Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Gateway Lodge - Farm to table in our neck of the woods

Our friends in Pittsburgh have lots of chances to eat artistically prepared food made from fresh local ingredients, including our own produce. There are too many to name but check out Penn's Corner's customer list - they're all great.

The rustic dining room of the Gateway Lodge

But up here in north-west-central/middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania such experiences of culinary beauty are harder to find outside of a home kitchen. So I want to recommend a faithful local customer of ours, The Gateway Lodge in Cook's Forest. I've always known Cook's Forest was a great place to visit for hiking, canoeing and family fun, but now that my wife Carla and I have had a chance to visit the Lodge I can say it's also a great place for fine dining. Chef John takes our simple organic vegetables and ingredients from other local farms and turns them into delicious works of art. To our local friends, it's worth the drive, and for our friends in Pittsburgh the whole Forest is worth taking a three day weekend.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Keep food safe and keep small farms strong

We're going to ask our friends and fans for a little bit of help now. Food safety has been in the news a lot over the past couple years due to major contaminations in spinach, cantaloupe, peanut butter, ground beef, and more. In response Congress has mandated the FDA to create new rules to govern all food production and distribution - from the smallest farm to the biggest processors and retailers. It is good that the federal government is stepping up and addressing this growing problem, but they are proposing a "one size fits all" approach that threatens to destroy the local food movement and small farm culture. While all food businesses should meet the same high standard for food safety, small farms need to be able to do it in different ways than food factories.

At Clarion River Organics we take food safety very seriously. We have been working with a coalition of Amish farmers in collaboration with USDA and university experts to put in place food safety programs appropriate to our farm sizes and technology levels. We believe these practices keep our food just as safe or safer than factory farmed food while preserving food quality, nutrition, and low environmental impact. And the science supports us in this. Unfortunately big business is pushing for a industrial standard that would crush small farms.

If you have time and are interested, please add your name to the petition linked below requesting that the FDA modify its rules to include appropriate practices and oversight for small farms selling locally. If you have even more time, the link below will also offer help in sending your personal comments directly to the FDA. And if you could share this with anyone else interested that would be wonderful. Thanks for helping us keep food safe and keep small farms strong!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Remember the "Cabalanche" from two months ago? Well we sent about a thousand bushels of that cabbage to a certified organic kraut maker in Lancaster, and now we have a thousand cases of beautiful organic sauerkraut.
Yum yum!
You don't have to wait for New Year's Eve to start partying German style. Mose, one of the boys who grew the cabbage, tasted it this morning and said it was so good he was going to take a jar home to have with breakfast alongside his meat and potatoes. We'll have this stuff at all our markets later this week and for a long time to come.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


All the hot warm weather we've had in the last two months has resulted in the most outrageous cabbage harvest we've ever seen.
Here's my two year old son Fabian showing how big the red cabbage was a month ago.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

State of the Ice July 4th 2013

Here is the ice in January when it was first put in the ice house.
And here it is in July after a couple months of cooling produce. It's still pretty close to the ceiling but there is still tons of produce to cool. See our post on the ice harvest here

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Meet the interns

This year for the first time at Clarion River Organics we have taken on interns. It's an exciting step: we share our view of the organic produce business and in return we get help from some enthusiastic, smart young people. Zach and Lacey are students from Clarion University studying environmental sciences.

As part of their learning experience they will be going to one of our 12 farms each week and writing a little piece on what they did and what they learned. It will be interesting to see the cooperative through new eyes as we follow their summer at Clarion River Organics. If you have any questions about the farms, the produce, or the cooperative post them in the comments and I'll have Zach and Lacey go out and get answers for you.

Here is their first reflection from working one of the farms:
Today we visited Aaron's farm to assist him in weeding his cabbage fields. While with Aaron we learned about the importance of maintaining the health and hydrology of the soil, as well as the importance of soil microbes to plant growth. He taught that rotating the crops in the fields to plant hay helps restock the soil with nutrients. Both of us are enjoying our time spent here at Clarion River Organics and are grateful for the experience we are gaining for our field of study at Clarion University. Check in soon for our next post, and thanks for your support!
Weeds among the Broccoli
Young Red Cabbage

Monday, May 20, 2013

Party on the Farms! Join Us For Strawberry Picking June 14th

We are happy to announce our first farm event of the season, our Strawberry Harvest Party.  The details for the event are in the flier below.  There is limited space, so you will have to reserve a spot

This is our first (and biggest) farm event of the year.  We hope you can make it out to meet our farmers, see our produce and fields, and celebrate the first fruits of summer together!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Emanuel's Pastured Organic Eggs

Our eggs are expensive. Right? Granted, at $5.75/dozen that's less than 50 cents an egg and there's a lot of good protein and nutrients in one of our eggs. But still, $5.75 seems like a lot. Why do they cost that much? To put it simply, organic grain prices have gone through the roof over the last few years and you can't raise organic eggs without organic grain. Emanuel says he feels bad charging so much and he'd just quit except for the fact that our customers won't let him. So why do some people keep paying for Emanuel's eggs even when he's forced to charge more than he ever imagined he would? Let me show you.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ice Harvest 2013

Now that the weather is finally getting warm you might be wondering how Amish produce farmers keep their veggies cold without electric. Well, they simply harvest the cold when it is freely available in the dead of winter. You might remember that last year we barely had enough cold weather to make any ice. That wasn't a problem this year.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Severe Weather

Last week we had some of the strongest winds I've seen in four years of living here. The worst of the winds only lasted about half an hour but that was enough to destroy one of the farmer's calf barn and tear up another farmer's greenhouse.

The greenhouse on the floor started the day clear on the other side of the small greenhouse in the background. Luckily the wind lifted this one high enough that it didn't damage the smaller one as it flew over it.

This whole area used to be under a the roof that is now out in the pasture.
Thankfully we had some warm weather after the storm so the tomato plants in the greenhouse mostly survived until it was rebuilt over the next couple days. The calves were moved to a nearby farm and it will be a while until the barn can be rebuilt with a design that should provide more security.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Organic Farmer's Cooperative Internship - Clarion River Organics

When I first started working with the farmers of Clarion River Organics I'd interned on a few farms, I'd gotten a four year degree in agriculture from Penn State, and I'd even started farming on my own land. But I soon realized I knew nothing of the produce business. Suddenly I was picking up produce from 12 farms, I was talking to grocery managers, chefs, and wholesale distributors, and I was seeing the 'back stage' area of every kind of food business. I was getting a hands on education that I never had as a student or an intern and immediately I started thinking about how to share this with others.

Finally we're in a position to offer an internship with CRO to anyone who wants to really understand how produce gets from the field to the table. Please share this with anyone you know who might be interested. It would be especially great for a college student in an agriculture program, but all are welcome to apply.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ready for Spring

Our green houses are getting full and we are ready to start planting. When will spring come?
Aaron has thousands of cabbage, kale, broccoli, and romanesco at the perfect age for transplanting to the field. Once the snow is gone, that is.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Butler, Slippery Rock, Grove City locations announced!

We are excited to announce partnership with 3 great locally owned businesses to serve a hosts for our CSA.

Butler - Chop Shop 
Slippery Rock - North Country Brewing Co. 
Grove City - Beans on Broad
It's so great to be partnering not just with independent local business, but ones who share your passion for local delicious food.

Tell your friends who live in these towns that eating CRO just got a little easier.

The Chop Shop - Butler, PANorthCountryBrewingBeans On Broad

Saturday, February 2, 2013

CSA '13 Registrations Now Open!

We are very happy to announce that we are now accepting new members to our 2013 Summer CSA.  Please visit our updated CSA Site for more information about the program.  If you would like to join us, you can

As we were putting together our plans, we strongly considered our members' feedback from last season, and have made a number of changes that I think will really make the program even better this season.  Here are some highlights--visit our CSA Site for more complete details.

Pick-up Sites - We were able to change our delivery schedule to fit a new route in, and use a map of our members' addresses to pinpoint the best places to add new sites.  In total, we are adding ~15 new neighborhoods this year, and changing our site hosts in several others that we are already in.  You can see where we deliver here.

Share Options - We are offering Small ($17/week) and Full ($25/week) produce shares again this year, though we adjusted the Small shares to be a little bit larger, to allow for more variety, and more higher-value items.  In addition, you have the option to have a local cheese subscription, and we are finalizing plans for several meat options you can subscribe to for monthly pick-up.  You can learn more about our share options here.

Season Length - We have decided to add 3 weeks to the end of the season, so it will now run from the beginning of June through the week before Thanksgiving (25 weeks).  This is just a reflection of the fact that we are still well-into harvest season at that time, and last year we had some trouble trying to pack some items just coming into season then in the time allowed.

Payment Options - We have added the options to pay in 3 or 4 installments; which should give you some more flexibility, and might make budgeting a little easier for you.  We still accept electronic checks, credit cards, paper checks, and SNAP benefits.  If you are paying with SNAP Benefits, we made the sign-up process a little simpler, and will apply a 25% discount to the price of your produce share.

Cancellations - Though we certainly hope that none of our members desire to cancel their subscription, we also do not want anybody to feel that they are stuck with us if they are unhappy, so we have decided to allow cancellations anytime throughout the season.  All you have to do is email us to let us know, and we will refund any remaining balance you have--though we will keep a $50 cancellation fee.

Those are the major changes that you might notice, but in addition to that, we have updated the way that we coordinate our growing plans for the CSA, and have started that process much earlier this year; which should really help the harvest go smoothly.  We are also planning on putting together our share plans earlier throughout the season, and using a new method of allocating produce for the CSA that should improve the variety you receive throughout the season.

I hope you are just as excited about the upcoming season, and all of these changes, as we are.

Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Searching for New Site Hosts For Our Summer '13 CSA

While our produce has slowed down, we have been keeping busy working on plans for next season--and our top priority--the CSA.  We made a lot of changes and experienced a lot of growth last year, and we are hoping to do it again this year.  One of the biggest ways we were able to grow and reach more people, was adding lots of new site hosts--and right now we are reaching out to do it again.

While we might know a lot about produce, we don't always know enough about certain areas to know where the best site hosts might be--so we are asking for your help.  Below is a list of neighborhoods where we are hoping to send our farm-shares next season.  If you know of any place that could be a good host in any of these areas, please send an email to, we would love to hear from you!

In no particular order:
  • Erie
  • Edinboro
  • Butler
  • Slippery Rock
  • Grove City
  • Cranberry Twp
  • Mars/Seven Fields
  • Greenfield (Pittsburgh)
  • North Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh)
  • Shadyside (Pittsburgh)
  • North Oakland (Pittsburgh)
  • Edgewood/Swissvale
  • Regent Square/Wilkinsburg
  • Monroeville
  • Oakmont
  • Fox Chapel
  • Allison Park
  • McCandless
  • North Hills
  • Ross
  • Shaler
  • Sewickley
We have site hosts that are people's front porches, churches, natural food stores, coffee shops, office buildings, farm markets, and even a chocolate shop and a wellness center--so almost anywhere can work--just let us know where you think would work best.

We are adding sites to 2 of our routes, changing another delivery route to end at our farms instead of in Pittsburgh, and freeing up a truck to add a whole new route to accomplish this.  We are still working out the details of these routes, and while we are interested in adding sites in all these neighborhoods, we will probably end up adding some extras and leaving some out.