Lo­cal farms throw open the gates for a glimpse of life in the fields

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Daniel Pa­trick Shee­han

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]

PHO­TOS BY DAVID GAR­RETT/SPE­CIAL TO THE MORN­ING CALL

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.

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