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Pa. Secretary of Agriculture visits The Seed Farm


Special to The Press

One occupation Lehigh Valley commerce demands is farming.

Since 2012, one of the biggest challenges faced by the Lehigh Valley agricultural community is the loss of farmland and its farmers due to lack of infrastructure.

Just past Emmaus, however, in the town of Vera Cruz, The Seed Farm works to establish the next generation of farmers for the Lehigh Valley.

The Seed Farm was started in 2011 when the 42-acre land was originally owned by Lehigh County.

Since then, the land became an incubator farm which allows tenants to use a small portion of the land where they can launch their own sustainable farm business. In addition, The Seed Farm also provides access to equipment, infrastructure and training provided by experienced staff to cultivate success.

On July 15, The Seed Farm hosted Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell C. Redding for a luncheon and tour of the farmland.

Redding was joined by state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121st, of Luzerne County, and state Rep. Milou Mackenzie, R-131st.

The group was greeted by Allison Czapp, one of the organizers of The Seed Farm and associate executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Czapp talked to the secretary and the representatives about the benefits The Seed Farm brings to the agricultural community.

“It’s a pipeline for farmers,” Czapp said proudly, as both attendees and farmers ate from the vegan prepared meal provided by the farm. “The Seed Farm has always been about preparing the next generation of farmers for the Lehigh Valley and building relationships left and right with those we provide for.”

Czapp then introduced one of the current farmers, Amirah Mitchell who works for Sista Seeds, which looks to produce crops from across the African diaspora, focusing on African American, Afro-Caribbean and West African cultural crops.

“Amirah has only been in the program for one session but already shows great promise as a farmer,” Czapp said.

Czapp then discussed the agricultural needs of the Lehigh Valley and why farms like The Seed Farm are needed.

“There still remains a need for more processing facilities that can help with the processing,” Czapp said. “The Lehigh Valley requires many different types of food production if it’s to keep up with the market demand. The Seed Farm is just one of many, but there could be more.”

Many of The Seed Farm’s products are sold to local restaurants and markets across the Lehigh Valley. One pizzeria in Emmaus gets most of its produce from one of the farmers at The Seed Farm.

After the luncheon, the staff led the attendees on a tour of the crop fields. The fields leading down from the greenhouses crawled with vines and vegetables making their slow ascent to the top of the earth. As dust covered the shoes of those walking, one attendee asked how the crops were watered in summer when rainfall is irregular.

“We draw water from our local pond and use it when we don’t get a lot of rain. Our farm is all about using conservation irrigation,” the staff said.

Conservation irrigation uses runoff and natural sources of water to extend soil saturation. This helps recycle water needed for future growth cycles.

As the tour continued, the staff talked about how The Seed Farm is partnered with the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Second Harvest was started in 1982 to network with different agencies across several counties as a way of establishing avenues of food distribution for people in need.

Not only does The Seed Farm work to sell its products and instill good business models, it also looks to give back to the community to fight food insecurity

The Seed Farm strives to donate 10 percent of its overall sales back to the community.

As the tour finished, Czapp reminded the attendees of The Seed Farm’s mission and how it helps the Lehigh Valley.

“The Seed Farm is not just about mentoring new farmers. It is about establishing racial equity and allowing everyone and anyone to grow.

“It is about building a food system that is both nutritious and accessible to all members of any community,” Czapp said.

To learn more, visitcommunityactionlv.org or call 610-691-5620.

PRESS PHOTO BY CHRIS BOUCHER State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121st; state Rep. Milou Makenzie, R-131st, Dawn Godshall, Community Action Lehigh Valley, Allison Czapp, associate executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank, Katy Hunter, program administrator, The Seed Farm and Pa. Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding talk about the agricultural needs of the Lehigh Valley.
Amirah Mitchell (middle left) and Bill McCullough (middle right) talk about their first season farming at The Seed Farm and how it will help them with their respective home farms.
Members of The Seed Farm give a tour of some of the fields being used by the first-year farmers. The Seed Farm uses conservation irrigation to converse water and energy needed to keep crops healthy and prosperous.