Smithfield & Furrow
Summary of Operation
• Pennsylvania Certified Organic
• 20 culinary herb beds
• Several 75- to 100-foot beds that are
rotated to grow everything from broccoli and sugar
snap peas to cabbage, fava beans, spring raab,
close to 30 varieties of lettuce, flowers for
cutting, and more
• additional berry beds
• 18 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, fennel,
cippolini onions, eggplant, peppers, several pear
trees and a couple apple trees
• sells direct to restaurants,
on-farm market retail sales, participates in area
Farmers' Market April to November
George DeVault was editor of New Farm® magazine
from 1981 through 1991 -- and a long-time champion
of local food systems and innovative direct marketing
approaches to high-value farming.
He, his wife Mel and 23-year-old son Don farm
near the village of Vera Cruz, PA, a little over
an hour north of Philadelphia. They've been farming
there organically since 1985. They extend their
growing season with 6000 square feet of greenhouses,
and sell cut flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables
through farmers' markets and directly to customers
on their farm through a subscription service.
George continues to edit the Russian language
version of New Farm® magazine, and in their
spare time, he and Mel have edited and published
six books on farming and market gardening.
Almost immediately after I was hired to create
the New Farm® web site, I called George for
ideas and help ... and he responded.
He showered me with articles he'd written for
the Russian New Farm® which had never been
printed in the U.S.: a
two-part series on Joe Salatin's
poultry operation, and a great profile of Steve
greenhouse operation. And he snagged
us a translation of a fascinating story about
one woman's successful effort to homestead
He also passed on many helpful observations,
including a recent email note: "Looking quickly
at NF web site, struck me that maybe it's a little
on traditional crops, livestock and marketing."
"You're right," I answered, "we
haven't gotten up to speed on high-value crops,
direct marketing. Want to help us get started
with a monthly column?" And so was born this
Letter from Pheasant Hill.
George and Mel will also be working with us on
developing a series of articles on the basics
of sustainable farming to help beginning farmers
get a leg up. Many of you asked for this in email
notes, and we'll get it up and running as soon
as we can.
A final note: Earlier this
year George was selected as a Food and Society
Policy Fellow. This fellows program brings together
leaders in health, consumer education, aquaculture,
local food policy, nutrition, sustainable agriculture
and organic farming. Fellows use the media, scholarship,
public education and outreach to promote food
systems change through the creation and expansion
of community-based food systems that are locally
owned and controlled, produce goods and services
needed by residents, exercise environmental stewardship,
and provide quality jobs. Click
here for more on the fellows program.
For more on Pheasant Hill Farm,
magic: Don't have acres of land? Take a
lesson from small farmer Scott Kutzner and do some
greenhouse growing. Note: Planks braced with rebar
keep the beds tidy.
JUNE 3, 2003: Nestled between two small
businesses on a rural road off the Telford (PA) exit of Rt.
309, Scott Kuntzner is proprietor of Smithfield & Furrow,
a dream farm -- on a little under an acre of land.
On that small plot, he grows fresh certified organic produce,
herbs, berries, cut flowers and fruit, which he sells to several
restaurants in the trendy Doylestown/New Hope area, and Lambertsville,
NJ. He also sells retail on his farm and, for the past five
years, at a Saturday morning Farmers’ Market in Doylestown
from April to November.
He keeps his sanity (most days) AND makes a living. (Okay,
Mom helps with health insurance and taxes, he admits). But
that’s not bad, huh? He’s content with his lifestyle
and loves the work. Like most farmers, he’ll tell you
there’s always too much of it. But life is good.
How does he do it? With high-value crops,
crop rotation, lots of hard work -- and learning from his
Scott’s journey began several years ago, and was supposed
to play out in California. Scott moved to the Sonoma Coastal
Mountain Range from the Philadelphia area and loved living
in California. He worked at several restaurants out West,
waiting tables and working in kitchens, mostly salad staff.
“I’d see people with lettuce and say, ‘My
gosh, I could do this,’” he laughs. “I always
had a garden.” He realized he really wanted to seriously
“market garden” there.
“But the cost of land . . . and with no land, no car,
no house, no well, no fence -- you crunch the numbers,”
he says. It just wasn’t doable. So he returned home
to Pennsylvania. “My father died six years ago, and
owned the building (machine shop) next door,” he says.
Scott says he sort of inherited the field alongside the shop
that has become his farm.
two-holer outhouse makes the perfect toolshed.
Bubba the dog watches on as Scott shows off his
three-tined cultivators (key to weed control in
narrow intensive beds).
He has gradually transformed that field into a farm and part-time
home (in season) for himself and Bubba, his dog, with long
hours and lots of elbow grease. “I got an outhouse and
shed at a poultry farm they were tearing down,” he explains,
pointing to two of his charming, weathered structures. “I
contacted the developer and was able to get the buildings,
which I moved in large pieces.” The outhouse serves
as an equipment shed, and the other shed is used for storage.
A larger building, like a little fishing lodge, has also been
moved to the site. “That’s about 12' by 12', has
a coal stove and it’s where corporate decisions are
made,” he quips.
on the farm: From the toy cap pistol holstered
on a post to the bevy of birdhouses on his recycled
shed, Scott's artistic and eclectic personality
is reflected throughout his farm.
He has created pathways, added perennials and scores of eye-catchers
in between the buildings. The Pennsylvania Certified Organic
(PCO)-certified farm also consists of 20 culinary herb beds,
and several 75- to 100-foot beds that are rotated to grow
everything from broccoli and sugar snap peas to cabbage, fava
beans, spring raab, close to 30 varieties of lettuce, flowers
for cutting, and more. He has other beds for berries. There
are 18 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, fennel, cippolini onions,
eggplant, peppers, several pear trees and a couple apple trees,
Two hoophouses also allow for season extension and his hobby.
“The first house, a 13- by 32-foot small hoop, is mostly
for me. I compete in horitculture classes at the Philadelphia
Flower Show,” he explains. He’s won several ribbons,
last year taking a second in the foliage competition and miniature
foliage competition. This year he entered the Chinese cultivar
classes. He does a lot of plantings from cuttings and dotes
on this heated house.
row covers, intensely planted beds and quick hands
produce bountiful yields. Two hoophouses (one seen
in the background) also help make the most out of
The other hoophouse he constructed three years ago. The 17-
by 96-foot structure serves as his seed starting house and
has beds for growing tomatoes and peppers out of the wind,
and, with the help of shade cloth over a portion, growing
greens and pea shoots.
Pointing to a small, healthy apple tree in a container in
the structure, he says that tree inspired him. “I figured
if I could put a stick in the ground and have it grow, I must
be going down the right path.”
He also has some chickens to create that real farm setting,
of course. But he cautions the beginning farmer, “Too
many pets can be a problem if you raise vegetables. They take
too much time.”
Of his philosophy for market gardening, he says simply, “You
learn as you go. Every year you get smarter. You say, I won’t
grow that again. How much you can make depends upon the weather
Scott is quick to caution those who want to chuck their day
job and make big bucks off the land, however. “It’s
a hard way to make a living. I make enough to live on now,
but I was below the poverty level a couple years ago,”
he admits. You have to love it.
His advice to the beginning farmer:
overshoot when you start. “I grew everything when
I started, and it was a big mess I couldn’t maintain;
I didn’t know how to maintain. I had to reel in,”
money crops. Don’t go for 800 feet of eggplant or
radishes, scallions or other cheap crops, crops that don’t
generate money and take a lot of labor. Go for shallots
and gourmet onions like cippolini, lettuce mixes, heirloom
tomatoes -- high-value crops.
only quality stuff. “I won’t sell it if I wouldn’t
put it in my mouth.”
what you can yourself. Stay small because it’s hard
to find good help! And hey, do you want a payroll? If you
do hire a helper or helpers, have them work on things that
will make money, not waste time doing things you can do
much faster. “I put in all the lettuce and onions,
for example, because I slam it in fast.”
with a hoophouse. You’ll learn as you go, and extend
Fall plant berries in Pennsylvania. (That’s a lesson
Scott learned for himself: Deer got most of the 200 feet
sunscreen. That sun will get you.