There is often a therapeutic benefit that frees the mind to work on the land.
So when Justin Broadwater retired from military service, he decided to start a family farm with an indoor riding area, with the Broadwater Bee Brigade, in Buffalo Mills, Bedford County.
“I wanted to do this for the mental health process,” Broadwater, a Meyersdale native, said. “Everything is a rat race in the military. You run 100 miles an hour. Then you retire and sit on your butt.
“Well, I didn’t want that. So I thought, ‘You know what? If I had my own small family farm, I could certainly take care of it. and then the bee business itself, I also got into bees for mental therapy. and it’s just a good process where I think we’re giving back to the community in a very small way.
But Broadwater isn’t just using the land for its own agrotherapy, it’s built two small accommodation units on the property and opened them up to other veterans, who can come and spend a few days in the wilderness or, if they wish, do some work too – get your hands dirty and breathe the fresh country air.
“I think that’s the future of our recovery for our veterans and a lot of these people who are going through the stresses that they’re going through,” Broadwater said.
He continued: “My little adage that I always say is, ‘You take care of the garden, the garden takes care of you. If you move — whether you’re 20, 50, or 90 — the more you move, the healthier you stay. The more you keep your mind focused on something, the healthier you are. So that’s the purpose of tiny houses. Ultimately, my business is therapy.
His “brigade” currently includes 100 bee traps.
Broadwater wants that number to grow to 1,000 over the next five years – producing bulk honey that will be used to make various products, such as food, wax, lip balm and lotions.
“If you averaged 40 pounds per hive and you have 1,000 hives, well, the math is there to figure it out, you could have 40,000 pounds of honey,” Broadwater said. “That’s kind of the point.”
“Direct to consumer”
Broadwater is part of a new generation of local farmers using the land in a variety of ways.
Of course, the “grow a crop, sell a crop” method is still prevalent and is an important factor in the regional economy.
But some landowners stray from the traditional.
Innovative Extracts, a veteran-owned business located in Portage, grows industrial hemp to produce cannabidiol, better known as CBD, which is used to make therapeutic products sold on the farm, at a downtown store of Johnstown, in about thirty stores. and online.
In comparison, just a few years ago, the farm was a cereal one.
“When we were focusing on grains, I think one of the driving factors that changed was the economies of scale that we were facing in the West,” said Andy Golden, owner of the company with his father, Vince Golden, and Matt Sinosky.
“We’re just a 150-acre farm here, and we’re trying to compete on price with someone who owns tens of thousands of acres out west. At that scale, it wasn’t as profitable as you’d expect.
“So as we started to learn more and more about direct-to-consumer selling, we started taking different products for different areas that we thought would do well and grow well in that area while still offering value to customers, too.”
The Goldens and Sinosky used to sell their hemp wholesale, but eventually set up their own extraction and post-processing lab to make value-added products.
“It was either do or die,” Golden said. “We had to launch our own retail line. To this day, I feel like the only thing we have control over is my own retail line. If I don’t, I’m at the mercy of someone else telling me how much money I can make.
U.S. Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson of R-Center County, a prominent member of the House Agriculture Committee, spoke generally about how “direct sales are great tools for our farmers” .
Thompson said: ‘I think we’re seeing more of that now because it gives farmers a bit more control over the price, what they can get in return for that commodity that they produce, but also transform. ”
“To be more profitable”
Last year, over 100,000 sunflowers were planted at Golden Farms.
People came to walk around the six acres of yellow petals and take pictures. The farm also hosted Sunflower Stroll when vendors were on site selling food and crafts.
A flower picking business is planned. and brand new is Market at Golden Farms – where shoppers can go to goldenfarmsmarket.com and order produce and harvest later this year, for weekly pickup at three locations, Golden Farms, Innovative Extracts in Johnstown and Follow Your Art in Ebensburg.
This type of diversification is becoming more common, according to Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Chairman Richard Ebert, owner of a dairy, sheep and agricultural farm in Westmoreland County.
“For a very long time, the trend was to specialize, specialize, specialize,” Ebert said. “This model worked for quite a while. But, as margins narrowed, many farmers realized they had to venture into other areas.
“Direct marketing was one of the biggest for Pennsylvania. We were so close to the people that it made sense for the farmers to look at these markets like that. With the conversation of people wanting to know where their food was produced and grown, this has only made it even more of an opportunity for farmers to do so.
Tommy Nagle, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau board director for District 12 which includes Cambria County, said landowners are “looking for those niche markets in agriculture, where if there’s a need to small scale or local scale, they try to fill that just to somehow bring in increased revenue.
Nagle said production agriculture has margins “still quite tight. Everyone is trying to find a way to do something different to fill a void and be more profitable.
“Supply line” issues
Big or small, traditional or niche – crops, livestock or dairy – almost every agricultural business is facing challenges caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Probably one of the biggest things that concerns us going forward, due to the pandemic, is that a lot of farmers are wondering how our cost of inputs to go into the field this year is probably on average 300% on fertilizers and inputs that we have to plant a crop,” Nagle said. “It’s all pandemic related because of the shortages. Things are shut down, people can’t get supplies.
Thompson said the cost of fertilizer is “kind of a universal concern that I’ve heard about.”
Nagle explained that “the trickle down effect could have a big ramification”.
“If our costs go up 300%, it’s really going to start driving up food costs in this country because we can’t absorb all of that,” Nagle said. “We can’t really absorb anything on the margins we’re working on, so it’s going to have to be passed on. That’s probably one of the biggest things that’s really scaring agriculture at this point in the next three months. »
Ebert said the pandemic also showed “very quickly where the weak links in the supply chain were,” citing the early days when there was a shortage of milk, while at the same time producers had to throwing away milk and the constant need to find meat processors.
“They’re killing about 400,000 head (of cattle) less per week, which translates to more pounds per head,” Nagle said. “So the same amount of books are processed. It’s just fewer animals and less to process them, which kind of strengthens that supply line.
“So we keep the animals longer, we have to feed them longer. Obviously the books are still there, so that affects us on the price.
But there have also been positives, according to members of the local farming community, including consumers who have become more aware of where food comes from and the importance of the supply chain.
“People want to know where their food comes from,” Thompson said. “They want to buy local. They want to buy fresh. They want what we sometimes call “farm to fork”. It is a consumer expectation. They are looking for affordable, high quality, nutritious and safe food.
“I think farmers in Pennsylvania are in an exciting place to be able to meet that need.”
Thompson assessed the overall state of production saying, “American agriculture, especially Pennsylvania agriculture, is certainly about size, technology, and innovation. It’s been very, very exciting for this industry.
“As a benchmark, the productivity of the American farmer has increased 287% since the 1940s. As a result, we are producing more food with fewer resources. We are actually better stewards of the environment. We’re a big part of the economy, certainly in Pennsylvania.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.