Farm Visit: Landisdale Farm, Lebanon County, PA
Sept. 26, 2011
By Mary Ann Ford, Co-owner
After conquering numerous obstacles—hurricanes, flooding, calendar mix-ups—Hannah and I finally made it to this much-anticipated meeting at Rachel and Dan Landis’s farm in Elizabethtown. Hannah, a fluent Spanish speaker, interviewed Reynaldo Levita who comes from Peru and helps Dan and Rachel farm their 200 or so acres. I’ve recently become concerned and interested in how our supplying farmers make decisions about their help, and this was our first face to face meeting with a person from a different country who does farm work on one of “our” farms. Hannah was a natural at interviewing in Spanish. She has written up Reynaldo’s story which you can find here.
After our conversation with Reynaldo ended, Dan spent a generous hour and a half of his time showing us around the farm. He’s most excited about a new project making “humified compost- an innovation based on scientific formulas and processes which break down organic matter more rapidly and more thoroughly than traditional methods. He’s hoping to make enough for his fields and whatever market he can find at surrounding farms. The long raised rows of finished, ebony brown, humus looked like giant groundhog tunnelings. I never knew that humus could be so beautiful and aromatic.
As twilight fell on the warm September day, we moseyed down the tractor paths between thriving crops of lacinato kale, chard, onions, winter squashes, and more while Dan talked about the different crops and the challenges of farming. Generating income in the winter months is one of those challenges. To this end, he’s put up a large greenhouse by which he can begin seedlings, and grow spinach, lettuce, arugula and other tender greens through the wintertime. As we absorbed the scents and sights of the greenhouse, Dan, ever the inventor and entrepreneur, offered various ideas for maximizing the compost project, with its 150 degree internal temperatures. What if we ran water pipes through the piles to heat the water for our homes? Hannah suggested using piles of compost in the greenhouse to keep it warm in winter. It’s a project that has almost unlimited potential for closed-loop applications—basically, his organic “garbage” goes onto the compost piles instead of into a landfill, and the resulting organic humus goes back onto his fields, saving him the expense of buying fertilizers.
Hearing Dan’s perspective on the question of how he chooses and finds his farmworkers helped me appreciate the complexities of the process for farmers. He has been using the MESA organization for about five years and has been quite happy with all the workers they’ve sent him. But the added fees are a burden and he’s looking for a new organization. For Dan, the best workers are from Peru and Chile. He has hired some local American workers but, sad to say, they haven’t been as responsible or hard-working as Dan needs. As he said, “When a crop needs harvesting, it doesn’t wait.”
HLF first found Dan and Rachel through Fair Food and we’ve enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship for six years now. They love the land and it shows in their produce. Thanks, Dan and Rachel and all your workers for being smart enough and hard-working enough to grow delicious and healthy food for all our tables!
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