Farm as a Basic Factory, Farmer as the Best Landscape Gardener

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The Farm- Photography by Sarah Green

“The farm is the basic factory- the farmer is the country’s best landscape gardener and maintenance work force, the custodian of much scenic beauty. Mere market values of farmlands do not reflect the long term value or the irreplaceable nature of these living soils.”  Ian McGarg, Design with Nature

Eckerton Hill Farm, established in 1995 and headed by Tim Stark, is famously known for  its organic heirloom tomatoes and chili peppers that are coveted in the gourmet world of New York City restaurants and foodie culture.  In addition to supplying top restaurants, they run a winter and summer CSA and sell in the Union Square Farmers market.

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Tomatoes grown on the Farm- Photography by Sarah Green

I was introduced to Eckerton Hill Farm when I met the primary farmers at the local pub, Stefanie Angstadt and Mario Juarez, where we immediately connected through our passions for slow foods, the environment, and craft brews. I began working on the farm to subsidize my winter CSA share and have been learning much about Tim as well as the operation he runs (Tim and Stef were recently featured in the Reading Eagle discussing the winter CSA).

Every Monday I venture out to the farm and help with harvesting, weeding, and planting in the hoop houses as well as help weigh out and distribute produce into each CSA share box. This is, of course, under the guidance of the full time winter staff  – Tim, Stef, Mario, Lupe, and Emilio. This being the first winter CSA the farm has organized, it has absolutely thrived and has given the farm momentum as the days are getting longer and the first thaws are getting closer. In addition to produce, shares can opt in for  organic, free range eggs, a variety of meets and cheeses from local organic providers as well as award winning mushrooms from Oley Valley Mushroom.

As McHArg states “the farmer is the country’s best landscape gardener and maintenance work force, the custodian of much scenic beauty.” 

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Photography by Sarah Green

This especially resonates with me and my developing practice of Landscape Architecture and Ecology.  Landscape Architecture is inherently multi-disciplinary and should include an understanding of landforms, ecology, the environment, engineering, people, sociology and politics.  This interdisciplinary characteristic is not different from farming, or what a farmer has to understand in order to be successful and run a fruitful enterprise. The farmer must not only understand the environment but also work with it.

The farmer’s work facilitates the most intimate interactions with the land to create ecosystems that fuel our existence as humans. This is the ultimate goal of a Landscape Architect- creating and establishing ecosystems that unite people with the environment and the roots from which we came.  It is crucial to our future that we recognize the importance and integrity of the land and see it as the foundation of not only our society, but the continuation of every single ecological community that we depend on for our survival and wellbeing.

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