Our work at PCO helps our members find success with organic production. Our efforts are directly reflected in the contributions of our certified operations. Each year, PCO's staff, inspectors and board are invited to nominate a member to be the recipient of our annual membership awards. These awards, created by the staff, recognize those members who embody the organic spirit through their work and dedication to their communities.
Founded in 2017, Red Hawk Rise Organics is located in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. On their 3-acre property, Katie and Mike grow mixed fruits and vegetables for farmers markets in DC along with providing a local CSA to feed their community. With training in organic production and years of working in an urban farm setting, the opportunity to have a property to build a small-scale, organic farm is a dream come true!
Sustainability and ecological practices have always been the backbone of their farming methodology. Mike and Katie see their farm as part of the larger ecosystem that surrounds their land. For them, it is about encouraging a healthy balance between their cultivation efforts and the naturally-occurring growth that pops up or buzzes around them. They believe healthy soils begets healthy plants and use preventative methods to stop problems before they happen. Like good stewards of the land, they rotate crops annually and plant varieties with diversity in mind.
For Katie and Mike, the path toward certification was a business decision. Local farmers would often share how certification helps gain entry into the competitive DC market. But what started as a business decision soon became a central tenet of their farm. There was a realization of the importance of the organic label and the certification process. “It gives us a framework that validates our farming practices and legitimizes what we value,” Brownell shared in her acceptance video. Katie went on to say, “Organic certification is not just rules dictated by authority - instead it feels like all farmers who are certified are responsible for the integrity of the label. It becomes meaningless if they don’t follow the guidelines.”
In their nomination, Mike and Katie were recognized as individuals who genuinely care about the organic label and doing things right. When asked about working with them, Craig Shroyer, PCO Certification Specialist shared, “Fresh out of the gate they asked all the right questions. They are one of those farms that get into organic production because of the market possibilities, but remain rooted in the practices because of their commitment to the land and the community. To them it is more than the seal.”
You can find out more about Red Hawk Rise Organics on their website: www.redhawkriseorganics.com. There you can also enjoy the writings of Katie - both musings and farming observations/tips - on her blog Two Feet in the Dirt
A third generation farmer on the family land, Matthew has 200+ acres for rotational grazing on perennial grasses. He uses a holistic way to approach land and animal management while keeping his eye on new opportunities to steward organic agriculture growth in his community. Matthew would be the first to admit that organic agriculture was not part of his plan when he graduated from Penn State in 2004. He had big dreams of mega farming with some shiny equipment.
For Matthew, mentors in his life have made the largest impact on how he farms today. He had opportunities to intern on a wide variety of farms, including time with Titus Martin and Forest Sticker, both owning PCO-certified farms. These experiences gave him new perspectives from which to examine possible enterprises within his farm. Matthew was inspired to begin rotational grazing for the three main groups of his herd; lactating, young stock and dry cows. What started as 40 acres grew into the 200+ acres he grazes on today.
In 2007, financial scrutiny and economic drivers led Matthew to focus on self-grown perennial grasses as the sole feed for his cows. Making the decision to follow a grassfed regimen helped him pull his farm out of the red during the hard times of 2007-2010. Taking it a step further, Matthew’s operation became certified organic in 2014. Thanks to his early-on interactions with our members, he choose PCO as his certifier.
Organic production and certification standards embody his philosophy of less is more. The less we mess with natural systems and our food - the better. “Initially, I never would have believed there was a way to produce food without harmful chemicals,” Borbonus stated during his acceptance speech. This thought came to light when one day he was out on his open station tractor in front of the sprayer. He could feel a sticky substance on his forearms and questioned whether this really was the better way. Matthew reflected on his use of synthetic fertilizers at the time along with thoughts on the decline of his father’s health and he knew he had to explore another way.
While embracing the progression from grassfed to a full holistic approach to land and animal management, Matthew was overjoyed to find people were willing to pay for food made in a way that provided him with personal contentment. A world of opportunity opened their doors to him as part of his transition. He discovered an organic milk truck in his area, giving him access to a vibrant milk market. He now dabbles in direct to consumer sales of pastured poultry and pigs with the hopes of expanding his production to include vegetables crops.
Matthew was nominated for the Going the Extra Acre for his involvement with the Westmoreland Conservation District in Westmoreland County, PA. He understands the synergy between conservation efforts and organic, regenerative agriculture. As a convener of ideas, Matthew was an active participant in their Next Generation Farm Summit held in June. Stephen Hobaugh, Matthew’s Certification Specialist, highlighted, “He is a true leader in his agricultural community, finding new and innovative ways to help build sustainable markets for area farmers.” We look forward to seeing more of the good work Matthew creates on his farm and in his community.
Carversville Farm Foundation is a non-profit that produces fresh, sustainable food specifically for donation to populations who lack access to a balanced diet while offering workshops and field days to support an understanding of sustainable farming methods. In all they do, the farm focuses on regenerating the agro-ecosystem.
Everyone at the farm works at producing the best food they possibly can, while growing soil, practicing good animal welfare and serving their partners with dignity. In her introduction, Justine Cook, PCO Certification Specialist for Carversville Farm Foundation, highlighted their work in furthering sustainability for farms, families, communities and the environment. “Their food is grown specifically for donation to local soup kitchens and food pantries in the Philadelphia area,” Cook shared.
The farms operates as a team. From the Executive Directors to the farm crew to the volunteers that help them grow food responsibly, everyone is part of the collective process. They plan out the year by working with soup kitchen chefs to give them what they want without giving them too much or too little. Deliveries are made weekly to help make sure good food is easily accessible for their partners.
Carversville Farm Foundation raises beef, broilers, laying hens and turkeys alongside their production of vegetables, hay, mushrooms, eggs and wild crops. On the farm they also have a certified turkey processing house. Collectively, stakeholders for the farm decided to become certified organic because they believe in the process, which makes them better farmers. Steve Tomlinson, Farm Manager, was present to accept the award. Tomlinson mentioned Carversville’s goal was to certify everything on the farm and was pleased to announce that this was achieved in 2019. “PCO is truly on our side and with us every step of the way.”
Steve believes that the organic label provides dignity to the food they grow. It is important that the recipients get the same quality of goods they would find at an expensive grocery store or farmers market. In addition, it helps farm workers and volunteers know there are no harmful fertilizers or pesticides in use on the farm. “We feel that goes along way for everyone working with healthy food in a healthy environment,” said Tomlinson.
Feed, Teach and Nurture is the mission of Carversville Farm Foundation. They help inspire sustainable practices through a variety of outreach events. Farm tours show visitors what they do on the farm, while sharing both discovered successes and mistakes. They partner with other organizations to host workshops and information exchange gatherings. Volunteers also learn the steps in planting and harvesting crops sustainability. Through their efforts, the farm’s goal is to have people from all walks of life fall in love with agriculture.
You can find out more about Carversville Farm Foundation and their impressive impact numbers at www.carversvillefarm.org.