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Posted 8/9/2018 10:56am by Cherry Valley Organics.

Heirloom tomatoes come in just about every color of the rainbow, and the diversity of flavors and textures they bring to the table is unparalleled. Here at Cherry Valley Organics, we grow and sell many different heirloom tomato varieties, each with it's own unique look and taste.  

Mixed heirloom tomato varieties

Today, we thought it would be fun to take you on a virtual stroll through our tomato fields and tell you a bit about how we grow our heirloom tomato varieties. We'd also like to share all the juicy details about some of our favorite varieties by describing their best features and hopefully enticing you to try something new when you stop by our market stand at the Sewickley Farmer's Market. Our Farm Share/CSA customers here in Pittsburgh will also find our heirloom tomato varieties on their list of weekly delivery choices from mid-summer well into the autumn.  

How we select the heirloom tomatoes we grow  

Here at the farm, we first focus our tomato-growing efforts on selecting the best varieties for our growing conditions. Since our humid summers often mean increased pressure from fungal diseases, we try to choose heirloom tomato varieties that are more resistant to diseases. But, we put our prime focus on selecting for fantastic flavor.  

Unlike grocery store tomatoes which are chosen for their ability to be shipped long distances, to be artificially ripened, and to be of a consistent size, the heirloom tomatoes we grow are chosen because they taste phenomenal. Since all of our customers are located within 50 miles of our farm, there's no need to grow tomatoes that ship well, which means we can really hone in on providing our customers with a diversity of great-tasting tomatoes.  

heirloom tomato harvest

How we grow our heirloom tomatoes  

All of our heirloom tomato varieties are grown right here in our fields, from seed until harvest. Tim and the crew start sowing our early tomato seeds in late winter. These first sowings end up in our high tunnel, where they're protected from the elements. The high tunnel plantings provide our first tomato harvests of the season, often weeks before our field tomatoes even come into flower.  

They continue to sow more seeds every few weeks throughout the remainder of the late winter and early spring, providing us with a succession of young seedlings that can then be transplanted out into the fields when they're about 6 to 8 weeks old.  

sowing tomato seeds

We take great care to keep our tomato plants up off the soil and away from soil-borne fungal diseases. We use a unique trellising system for our tomatoes growing in the high tunnel, and out in the fields, we rely on heavy-duty wire tomato cages to keep the plants upright. These wire cages are designed to make harvesting easy, with nice, large openings we can easily stick our arms through to pull out even the biggest beefsteak tomato.  

Throughout the season, the plants are watched carefully for signs of diseases and pests, though we seldom have to treat for either. Since our plants are grown under the USDA Certified Organic standards and are healthy and naturally resistant to pathogens and pests, our heirloom tomato varieties are largely trouble-free.  

Our favorite heirloom tomato varieties  

Though each season we try to grow a different selection of heirloom tomatoes, we certainly have a list of favorites. Tim selects for a diversity of colors and fruit-sizes to please all of our customers, which means you'll find tomatoes in some pretty cool hues when you visit our market stand. Here are some of our top picks:  

Carbon: A large, flavorful tomato that's won numerous awards. It's dark pink to purple in color with a complex flavor that can't be beat!  

Carbon tomato

Taxi: This heirloom tomato variety produces tennis ball-sized tomatoes with thin, yellow skin. The fruits are consistently sized and early to mature.  

Taxi tomato

Green Zebra: The zesty-tart flavor of this tomato is amazing. And, the green striped skin makes it extra unique. It's a real stand-out in mixed heirloom tomato salads.  

Green Zebra tomato

Pruden's Purple: Each fruit of this heirloom weighs at least one pound! The dark pink skin wraps a bright red interior and the flavor is 100% classic tomato.  

Prudens Purple tomato

Jaune Flamme: With apricot-orange skin and a perfect orb shape, this heirloom tomato is the perfect blend of sweet and tart. No mealiness here!  

Jaune Flamme tomato

Cosmonaut Volkov: This tomato is adored for its incredible, rich flavor. With a traditional red color and consistent fruit size, Cosmonaut Volkov is a farm favorite.  

Cosmonaut Volkov tomato

Moskavich: An early-season heirloom with a deep red color, this selection produces fist-sized fruits with a great flavor.  

Moskavich tomato

As you can see, we select and grow our heirloom tomato varieties with great care. We hope you'll give some of these stellar selections a try. They won't disappoint!  

Oh, and in the spring, we also sell transplants of all the heirloom varieties we grow. That means you, too, can try growing an heirloom tomato plant in your home garden.  

To enjoy our fresh-picked heirloom tomatoes, stop by the Sewickley Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9:00-1:00 throughout the growing season, or sign up for our Pittsburgh Farm Share program for a weekly delivery of all of our certified organic fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs.  

For more from the farm, check out the following blog posts:  

From, 

The Cherry Valley Organics Farm Family

The best heirloom tomato varieties for farm and garden

Posted 7/19/2018 10:51am by Cherry Valley Organics.

Despite what you may think, spring isn't the only planting season here at the farm, nor should it be in your own home garden. Farmers and gardeners who want to have freshly picked produce rolling in for months on end need to employ a succession planting plan. Our own succession planting plan ensures a continual harvest throughout the entire growing season.  

fall succession carrot crop

What is succession planting?  

Succession planting means that two or more crops are grown in succession in the same space. After one crop is harvested, another is planted in its place. Succession planting means no ground is fallow during the growing season and every inch of space is productive. A successful succession planting plan can be as basic or as intricate as you need it to be, and here at the farm, Tim is constantly working to maximize our yields via a delicate balance of harvesting and planting based on which crops prefer to grow during which time of the year.  

How a succession planting plan works  

The basic building block of a good succession planting plan is the seasonality of different crops. Some vegetables, like lettuce, spinach, peas, and radish, prefer the cooler weather of spring and fall. While others, such as tomatoes, basil, peppers, and squash, grow best in the heat of summer. A succession planting plan takes those growing preferences and weaves them together to form a matrix of productive plants from early spring through early winter.

Succession planting definition and plan 

Here at the farm, cool-weather crops are planted in the very early spring, and after they're harvested, a heat-loving selection is planted in their place. For example, when the peas are pulled in late June or early July, they're replaced with a planting of cucumbers. Or, after our spring greens are cut and sold at market, the empty beds are then planted with zucchini or green beans.  

We're constantly settling new plants into our growing beds all season long. Not only does this practice maximize our production, it also limits our losses if a disease or pest strikes an earlier planting. Succession planting can be an insurance plan of sorts against crop losses.  

The importance of diversity in succession planting  

When combining crops in a succession planting plan, the possibilities are nearly endless. However, it's important to mix up plant families when succession planting. If you harvest a root crop and then plant another root crop in the same space, soil nutrient depletion may be the result. Members of the same plant family can also share similar disease and pest susceptibilities, so when devising a succession plan, it's important to diversify each generation of crops you plant. For example, follow a spring root crop with a summer vine crop or a fruiting plant, such as a tomato or pepper, rather than planting more roots like beets or turnips in that same space. Diversity is a big part of a successful succession planting plan.  

Summer succession planting basics

Fall succession planting  

Following a spring cool-season crop with a heat-loving one isn't the only way to succession plant. Here at the farm, we also do a lot of succession planting that involves fall crops. This means that just because July 4th has come and gone, doesn't mean the planting season is over. Quite the opposite, in fact. Because we want to have fresh kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage, and other cool-season veggies available to our customers in the autumn and early winter, we start a new round of planting in mid to late July. This later planting yields an incredible autumn harvest because once the cooler temperatures of fall arrive, these late plantings grow like crazy. For some of these cool-season crops we have a better harvest when planting late in the season than we do when planting in early spring.  

Depending on how long it takes each crop to mature, a succession planting plan can even include a triple planting. If you choose three fast-maturing crops, it's possible to grow three veggies in the same space. Radish, for example, mature in just 30 days, so if quick-growing baby beets or carrots are planted soon after the radish are harvested, there will be enough time to plant a fall lettuce or kale crop, too. Succession planting opens up so many possibilities and can really increase your yield.  

Fall plantings of lettuce for succession

Caring for the soil when succession planting  

When succession planting in such an intense way, it's extremely important to consider the health of the soil as well. When intensely farmed in this way, soils can become depleted of nutrients and it's important to replenish what's used by plants as the season progresses. Organic farms like ours care for the soil without using synthetic chemical fertilizers, and we take great measures to ensure our soils remain healthy and nutrient-dense. To do this, we add compost to the ground in between each and every succession crop. Home gardeners should do the same. Not only does an addition of several inches of compost help replenish nutrients, it also introduces beneficial soil micro-organisms that help our plants acquire those nutrients and fight off pests and diseases. Healthy soil means healthy plants and a productive farm or garden.  

Soil care during succession planting

We hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into how we use a succession planting plan to supply our customers and ourselves with a broad diversity of fresh, organic produce all season long.  

For more information on some of our favorite farm crops, please check out these articles:

 

From, The Cherry Valley Organics Family

Succession Planting Plan for Gardeners and Farmers

Posted 7/5/2018 8:50am by Cherry Valley Organics.

Cherry tomatoes are among our customers' favorites, which is a good thing because they're also one of our favorite crops to grow! With their prolific production and sweet flavor, there's so much to love about cherry tomatoes. We thought you might enjoy a glimpse into how we grow these tasty tomatoes, why we hand-pick them at the peak of their flavor, and how we make sure they're still farm-fresh by the time they make it to your kitchen counter.  

Cherry tomato growing and harvesting tips

The varieties of cherry tomatoes we grow  

Making sure we have the best cherry tomatoes on the block starts by carefully selecting the varieties we grow. Our Crop Manager of Produce, Fruit, and Mushrooms, Tim Gebhart, sifts through our seed sources each winter to select which varieties make the grade here at Cherry Valley Organics. Though we do grow a handful of different selections each season, we also have some standbys that make it into our fields every season.  

Mixed cherry tomato varieties

Tim chooses the cherry tomatoes we grow based on their flavor, production, fruit color and size, and the disease resistance of the plants. Some of our prime picks this season include:

  • 'Black': This cherry tomato has a unique dark skin and a prolific production. It's an heirloom variety that has an incredibly complex flavor. It's juicy and sweet, with a hint of smokiness. The 1-inch fruits are great for fresh eating and cooking.
  • 'Bing': Farmer Tim's favorite variety for its intense sweetness, 'Bing' is a classic red cherry tomato that's packed with a fruity-sweet flavor with a hint of acidity. The skin is thinner than some other varieties, so the fruits really "pop" when you bite into them.
  • 'Esterina': This canary yellow cherry tomato makes it into our fields for its sweet yet tangy flavor, its incredible production, and its disease resistance. Unlike some other yellow cherry varieties, the skin of 'Esterina' doesn't crack open. That means the fruits are reliably perfect and damage-free.
  • 'Sakura': One of the earliest producing cherries we grow, 'Sakura' is a reliable producer of bright red, yummy tomatoes. The plants are slightly more compact, too, making it easy to fit lots of these beauties in our high tunnel with ease. With a long production period, this cherry tomato produces flavorful and firm tomatoes that ship well but are still juicy and delicious.  

How we care for our cherry tomato plants  

In addition to carefully selecting each variety, we also plant and cultivate the plants in a specific way. Since we're a USDA Certified Organic farm, we do not use synthetic chemical pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides on any of our crops. Unlike many other conventional Pittsburgh farms who regularly rely on these products to grow their tomatoes, we get our plants off to a healthy start by amending the soil with compost before planting which helps them fend off diseases naturally. We then give each plant a small scoop of compost monthly once fruit production begins. Newly transplanted tomatoes are also watered in with a dilute solution of liquid fish. These natural fertilizers allow our cherry tomato plants to grow large and healthy, and produce a plethora of full-flavored fruits.  

Trellising cherry tomato plants

Our cherry tomato plants are also carefully staked to ensure the vines are fully supported and the fruits stay off the ground. The unique staking system we use also provides the plants with exceptional air circulation, which leads to a reduction in several nasty fungal diseases that tomatoes are particularly prone to.  

We're growing most of our cherries in the high tunnel where we hang two strings of twine from the roof per plant. Each plant is then pruned to have 2 leader vines. Each leader vine is twisted around the twine as it grows and all of the side suckers are pinched off. This keeps the vines perfectly upright and makes the fruits very easy to harvest. We also grow some of our cherry tomatoes in the field, where the plants are supported by jumbo-size tomato cages.  

Cherry tomato plants with string trellis

Harvesting cherry tomatoes with care  

In addition to growing our cherry tomatoes with care, we also harvest them by hand at the peak of their flavor. Unlike some other farms, who pick their tomatoes in a semi-green state and then force them to ripen by exposing them to ethylene gas, ours are always left on the plants to ripen naturally under the warm summer sun.  

While growing some of the plants in the high tunnel does encourage earlier production, we do not force-ripen our tomatoes in any way. They're left on the plants until they're bursting with sweetness; only then do we harvest them by hand, leaving those that aren't quite ripe enough on the vine to wait for the following harvest.  

Harvesting cherry tomatoes by hand

Packaging and delivery  

Our cherry tomatoes are sold in mixed pints. We blend all of the varieties we grow together so that our customers can enjoy the full flavor of each separate variety without having to purchase more tomatoes than they can eat. Selling them mixed also means a beautiful blend of colors and sizes, too.   We keep our cherry tomatoes plump and juicy (and unsquished!) by never stacking the pint boxes on top of each other. The individual boxes are packed in single layers in crates for the drive to the farmers market to ensure the tomatoes aren't damaged in transit. They're also kept cool, but never refrigerated, which can destroy the sweetness and flavor of tomatoes.  

Favorite cherry tomato recipes

Our favorite cherry tomato recipes  

While many cherry tomatoes are popped into a mouth and eaten without any preparation at all, we love using our sweet cherries in lots of different recipes. If you're looking for some new ways to enjoy our Cherry Valley Organics cherry tomatoes, here are some of our favorites:  

 

For more information about other crops we grow here at the farm, be sure to check out these posts: 

 

From, The Cherry Valley Organics Farm Family

How we grow and harvest our organic cherry tomatoes

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.