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Keep up to date with the latest news on the farm and at your market!
Posted 9/30/2011 11:35am by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmGo O's!For we Orioles fans, game number 162 of a long 162 game season usually provides little more than a merciful end to another painful, disappointing campaign in the otherwise hollowed history of our once-proud favorite baseball franchise.  And while I'd considered for several weeks not reprising last year's Orioles Apple Lineup given the contrast in the promise this squad provided in the spring compared to the crushing disappointment 2011 proved to be, I've thought better of it.  After watching them completely change the fortunes of the 2011 playoff race (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, RED SOX!!!) in the American League in dramatic fashion, I've decided to go ahead with it, even if I'm only going to highlight the few players worthy of commendation for their efforts.  It's still early in the apple season, afterall, and while this makes it hard to do an apple lineup for a team loaded with worthy stars such as the Phillies, having so few apples with which to draw comparisons is a bit of a blessing in the case of my much-maligned Orioles.  So here we go!  Keep the faith Orioles fans!  Afterall, only the Cubs can have a bad century, our time will come!



  • 'Honeycrisp' Apples - JJ Hardy, SS - I know Adam Jones won Most Valuable Oriole and I'm well aware that Weiters was our All Star representative.  However, over the course of a long season, Hardy was our best player all the way around.  Some could say it was his early season injury (along with Roberts) that led to that May swoon from which the O's never recovered.  One of only three Oriole shortstops to hit 30 HR, I'm glad the O's have Hardy locked down for three more years.  Honeycrisp will be around for another 100 years, but who's counting?
  • Three Springs "Must Eat" Apple Cider - Buck Showalter, Manager - Buck is generally a little more tart than sweet.  Maybe that's why I like him so much.  I like my cider as I like my big league managers... no, that sounds like a lousy joke.  Buck will be actively fermenting over what went wrong for the long offseason.
  • 'Jonagold' - Mark Reynolds, 3B/1B - For the record, I'm going 1B with Reynolds, not 3B - too many errors.  But aside from that, yes I'll hear your strikeouts argument, but his 37 HR is the most since Miguel Tejada.  Additionally, he led the team with 86 RBIs.  While he didn't offer much in the way of batting average or defense, he was more than adequate (in some cases better) in all other metrics as was Honeycrisp.  He can't offer everything the Honeycrisp can, but he's right there in terms of producing a quality fruit.
  • 'Gala'Apples - Adam Jones, CF - Adam Jones should win another Gold Glove this year.  I think his defense in CF was better than the year he did win the award.  And aside from his road splits, you couldn't have asked for much better a year out of Jones.  He's still learning and he's likely to progress more next season, but in a team full of rotten apples, he was a consistent, go-to big league caliber ballplayer.  Gala, too, are dependable when choosing a sweet treat for the lunchbox!
  • 'Fuji'Apples - Matt Wieters, C - After this season, I can say I'd proudly wear a "Matt Wieters took batting practice this afternoon.  There were no survivors" t-shirt.  He should be a fixture behind the plate in Baltimore for a long time to come.  He improved every part of his game from an up and down rookie campaign and emerged as a bit of a leader as well.  In terms of our best apples, there's only room at the top for four - Honeycrisp, Gala, Jonagold, and Fuji are our best ones.  I could think of no better player to round out the top four.  If you only had to pick four apples to eat the rest of your life, I'm bettin' Fuji would be on there!
  • 'Macintosh' Apples - Jim Johnson, RP - I don't think I approve with the notion of making a starter out of Johnson, no matter how desperate we are for a good one.  I prefer to think "hey, we've got one pitcher in the whole organization who fills a role and does it almost flawlessly and with great consistency".  In other words, in a pitching staff full of rotten apples (expect me to regurgitate that analogy several times), don't fix the only thing not broken.  JJ goes out there and makes the mit pop, throws strikes, and puts the pressure on the opposition.  Macintosh don't hold their pressure as well, but you get the "pop" sensation when you bite into one.
  • 'Jonathan' Apples - Zach Britton, SP - Hard to believe I fit a third pitcher on here, but
    away we go.  If you were to throw out Zach Britton's three worst starts (which were particularly bad), you'd think he was one of the better young pitchers in the league.  Well, it's my opinion he still might be.  He had a rough patch in the middle there but he started well, he ended well, and he led the team with 11 wins when the dust settled.  He's got a bright future.  If Jonathan sized more, they'd still be available at supermarkets, but it's just a eyeblink from national recognition.  That's why your secret admiration of Jonathan is safe with me.  Haven't tried one yet?  They're the most underrated apple we grow.
  • 'Gold Delicious'Apples- Robert Andino, IF - I can barely believe I just typed that.  I'm really going with Robert Andino for the much-respected "underrated Golden Delicious" spot.  I thought he was too good for AAA ball and never good enough to be an everyday player.  I thought he had a bad attitude and would never improve his game.  He proved me wrong.  Reminds me of the market customer who heard some goofball farmer who kept assuring him or her that Golds aren't mushy, that they're really a terrific apple... gosh, what a coincidence!  Also, who had Robert Andino at 139 games played?  I would have thought 50 was a huge number.
  • 'Grimes Golden'Apples - - Jeremy Guthrie, SP - This one is tough for me.  Jeremy Guthrie deserves better.  The O's aren't getting better anytime soon and Jeremy pitched
    well enough to win close to 18 games for a good team.  Instead, he lost 18 games for the Orioles because they don't play well behind him.  It pains me to say it, but we need to trade Guthrie and free him from the prison known as my Baltimore Orioles.  Similarly, we'll have no more Grimes Golden after this week's markets.
  • 'Smokehouse'Apples - - Chris Davis, 1B - Ok, so he still looks better in batting practice
    and in AAA than he does on the field but I have to put him in here based on potential alone.  When he gets a hold of one, he smokes it (see what I did there?).  This was a great pickup at the trade deadline without even talking Tommy Hunter and I'm anxious for what Chris Davis could do in a full season at the major league level.  I'm also excited to harvest the Smokehouse each year, since each year I turn a few new customers on to this little known, heirloom tart-flavored apple!
  • 'Red Delicious' Apples - Vladimir Guerrero, OF - It was great to see a Hall of Famer like
    Guerrero in an O's uniform.  What wasn't so great is that it was 2011 not, say, 2004 when we offered him the moon, the stars, and his very own life size Bromo Seltzer tower to haul back to the Dominican Republic only to see him sign with Anaheim.  Similarly, Red Delicious look good in still life photography.
  • 'Yellow Barlett' Pears - Pedro Strop, RP and Tommy Hunter, SP - I can't figure out which
    one I liked better in his brief time here.  Both were acquired from Texas in separate trades and did very respectable jobs in the bullpen and rotation respectively.  If you acquire a Bartlett from our stand this week, you'll be the recipient of a more than respectable amount of flavor.  Available in bulk online.
  • 'Bosc' Pears- Nick Markakis, RF - Had a forgettable first half but ended up with a respectable season.  Many had suspected Nick was playing hurt through long stretches of 2011 and Manager Buck Showalter confirmed that suspicion in his post game address after the thrilling victory over Boston Wednesday night.  It's a testimony to his grit and toughness.  Bosc aren't too tough to eat.  Truthfully, I find it a very easy thing to do.  I ate one today - easiest thing I accomplished by a landslide.  They do, however, have a little gritty texture.


see also, the 2010 Baltimore Orioles Apple Lineup



Posted 9/8/2011 4:39pm by Ben Wenk.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, by Ben Wenk - grade 3

picture by Philly's Liz Cunningham, Lady Nancy peachMy summer vacation was a good vacation.  I spent it at Three Springs Fruit Farm.  I learned a lot of things while I was there.

In May, it rained too much.  The ground was very wet.  Many crops could not be planted.  I learned to be patient.  I learned what the best conditions were to grow a fungus scientists call Venturia inaequalis.  My dad calls it "apple scab".  Many of the rains brought hail stones and rain drops.  Strawberries were tough with all the rain... too.  My friend Matt stopped by the President's house and asked him a questionWe tried to have my friends visit, but it didn't work out.  They wanted to plant... too.  All our customers at our markets were cheery and friendly despite the rain and May was good.

Then in June the ground dried out.  Many things were planted.  I learned what apple scab looks like on apple leaves.  I learned to evaluate hail damage in a very big... way...  When we finally had everything planted, we started to pick more fresh things like squashes and cherries and many people ate them.  That was good.  We made new friends in Baltimore at the Fells Point Farmers Market.  The new market made us very busy but we were ok.  Toward the end of June, it was dry and I started to learn about irrigation.  Our truck broke.

In July, I learned a lot about irrigation.  I learned to run the irrigation at night.  Then, when that wasn't enough, I learned to run some irrigation in the morning, and some at night.  Then, I learned to fix broken irrigation lines and run the irrigation pump some more.  Dad said this is a drowt.  I didn't like the drowt.  Then customers sent us pictures of their favorite things and it made me feel happy again.  I learned what scab looks like on apples.  Our truck got fixed.

When August came, things were doing ok.  The drowt broke and we got rain.  There were a few more hailstones but Dad said its ok.  People really liked the peaches.  People liked the apples also.  Many people also liked tomatoes and other stuff.  Many people too used the internets and ordered stuff and they liked that too.  Then one day the earth shook and it was weird.  Then, we met Irene and nobody liked her.  She was a big meanie and we told her to go away, then she wouldn't go away and then she did.  But when she was here she did mean things like push our trees and push our fruit and kept us away from our customers.  What a butthead.  Mom doesn't like that language.

I had fun on my summer vacation.

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.

From Our Farm, to Your Home,

Farmer Ben

Mrs. Weidner's 3rd Grade Class
Bendersville Elementary School

Posted 8/25/2011 2:48pm by Ben Wenk.

blowing his own horn, FBSome say you'd have to be pretty bold to toot your own horn like this.

Others would say, Farmer Ben is a trumpet player and if you know other trumpet players, you know they can't help themselves.  Plus, he's using this blog entry to puff himself up before the crushing realization that all of his Honeycrisp might be worthless after this Hurricane blows through.

Link city:

"How Do You Like Your Peaches" - Colesville Patch dishes on the best way to enjoy these summer gems

"The Six Reasons Three Springs Fruit Farmers Have Unrivaled Peach Prowess in PA" - The Feast, Philly

'maters!Burst of Flavor at the Fourth Annual Tomato Taste - Silver Spring Patch, after a well-earned tie for second place in last years competition, we narrowly missed the first place crown after, yet again, coming in second place to Mock's 'Sungold' tomatoes.  Yet again, we were growing the winning tomato just missed the crown

Posted 8/25/2011 1:16pm by Ben Wenk.

Three Springs Fruit FarmFolks, it's only under rare and unusual circumstances that I would even consider what I'm about to announce, but I hope folks will understand that these are the very circumstances with which we are faced.


Three Springs will not be attending Sunday's Headhouse Farmers Market or Greenbelt Farmers Market 8/28 in light of the expected landfall of Hurricane Irene.


Philadelphia customers are encouraged to find your favorite Three Springs peaches and apples at any/all of the following fine retailers: Weaver's Way Coop, Sue's Produce in Rittenhouse, GreensGrow Farms, Green Aisle Grocery, and Harvest Local Foods.  Please note, an announcement regarding the status of Sunday's Headhouse Market in general from The Food Trust is forthcoming.  The market itself could remain open - please check their Facebook, Twitter, and mailing lists for up to the minute details.


Greenbelt customers are encouraged to visit us this Saturday at Silver Spring Farmers Market, as well as next Saturday at Silver Spring Farmers Market between Fenton and Georgia Avenues on Ellsworth Drive, downtown Silver Spring.  The Greenbelt Farmers Market does not operate the day before labor day.  Please be aware also, an official decision regarding the status of the Greenbelt Farmers Market in general is also forthcoming and I encourage everyone to await offical word from their Facebook, Twitter, and email correspondence regarding whether or not the market proper will be open this Sunday.


I felt like I had to be proactive in regards to making a decision for our farm in advance of these official decisions regarding weather cancellations because I needed to devote the extra attention to getting the most out of our Saturday markets as a result.  I also feel strongly that these markets will not be open, having seen the updated path of the Hurricane. 


I don't need to explain to folks that, with the additional cancellation of our Wednesday Health and Human Services market due to after effects of the earthquake, that having four markets in one week rather than seven at the heighth of our season is certainly a step in the wrong direction.  Furthermore, the winds and weather resulting from this Hurricane are likely to affect the quality and supply of everything we grow on our farm including, notably, our Honeycrisp and Gala apple crops, the lion's share of which remains unharvested as of right now and is likely to become "windfalls" - an unmarketable product. 




Keep smiling, folks.  It's bound to get better.  We've endured freaky weather before.


PS, if someone is willing to make the jump from "plague of locusts" to stinkbugs... plus the weather we're having...  nah, just a coincidence!

Three Springs Fruit Farm

See, smilin' already!


-  Farmer Ben

Posted 8/18/2011 12:58pm by Ben Wenk.

From the most voracious tomato-vores, to the round-red only myopic heirloom neophytes - the following is designed for tomato eaters of every description so that you might pick out just the right 'mater for just the right particular occasion!  

Red BrandywineBrandywine (both pink and red) - "The Beginner's Heirloom"

Never tried the whole heirloom thing before?  Here's a good jumping off point.  Not nearly as misshapen and ugly as many, this tomato offers bold tomato flavor, adds beautiful color, but eats like a bolder, stronger-flavored version of many grocery store red slicers (ehhh, not my cup of joe).  Snacking, salads, and sandwiches - any of your favorite tomato applications would be a great match for a Brandywine tomato, though sauces born of these fruits are sometimes sweeter than some prefer. So, in summary, if you're looking to dip your toes in the chilly pool of heirloom tomatoes, this is a fine place to start.

Cherokee Purple - "The Best"Cherokee Purple

This is the one everyone's gotta have.  The one I think I over-plant every year, only to run short on fruit in the height of season.  Our best sellers, our most unique flavor, and our most frequently requested tomato, 'Cherokee Purple's origins can be traced back to the Native American tribe of the same name.  The color of this tomato looks more brown or black to some than dark purple.  It's flavor is (somehow) smokey and intensely sweet with plenty of acidified balance.  This tomato is approved for all audiences and should be consumed immediately.  There is no wrong preparation for this tomato - you name it, use one.  Not to be missed.

zebra tomatoesGreen Zebra - "Salt Shaker Snacker"

An essential part of any heirloom tomato garden, in my modest opinion, the 'Green Zebra' is one of the most unique and best tasting tomatoes out there.  Most notably, if you are a tomato eater who is inclined to snack on a tasty 'mater in one hand with a shaker of salt in the other, many have found this tomato has the flavor of a salted tomato without the additional salt added!  It is a bold tomato best for salads and snacks with a good hit of acid, adding counterpoint to the tomato's sweetness.  If you've become a big fan of these, the next one to try is...

FlammeJaun Flamme - "Zebra's French Cousin"

Bright, bright orange tomatoes of the same size of Green Zebra.  These 'saladette' sized tomatoes, to use an industry term, are perfect size to cut in half and throw into your garden, caprese, or tomato salad.  Very bold flavored tomatoes that compliment the Green Zebra nicely, perhaps with a little more 'spunk', we'll say, than it's not-easy-to-be green counterparts.  These are another tomato that we get asked for by name (usually, "when do you have those 'French ones'") and, along with Green Zebra, are as pleasant a tomato as can be found for a tasty tomato snack!

Pineapple TomatoesPineapple (and Kellogg's Breakfast) - "Sweet, Bacon-loving Tomato"

Pineapple are probably the most visually appealing vegetable on our farm... anywhere.  They're just goregous (so says I).  They are bright lemon yellow with red sunburst streaks running from calyx (bottom) to stem.  Cut them open and they're even prettier - displaying a tie-dye swirl of yellow-orange-red colors that will stun and delight eaters of all ages.  These fruit-inspired tomatoes, along with their light orange companion tomatoes, Kellogg's Breakfast, are sweet, sub-acid tomatoes.  Similarly to the way white peaches are sub-acid and taste simply sweet, these tomatoes have lots of sugars and very little acid.  For this reason, I really like these tomatoes for your summer BLT sandwiches because the sweet tomato flavor dances lovingly in time with a smokey, salty bacon.  These are also a great tomato option if you do have difficulty with acidic foods.

Arkansas TravelerArkansas Traveler (not pictured) - "The Underdog Pseudo-Heirloom"

Developed by the Univeristy of Arkansas in the 1940's, these are the most unassuming tomato on our stand.  It's very easy to walk past these, but those who have taken them home have been back for more the next week.  Though not a true heirloom, they are non-hybrid seeds that crank off what I'd call "true heirloom flavor"!  If you were to close your eyes and think about what a tomato tastes like, you'd come up with something very similar to how these tomatoes taste!  They are uniformly round, uniformly pink, somewhat small, and have the most uniform stem pull out there for all you backyard tomato growers.  This one will impress your friends.  I'll tell you what else will impress your friends - a plate full of Arkansas Traveler  tomatoes, sliced, dressed with good extra virgin olive oil and cracked black pepper.  Snacking, salads, and sandwiches - these are small enough, you're less likely to cut one and have half a tomato in the fridge for a day or two - you'll use one at a time.  

Pomodoro, Italian Piriform or 'pear-shaped' tomato (not pictured)- "Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy"

Here's one that's a little meaty-er, a little bolder and more acidic - a beefsteak-y kind of tomato that can stand the heat in a hot kitchen!  Also a fine option for sandwiches, etc - these also are great for roasting and sauce applications.  A great way to extract more flavor out of these Italian tomatoes is just to add a little heat - right from the grill or a hot roasting pan.  With seeds ordered from Italy, these will give a chicken cacciatore some real authentic Italian kick!  Use in any recipe that calls for tomatoes to be cooked.

San MarzanoSan Marzano - "You Can Do It"

Everyone sees these tomatoes in cans, sees them on their favorite cooking program in sauces, but so many people have never used them as whole tomatoes.  Don't neglect this opportunity to elevate your pasta dishes from good homestyle to true restaurant quality by choosing the tomatoes they prefer in fine dining!  Very hollow in the middle, these tomatoes are also born of seed ordered directly from Italy, making their resultant sauces authentically, kiss your mama delicious.  They blend into instant paste for fresh sauce applications and they cook down into a truly tomato-ey "gravy" for your pasta and sandwiches.  Get authentic - get the real San Marzano!

Posted 8/4/2011 1:35pm by Ben Wenk.

We'll give you great deals on bulk apples!So here we are in our fifth year attending farmers markets!  Hard to believe it's been that long in some ways.  Quite a few things have changed since we attended our first market in 2007 (Schuylkill River Park, Philly - update your Three Springs Trivial Pursuit packs).  More trivia later - back on topic, one of the things I've noticed as a trend at farmers markets is the renewed interest in food preservation, canning, and pickling.  There's a canvolution taking place in this great nation of ours and it was with this in mind that we opened our online store, so that the most voracious, discerning, and preservation-minded among our customers could get, what we Central Pennsylvanians call, "good stuff cheap" (apologies).  Are we on to something?  We asked Headhouse Market frequenter Ben S. of Philadelphia how we're doing.  These are his responses, printed verbatim with his permission.


THREE SPRINGS:  What led you to order online from Three Springs?


BEN S.:  I buy lots (and lots[at least I consider it to be a lot - I'm not sure how I compare to your overall customer base]) of fruit from Three Springs anyway, and when I want to make a bulk purchase it is quicker and simpler to do it online instead of through email. I like that I can pay via Paypal versus having to go the ATM to get cash.  I just show up at the market, grab my crate and go.

They also have great deals on seconds which are great for ice cream, jam etc.


THREE SPRINGS: So!  How'd that work out for ya?


BEN S.:  Deliciously.  So far this year I have bought strawberry seconds, sour cherries, peaches and peach seconds online and all have been good quality (seconds are obviously going to have some bruises etc) and worked well for my various projects.


THREE SPRINGS:  What the blazes did you do with all that fruit?


BEN S. :  My preferred breakfast is steel cut oatmeal with fruit, so I processed and froze a substantial portion of the fruit for breakfasts throughout the year.  I also have started dabbling in making jam and ice cream this summer so that has been the destination for quite a bit of the fruit.  My preferred end result though is pie.  I like pie.  (editor's note:  We too love pie - pies of any description.  Pies are commonly used to leverage bribes against us)


THREE SPRINGS:  Would you order online with Three Springs again and, if so why (if not, why not)?


BEN S.:  Definitely.  You can get great fruit at a great price.  That being said, it would be nice to have some of the other fruits listed up there as well - blueberries, apricots etc and in somewhat smaller quantities (half flat/crate instead of a full one) since a full crate can be a lot to deal with on a Sunday afternoon.  Also, they sold strawberry seconds by the pound and I think that would be great for other fruit (apricots - hint, hint).  Actually, forget the hint, do you have apricot seconds?  Because I want them. 


THREE SPRINGS:  One non sequitur, have a guess - which of these people have not shopped with Three Springs:  Pres. Barack Obama (Happy Birthday), Tony Danza of "Who's The Boss", "Angels in the Outfield", Phillies legend Greg "The Bull" Luzinski, or 1973 AL Rookie of the Year, Al Bumbry?

BEN S. : Definitely Al Bumbry.



So there ya have it - an honest testimonial from a brave Philadelphia pie lover who took the plunge, ordered bulk online with Three Springs, and was rewarded with sweet, sweet pie and the promise of many happy breakfasts in an otherwise cold, barren wintertime.  This man could be you!  Well... provided you've learned to put up with my bizarre sense of humor like Ben does - thanks man.  Second thought, you don't even need a shred of personality to appreciate a deal this good!  Generally not a problem at our stand, but not required all the same.  If you have any further questions about online orders, just email me or add a comment.  If you need good canning inspiration, check out Food in Jars.  As a Biglerville native, Canners are very important to me.


And for your Three Springs Trivial Pursuit game, the correct answer is "Greg Luzinski".  Orioles Hall of Famer Al Bumbry once left a complimentary voicemail on our office machine that I forbid anyone erase for at least eight months. "The Bull" is always welcome at our stand.  We'll trade for BBQ.


Can it forward!


- Farmer Ben




Posted 7/14/2011 9:19am by Ben Wenk.

Bee Blog-A-Loo-La!

bee working apple blooms at 3Springs, 2009That's right, we're talking family 'Apidae' on the blog today.  The whole food system breaks down without bees and their closest relatives out there spreading pollen and getting fruits and veggies blossoms pollinated.  It's a tale of human-subhuman symbosis with a sweet payout for the whole human race.  Let's learn about honey,
pollination, CCD, and native bees and remind ourselves that we humans aren't so keen and evolved to overcome our reliance on a bunch of trained, eusocial insects.

Without getting into the nitty gritty horticultural details, all varieties of apples, many sweet cherries, many plums, and many pears all need a second pollen source to be fruitful.  That is to say a whole block of Jonagold apples will hardly yield any fruit at all without a second (and compatable) pollen source planted in proximity and, of course, our friendly bees for effective pollen

local, less-traveled bees still strong enough to swarm 2009When I was a youth and our farm was smaller and nearly entirely apples, we rented a lot of bee hives from our local apiary.  I can remember these days well, since Dad would always meet the "bee man" after dark when the bees were docile and less active to strategically place them where they'd most effectively pollinate our orchards.  As our farm progression continued over the years and our crops became more diversified, the peaches, apricots, cherries, and more recently berries, veggies, plums etc. are blooming earlier than the apples.  By planting more diverse crops that bloom over a longer period of time, we saw more pollination occuring from native and feral bee populations because we were were providing more food for them over a longer period of time.

And about this time was when Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) became a national
problem effecting Honeybees.  Fortunately, our bees were raised locally and these
beekeepers (or at least ours) had little problem with CCD - these bees never bee shelter for Biddinger pollinator experiment, 3Springstravelled far enough to contract the effects from other populations and since we
never spray insecticides during bloom, they weren't exposed to anything harmful.  So while the rental prices went up, as they should, we had been building native
pollinator populations, rented less bees and continued to have pollinator success.

So when my former boss and Penn State Entomology Department researcher Dr. David Biddinger (see video) at the local Fruit Research and Extension Center needed somewhere to establish a trial to assess different structures that might attract native pollinators, we leapt at the chance.  Now our orchards are being graced by a multitude of different pollinators.  Our veggie patch - the same!  And, as part of our commitment to continual improvement of
practices with the Food Alliance, we have established plantings of wildflowers to further increase these native bee populations.  We'll also be maintaining our own bumble bee populations to help pollinate our sweet cherries.

So as you can see, there's more to the bee than that sweet, local, allergy-fighting, biscuit-sweetening honey that we all know and love.  And I hope I've impressed upon everyone just what a treasure we have in bees.  They are out there every year helping our silly human race feed ourselves and sustain ourselves for another day.  So small, so vital, so grossly underappreciated - three cheers for



check out more on Three Springs Fruit Farm Growing Practices or for further, in depth topics:


Growing Greener Blog Series:

Posted 7/12/2011 8:56am by Ben Wenk.

Thank you all for the awesome feedback on our peaches so far this year!  We've been tough to live with sometimes, with all of your kind words - we're trying not to let it get to our heads.  And the pictures have been super!  Here's a week's worth of the pretty pictures our customers have sent us with their market haul and, in some cases, the impressive things folks have done with our produce!  Enjoy and thank you so much - all of you!


philly haul from 7/10our peaches on Sunday brunch table!

this young man is a big blueberry fan - Silver Springa cherry pie so delicious-looking, you wanna dive through the screen!now that's a good haul!  Fells Point market, 7/9

I'll have a double!  Tart Cherry Gin Fizz + berry garnish from Erica, Headhouse!

Posted 5/23/2011 5:25pm by Ben Wenk.

While it's likely last fall's news of President Obama purchasing our apples is likely to be our only brush with the Commander in Chief, it's unlikely we could present ourselves as mannerly and professionally as one of my favorite persons, Matt Harsh, who had the opportunity to ask Pres. Obama a question related to agriculture at his latest town hall meeting.  Matt was my first boss out of college at PSU Extension in Adams County where he was influencial in the founding of the Young Grower Alliance during his time there.  During that time, he and his wife Mary were raising vegetables in Matt's native home of Smithsburg, MD and bringing them to markets in Fairfax Co. Virginia - a passion that, in addition to raising their young children, is now their full time pursuit.  I'll always be indebted to Matt and Mary for their willingness to help a young guy like me get my start and it's awesome to see him get this opportunity.  There's no one I would rather have represent me in front of the President.  Check out Chesley Vegetable Farms to keep up with the Harshs on the net.  For more on why I love these people like I do, they also took our Young Growers group to New Zealand.  Here's Matt with Barack (they're on a first name basis now):

Grr, bad embedding codes!  click for link to CBS news story

Posted 5/5/2011 8:45am by Ben Wenk.

This blog is the sixth entry in our "Growing Greener" series - a collection of blog entries focused on educating our customers about our growing practices and other things about our farm that make us a unique farming operation.  This is a follow-up to August's "Food Alliance Certified" and is intended to address what our certification means in more specific terms - think Food Alliance, ver 2.1.


I hear what you're saying and I can understand your confusion.  "I'm glad you guys are Food Alliance certified... I don't know what it means."

Food Alliance Certified Producer, used with permissionWe introduced the topic on our blog last year with the big announcement in August but we want you to know just exactly what this means.  Food Alliance certification, you might recall, encompasses four general principles, as laid out in their certification standards.  These areas of concentration are growing practices, soil and water conservation, wildlife inhabitation on the farm, and fair and responsibile employment practices.  There are also baseline, "whole farm" conditions that must be met before we can become certified.  We also have to commit to continual improvement of practices on our farm and its in these last two areas that we'll begin our Food Alliance 2.1 analysis today.

So what does it mean to be a Food Alliance certified producer?  There are guidelines for nearly any type of farm out there, I'm going to stick to what I know best - what it takes for us to be a Food Alliance certified producer.  

1) produce Food Alliance certified products - this is to say we've passed our crop-specific audit and the food we produce complies with those standards specific to sustainable production of apples, peaches, pears, and cherries in our case.

2) provide safe and fair working conditions - in our case this covers everything from the obvious farm worker safety issues to our more progressive practices such as negotiating wages, providing opportunities for promotion, and providing health insurance for our workers.
new apple planting with oats! more on this soon
3) practicing IPM to minimize pesticide use and toxicity - this is perhaps the effort you know most about on our farm.  If not, catch up on how we scout for problems, mating disruption practices, lower toxicity materials, and this video on our practices.

4) soil and nutrient management - At our farm, this includes a long term rotational strategy between orchard plantings - often with minimal tillage.  Hopefully soon, I'll include a blog with pictures of my father's very effective new erosion preventative no till sod establishment in orchards - it's a sweet system.

5) protect biodiversity and wildlife habitat - As part of our continuing improvement of practices for Food Alliance, we've established wild flower plantings to increase our biodiversity, specifically the population of native, feral pollinators.  We also effort to increase populations of insect eaters like bats and barn swallows while also leaving standing deadwood for raptors, aiding in mouse control in our orchards.

Continually improving practices - here's where Food Alliance really sets themselves apart from other certifications.  Some certifications have a standard "bar" that's raised and periodically, every few years, you have to prove that you're wildlife at 3springs - Luna mothgetting your chin above the bar for another review cycle.  In the case of the Food Alliance, the onus is on us, the producer, to continually raise our own bar.  Farming is a constant progression - you'll see evidence of it in every good farm I can think of.  For the Food Alliance, they embrace this concept by requiring certified producers to commit to continual improvement in each of the four stated areas of concentration, insuring Food Alliance certified farms maintain the leading edge of progress and innovation in sustainable agriculture.  These goals are specifically named and tackled over a one, three, and five year time frame.  

We were just certified in August and they already want updated on our progress in completing these goals.  I'm proud to say these goals are already being met around our farm.  In additional to the wild flower plantings referenced above, we are having all of our employee manuals and training materials expertly translated into Spanish.  We will have bat boxes around out around all of our farm ponds in another year and are working towards 100% mating disruption in our acreage.  Are they ambitious and difficult?  In many ways, yes they certainly are.  But I've said from the beginning, if this certification wasn't a little difficult, it wouldn't be worth anything to anyone.

Read more about Three Springs Fruit Farm Growing Practices

or more "Growing Greener"