Local farms throw open the gates for a glimpse of life in the fields
The afternoon air was crisp as an apple as The SwingTime Dolls, a beguiling trio of female singers straight from the Make Believe Ballroom, belted out exuberant 1940s harmonies at Raub’s Farm Market on Tatamy Road.
You don’t expect to hear “Paper Moon” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” on a farm and you wouldn’t, normally, but Raub’s, in Palmer Township, was one of 19 farms, vineyards and nurseries to welcome the public Saturday for the weekend’s Northampton County Open Gate Farm Tour.
Thus, swing music — and bike rides and hayrides and corn mazes and whatever other entertainment the county’s growers could devise to lure guests.
The point of the tour, which continued Sunday, is to get people out to the fields and barns to see where food comes from. Not everyone is quite sure. At Good Work Farm in Upper Nazareth Township, a genial man named Denny McMullin attested to that, relating a story told to him by his daughter, Lisa Miskelly, the farm’s co-owner.
Miskelly, he said, was volunteering at a church, helping the homeless, when a fellow volunteer — a college student — asked what she did for a living.
“I’m a farmer,” she said.
The student — McMullin swears it’s true — replied “What’s a farmer?”
It’s hard to believe, yes, though not impossible. Even in Lehigh and Northampton counties, home to about 100,000 acres of farmland, people tend to forget that the eggs and vegetables and meat on the shelves at Giant and Wegmans are the product of farm labor — a way of life that is surely not for everyone, but lured Miskelly and her husband, Anton Shannon, into the often tyrannical cycle of seasons and sales.
“Nature and the economy. I don’t know which is worse,” said Shannon, a 34-year-old Center Valley native who got his first taste of agricultural life working on farms in Chester County after graduating West Chester University.
He met Miskelly at a farming workshop. They married four years ago and are in their second season at Good Works after honing their skills at the Seed Farm, the farm incubator in Lehigh County.
They grow a host of vegetables — chard, onions, garlic, tomatoes, butternut squash — and some fruits. They make salsas, ketchup and tomato sauce. They have run a community supported agriculture program — customers pay a subscription for weekly deliveries of products — but Shannon said they plan to put their energy into expanding the farmer’s market end of the business.
Brenda Burns of Bushkill Township was the first to stop in when the farm tour opened at 1 p.m. She bought a bunch of plump radishes and a jar of salsa and talked about the pleasure of eating farm-fresh foods produced just a few miles from her home.
“If we don’t support it, we’re going to lose it,” she said.
That sentiment was widely shared among the farm tourists. “We try to shop at the local farms because we like to keep the money in the community,” said Lois Galimi of Bethlehem Township, who came to Raub’s with her husband, Joe, and daughter, Giannina, to wander among the corn and pumpkins.
The day was a chance for pleasant fall entertainment, but for some it was more serious. Ashley Patterson and her husband, Jeph, who live on College Hill in Easton, stopped by to have a look at Good Work Farm, interested not only in the wares on sale but the operation itself.
“We really like the local farms and might be interested in having some land ourselves,” Ashley Patterson said.
Jeph Patterson teaches science at the Lehigh Valley Academy in Bethlehem. That’s a good background for a farmer, noted McMullin, who said the vocation combines chemistry, meteorology, veterinary medicine and a host of other skills into a dawnto-dusk job.
“Farming,” noted McMullin’s wife, Rita, “doesn’t get boring.”
The Lehigh County Open Gate Farm Tour will be held 1-5 p.m. Oct. 19-20. Information will be in the Oct. 13 edition of The Morning Call.
Morning Call reporter Daniel Patrick Sheehan can be reached at 610-820-6598 or dshee[email protected]
Visitors listen to the band Truth and Soul at Raub’s Farm Market during the Northampton County Open Gate Farm Tour.
Ten-year-old Jaime Carter, of Easton, gives her twin sister, Jaydin, a ride.