A local farm offering organic products has captured the attention of officials in Washington, D.C.
Members of the Appalachian Regional Commission were on the grounds of the sprawling Weatherbury Farm in Avella to get some insight into how the local business came up with its perfect blend of agri-tourism, heritage farming and hard work.
In front of several sheaves of different types of heritage wheat, Dale Tudor, who owns Weatherbury Farm along with wife Marcy and son Nigel explained the draw of small-scale farming.
“Organic soils have a better nutrient balance, and we grow types of grains that are older,” Tudor said. “In the last 50 years, grains were developed for production yield – we’ve moved away from taste. Now, heritage grains offer a big difference in flavor.”
The Tudors led a group of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission on a private tour of the farm and facilities Wednesday. The guests were in the area this week to visit rural success stories in Western Pennsylvania.
Created by an act of Congress in 1965, ARC sought to improve the economies of areas along the Appalachian mountain chain. In the last half-century, the commission has worked to make the area competitive in the global market by improving infrastructure in a region that consists of parts of 13 states.
Weatherbury Farm opened in 1992 as a bed-and-breakfast when Marcy and Dale Tudor moved back to the United States from Germany. Since then, it has grown to include a small organic farm, flocks of grass-fed Hereford cows and Southdown sheep and fields of organic wheat. The family also recently purchased a mill and pasta machine in hopes of selling their own field-to-table flour products in upcoming months.
“This will be the first operating flour mill in Washington County since 1943,” Nigel Tudor said. “The last one to close is on the bottom of Cross Creek Lake.”
He said the development would allow them to offer a special treat to visitors.
“Some vineyards have an estate wine,” Nigel Tudor said. “This will be an estate flour.”
For now, the family ships their grains to Ohio to be milled into wheat that is then sold on the farm and baked into treats for guests staying at the bed-and-breakfast.
The on-site mill is just the latest endeavor the family has made to keep their products as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. The family practices a brand of frugal, waste-nothing farming they said was influenced by their time studying techniques in Europe.
For example, the farm recycles unused hay and vegetable by-product by composting it and combining the mixture with manure to create their own chemical-free fertilizer.
“If you’re organic, you treat that manure as a resource,” Dale Tudor said.
The strategy is working. Weatherbury Farm’s grains have been sold to micro-distilleries and breweries, including Wigle Whiskey in Pittsburgh. Their entire inventory of 2013 grass-fed beef was sold out in three weeks after just two marketing emails were sent out.
The success story of Weatherbury Farm is the reason ARC officials singled it out while on their trip to the Pittsburgh area.
“What we’ve seen is an excitement for local foods,” said Appalachian Regional Commission Co-Chairman Earl Gohl. “One thing we learned on this trip is that everyone is doing something a little different, but the market is only going to grow.
“We want to help facilitate that.”