In 2019, the Pennsylvania Agricultural Business Development Center (ABDC) was created by the commonwealth’s legislature. The ABDC’s goal is to safeguard the long-term vitality of Pennsylvania farms by focusing on providing support for sound business planning, efficient transitions of farm ownership, strategic farm expansion, diversification of agricultural production and supplying both financial and technical expertise to Pennsylvania farmers.
One of the ABDC’s initiatives is a series of grants to veterans turned farmers. Marcy Tudor of Weatherbury Farm was among the first class of the center’s grant recipients.
Marcy served in the U.S. Air Force from 1968 to 1972. As a captain, she was in charge of the central base fund, overseeing recreation at both Luke Air Force Base in Maricopa County, AZ, and Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base in Bangkok, Thailand.
Weatherbury Farm is a sustainable family farm located in Avella, PA, near the West Virginia border. The farm, which she runs with her husband Dale and son Nigel, grows certified organic grains, including soft and hard wheat, oats, einkorn, emmer and open-pollinated corn. Marcy originally looked into selling the grain wholesale, but decided there was not enough profit in it. She then shifted her focus into milling the grain into flour.
Weatherbury Farm first opened its mill in 2014. The farm’s flours are ground slowly and at a low temperature on a stone mill. This method retains the grain’s vitamins, minerals and oils.
“There are only a handful of farms in the U.S. that only mill grain grown on the farm,” Marcy explained. “Our flour bags have a grain tracker label with a QR code that takes the customer to the field where the flour was grown.”
Nigel is an experienced miller and has been working with researchers to help develop better varieties of hardy spring wheat to grow in this region. In addition, Weatherbury Farm grows other grains that can be used for baking that have long grown well in the region like rye, spelt and buckwheat.
Their hard work also led the farm to being awarded the 2012 Sustainability Award by Pennsylvania Certified Organic. They were also recognized in 2017 as a gold level Southwestern Pennsylvania Sustainable Small Business by Sustainable Pittsburgh.
In addition to their focus on quality grains, they’ve also raised and sold grass-fed beef and lamb since 2007, which graze rotationally. Free range chickens also provide certified organic eggs.
The Tudors plan on using their $9,800 PA Farmer Veteran Grant to purchase a wood fired oven and commercial kitchen equipment so that the farm can branch out into value-added products made from the grain grown on site.
The Farmer Veteran Grant program was created by the PA Farm Bill. Through the PA Farm Bill, the Ag Department awarded $200,000 to two veterans’ service organizations, which are offering the grants. Grants of up to $10,000 have been awarded for various ag business needs ranging from food safety and biosecurity planning to equipment, marketing or working capital.
The PA Farm Bill also increased support for the PA Preferred® Homegrown by Heroes program, which assists farmer veterans in marketing their locally grown products to feed consumer demand.
“Initially, we will be selling bread, made with organic ingredients, and then transition to an organic bakery complete with a variety of pastries,” Marcy said.
She expects the wood fired oven to be in place by the end of February and the commercial kitchen equipment to be installed in a 261 square foot bakery by the end of June. The value-added products will also use the QR code system so that consumers can trace the products’ origins.
For more information or to view the tracking system, visit weatherburyfarm.com.
by Enrico Villamaino