Berks Farmers Connect With Land, Water, and Customers

800 600 Stroud Water Research Center

Deanne Boyer and her parents, Linford and Florence Weber, jointly operate Willow Run Farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania. They have adopted a sustainable philosophy that includes grass-fed cattle, chickens that feast on watermelon and cucumbers, and a stream being restored — with help from the Watershed Restoration Group at the Stroud Center, Berks County Conservation District, and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service — through the recent planting of native trees along its banks. Boyer describes how that philosophy has shaped a relationship between environment, farmer, and customer.

By Deanne Boyer, Willow Run Farm

Our customers are often surprised the first time they drive down our farm lane to pick up a dozen eggs or purchase a pound of ground beef. Tucked away in the midst of suburbia, our customers are delighted to discover our quiet farm in the bustle of their daily lives.

They are often bursting with questions about what we do and why we do it. “Why do you raise your cattle on grass?” “Do your chickens like it outside?” “What are all those white posts?”

Click on a photo to enlarge. Photos: Diane Huskinson

These questions are opportunities for us to share how the best management practices we implement work for our animals and how they benefit our neighbors and the environment.

Fascinated by the white tubes in our stream buffer, a recent customer asked me what we were growing. I explained how each tube protects a small tree. As they grow, the 500 baby trees act as a filter to keep our stream clean and create a habitat for birds and other animals. I could see the lightbulb moment as she understood and became excited about how those little trees impact her neighborhood and her water.

Young customers enjoy shouting hello to our chickens as their parents pick up eggs and a customer stops to talk to our cows and calves on her commute past our farm. Our farm provides food for our local neighbors, but it also uniquely connects them with our animals and the natural processes in grass farming. In the words of a neighbor down the road, “I love to see farms that clearly value animals’ lives, the health of the environment, and the health of people. I admire your open-minded approach to allow natural processes to work their magic.”