Interview with Lucas Brownback of Spiral Path Farm

I’m so excited to share this interview with you guys! My partner Peter and I are members of a crop share through Spiral Path Farm in Pennsylvania. They bring delicious, fresh produce to the Bethesda farmers market (along with suggested recipes) and we cook yummy veggies all week long! It’s healthy, affordable, and much higher quality than what you’d get at the grocery store. We recently went up to Spiral Path Farm for one of their open farm days and got to pick free fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, and herbs. We’ve been cooking all week with this abundance of produce, including some killer gazpacho! It is my pleasure to share this interview I did with Lucas Brownback, a talented farmer from Spiral Path who Peter and I affectionately call “our (cute) crop share guy”. Enjoy the interview below and if you want to participate in the crop share, you can get more info here.

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1. Part of what I love about your farm is that it’s a family business.  Why did your family decide to leave Philadelphia and go into farming?  Why did you personally decide to become a farmer?

My mom and dad are first generation farmers who fell in love at 20 years old and decided to leave the suburbs of Philadelphia to purse their dream of farming and being self sustainable together.  As a child, growing up on a farm was tough work for me and my 2 older brothers.  All of us could not wait to graduate high school and return back to Philadelphia (coincidentally) for college and get far far away from the rigorous physical labor.  Around sophomore year (for me) it started to occur in my brain that I was actually extremely lucky and began to feel major pride that my parents were farmers.  I also watched us go from struggling to have lunch money in elementary school to having a contracted deal with Wegmans by the time I was in college.  As my father’s youngest son, I feel it is my complete duty to continue to make sure the farm is operating in the way our family would want it conducted.  My parents are approaching 70 and I am trying to give them the most relief as possible.  I also have found my true self along the way… Our species’ role in the ecosystem is to cultivate crops – and I feel the most at peace when doing so.  I now relish in the sweat and heat I once hated and feel honored to have this as my job.  It is my inner intentions to produce the highest nutritional quality food possible for our surrounding communities.

2. How is your farm different from other farms?

The first generation of farmers at Spiral Path are still running the farm entirely.  We are USDA and PCO certified organic since 1994!  That is some serious fertile soil!

3. How do you decide what to plant and what to put in your delicious crop share boxes?

We plant what is feasible and sustainable to grow in our climate.  My parents have experimented every year with new and different crops to come up with the varieties that we can produce the best.  We stick with vegetables mostly – because we are strict about crop rotation!  Fruit is typically trees or permanent shrubs that take up a lot of room and are prone to crop failure.  Our CSA boxes are what the farm yield each week.  Some weeks it is tough to decide what to put it, but I spend most of my Monday’s creating a good mix of produce.

4. What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about farming?

The most rewarding thing is that I am feeding people with healthy wholesome foods.  From providing for pregnant mothers to cancer patients – organic is scientifically the right choice for our bodies.  I also barely grocery shop and have become quite the chef with all the produce I have access to.  The most challenging thing is that I am 29 years old and working 65 hours a week.  Finding the time to find a woman who is into the same lifestyle has been difficult thus far.  Also – I handle our farm PR and customer service emails… reading email complaints about a bug being in their share after working 13 hours in the sun is completely discouraging to me.

5. How can we, as a society, do a better job of supporting local agriculture?

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is the way to keep farms going.  Farmers markets – where you can develop a personal relationship with the only hands who touch your food!  Education- on growing, farming, and climate realities.  Also, as a society, I think we need to put more emphasis on those who actually harvest our food.  We have 16 migrant fields workers from Guatemala who seed and harvest everything on our farm.  In my entire life – we have not had one American apply to be a field worker.  NOT ONE!  If we continue to treat immigrants as if they are taking our jobs – we will all starve!

6. Final question (drum roll): What is your favorite vegetable and why?

My favorite is colored peppers.  Specifically our “monster sweet” orange peppers.  They are fun/easy to plant, grow, harvest, and it has been my favorite vegetable since I was 4.  I do not know what I would do if I couldn’t grow these on my own.  It all goes back to why I want to be a farmer – and that is so I can provide everything I could want for myself in my back yard.

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