By Catherine Bryan
Since its establishment in 1978, Hunter Farms has constantly evolved through experimentation and implementation of innovative growing practices. The Hunter Farms staff works hard to keep their farm intimately connected both with the local ecosystem and with the people of the communities they serve.
The operation began with blueberries, which grow particularly well in the mineral-rich clay soil of their farm in Fairview township. The farm's offerings have steadily increased in the years since, including the addition of Fresh Little Farm Girl, their line of handcrafted, sustainably-produced soaps and body care products which incorporate the fresh herbs and flowers grown at the farm.
Hunter Farms furthered its commitment to quality by becoming certified organic in 1995. The farm has integrated many environmentally sustainable growing techniques into their practices, including cover-cropping, which improves soil health and eliminates runoff, hand and mechanical weeding rather than the use of toxic herbicides, and the use of mowed-grass buffer zones which reduce pest species near the crops without harmful pesticides.
They are very proud of the strides they make toward protecting important native species. They maintain several wildlife habitat management areas on the property, and have created a number of habitats for threatened species on their land. A six-acre meadow of native warm-season grasses planted and maintained on the property encourages nesting by ground nesting birds such as meadowlarks and bobolinks. These birds are among the most endangered vertebrates on the continent due to habitat loss. The farm also provides a 15-acre preserve of successional habitat designed specifically to assist another threatened ground nester, the Woodcock. Additionally, in order to reestablish a healthy population of native pollinators, a plot of specially designed habitat has been established.
They've opened a new farm store, offering certified organic produce from the farm as well as sustainably and responsibly grown fruits and vegetables from other local farmers. The farm store also includes a variety of local products including cheese from the Middlefield Cheese Co-Op, Amish products from Clarion River Organics, and Hunter Farms' own line of Fresh Little Farm Girl soaps and body care products. All produce grown on the farm is certified organic.
The 2013 growing season marked the beginning of another new chapter for the Farm, bringing the Hunter team closer together with the community through the inaugural season of the farm's CSAprogram. Currently, they are the only locally-operated CSA that maintains the strict, high standards of certified organic. To become a shareholder of the 2014 CSA, prospective members can purchase a weekly share, a half-bushel of organic produce and local products.. The CSA's season is split into two halves, each running for ten weeks, the first from June 14th to August 16th and the second from August 23rd through October 25th. Shares can be purchased for either session or for the entirety of the growing season.
Hunter Farms is a member of several local groups dedicated to sustainable agriculture and the info-graphic from one of these organizations, Local Harvest provides a snapshot of the farm's diverse offerings.
7269 Sterrettania Road
Fairview, PA 16415
Ph: (814) 840-4370