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Posted 6/21/2018 2:24pm by Cherry Valley Organics.

For many folks, one of the toughest challenges of eating local is realizing how connected our food is to the natural cycles of nature. Our ancestors were intimately in tune with the seasons, especially when it came to the foods they ate. But modern food production and delivery systems make it easy to get strawberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes in February, a time when our ancestors were eating potatoes, squash, pumpkins, and other winter storage vegetables.  

Fall crops - squash and kale

Food Seasonality in Pennsylvania  

Today, most produce is shipped thousands of miles, often across many state and country borders, before it makes it to the shelves of your neighborhood grocery store. Just two or three generations ago, having an orange at Christmastime was a cherished treat, and biting into a fresh peach anytime other than June or July was unheard of here in Pennsylvania.

Our grandparents, great-grandparents, and the many generations before them ate with the seasons. Spring was a time for cool-weather-loving vegetables, like fresh lettuce, spinach, radish, and peas. Heat-loving vegetables and fruits, like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, corn, and beans, weren't on the menu until July, unless they were processed and canned the season before. And fall and winter brought late-season or cold-weather crops such as winter squash, pumpkins, cabbage, and turnips. Food seasonality is a difficult concept to keep in mind when the modern food system makes it so easy to get cherries from South America in December or basil from California in March.  

spring sugar snap peas

Why Local Also Means Seasonal  

The decision to switch from purchasing your fruits and veggies at the grocery store to purchasing them from a small, local farm like ours, means a necessary return to the roots of food seasonality. It's one of the most difficult challenges of eating local, but it's an important one, if you want to focus on eating healthy and fresh. Yes, many Pennsylvania farmers, including ourselves, have learned to push the boundaries of food seasonality by building greenhouses and high tunnels to "speed up" the season and allow us to plant certain crops weeks earlier than our grandparents did, but seasonality is still at the heart of the food small Pennsylvania farmers like us grow for our customers.  

summer watermelon crop

Realizing that many of our farmer's market and farm share customers are used to shopping at the grocery store, where they have access to almost any fruit and veggie year-round, means that it's our responsibility to help those customers reconnect to the natural cycles of food production here in Pennsylvania.

We built the chart below to show which crops are available to our customers during the peak months of the summer harvest season. While there are a huge number of variables that influence the true harvest time of each crop (including the weather, insect pests, plant diseases, and more) this chart gives our customers a good idea of the seasonality of each of the crops we grow.

seasonal produce chart for Pennsylvania   

Seasons that start with a cold, prolonged spring (like the spring of 2018), may mean the harvest of certain crops is delayed by a few weeks. And summers with extreme droughts can sometimes translate to a delay or reduction in crop production levels for the rest of that growing season. There is always an element of risk for farmers when it comes to both harvest timing and yields. Flexibility is a must for small farms like ours.  

Our goal, as always, is to provide our customers with a diversity of fresh, nutrient-dense, certified organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown in perfect tune with the seasons right here on our farm. If you have any questions about how or what we grow, don't hesitate to get in touch. We'd be more than happy to hear from you!  

More From the Farm I

If you're looking for more information about our fresh Pennsylvania produce, check out the following articles on our website:  

- How we grow shiitake and oyster mushrooms 

- Why our organic strawberries are the right choice 

- Gourmet lettuce varieties to make your salad sing 

- What is Swiss chard and how to use it in the kitchen 

- What are ground cherries?  

From, The Cherry Valley Organics Farm Family  

Why eating seasonally is important when supporting local farmers

Posted 6/7/2018 10:30am by Cherry Valley Organics.

If you're wondering where to buy edible flowers for a special event, restaurant, or even for everyday home enjoyment, Cherry Valley Organics has you covered. We grow, package, and sell many different varieties of edible flowers in both fresh and dried form.  

What makes our edible flowers so special  

As a USDA certified organic farm, we take great pride in growing our edible flowers without the use of synthetic chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. This means that when you eat our edible blooms, you're only tasting nature. If you purchase flowers from your local florist to use in recipes or as food decorations, there's a good chance they were grown using a whole host of synthetic chemicals not meant for human consumption. Florists sell flowers to use in arrangements, not in the kitchen.  

edible flowers for cakes

How we grow our edible flowers  

Our certified organic edible flowers are grown right here on our farm, located just 20 miles from downtown Pittsburgh, but we deliver them almost anywhere in the continental U.S. via next day shipping. We use organic compost to feed our soil, which in turn, generates the most gorgeous blooms possible. And, our unique plant support system means the flowering stems are kept upright to prevent soil from splashing up and spoiling the petals.  

When the time is right, we harvest the flowers by hand at peak freshness. This ensures perfect petals and a crisp and bright texture and flavor. Our colorful organic edible flowers are prized by professional chefs all across the Western Pennsylvania region.  

edible flower grower

Edible flowers for sale: How to purchase from our farm  

We sell our fresh-picked edible flowers a few different ways.  

  • First, if you know you need organic edible flowers for an upcoming event, contact us to place a special order. We'll work with you on color selections and varieties to ensure we have flowers available to match your needs. If we have enough notice, we can even grow a specific variety, just for your event.  
  • If you're a member of our Farm Share Program, edible flowers occasionally appear on your list of choices. If you see them as an add-on option for your weekly delivery, take advantage of it when you can.  
  • We also occasionally sell our edible flowers at the Sewickley Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, but unless you special order them, there's no guarantee that we'll have them with us every week.  

 

Our edible flowers are packaged in clear, clam-shell-type containers, not plastic bags that are easily crushed.  

where to buy edible flowers

Edible flower plants for your garden  

In addition to selling harvested edible flowers, we also sell starter plants for several different types of edible flowers, if you'd like to grow the plants yourself. From pansies and nasturtiums to gem marigolds and globe amaranth, we have a wide selection of edible flower plants available during the spring planting season.  

A list of our edible flower varieties  

Though we grow new varieties every year, depending on the demand and our own preferences, here's a list of some of the edible flowers we grow here at Cherry Valley Organics:  

  • Violas
  • Gem Marigolds 
  • Calendulas
  • Gomphrena
  • Sunflowers
  • Bachelor Buttons
  • Bee Balm
  • Dianthus
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Chamomile
  • Scented Geraniums  

edible marigold flowers

Dried edible flowers for sale  

We also sell a few different types of dried organic edible flowers including:  

  • Blue Bachelor Buttons
  • Purple Gomphrena
  • Orange Calendula
  • Sunflowers  

dried edible flowers

Please contact us if you'd like to special order our edible flowers, or if you have any questions about the varieties we grow.  

For more information on our certified organic farm's offerings, check out the following posts:

 

From, 

The Cherry Valley Organics Farm Family  

  Looking for a source of organic edible flowers for your special event? Our farm has you covered!  

Posted 5/24/2018 1:05pm by Cherry Valley Organics.

Are you tying the knot in the Pittsburgh area? Let Cherry Valley Organics Farm, located just 20 miles from downtown Pittsburgh, grow gorgeous, certified organic flowers for your special day! We're one of the only suppliers of locally grown, organic wedding flowers in Pittsburgh, and we LOVE making one-of-a-kind bouquets, boutonnières, alter and reception arrangements, corsages, and more for "our" brides.  

Wedding flowers pittsburgh

Eco-conscious, organic wedding flowers for Pittsburgh brides  

Here at the farm, we grow over 100 different varieties of cut flowers, in every color of the rainbow. From lilies and larkspur to zinnias and sunflowers, our farm is full of unbelievable colors and textures to make your big day even more special.  

Based on the timing of your wedding, we work closely with you to select the right flowers for your color palette and design style. Then, we use your choices to build stunning wedding bouquets and floral arrangements based on seasonal availability and our broad array of unique accent flowers you won't find at most traditional floral shops.  

Pittsburgh wedding flowers

What separates our Pittsburgh wedding flowers from the rest  

Cherry Valley Organics is Certified Organic by the USDA. It's a rigorous process that ensures the careful preservation of our farm's ecosystem and prohibits the use of synthetic chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. That means when you stick your nose into one of our wedding bouquets, you won't smell anything but nature! There's no pesticide residue on your hands when you hold one of our bouquets, and you can feel good knowing that your wedding flowers didn't have to travel 2,000 miles before they arrived at the chapel.  

locally grown wedding flowers Pittsburgh

Our Grower for Herbs and Flowers, Allie Logue, is a Pittsburgh native who takes great pride in growing incredible blooms for our beautiful brides. You can learn more about Allie and her thoughts on being your wedding farmer here.   

We also make it easy for you to make your own DIY bridal bouquets from our mixed market bunches, if that's what you'd prefer. If a hands-on approach to your wedding floral design is what you want for your big day, we're happy to provide you with as many mixed market bunches as you need and let you handle the ins and outs of their arrangement. Our level of involvement is all in your hands!  

organic wedding flowers in Pittsburgh

Our organic edible flowers for wedding cakes  

Another important floral product we offer our brides is cake flowers. But, instead of being loaded with synthetic pesticides, our cake flowers are colorful, safe, and completely edible! Whether it's calendula, miniature roses, bachelor buttons, or violets, we offer dozens of edible flowers for wedding cakes in packages of 30 fresh-picked blooms. They're capable of taking even the tastiest wedding cake to a whole new level!  

How it works  

If you'd like us to provide organic flowers for your Pittsburgh-area wedding, here's how to get started.  

1. Please get in touch with us us here or connect with us via social media to set up an appointment to discuss the details of your big day. Ideally, we like to have at least 4 weeks notice, but the earlier you book, the easier it is for us to confirm the availability of certain colors and/or flowers. If you book far enough in advance, we can even grow special choices just for you!  

2. After the consultation, we put together a proposal and pricing information for you. This helps confirm that we're all on the same page with every possible detail. If there's a lot of design work involved (corsages, boutonnières, reception pieces, etc), or if the order is large, we do require a 25% deposit when the wedding is booked.  

3. Next, it's time to decide upon your delivery option. If you'd like, you can pick your wedding flowers up at our farm, no matter how big or small the order is. But, if your wedding flower needs are substantial, we can also deliver the flowers to your home or wedding venue for a delivery fee based on the location. We'll work closely with you to figure out the best option for your special day.  

4. Get married... while carrying an incredible bouquet of locally grown, organic flowers you can feel proud of!  

wedding florists in Pittsburgh zinnias

Don't forget about your wedding and bridal party gifts  

In addition to providing wedding flowers in Pittsburgh, Cherry Valley Organics also makes small-batch organic soaps, salves, and other body care products. Our handmade body care products make exceptional gifts for your wedding guests and members of your bridal party. Our boxed soaps have been on the guest tables of many Pittsburgh weddings. In fact, they've even been turned into guest name cards to tell wedding attendees where they're seated at the reception!  

Our organic bath and body gift baskets have been enjoyed by countless bridesmaids and mother-in-laws, too, as part of the wedding festivities.

Wedding favors Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh florists who carry our flowers  

We also provide cut flowers to many local Pittsburgh florists to sell at their storefronts. If you'd like a traditional florist to handle your wedding needs, but would still like to have our organic, locally grown flowers used, we highly recommend these amazing local businesses.

We hope you'll be in touch soon! Creating seriously special and simply stunning bouquets and arrangements for your wedding would be an honor!

From, The Cherry Valley Organics Farm Family

Posted 5/10/2018 10:03am by Cherry Valley Organics.

Our delicious mushrooms are a favorite of many of our Farm Share subscribers and farmers market customers. Baskets of meaty shiitake and flavorful oyster mushrooms are one of our most prized crops here at Cherry Valley Organics. We're frequently asked how we grow these delicious fungi, so we thought we'd share a step-by-step of how we grow shiitake and oyster mushrooms here at the farm.

 Grow Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms

Growing Mushrooms on Logs  

Step 1: Log selection. We begin the mushroom-growing process by hand cutting the correct types of wood from an overgrown field here at the farm. Tim searches through the lot, looking for prime logs of the correct diameter and species. Since different trees support different mushrooms, this is a very important step in growing our shiitake and oyster mushrooms. The trees must be live when the logs are cut, so finding logs that are perfect is sometimes challenging, but it's an effort that's well worth it. For growing shiitakes, we use oak, and for growing oyster mushrooms, we use aspen and willow. The logs are always cut during the dormant season.  

cut mushroom logs

Step 2: Drill the mushroom logs. After the logs are cut to a length of approximately 4 feet and aged for up to 2 weeks, one-inch-deep holes are drilled into the log on all sides, about 4 to 6 inches apart. The holes are staggered to give each group of mushrooms plenty of room to grow. This is a time-consuming process as the holes must be carefully drilled to maintain the proper depth. We use a specialized drill for this process to ensure it goes smoothly.  

Drilling holes in mushroom log

Step 3: Insert the spawn. Immediately after the holes are drilled, we fill them with spawn. The spawn we use to grow both shiitake and oyster mushrooms consists of sawdust colonized by the spores of each type of mushroom. The spawn mixture we use is certified organic and it comes from Field and Forest Products, a specialty mushroom spawn and supply company. The spawn is packed tightly and carefully into each hole to ensure good contact with the wood inside the log.  

Inserting mushroom spawn into log

Step 4: Seal the holes. To prevent the spawn and log from drying out, we then seal each one of the spawn-filled holes and the cut ends of each log with wax. Tim uses a paintbrush to apply melted cheese wax. Sealing all the cut surfaces properly keeps the log healthy and actively producing for up to 6 years!  

Sealing mushroom spawn plug in log

Step 5: Label each log. The final step in the process is to then attach a permanent metal label to the end of each log. The label notes which mushroom variety the log was inoculated with and the date of inoculation.  

Label on mushroom log

Where the Mushroom Logs Go Next  

We then prop our mushroom logs on end and line them up side-by-side in the shady woods. It's essential that the logs stay out of the sun or they'll dry out too quickly and won't produce a good mushroom crop.  

It takes between 3 months and a year for mushrooms to begin to grow from the spawn holes, but once they do, they'll produce multiple flushes of mushrooms per year, often in the spring and then again in the autumn.  

One of the perks of growing shiitake and oyster mushrooms on a small scale, like we do at Cherry Valley Organics, is that we can constantly monitor and harvest the logs on a regular basis to ensure each mushroom is picked at its peak.  

Mushroom logs resting in shady area

Where to Buy Our Organic Mushrooms  

To purchase our organic shiitake and oyster mushrooms, sign up for our Farm Share program for a weekly delivery of our fruits, veggies, mushrooms, and more. When growing conditions are right, we often have them at the Sewickley Farmer's Market, too.  

Golden oyster mushrooms growing on logs

Buy a Mushroom Log for Your Family  

We've also heard from many customers who would like to try their hand at growing mushrooms themselves. For those customers, in the spring we sell pre-inoculated logs that are already prepared and ready to grow. Simply take a mushroom log home, prop it up in a shady area, and wait for the mushrooms to sprout. It's a great way to share the joys of growing mushrooms with friends and family without having to drill and inoculate the logs yourself.  

We have pre-inoculated logs for sale at various events in the spring, including the Sewickley Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.

For more news on how we grow our exceptional produce, check out these articles: 

 

From, The Cherry Valley Organics Farm Family

 

How to grow shiitake and oyster mushrooms on logs

Tags: mushrooms
Posted 4/19/2018 10:58am by Cherry Valley Organics.

If you want to save some big bucks on your food budget, consider growing your own herbs. With the average grocery store price of fresh herbs consistently on the rise, it's no wonder many homeowners have started to grow their own backyard and container herb gardens. Most herbs are easy to grow, and those that are perennial, like chives, oregano, and thyme, return to the garden year after year. But, just like the other foods you feed your family, the herbs you grow and cook with should be free from synthetic chemical pesticides and fungicides. So, before you plant that herb garden, let Cherry Valley Organics Farm be your source for certified organic herb plants in Pittsburgh! Below you'll find details on why our plants are an excellent choice and how to purchase them. 

Looking for a source of organic herb plants in Pittsburgh? We're ready and waiting!

Why start with organic herb plants?  

You may wonder why you should buy and plant organic herb plants in your garden, instead of the conventionally grown plants found at your local garden center or big box store. Most herbs that you find in those types of retail outlets are grown in potting soil that includes fertilizers made from synthetic chemicals. Our herb plants, on the other hand, are grown in potting soil that contains only natural, organic sources of plant nutrients. Not only is this better for whoever eats the herbs, it's also better for the plants themselves. Healthy, vigorous herb plants are better able to fend off fungal pathogens and pest insects. Which brings us to the next reason why starting your garden with organic herb plants is the way to go.  

Info on buying organic herb plants in Pittsburgh

Conventionally grown herb transplants may also be treated with synthetic fungicides to control common greenhouse and garden pathogens, like basil downy mildew, botrytis, and powdery mildew. When plants are grown in big greenhouses, they're typically spaced very close together which can lead to an increased rate of fungal diseases that are often managed through the use of fungicides. Here at Cherry Valley Organics, we give our starter herb plants plenty of room to grow and our use of organic potting soil means the plants are off to a healthy start right out the gate.  

You also won't find any synthetic pesticide residues on our organic herb plants. Many garden centers and big box stores can't say the same. Some may even use systemic pesticides. These pesticides are absorbed through the roots and leaves and held inside plant tissues, making it impossible to wash these pesticides of your herbs prior to using them in the kitchen.  

Organic lavender plants for sale

Where to buy our organic herb plants in Pittsburgh  

If you'd like to start a new herb garden in your backyard or in a container, or add more plants to an existing herb garden, there are several ways you can purchase our certified organic herb plants.  

1. We'll have herb plants for sale at the Sewickley Farmer's Market every Saturday from 9am until 1pm. The market is in the parking lot of St. James Church on Broad Street in Sewickley.  

2.  City Grows in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh sells a selection of our organic herb plants via their retail store. Stop in and pick up what you need.  

Where to buy organic herb plants in Pittsburgh - Cherry Valley Organics Farm

3. You'll also find our organic vegetable and herb plants at our booth at the Annual Phipps May Market at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh on Friday, May 11th from 9:30am to 7:00pm and Saturday, May 12th from 9:30am to 5:00pm. This plant and garden sale is free and open to the public and is a great source for all kinds of terrific garden goodies.  

4. Cherry Valley Organics will also have a sales booth at the Garden Marketplace at the Master Gardener Garden and Landscape Symposium on Saturday, April 28th from 8:00am until 4:00pm at the Shady Side Academy Senior School in the Fox Chapel community of Pittsburgh. The Marketplace is free and open to the public. We'll have plenty of herb and vegetable transplants along with other farm items.  

5. Our Farm Share subscribers can also purchase our organic herb plants via their weekly deliveries. We offer our herb transplants as weekly add-ons that you can purchase and have delivered right along with your box of fresh, organic produce. If you're not a member of our Farm Share subscription program yet, here's more info and details on how to sign up.  

6. We also have our organic herb plants for sale right here at our farm in Burgettstown, only 20 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Just shoot us an email to set up a time to stop buy and pick some up. You can always get in touch at info@cherryvalleyorganics.com.  

Varieties of organic herb plants grown on our farm  

We grow the following herbs in 3.5" pots. Our retail price is $4.50 per pot or 3 pots for $12.00 -- a great deal for great plants!  

Herb starter plants, including borage, are available at our Pittsburgh farm

  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Borage
  • Chervil
  • Bronze and Green Fennel 
  • Saltwort
  • Chives 
  • Garlic Chives
  • Lemongrass
  • Eucalyptus
  • Cat Grass
  • Lovage
  • Lemon Balm
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Apple Mint
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Pineapple Mint
  • Salad Burnett
  • Summer Savory
  • Winter Savory
  • Stevia
  • Mrs. Howard's Rosemary
  • Purple Sage
  • Golden variegated Sage  
  • Sweet Basil (Nufar) Specialty basils (Lime, Sweet Dani, Tulsi, Cinnamon, Rosie, Greek, Thai, Spicy Globe, Purple Ruffles, Red Rubin)
  • Winter Thyme
  • Orange Thyme
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Creeping Thyme
  • Summer Thyme
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Transparent Yellow Thyme
  • Zaatar 
  • Greek oregano 
  • Golden Oregano
  • Creeping thyme 
  • Cutting celery 
  • Common Sage 
  • Broadleaf Sage
  • Tricolor Sage
  • Italian flat leaf parsley
  • Moss Curled parsley
  • Monarda didyma - Panorama red shades 
  • African blue basil
  • Pineapple sage
  • Stevia 
  • French Tarragon
  • Mexican Tarragon
  • Sweet Bay
  • Lavender (Grappenhall, Hidcote, Giant Hidcote, Munstead)  

 

For more info on our farm's products, check out the following articles: 

 

From, The Cherry Valley Organics Farm Family

Why should you plant organic herbs in your garden?

Posted 4/5/2018 9:10am by Cherry Valley Organics.

Conventionally grown strawberries consistently top the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of fruits and vegetables that contain the highest levels of pesticide residue. One sample of strawberries was found to contain 20 different pesticide residues! Organic strawberries, however, are a whole different ballgame. They're nutrient dense, antioxidant rich, and free of the synthetic chemical residues found on non-organic berries.

What is the "Dirty Dozen" list?  

The "Dirty Dozen" list is created annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization of policymakers, scientists, and researchers who analyze data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and rank foods based on how much residue remains after the produce is washed. Also included in this year's list are spinach, celery, pears, and sweet bell peppers, among others.  

Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables

To limit your exposure to and consumption of the pesticide residues found on the "Dirty Dozen" crops, the EWG suggests consumers always buy organic. Our organic strawberries are grown without synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides and will help limit your family's exposure to these products.  

Why Our Organic Strawberries are Better for You and the Environment  

Strawberries are susceptible to several different fungal pathogens, some of which reside in the soil. To combat these pathogens, conventional farmers often use chemicals to fumigate the soil to kill the spores prior to planting, but the process also harms beneficial soil microbes and soil-dwelling insects. It "sanitizes" soil in a very destructive way. One of the chemicals used to fumigate strawberry fields for decades is so dangerous to human health and the environment that it's been banned by the EPA, while others remain in active use. In addition to soil fumigants, conventionally grown strawberries are also treated with various fungicidal sprays, pesticides, and herbicides to limit pest and weed competition throughout their growth cycle, making it easy to see why strawberries find their way onto the "Dirty Dozen" list.  

Organic strawberries like ours, however, rely on a mixture of cultural practices to manage disease, pest, and weed issues. We take growing organic strawberries very seriously, and to our knowledge, we're the only USDA Certified Organic producer of strawberries in western Pennsylvania. We're very proud of that!  

Why should you eat organic strawberries?

How We Grow Organic Strawberries  

We start growing our organic strawberries just like we grow all the crops here on our farm: from the ground up. We use organic composts and other amendments to naturally build the health of our soil and suppress disease. Healthy plants show improved disease resistance, and healthy plants grow from healthy soil.  

Next, we carefully choose each of the strawberry varieties we grow. We select varieties known for their vigor, production, hardiness, and flavor. We don't settle for the cheapest starter plants we can find; instead, we choose the best starter plants we can find. Right now, our strawberry field is full of June-bearing varieties hand-selected and planted by Farmer Tim, and we expect to have berries ready for harvest from June through mid-July, depending on weather conditions.  

Pennsylvania organic strawberries

After carefully choosing the right varieties, we pay close attention to the planting process, being sure to give each plant plenty of room to grow. Because fungal diseases thrive in areas where air circulation is poor, properly spacing strawberry plants is key to suppressing disease. We don't cram the plants in too tightly in hopes of maximizing our yield like some conventional farms do; instead we give each plant all the room it needs.  

Next, our patch of organic strawberries is well mulched with straw. The straw not only serves to hold in soil moisture, limit weed growth, and stabilize the soil temperature throughout the growing season, it also forms a protective barrier over the soil. This barrier restricts disease spores from moving out of the soil and splashing up onto the fruits during rainy weather. Plus, it keeps the ripening fruit off the ground where slugs and other pests can easily access it.  

The Power of Pollinators in Organic Strawberry Production  

Another negative impact of conventional strawberry farming is the effects of all of those synthetic chemicals on pollinators. Bees are the primary pollinators of strawberries, and big conventional strawberry farms sometimes don't have enough bees around to pollinate their strawberry crop. So instead of relying on a healthy population of indigenous bees, they truck in European honeybee hives and put them in the fields temporarily in order to pollinate their strawberry crops.  

Here at Cherry Valley Organics, we have an incredible diversity of pollinators on the farm. Because we don't use any of the synthetic chemical pesticides that can sometimes affect pollinator health, our bees are more than happy to beautifully pollinate our strawberries. All the annual and perennial flowers we have around for our cut flower bouquets help boost pollinator numbers, too!  

Organic strawberries pollination

How Can You Get Our Organic Strawberries?  

If you want to enjoy part of our organic strawberry crop this year, be sure to sign up for our Pittsburgh CSA Farm Share Program where they'll be one of the seasonal items offered to our subscribers. For $25.00 per week, you'll get a box of organic produce grown right here on our farm and hand-selected just for your family. We have pick up sites all over the Pittsburgh region.  

We'll also be selling limited quantities of our organic strawberries to customers at the Sewickley Farmers Market when they're in season. Come see Allie on Saturdays from 9-1 in the parking lot at St. James Church. She'd love to tell you more about or organic growing practices!  

Eat Healthy, Eat Local, Eat Organic!  

Want to learn more about the organic produce we grow? Check out these related articles: 

From, The Cherry Valley Organics Farm Family

Why organic strawberries are a better choice for your family

Posted 3/22/2018 10:17am by Cherry Valley Organics.

According to the New York Times, roughly three-quarters of the cut flowers sold in the U.S. are grown far outside of our country's borders. Most cut flowers travel thousands of miles from South or Central America before finding their way to our dining room tables. That's a lot of precious energy spent just to move a bunch of blooms. Plus, most imported cut flower bouquets are covered with a broad diversity of synthetic pesticides and fungicides. It's certainly the dark side of the high-input, energy-gobbling cut flower industry.  

But, it doesn't have to be that way. There's a bright side to the story, too! Thanks to people like Allie Logue, our Grower for Herbs and Flowers, you can enjoy a bouquet of fresh cut flowers in your home completely free from guilt! By supporting small, local, organic cut flower farms like Cherry Valley Organics, you can feel good about those flowers on your dining room table, knowing that their organically grown blooms travelled just a few miles, instead of halfway around the world.  

Grower Profile: Allie Logue of Cherry Valley Organics  

Allie Logue of Cherry Valley Organics

Today, we'd like to tell you more about Allie Logue and her role here at the farm. Allie is our Grower for Herbs and Flowers and our Retail Sales Event Coordinator. Which means that not only does Allie grow our herbs and flowers, she's also the friendly, beautiful smile that greets you at our farmer's market table. Allie also drives our "flower truck" and delivers big buckets of our cut flowers to many local Pittsburgh flower shops.  

As you're about to learn, Allie's life revolves around a passion for local food and culture. She loves seeing the connection between food and human customs, history, and sociology in action, and her enthusiasm for the local food movement runs deep. This, coupled with her super-friendly personality, make Allie the perfect person to seek out for all your questions about the importance of buying local and supporting small farmers.  

Childhood Roots: Allie first learned about growing plants from her mom who tended herbs, flowers, and a few veggies around their home. Growing up in a small, rural Pennsylvania community where many of the houses had gardens to help feed the families living there, Allie spent summers in high school doing lawn care. She credits that job -- and her mom and dad! -- for teaching her the benefits of hard work.  

Cherry Valley Organics herb grower, Allie Logue

College Days: A career as a farmer, however, wasn't necessarily what Allie saw for herself, even just a few years ago. Allie has a B.A. in Social Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and when she joined the Masters Program in Food Studies at Chatham University a short time later, she thought she'd be spending her days examining the sociological and cultural aspects of food, not growing it.  

"Food is involved in every aspect of our lives, all around the world; it's an interesting lens to look at sociology through," she says. "Going from a small town to a city really opened my eyes to other people and other cultures. It was so amazing to me that someone could make a living studying other cultures and human interactions."  

While going to school, Allie and her partner Brian got a community garden plot in their home neighborhood of Polish Hill. "At the time, I was getting into eating healthier and understanding the food/body connection. We built a big garden at Brian's parents' house, and I started to get more and more interested in growing food. Plus, Pittsburgh's local food scene was really starting to take off and I had a really deep appreciation for that."  

When she heard about a job opening here at Cherry Valley Organics, she knew it would be a good fit. A passion for local food partnered with her favorite hobby turned Allie into a farmer.  

Allie Logue, Cherry Valley Organics farm

Joining the Cherry Valley Organics Family: If you ask Allie what surprises her the most about her days on the farm, she'll tell you that "Farming in general is surprising! It's a rural thing. But, I live in the city, and when I tell people I'm a farmer, they're surprised. I never thought something that I always saw as a hobby could be a career. But I'm so happy that I didn't stay in the box and took a different direction. I don't have to go to an office everyday, and I'm doing something that I genuinely care about and love."  

Allie's favorite part of her job as our Grower of Herbs and Flowers is the customer interaction. She loves conversing with our customers about "hot button topics," like GMOs, veganism, co-ops, no-till farming, and such. "I have so much background and education on these subjects, and it's cool to be able to talk with people who are interested in the same things. You pack up your truck and sell your stuff, but talking with people about how important small farms and businesses are to communities is really fulfilling."  

The Downside of Organic Farming: "If there's a downside to what I do," says Allie, "it's probably the pre-conceived notions people have about organic farmers. People think I'm judgy just because I work on a certified organic farm. But hey, sometimes I drink Mountain Dew just like you do! The stigma of organic farms and organic farmers being somehow 'perfect' is tough sometimes. You don't have to be all-in with organics; you do what you can. That one choice you're making to buy even just a single local product is a step in the right direction. You don't have to do it all. People sometimes think organics isn't for them because they have some image of pretention with organics, but it's not like that at all. It's a personal goal of mine to send that message to our customers. We're accessible. We all struggle to make better choices. Myself included."  

Farmers market Cherry Valley Organics

Allie's Thoughts on Being a Farmer: Allie is beyond proud to bring our customers high-quality, organic herbs, flowers, and vegetables and values the role small farms play in the local food system. As the face of Cherry Valley Organics at the farmer's market, Allie loves getting to know our customers and learning about their lives.  

"Interacting with people and getting feedback from them is what makes my job so great. I think about our customers and our CSA community a lot. It's more than just providing them with healthy foods. It's a livelihood for us and a bigger picture of sustainable farming in general. It's an important choice. Yes, you might be spending a dollar more on something when you buy from a small farmer, but you're spending it wisely because it stays in the community and it supports real people, not some big corporation."  

But it's also important for Allie to keep it real, too. Farming is hard work, but she's not afraid of it. "I don't wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every morning, that's for sure. But I know what I do makes an impact and means something. Not just to me and my fellow growers, but also to our customers and the greater community. I'm growing and selling something I believe in. I'm doing a job I believe in and I feel really good about everything we sell to people. I'm not selling junk food, I'm selling wellness."  

Allie and Brian Cherry Valley Organics

In her spare time, Allie enjoys traveling with her partner Brian, hiking, cooking, and scoring great finds at thrift stores. 

We hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into Farmer Allie's background and motivations. If you'd like to have a bouquet of Cherry Valley Organics' flowers on your dining room table every week, subscribe to our Bouquet Subscription Service for the coming season by clicking here. Or, if you'd like to chat about your own passion for food, stop by and see Allie every Saturday morning at the Sewickley Farmer's Market from May through November.      

Posted 3/8/2018 12:05pm by Cherry Valley Organics.

Do you know who grows the food you eat? If you shop at a big grocery chain, the face behind that cucumber in your salad is a complete mystery. But, if you support a small, local farm like Cherry Valley Organics, there's no mystery as to whose hands (and heart!) grew the food you put into your body.  

Today, we'd like to tell you more about Tim Gebhart, our Crop Manager for Produce, Fruit, and Mushrooms here at Cherry Valley Organics. Tim's passion and prowess for organic farming runs deep, and as you're about to learn, Tim is incredibly proud to know he's supplying hundreds of Pittsbugh-area families with healthy, nutrient dense, organic fruits and vegetables.  

Tim Gebhart Cherry Valley Organics

If you want Tim to grow food for your family, too, sign up for our 2018 CSA Farm Share program here for just $25.00 per week.  

Grower Profile: Tim Gebhart of Cherry Valley Organics  

Childhood Roots: Plants have always been a part of Tim's life. Growing up in western Pennsylvania, Tim worked for his father's landscaping company through high school and college. At their family home, they also tended acres of ornamental plants, a big vegetable garden, chickens, pigs, and cows.

One of Tim's proudest childhood moments was when his busy dad put him in charge of planting and tending the family's vegetable garden for an entire growing season. "I was about 13 years old, and he basically handed me the reins on everything. He gave me full responsibility and trusted me to do my thing. I did it, and it was 'my garden' for that year and I was really proud of that," Tim recalls.  

College Days: Tim went on to earn a B.S. in horticulture at Penn State University, with a focus on growing ornamentals. He planned to build his career around the ornamental aspects of plants; it wasn't until after he graduated that Tim discovered his love of plants extended far beyond their beauty.

One of our favorite stories from Tim involves how he came to realize that growing organic food was his true calling. After college, Tim was working full-time as a campus minister and volunteering one day a week at an education center for sustainable gardening. "I quickly realized that that one day was the high point of my week. I loved it. When they said I could stop coming in the winter, I was so disappointed! They had livestock and a garden there, and it made me realize that I wanted my life to be about growing food. When we relocated and my wife started going to graduate school, I could have transferred to become a campus minister at another school, but I made the decision to switch to organic agriculture instead, and I have not regretted that choice for a single moment."

Tim Gebhart, grower at Cherry Valley Organics

Before Cherry Valley Organics: Before Tim joined us here at Cherry Valley, he worked at Shenot's Orchard in Wexford, PA as a farmhand. He spent his days planting, weeding, and harvesting vegetables and apples. Tim learned a lot from the growing system they use at Shenot's.

"They have a great system there, and they really know how to step back and let the process happen. I learned how growing food on a large scale works, and how important it is to focus on growing a few things really well. But I also saw how maybe I would change a few things up, too. I also became more interested in organic agriculture instead of conventional, and that led me to my next job at Kretchmann's." For the following five years, Tim worked at the Kretchmann Family Organic Farm near Zelienople, PA, where he continued to learn more about organic farming techniques.  

Joining the Cherry Valley Organics Family: Tim joined our farm family in early 2017 as our head grower. At Cherry Valley, Tim's focus is on building our soil through the addition of high-quality composts and cultivating robust plants without relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides (even organic ones).

"Farming, to me, is like a puzzle," he says. "It's multifaceted and a never-ending challenge. You know what you want to do, and you have to figure out the best way to do it. An organic farmer has to understand how everything is connected and how what you do this year affects what happens next year. It's a balancing act that involves timing and adapting and a whole lot of learning. You can get instructions on how to grow something, but it isn't a cut and dry science because there are so many variables. Sometimes it can be infuriating, but that also keeps it real and makes it interesting!"  

Tim Gebhart farmer Cherry Valley Organics Farm

Tim's Thoughts on Being a Farmer: "I love making people healthier through the foods that they eat. When I switched from ministry to farming, I was looking for a common thread between them both. Farming is still tending to people in a way, both spiritually and physically. The two are interconnected, really. On hard days, when I'm out in the field, it's a good thing for me to remember. Ultimately, the food we grow here at the farm is making a difference in the lives of our customers. You don't have to study a label or write to a manufacturer to find out about what's inside a package of food. We can tell you everything that went into growing the fruits and vegetables we sell to our customers, and that means a lot."  

Tim Gebhart Family Cherry Valley Organics

Tim's Family: In addition to being a farmer, Tim is also a husband and a dad. His young children, Charlotte and Jacob, keep him busy at home, too. A diagnosis of Crohn's disease a few years ago acts as further motivation for Tim to embrace his organic principals.

"I've been able to control my Crohn's primarily through diet, and it's allowed me to live pain-free without medication. I really believe that both people and plants thrive when well-nourished. Each and every time I hear positive feedback from a customer, it makes me proud to be an organic farmer."  

We hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into Farmer Tim's background and motivations. And, if you want to enjoy the fruits of his efforts here at the farm, hop onboard our CSA Farm Share program for the coming season. Sign ups are now open and we'd love to feed you and your family, too!

Posted 2/22/2018 11:22am by Cherry Valley Organics Farm.

Here at the Cherry Valley Organics farm we take our lettuce very seriously. It's a staple in our Pittsburgh CSA Farm Share boxes all summer long. Yep, that's right. We provide fresh, organic lettuce to our customers for months, not just for a few weeks in the spring and fall when the weather is cool. We carefully select each of the gourmet lettuce varieties we grow here at the farm so that the salad bowl stays full even when the weather is hot. And this year, we're growing an even greater selection of gourmet lettuce varieties than ever before.  

Gourmet lettuce varieties for your garden

What makes certain gourmet lettuce varieties truly exceptional?  

There are three traits we look for when selecting the best lettuce varieties to grow.

1. Heat resistance.

2. Flavor

3. Storage life

Let's talk about each of these traits in turn.  

Heat resistance: Lettuce is a cool-weather crop that's notorious for turning bitter and going to flower as soon as the days lengthen and summer's heat arrives. Thankfully, for both home gardeners and farmers like us, plant breeders have worked hard to develop heat-resistant lettuce varieties that keep producing delicious greens, even during warm weather. Bolting, or flower production, in these summer lettuce varieties is delayed and the flavor stays crisp and bright far longer.  

Summer lettuce varieties

Flavor: In addition to having improved heat resistance, it's important that the gourmet lettuce varieties we grow here at our certified organic farm are flavorful. One of last season's farmers market customers said, "I love your lettuce because it has flavor. Most lettuce just tastes like water." Nothing makes us happier than hearing words like this from the people who feed their families what we grow! No lettuce is worth growing if it doesn't have superior flavor.  

Storage life: The final trait we use when deciding which gourmet lettuce varieties to grow on our farm is storage life. What's the use of having a bag of organic, locally grown lettuce if it's going to spoil in the fridge before you eat it? Not only do our individual lettuce varieties store well under refrigeration, but the baby leaf lettuce varieties we use in our salad mixes are long-lasting, too. We got an email last season from a customer who said they love that our lettuce is still good after more than a week. You won't find any brown edges or slimy dark spots in our bags of fresh-picked lettuce because of the gourmet lettuce varieties we choose to grow.  

heat resistant lettuce types

Farmer Tim's favorite gourmet lettuce varieties  

Our head grower, Tim Gebhart, is extra excited about this year's lettuce crop. Here are some of the lettuces he's selected for the farm:  

'Bergam's Green': This frilly green lettuce produces dense heads that hold up great under summer's heat and stay super crunchy. 'Muir' is another excellent green lettuce variety we're growing this season.  

'Vulcan': This gourmet lettuce variety would likely take the prize for the prettiest selection we grow. The mild-flavored leaves are frilly and edged in a deep red, and its shelf life after harvest is downright amazing. We're also growing another great red-leaved variety called 'New Red Fire'.  

'Sylvestra': A Boston bibb lettuce, the thick, succulent leaves of 'Sylvestra' are a beautiful medium green. We think it has knock-out flavor, and the uniform size of the heads makes it easy for us to harvest. Other bibb-type gourmet lettuce varieties you'll find on the Cherry Valley Organics farm include a stunning red-leaved variety called 'Alkindus' and a loose-headed choice called 'Mirlo'.  

'Green Forest': When gourmet lettuce varieties are being discussed, it's important not to forget about the Romaines! This upright, dark green Romaine lettuce is slow to bolt with an exceedingly crisp texture. It also stores really well. Other Romaine-type lettuces we grow are 'Jericho', 'Ridgeline', and 'Holon' (which is an excellent summer lettuce variety!).  

Warm weather lettuce varieties for the garden

Gourmet lettuce varieties for baby greens  

In addition to growing full-sized lettuce heads here at the farm, we also grow a ton of baby lettuce greens for our salad mixes. Tim is thrilled to be able to introduce three new lettuce varieties for our mixes this year. "These three varieties are going to change the way we grow salad mix. Our new mix for 2018 will have even more flavor and crunch than ever before."

1. 'Ezrilla' is a gorgeous medium green lettuce with intensely frilled foliage. It's slow to bolt, too.

2. 'Buckley' has wine-colored, oakleaf-shaped leaves. It's a real stunner in a salad mix!

3. 'Hampton' is prized for its glossy and ruffled leaves. The heat-tolerance of this variety means a longer harvest of gourmet baby lettuce greens.  

baby leaf lettuce varieties for farm and garden

As you can see, we pride ourselves on choosing the best lettuce varieties for our Pennsylvania farm so our customers can enjoy a steady supply gourmet lettuces from early spring through late fall.  

To enjoy our lettuce and salad mixes, Pittsburgh residents can stop by our in-season, Saturday morning farmers market stand in Sewickley, PA. Or, subscribe to our unique Farm Share program where we bring our organic produce to your family every week! Learn more here.  

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Gourmet Lettuce Varieties for Farm and Garden: Our Top Picks

Posted 2/8/2018 12:30pm by Cherry Valley Organics.

What is Swiss chard?

Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) is a close relative of the garden beet. Chard and beets are so close, in fact, that they're actually the same species of plant that's been selected and bred for specific traits over many years. While beets have been bred for their plump, edible roots, Swiss chard has been bred for its crunchy, delicious leaves.  

Rich in antioxidants, vitamins K, C, and A, and an excellent source of dietary fiber, Swiss chard is a real garden -- and kitchen! -- champ. The thick, succulent texture of the leaves make them excellent additions to a diversity of dishes, including the recipes you'll find below. As an added bonus, Swiss chard varieties can have many different colored stems, including red, pink, orange, yellow, white, or even striped. The plants are truly beautiful!  

What is Swiss chard? It's a delicious and beautiful garden green.

How to grow Swiss chard

Swiss chard is a surprisingly easy crop to grow; even beginner gardeners will have success. Unlike lettuce and many other garden greens, Swiss chard is both heat and cold tolerant, making it easy to grow a prolific crop that produces from spring straight through autumn here on our Pennsylvania organic farm (its long growing season is also why Swiss chard is sometimes called 'perpetual spinach'). Seeds can be sown directly into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring. As long as the seeds and plants receive ample moisture, it takes about 30 days for baby greens to be ready for harvest and 55-60 for the plants to reach full size.

 Learn how to grow Swiss chard and use it in the kitchen.

When harvesting Swiss chard, it's best to cut off individual outer leaves and let the growing point remain intact. This allows for multiple harvests from the same plant. Just head out to the garden whenever you need some chard greens for a recipe, and trim off as many leaves as you need, using a sharp, clean knife and cutting each stem off at its base. Wash and pat the leaves dry before use.  

What does Swiss chard taste like?

Just because it shares a species name with beets, don't assume that Swiss chard has the same sweet, earthy flavor as beets. Cooked Swiss chard tastes much like a mixture between spinach and collard greens. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads and on sandwiches, where they impart a slightly sweet, lettuce-like flavor but with a far meatier texture.  

While the leaves of Swiss Chard are the part most cooks focus on, the thick, crunchy stems of Swiss chard are delicious, too. They take a bit longer to cook than the leaves do, so remove the midrib and stem from the leaves and allow them to cook a few minutes longer than the leaves. Another great way to use the stems is to sauté them in a bit of olive oil or steam them briefly until they're slightly soft but not limp, then serve them as part of a crudités platter with hummus or ranch dressing.  

How to freeze Swiss chard and cook with it.

How to freeze Swiss chard

In addition to enjoying Swiss chard in the recipes we've listed below, you can also easily freeze this yummy green for later use. To freeze Swiss chard, wash the leaves, then cut off the midribs and stems, setting them aside to prepare separately. Roughly chop the leaves into pieces, then put them into a large pot of boiling water for two minutes only. When two minutes pass, scoop the chard leaves out of the boiling water and put them immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Let the chard sit in the ice water until it's fully cooled, about three minutes. Remove it from the ice water and put the blanched greens into a salad spinner to remove excess water. Pack the greens into zipper-top freezer bags, label the bags, and put them into the freezer. Now you'll have plenty of Swiss chard on hand for use whenever you need it.  

Freeze the stems in a similar fashion, but allow them to remain in the boiling water for an additional minute.  

Swiss chard recipes

While you can use Swiss chard in just about any recipe that calls for spinach, including vegetable lasagnas, quiches, stir-fries, and sautés, here are a few of our favorite easy-to-make Swiss chard recipes.  

Creamed Swiss chard

Sautéed chard with onions

Chickpeas and chard

Mini frittatas with chard

Swiss chard and herb fritters  

Participants in our Pittsburgh Farm Share Program can expect to find our delicious Swiss chard in their weekly delivery boxes. Not part of our Farm Share program yet? Sign up here  

Click these links to discover: 

How to grow and eat broccoli leaves

What are ground cherries?

More about our herbal teas

From The Cherry Valley Organics Farm Family

What is Swiss chard? How to grow, harvest, and cook this delicious green.