“Horses to Horsepower”

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Farm safety in the 1920’s, my Grandmother and Aunt Lindy got to “ride the scoop” as they dug the barn foundation.

Last Chance for Cherries!

What a great cherry season, but with this rain it will be the final cherry picking weekend. Blueberries are VERY plentiful, picking is more like ‘milking’ the berry bushes and your box fills quickly, just like your freezer should!

Blueberries in the Patch, Nectarines & Ice Cream in the Farm Market

Orchard & Market Hours: Mon-Sat 8AM-6PM, Sun 1PM-5PM

Winery Hours: Sat 12PM-5PM, Sun 1PM-5PM

“Horses to Horsepower”

My Grandmother Mabel McPherson and her sister, Aunt Lindy, had a big hand in raising us. Any time my parents were off to a convention or late meeting, my two sisters and I would go over to Grandmother’s house to spend the night.

On one of these occasions, they told us the story of “riding the scoop”. The Slip Scoop or Fresno Scraper was the excavating tool of the day. Apparently, the girls were allowed to ride the scoop back empty, once the dirt had been dumped. The barn for which the foundation was being dug, still stands at the old Anderson Homestead to today.

Wow. ONE horsepower. One scoop the size fit for two little girls to ride in back in the 1920’s. Oh, how times have changed. By the time Grandmother and Aunt Lindy were taking care of me, we already had a tractor producing 150 horsepower, and now we top 208 horsepower in our John Deere 8130 that weighs in at 25,000lbs! (Our backhoe could have dug the barn foundation in less than a day.)

That’s not that long ago. Think about the changes you’ve seen in your lifetime. In the 1920’s 30% of America’s workforce was working in agriculture. In 2008, less than 2% of the population works in agriculture and the U.S. is still a net exporter of food; we feed ourselves and the world.

What does all that mean? In less than 100 years, we’ve moved as an agricultural industry from horses to horsepower, freed up 28% of the population to be productive elsewhere in the economy, AND feed ourselves, plus export our surplus food stuffs to the world.

Let’s face it, farmers are amazing!

As YOUR local farmer, we need you to participate in the next wave of agricultural innovation: Direct Marketing. Direct marketing means that you come to the farm to get the freshest, bestest fruit and cut out the middleman.

Interestingly, if we were focused solely on producing the maximum tonnage of fruit per acre, we would CLOSE OUR DOORS to the public and meticulously harvest each tree ourselves. (Ever seen apples on the ground during October? Sure, that’s because kids and families are in there experiencing the harvest – they just can’t possibly be as careful picking as we might be with our trained crew.)

NO PICK-YOUR-OWN on the FARM?! What fun would that be?!

Maple Lawn Farms likely seems really big when you visit, but in the grand scheme of agriculture, we are a small local farm. Small local farms need guests like you to enjoy the fruit we produce directly from the blueberry bushes and peach trees and cherry trees.

You see, back when Grandmother was “riding the scoop”, all agriculture was local. In the process of 100 years of change from horses to horsepower, the importance of local agriculture and local customers is the one thing that stayed the same.

See you soon on the farm,

Farmer Hugh

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Life on the Farm – “The End of Authoritarian Farmers.”

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Life on the Farm – “The End of Authoritarian Farmers.”

 

For almost 20 years, I have been a dictator. Now, I’d style myself a “Benevolent” Dictator, but authoritarianism was still the rule of the day. Due to the paradox of business growth, the rise of the millennials and the aging of my daughter, my authoritarian days are over. The promise and trouble of the top-down management style handed down from generation to farming generation has met its match in this modern day of agriculture, and I’ll share why.

I came by it honestly. Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about – Dad rules, and he makes the rules, because he is ultimately responsible for the family’s well-being. He puts food on the table. He disciplines. He is the head of the family.

Notions such as this might seem quaint in our ever-opening society, but back in the mid-seventies, when I was growing up, this was the norm. My grandmother and grandparents all were depression era people. This was even more entrenched in their generation and stories of family lore were of heroic family men sacrificing for the farm and family. Those men were revered for it.

I came by this honestly.

The life transition came slowly. I married a strong, beautiful woman, who “wasn’t about to take my last name, thank you very much.” I had to learn to work beside my Dad (old school) without the two of us killing each other in a desperate battle for control.

I learned as our business grew that I needed other people, brilliant people, to help design mazes, cut mazes, organize ordering, proof materials, help at the Fun Park – terrifyingly, I was no longer able to be in complete control of every moving part of the farm and business.

It was at a board meeting of Farmers Inspired, a national organization of farmers who do what we do at Maple Lawn Farms, that I first learned an African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

What a profound statement. We, I, You don’t have to go it alone, running as fast as we can. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. What a joy to have the pressure of being alone, doing it alone lifted off our shoulders. What if we could “do it together”?

Back to the farm. I frankly couldn’t do this alone. Think about it – Dad manages production. Matt manages row crops AND works with me on the wine. Michelle books the groups and organizes the ordering for the farms we help. Janelle does the books and the schedules. Betsy does payroll and farm invoicing. Dee manages the market. Allen helps you in the orchard. Frank fixes everything. Jenny pours wine and leads at the Fun Park. Plus, over 65 part-time staff deliver the fruit and the experiences you know and love on the farm.

Authoritarianism is dead. The days of a “boss” screaming insults at a “worker” are over. Everyone on the farm can go work anywhere else, heck, I’m a terrible manager if my people can’t be employed somewhere else!

Authoritarianism dead and I’ve noticed a few reasons why it’s not coming back.

1. Things are better with more eyes. I know I’m pretty good at making, say a brochure. However, when Audra does the graphic design, Michelle proofs for details and I write the exciting copy – the brochure becomes great.

2. More taste buds. I, now that we’ve done it, can make wine. However, when Matt and I discuss, plan, check and take notes, then run our ideas by our buddy Carl, winemaker at Allegro Vineyards, then have some of the women as additional taste-testers, we make tasty wine AND can replicate it on batch two.

3. Helping hands. I our process, I’m ultimately responsible for every guest experience, but I can’t possibly connect with every guest, every time they visit. We have a system of returning staff helping new staff get up to speed, train while shadowing and supporting each other as new staffers learn the ropes. Its a system of more helping hands, more teachers sharing knowledge.

My daughter just turned 14. She is a wonderful, caring, beautiful kid who is outgrowing her “Daddy” vertically and in maturity. I confess to not being ready to give up my little girl. While she was a child, authoritarian rules were for her education and safety. Now, as the bible says, “children are like arrows in your quiver”, meaning they are meant to be honed, then careful strung, aimed and released to fly true and free into the world. Luckily, I don’t have to let go just yet, but I assure you that my authoritarian days are over.

The myth of American Business and the American Dream. The myth is that a lone American hauls him or herself up by the bootstraps, bold goes alone to achieve great things. That’s just totally false.

The real American Dream is that a brave individual can believe so fervently in a positive vision of the future, that a group of like-minded people will choose willingly to join the cause. Together they will overcome the challenges and plot a course to success.

I no longer wish to be a Benevolent Dictator. I want to be a farmer, a business owner, people want to partner with for mutual benefit. I don’t want to bear the load alone, but share the success with the team as we go.

Maybe it’s my age, but I no longer want to go “fast and alone”, but, instead, I want to go far and go together.

Come meet the farm team, the winery team and the Fun Park team. You are going to be amazed at the quality group of people who’ve come together at our one little farm in Pennsylvania.

See you soon on the farm,

Farmer Hugh

Life on the Farm – “Worth 1,000 words?”

 Amazing Pumpkin Panorama | Pumpkin Patch Picking | PRIME Apple Picking |
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Eric Big Pumpkin
Life on the Farm – “Worth 1,000 words?”

Hi,

We’ve always been total “A picture is worth a 1,000 words”, but is that really true? This week, I’d like to find out what you think.
Picture people: We are holding a Photo contest for Maize Quest tickets. Load your best photos from Maize Quest, the pumpkin patch, the apple orchard or enjoying the bakery. (We’ll share the pics on Facebook and maybe in a future email.)
Word people: You’ve read a bunch of musings from a short, bald farmer. Ever wonder why? I think words are powerful and I’d love to hear what’s important to your family. Write me back, Word People! (We’ll share your musings about the farm, family and your Fall traditions.)
The case for Pictures. Visual images are captivating. Their power seems derived from their ability to communicate emotion instantaneously. They are a moment frozen in time that allows us to imagine ourselves in that moment, too.
The case for Words. Words are magical. I particularly like the spoken word. One of my products feats as a father was reading the entire Harry Potter series to my son Ian, all 4,000 pages of it, complete with character voices a la Jim Daily. Words are magical. Close your eyes and words allow your mind to form the picture that is precisely right for you.
So, which are you?Pictures or Words?
Is a picture worth a thousand words or can a thousand words create amazing pictures in your mind?
I’d love to know what you think. If you want to super-charge your senses, come to the farm this weekend. Sights, colors, sounds, smells, visual feasts and actual feasts await you.
At Maple Lawn Farms & Maize Quest we don’t have customers, we only have guests. As our guest, you’ll get some great pictures of your family. Mark my words.
See you soon on the farm,
Hugh
PS This weekend is going to be a “classic”. Crisp, cool and October sunny. you never know what might happen next weekend, so get here while you can. Get directions [CLICK].