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Adding Value to Your Farm

The stewards of Quiet Creek Herb Farm lead attendees through a tour and presentation on what value-added programs they offer and how they set-up their non-profit.

Located in Brookville, Pennsylvania, Quiet Creek Herb Farm & school of Country Living has been around for almost 20 years, and has been a non-profit organization for roughly the last 10 of them. Part of the farm’s philosophy has been to make use of all of the resources available on the farm, the abundance of acquired knowledge and skills comprising one of the farm’s primary resources. The School of Country Living is supported by a rustic kitchen, a manicured herb garden, high tunnels, mushroom logs and great pavilion space with a projector and screen. 

Energy

The field day at Quiet Creek began with a farm tour, where participants were immersed in the farm’s mantra; use what’s already there! Bee hives and fibrous wild grasses were the first stops on our path, before we reached a wind turbine and solar panels. Rusty Orner, who directs and leases out the farm, was very candid about the utility of the energy sources. He found that solar panels have been the most productive for Quiet Creek’s location, but noted that wind turbines may well be more productive than solar panels in other areas. He also explained that the farm is still tied into “the grid,” as purchasing batteries to hold energy are extremely pricey; and although the farm still relies on a power company to run, energy credits have saved the farm a huge sum of money over the years. 

Mushroom Cultivation

The next stop on our farm tour was Rusty’s collection of mushroom logs. Logs were cut from oak trees during the winter months, and were filled with mushroom spores. Spores can be purchased from a number of retailers across the country. Depending on the type of mushroom spores used, Rusty would prepare the logs differently. For Shitakes, holes would be drilled into the trunk, roughly 6-8 inches apart. Holes are filled with mushroom spores, and then covered with beeswax. The logs are then left on the ground to produce, under a protected cover such as pine trees.  Another method for planting mushrooms is called the totem method, and it is best used for varieties like oyster mushrooms. Totem-style involves butting the log into cylinders and spreading spores across the cut, before replacing the sections together. Rusty estimates the costs of growing mushrooms for us, the numbers looking roughly as follows: Mushroom Spores cost about $25 per bag, which fills about 15-25 logs. These in turn yield 3-6 pounds of mushrooms.

Herb Garden

Quiet Creek’s herb garden is one of the farm’s standout features, both striking in aesthetics as well as one of the farm’s largest value-added features.  It is a well-groomed garden with many paths that wind through. The Orners rent out the space for events, providing access to much of the farm for weddings and celebrations. This brings in about $500 for a full-day event. The garden is also a good place for walking tours, where information about different herbs can be shared. 

Farm Shop

Quiet Creek’s little shop hosts a number of classes on country living, like soap making and wreath-making. This was made possible by the installment of a commercial kitchen on the second story of their shop. The shop also sells many herb teas, soaps and how-to books for the creative homemaker. 

Education

After the farm tour, Claire Orner gave a presentation about the farm’s school. A teacher by training, Clare encourages people to teach their interests. “If you’re passionate about something, then that’s what you’re outfitted to teach,” she explained. Food and farming are a great way to engage people, especially children. Teaching requires more than interest, however, it requires some support.  Support is needed by the community and by parents and teachers if you are targeting children. It also requires financial support, and this is how Quiet Creek Herb Farm came to be a non-profit organization. 

Finances

To become a non-profit organization, Clare and Rusty engaged the help of many different people. There is a great deal of paperwork involved, and so they recommend the help of a CPA, and local University resources. Once approved as a non-profit, the farm could apply for charitable status with tax deductions, as well as for various grants. The importance of member support was also stressed as an important factor in maintaining a non-profit. Communication and collaboration with members was stressed as a key strategy to maintaining support. It also creates a healthy environment where everyone is free to contribute and learn as much as they can.