Over the course of time, new farming technologies have been implemented to help farmers produce increasingly better crops. From the invention of the hoe and railroad transportation to automated irrigation and the global positioning system (GPS), farmers have always looked for ways to improve efficiency and production.
Twin Springs Fruit Farm, one of the largest fruit and vegetable vendors at our Central Farm Markets, is no exception. Started in 1979, the farm is located in Orrtanna, Pennsylvania, amid a beautiful stretch of rolling hills near Gettysburg.
Jesse King, one of the owners of Twin Springs, gave us an in-depth tour of the farm. We walked among the blackberry bushes, whose vines still had fruit on them. Of course we popped a handful of the little berries into our mouths, delighting in their warm, deep flavor. We breathed in the delicious scent of the green and yellow apples growing into maturity for the fall and learned about young new apple trees, which are being trained to grow in a manner similar to a grape vines. This innovative apple training system will allow the trees to bear fruit more efficiently by increasing their growth.
Fields brimming with Brussels sprout and kale plants covered acres, and we got a close-up look at a unique green that showed up last year at the market called Kaleidoscopes. These large pants are made up of bunches of flowers that look like little heads of lettuce. The plant itself is an interesting cross between kale and Brussels sprouts. Kaleidoscopes grow on long stalks, their leaf colors ranging from various shades greens to deep purples.
The most exciting part of our tour was seeing how the farm is right on the forefront of technological farming practices. Huge greenhouses make up a large part of Twin Springs farm. Inside these greenhouses are complex computerized systems monitoring the water flow, the nutrients in the soil and the temperatures. Tall plants growing toward the light will bear tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and beans all year long. Neat rows of smaller plants shimmering with light were filled with lettuces, greens and arugula. The best part? These plants will be grown for the winter farmers markets. Imagine having great tomatoes and arugula in March!
In addition to the computerized systems in the greenhouses, Twin Springs made a significant investment in a new energy source, biomass energy, in order to be able to supply a significant amount of energy themselves. The idea behind biomass is to turn wood, grown crops and crop residue into heat and power by burning them. This heat is then used to heat the greenhouses during the winter months.
Using this type of energy costs less than burning coal, oil or propane and adds to the sustainability of the farm by eliminating nearly 700 tons of carbon dioxide that go into the atmosphere each year. In some farm areas, these huge biomass systems are helping surrounding communities by shifting some of the captured energy to fuel businesses, schools and hospitals.
As we get closer to fall, don’t lament the passing of this glorious summer that has given us a wonderful array of fruits and vegetables—this winter you are in for a real treat from Twin Springs Fruit Farm!
Twin Springs Fruit Farm and their amazing fruits and vegetables can be found at all three Central Farm Markets locations.