We were living in York, PA in 1967, self-employed in the design build business, when we bought the property in Bradford County. We named it Berry Fields Farm because most of the open fields were blueberries, wild raspberries, and blackberries.
For nearly three decades, we traveled back and forth, developing pastures, grooming berry fields, planting an orchard, and most of all hoping to some day be able to pursue our dream of being on the farm full time.
Ten years ago we finally moved to Berryfields Farm and started to farm in earnest. Over the past decade, we have built a barn, fenced pastures, terraced fields for planting, built a guest house with a full foodservice kitchen and public dining room, added another apartment over our home for guests, renovated a garage to use as a farm store, built two equipment sheds, and created an outdoor recreation area with a gazebo, small pond, fire pit, and outdoor cooking station.
Our highest vision has been to learn to live more sustainably. To us, living sustainably means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Through many successes and failures, we have developed our knowledge and skills. We now grow and harvest as much of our own organic food as possible. The organic food we grow has become so abundant that we have been able to start a farmer’s market and share the excess with our neighbors. We also raise animals for meat and milk, including pasture-raised beef, goats, chickens, turkey, and pigs; striving always to produce quality animals while assuring their diet is as close to natural as possible. We use no hormones, antibiotics, or growth promoters. Berry Fields Farm has become a source of local, fresh, healthy food for our entire community.
Wanting to share our passion for sustainable living with others, we began inviting folks to stay in our guesthouse, work with us on the farm, and enjoy the meals we offer in our small, public dining room. In 2009, our farm was listed in the New York Times travel section as one of the “top 44 places to see.”
During the past decade, the constant battles with the forces of nature have never discouraged us. We have faced illness in our livestock herds, hail that destroyed crops, and heavy rains that eroded pastures. We came to realize that each year would bring new challenges, and we faced each of them with determination.
But today is different. Every day we are now faced with the ever-growing destruction caused by gas drilling. We have witnessed nearby fields of wild blueberries and acres of sugar maple trees being bulldozed, and we know that this is just the beginning of the irreplaceable agricultural resources that all of us in Pennsylvania are losing.
Guests have visited our farm from almost every state and from many foreign countries. They come to enjoy the amazing views, partake of healthy, locally grown food, and witness the reality of an independent lifestyle. All of those things are now in jeopardy, not by natural forces that we can face with courage, but by the invasion of industrialization from large multi-national corporations.
Within the past year, the unspoiled beauty that we advertise has changed. More pockets of hardened drilling pads are carved into sloped mountainsides. Drill rigs overshadow the beauty of the surrounding treescape. The quiet sounds of nature are lost in the continuous roar of diesel engines. The night sky is no longer a breathtaking, star-strewn canvas, but a glaring industrial site with stadium-watt artificial lighting and the glow of flaring methane.
What will happen to our life and our dream of sharing what we have created with others? Will our visitors accuse us of false advertising? After all, they come here for the opportunity to escape the city lights, noise and traffic hazards.
We enter the 2011 growing season with apprehension and a forced enthusiasm. The concept of organic, chemical free food seems so contradictory to what we are now forced to be a part of. How can we control our air, water, and soil quality? Will we be able to continue to advertise healthy food? What will happen to our independent lifestyle? Will our health begin to fail as we are forced to breathe polluted air, drink unsafe water, and eat imported food?
Our property value has begun to plummet, so our options for the future are limited. We find ourselves reluctant to make improvements that require more labor and financial investment. In the past, our conversation was filled with exciting new ideas about our farm’s future. Now, uncertainty and hesitation dampen all our joy. We know that our personal loss is minute in comparison to the wonderful resources of sustainable living that our state is now sacrificing at warp speed. Where will it end, and what legacy will we leave for future generations?
Note: this piece originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of freshlife Options. Posted with permission.