored by a collaboration of the PA Farm Bureau, 4H County Council, the Columbia County Conservation District, Penn State Extension and the Natural Resource Conservation Services Agency with the 2023 Educator of the Year Award. I am humbled. Grateful. Emotional. All those things wrap up my response.
That recognition has now fueled my fire and renewed my enthusiasm to continue to plug away at building strong relationships in our community and schools to engage students in agriculture education. I needed the reminder that it does matter. Here’s why:
Agriculture offers respite. (Yes, there are farms and agriculture experiences that are exceptions to this, I think first and foremost of our dairy farm friends), but the land and the trees demonstrate the intentional magnificent design of our Master Creator for a season of rest.
Agriculture life is the exact definition of renewal. Every year that Master Creator orchestrates decay and then renewal through new life and growth. It is the beautiful process that we literally touch with our hands. And for those of us who are involved, it touches us to the core of our souls.
When the sun warms up the farm around me I feel that sense of renewal building up so strong inside of me. The respite of winter was exactly what I needed to prepare for the renewal of our new season.
This year I hope you can step away from whatever chaos surrounds you, whatever weighs heavy on your heart and visit us here on the farm. When you do, look around and see renewal at it’s very best. I hope it inspires you and creates a space for you to find a little respite and renewal for yourself.
Always grateful for you,
“This Year was challenging.” How many years are we going to have to say that? It seems like each year we continue to have an unprecedented event that has the potential to cripple our spirits because of the challenges it brings.
This year was no different. In late Spring, after our peach blossoms were in bloom, a late cold snap came through and devastated about 90% of our crop. Then in the summer, our region experienced a severe, months-long drought. Day after day, week after week without rain, combined with record-breaking high temperatures in July. By God’s grace, we are sustained in seasons of drought by diversity and creativity, which enables us to keep the doors open. It is the kindness and intentionality of you, our customers & friends, that keeps our spirits filled. It is too easy to get downcast …
For me, it is always miraculous. We choose to do these things because they bring us joy. When it comes to farming, uncertainty will always be certain. We cannot control the rain or the temperature, but we can choose the things that will fill our spirits. As we enter a season of reflection and Thanksgiving, choose what will fill your spirit. Money, achievements, and awards will not fulfill you. Kindness, reflection & presence with others - those will fill your spirit.
I pray the most abundant season ahead for you and your family,
It is late May, which brings one of my favorite seasons - planting season. While running errands on many of our country back-roads this week, I noticed that every farm I passed has fields prepared for planting and tractors already hard at work. I saw baby calves staying close to their mamas. This morning I sat on my porch watching a Robin retrieve a beak full of sticks and work hard to build her nest. Rural Pennsylvania is back in action for another year of agriculture!
I am grateful for where I live, it's a steady flow early morning to late evening of the activity of farm life. Life. That's it; when Spring arrives the world comes back to life. Now, for any of you who love the cold and snow, I am quite happy to oblige you, but no thank you... this is the season for me!
Life. Sustained by this tedious practice every spring of planting. Life. Dependent on the diligent work of so many people who spent their winter planning seed orders, navigating crop placement, praying that the weather would work in their favor and their equipment will make it... just one more year. The farmer has faced challenges year after year. It’s a new year, with different challenges. This year, it's fuel and fertilizer costs. Weather has already left her mark on some of the early season fruit trees. But, our community has to eat, our animals have to eat. Winter will come again, and we must be ready. We will be, by the grace of God, we will be.
This season we invite you to the farm once again! We are just weeks away from strawberry season and we have already kicked off our farm market opening with a full line up of educational and engaging activities. It felt good to open our doors and see your smiling faces, ready to see us too!
This year the barn is getting a fresh coat of paint with a bright new color. What I am most excited about is our new barn quilt. Since we visit Ohio often to visit Dan's family, we pass a lot of barn quilts in rural Ohio. Barn quilts originated with Donna Sue Groves of Adams County, Ohio. Donna is a breast cancer survivor who wanted to do something in honor of her mother, a celebrated quilter, while sprucing up her barn at the same time. In 2001, she painted a wooden square like a traditional quilt block and hung it on her mother’s barn.
They are a pattern painted directly on a barn or on a piece of wood, then attached to the barn. Each one has its own meaning. Our barn quilt is the "Farmer's Star” and is a representation of our desire to make our neighbors and extended community welcome. Although in some cases the colors are also symbolic, ours are not. We chose those colors because we really liked them aesthetically. Our barn quilt was hand painted by a dear friend, Tiffany McKelvie, whose talents are numerous. I would love to see more farms and barns in Pennsylvania add a barn quilt so we can establish our own barn quilt tour like is popular in Ohio.
The sun is setting as I write this on my back porch and the dandelions that have turned to seed are literally glowing like night lights all over the field. It's quite a magical sight. I am always in deep awe of the amazing Creator who gives us these beautiful gifts to enjoy and renews our strength and hope for a new season ahead.
Looking forward to your visit soon.
Fall is winding down. For us, it’s been 8 weeks of pumpkins and all the fun that goes along with this season. I never get tired of it; I just get tired. Winter rest is just around the corner.
I am thankful for the Fall...there is something about the harvest of pumpkins, squash and gourds that brings a level of accomplishment. Even better is the feeling of watching people enjoy the harvest. When I am driving around the community and see pumpkins displayed on porches I always wonder if they came from our farm.
Adapting to supply chain delays and work force shortages presented a new set of challenges to overcome this year. Let me take a moment here to say how blessed Dan and I are with the staff that we have. Staff who shows up faithfully and works hard for each other, for our community and for us. We were all forced to think outside the box! We thought 2020 was the challenge; but it was only the warmup for this year. Even though we all feel a little worn and weary, the sense of what we have been able to achieve this year renews our energy as we head into a different season.
The holiday push from media started weeks ago. As a business, we had to map out our Thanksgiving and Christmas plans far in advance. Schedules had to be inputted and product orders had to be placed, days, even months ago. However, there is a difference between the commercialism of this season and its true meaning. As we countdown the days on a calendar, I am determined, like every year, to stay in tune with what matters. For me, Thanksgiving and Christmas is about gathering, giving and celebrating the birth of a Savior.
The Grinch had a lot of insight when he thought, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” That certainly doesn’t seem like a strong or successful marketing campaign. However, our approach is quite different, and I am good with that. It’s authentic. As you do plan your approach to spending this season, please strongly consider the impact your purchases can have on your local economy. More importantly, prioritize what matters the most.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to speak to a group of Pennsylvania Future Farmer’s of America students. I shared with them some important math:
So, this season, start with deciding what matters most. Mother Theresa said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Give yourself a little respite from the frenzy of the media and the pressure to create a sky-high pile of gifts under the tree. Determine what matters most to you and to those around you this season and make that your priority.
I pray that you have a season of gratitude and abundant joy,
I have sat down to write a blog at least a half dozen times over the past few months. Words failed me (shocking) because all that came to mind over and over again was finding something worthwhile to share. Commentary on the impact of the past year and a half has been covered from every angle. But the truth is, moving forward only comes with reflecting on the impact of the past. And, one last introductory thought, if you follow this blog, you all know I have abandoned my original commitment to make this all about food and farming. You get a lot of heart and emotions from me; I cannot be authentic any other way.
Last year felt like crisis mode. Uncertainty held an ominous cloud over our heads. We worked so hard just to meet needs, basic needs and to create a higher level of convenience and service. I am not taking any credit here, my staff did it - they did it all and they did it well. We kept our outdoor events and workshops going, we watched families enjoy our kids garden when so many other places roped off and canceled their programs. I never doubted for one moment we had the platform and responsibility to provide these services. It was the right thing to do and I am glad we did.
This year feels like recovery mode. It has been encouraging to see people out and engaging social life again without that ominous cloud. Yes, there are some who still carry their umbrella’s anticipating that cloud is going to appear again but, on our farm, and in our little space in the world, you can put down your umbrella and find a little respite from the storm.
Two things really stand out to me that have impacted the recovery process for me personally. The first is gratitude. Gratitude is a principal I have always tried to practice. It does make a difference in our emotional lives and our perspective when we can find even the little things to be grateful for. More than ever though, I see people more grateful for those little things that we all took for granted for so long. It is more meaningful now for people to be together with those they care about most.
The second thing is less wasteful. We are less wasteful from a practical standpoint of our resources. When some of our basic supplies felt threatened, we learned how to be creative with our stewardship. But more importantly, we are less wasteful with our words and time. I hope this lesson sticks for people, that despite the hard road traveled to get here, I hope we all remember to use these gifts that we have been given.
Less wastefulness with our time and our relationships is a generous gift the past year has given us. More gratefulness for what we have and less longing for what we don’t is another generous gift. As we move into recovery, I challenge you not to cast those gifts aside, but to hold on to them tightly and treasure them. Gifts are to be received with grateful hearts and used as they were intended.
Oh, and a quick note on the farm side of things. It is an exciting year! Our new fruit trees are all doing well, they will not have production on them this year, but hopefully they will start next year! Strawberries have been abundant and beautiful. Our plan to plant so many more has been a success! We have been able to provide an awesome picking experience for the community and it warms our hearts to see people enjoying the opportunity. Pumpkins are in the ground; the corn maze is about 6 inches tall and getting bigger every day. This will be the last year for our older peach tree orchard but we will have a pick your own opportunity there as well, another welcome experience after losing all of last year’s peaches. Kid’s workshops kick off this week with just as much fun as we have ever had before (oh and lots of learning too).
Perhaps the most exciting thing of this year is that Big Dan’s BBQ restaurant opened inside. After being delayed a year (for obvious reasons), Dan and I have been so thankful for the timing of opening. We are also thankful for the way we see our guests coming to gather and simply enjoy time together. We also enjoy the gift of togetherness that it has given us with our staff and our family. If you haven’t already, we both hope you will come visit us.
With a grateful (and less wasteful) heart,
It’s been a long time since my last post. It’s not because I haven’t had a lot of things on my mind and heart to share; that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The challenges of the past year haven’t escaped any of us, only impacted us in different ways. For me, it has been like holding my breath for a very long time - uncertain of so many things - the farm plans, educational choices for my kids, the disparity in expectations from the public, the chaos of the world around me. Did anyone else feel like somedays it was just hard to breathe?
Something about fall has been hopeful - maybe day after day of sunny chilly weather, the changing of the leaves and the brightness of the harvest. Or maybe it’s just been watching people enjoy our farm and the outdoors, watching families and friends gather and linger at picnic tables and benches. This year fall seemed less rushed and more settled. Despite long days and the hard work of this season, something about that was refreshing and restoring. For that I am deeply grateful, we are all doing our best to find the silver linings in some dark clouds that have lingered.
We have all been forced to think so differently about most aspects of our lives over the past year. As we approach the gift giving season, now is the time to start making an intentional approach. I have given myself some criteria for my own personal use and thought I would share.
Shop Local. We hear that over and over but what does that really mean and why is it so important? Studies show that an average $68 per $100 dollars spent locally go directly back into the community, that is far greater than the amount per $100 spent at chains and large retailers. It means taxes paid stays locally, it means local jobs are sustained and it means small businesses can stay open and continue to provide exceptional services that all big businesses can not. Now, I get it, there are just some conveniences that push us to shop out of the area and online, but as often as possible, do your research and find local. Even if you are paying a little more for a product or service, consider the implication you are having on your local economy and neighborhood. If I can walk into a store and ask to speak to the owner and be able to do that, then I know I am shopping in a truly locally owned and operated store. (Note: it doesn’t mean the owner is ALWAYS there, it just means the owner is accountable and accessible!)
Shop Practical. That doesn’t sound fun, but stick with me, you might change your mind. There are some everyday essentials that can turn into creative gift ideas. Let’s start with food. A themed food basket can meet a practical need for eating and snacking. Scan Pinterest for some inspiring ideas to create a breakfast basket, a movie night basket, etc and then customize accordingly! Clothes also fit the practical category too - everyone loves a comfy pair of socks or pajamas, a warm blanket or a heated pad for cold nights. Instead of gift wrapping or gift bags, pick a reusable bag or purse or decorative storage box and fill it with goodies. Soap and body care is also essential and we have many local artisans represented in the area.
Shop Experience. Here is where we tie it all together - what are the practical experiences that everyone on your shopping list would enjoy? A salon visit, a pedicure, a massage, a winery, a shopping trip to their favorite store, an educational experience like a paint class or art workshop or a staycation package. Think ahead to traditional summer experiences like mini golf and amusement parks and pick up gift cards, tickets or passes! Our local family owned restaurants have all struggled to keep their doors open this season; stop in and pick up a gift card (or two or three). Not only does it provide a great experience idea, but it also ties in local and practical. Experience gifts also spread out the joy of the season!
Continue to follow our Facebook this season for some clever ideas for gift giving this year that will meet all three criterias - local, practical and experience! I like our ideas and gifts and I think you will too!
We were scheduled to open for the season April 24th and 25th, 2020. A few weeks before, a few of my staff members cornered me and said, "we need to be here for the community, people are scared right now, they are having a hard time getting what they need, let's open early." You don't need to twist my arm after a presentation like that. By the weekend, our doors were opened - following all guidelines and even making extra efforts for cleaning and sanitizing.
So here is why I believe small businesses, including places like hair salons and gift stores should be able to open and when they get the go ahead to do so, these are the places to frequent:
1) Ability to keep things clean, constantly. We sanitize our carts, our baskets and our credit card machine after every single use. We already had a daily, weekly and monthly cleaning checklist - that includes our door handles and light switches! We just bumped up the amount of times we are doing that.
2) Crowd control can be managed well. Small businesses can easily see everyone coming in their door, typically they are greeted with a smile (currently with an eye smile!) and a hello. It's easy to make sure there is plenty of space for social distancing. Businesses that schedule appointments can manage that even easier! In a few cases, we were requested if someone could come during non open hours. Absolutely! We can do that!
3) We know you and your needs. In our case, we have been able to help large families get the amounts of food they need. One family I talked to had to go from store to store each week because of food restrictions. As a small business, we could accommodate them.
4) We can follow all guidelines and maintain a safe place in a friendly way. Our signs use words like "kindly" and they are presented in a nice colorful way. Our store is bright and open, we have intentionally created more space in all of our shopping areas so social distancing isn't an issue.
5) Giving back to the community comes naturally (or at least it should!). In my opinion, community partnership is a privilege. Instead of being annoyed when someone asks for a donation I see it as an opportunity to say thank you a school or group or organization who considers us a vital part of the community. As an essential business with permission to open, we were able to support some local folks and organizations who lost their avenues of sales. One example is the Girl Scouts. Understandably, the Girl Scouts were not permitted to sell in typical fashion this year. The cookie sales are essential to funding their programs. With special permission granted, they were allowed to drop off their cookies in retail spaces to be sold. We were happy to partner with some of our local troops to sell their cookies - people were so happy to get their cookies and troop leaders were relieved to not have boxes of cookies in their pantries. Community kindness isn't just about giving, it's about doing! And we can do!
6) There is the highest level of accountability. The folks who come in the our doors are my neighbors and friends, my children go to school with the children whose parents and grandparents shop in our store. When you receive an email, Facebook response or other similar message it's directly from me or another real person. It's not an auto response and it is ultimately my name on the line! I have no large corporate company name to hide behind.
7) A positive experience can change your day. Last but not least is the mental and emotional health struggle that has escalated during the past few weeks. It's been cold, rainy and the end of winter, routines have been disrupted and for some folks those adaptations just don't come easily. A familiar experience, can help.
The past few weeks, as hard and challenging as it has been to adapt our business, will be one of the most memorable times in the history of retail business for me personally. People were kind, people were patient, people were understanding in all regards. All of this has helped us all slow down a bit and renew our perspective. The community support that has been behind us, I hope will continue and I hope to respond in kind.
As small businesses are permitted to open up again, they are going to desperately need our support! I love seeing this happen already. Frequent them, buy gifts from them, tip well!
That being said, if you are a small business, set your standards high. Be a safe place, don't be shy about telling your customers and community what you are doing. I struggled with that, but then I realized that is what helps earn and sustain our trust. Follow the guidelines but be kind and friendly about it. Be accommodating.
In this Together,
We are opening the store early this year to help people get basic food. But the reality is, I am feeling sad about it. This week a very small staff is working to clean, tidy, stock some shelves and put together a list of "essentials." Traditionally, opening weekend for me comes with great anticipation ... familiar faces and hopefully new ones, catching up with people on their winter and seeing kids who come to explore and learn! Instead our minds are considering how do I make sure I avoid direct contact, how do I make this as sterile and informal for people as humanly possible? To the core of my being that just goes against everything we have worked so hard to make sure we are not. However, we will do whatever it takes to help people get what they need and be safe and secure doing it! We will be hopeful that when this does pass, and it will, we can pick up the pieces together and appreciate each other and what we have just a little bit more.
I have been known to say, "the glass if half empty and it's rotten milk, but we can still make some yummy banana bread!" So, here we go ... that is how I feel right now. This is not at all how I want to open our doors for the season. However, there is something about "presence" and that's what we will be. We will be present here in your community, present to do our best, present to offer a familiar face and smile, we will be present to open the doors even if we can't offer you a physical hug.
Please take care of yourselves and those who are literally close to you right now! Please reach out to those who are at a distance too. Find something to laugh about and laugh often ... it is OK! (Need a laugh? Check out Big Dan's or Rohrbach's Facebook for our family food video!).
Be safe, be well.
So far, we are experiencing some pretty mild winter weather. As much as everyone loves those high temperature days, we don't really welcome them on the farm. Warm temperatures early in the season can trick the trees into thinking that spring is coming soon, and they will start to wake from their winter rest. We aren't ready for that because it makes for a risky spring if buds are open too soon. In 2019, we lost 75% of our peaches due to an early bud push and a late spring extreme cold snap/frost. We are hopeful that 2020 does not repeat that!
Ok, moving past the winter blues; we are busy inside right now! We have some exciting changes to unveil over the next few months inside and outside! To sustain a small business and small farm, we have to do our best to stay current with consumer trends and farming practices. Stay tuned; as these things unfold over the next few months, we will provide more details.
You're going to hear a common theme this year in our conversations, media and promotions. "Strong Roots" is the foundation of all we do. Strong roots of 65 years of a family owned and operated farm has brought us to this point. Even when we need to adapt, we don't lose sight that we have a history of providing the best possible experience for our community and stewarding our land and resources to the best of our ability. That ties in to every aspect of our life. We stand strong on that history and we move forward continuing to pursue the best for the future! Stay tuned, we have a great year ahead!
Getting ready to share another year with you,
When our Andrew was really little he used to say the four seasons were "Spring, Summer, Fall and Christmas!" I am not a very big fan of winter, cold, or sunless days on end but Christmas, I love Christmas! Yes, I admit I am that person who starts Christmas music early in November, and I love to start changing over decorations as soon as possible. (Maybe because I really do get to max out enjoyment of fall decorations with all of our events and activities!)
For many reasons, we must have a winter, but I could live with a season of Christmas instead! Christmas is warm, sparkly, and twinkly, and any simple reason can be found to celebrate! I am trying to take my own advice from the last blog and truly slow down a little, to stop and enjoy the moments. It certainly is not always easy; it takes an intentional commitment.
In our church a few weeks ago, we had a guest speaker from a local youth center. He talked about how in the youth center, they sit around the table with the kids who come. On those nights they serve a warm meal and talk about their day. Phones are put away and open discussion is encouraged! We make every effort to have family dinner in our home as often as possible, so that isn't really what impacted me most. I couldn't hold back the tears, though, when he mentioned how some of these kids just don't even have a bed to sleep in, or clean clothes or dependable hot meals. So we had a family discussion (around the dinner table), what could we do this season to help?
No doubt we live in an entitled culture; the online shopping mentality of - I need/want it, I buy it, it shows up on my door step within two days. I get that, I embrace that convenience too.
I don't believe we will change that culture, but we can learn to keep perspective in the midst of it. First it starts with gratitude, followed by generosity. Could we give up the idea of making our own extensive Christmas lists and instead focus more on being thankful for what we do have and spend more time helping others who don't have?
What does any of this have to do with the farm and farm life? Well, nothing really. It really doesn't but that's ok, this is what we are working through in our home right now and to share it with you helps hold us accountable to follow through. This week is Angel tree week and we are partnered with two local schools to help provide Christmas gifts to children in need. The opportunities in our community are endless. I encourage you this year, if you aren't already, find a way to meet a need. Little or big, every one makes a difference.
Wishing you all the joy, Hope and warmth of Christmas,
Hello! I am Denise (Rohrbach) Bosworth. My husband Dan & I established Big Dan's BBQ in 2012 & took over the management of the farm market in 2015.