Interview With PA Farmer Ian Brendle: How A Proposed Law Threatens America’s Small Farmers

Brion: And there’s also a call to push back the delay in harvesting if manure is applied.

Farmer Ian: That one doesn’t bother me so much. One of the first things we do is lay down compost rich manure. Manure is never applied after a crop breaks the soil. That said, take potatoes for instance. My harvesting could be pushed back by 15 days, which isn’t necessarily a big deal since the weather, which we always farm by, could push it back anyway.

Brion: But, that 15 days times 15-25 crops during the course of a year could become a big deal.

Farmer Ian: Definitely, but the scary thing is the ambiguity about the wait in planting times. If that becomes too long of a wait, that could really derail what we do.

Brion: And there’s much more to it than just stipulations about planting and harvesting.

Things cropping up on Green Meadow Farm. Courtesy of Ian Brendle.

Things cropping up on Green Meadow Farm. Courtesy of Ian Brendle.

Farmer Ian: Like I said, there’s 1,200 some pages. I’ve only read the pages that affect our process, how small farms operate. For instance, there’s also a proposal relating to water testing. They’re proposing that for any irrigation used on your farm, that water source has to be tested once a week.

Brion: How often is it tested now?

Farmer Ian: Well…we don’t test our water [laughs]. Our water comes from an aquifer that is 375 ft. deep, where any amount of rainwater that comes through that gets filtered…and filtered…and filtered through so many layers of that 375ft. We drink our water constantly. It’s the only source of water that we use for drinking. I’ve never gotten sick. No one else has ever gotten sick. It seems like they’re trying to implement a lot of extra costs to make it real hard for a small farm to survive. They’re making it really hard to be a small farm.

Brion: From what you’re saying, it’s not just a few added costs. I imagine, that just with the water testing, there’s a lot of associated costs.

Farmer Ian: Usually, when a government organization comes to your farm to take water samples, you have to pay for their travel. You have to pay that federal or state rate to have that person on your property. You have to pay the lab that is going to test the water. All of the costs are going to be put on the small farmer. It’s not  like the government is saying, we’ll cover the cost and we’ll send someone out to take water samples. If that were the case, I wouldn’t object to it at all. Then, if you’re really that concerned with it, come test my water–it’s fine. But me personally, I’m not concerned about it. I know how clean our water is. It’s spring water.

Farmer Ian: When you farm on a small scale, you tend to be more aware of your surroundings, of what you’re doing. Whereas, when you’re farming on a huge scale, it’s hard to keep track of everything. With us, we only farm 12 acres–we own 17–so, it’s easier to keep an eye on things, to do things in a cleanly manner. We’ve been doing this for 32 years, and as far as I know, no one has ever gotten sick from any vegetables that we’ve picked.

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