Tree Tenders Basic Training

Sat., Jan. 31. 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Farming for the Future Conference

Wed., Feb. 4 to Sat., Feb. 7. 

Intro to Backyard Chickens

Sat., Feb. 7. 10 to 11 a.m.





Entries in Dispatch (37)


The Family Stone

Illustration by James Heimer

A two-century-old stone mill
gets a second life generations later

My grandfather, Henry Fischer, was a master miller in Bavaria when he decided at age 20 to immigrate to the U.S. A classic American immigrant story of hard work and new beginnings, he eventually owned his own moving and storage company in Doylestown, but his passion for water mills remained. In 1947, he bought the run-down Castle Valley Mill property, spent a year restoring the house, and moved his family in. While he never got the mill running again, he continued to make repairs as time and money allowed, and collected mill stones and machinery— including an 1830 rolling screen, 1910 seed cleaner, 1888 disc aspirator and a 1880 Nordyke-Marmon stone mill—from all over Bucks County as mills were torn down or turned into restaurants and gift shops. My father, Robert Fischer, lived at Castle Valley from age 12 until he left for a career in the Air Force and aviation. Though it was his cherished childhood home, milling was not in his future. 


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Rebels With a Cause

Illustration by Chris Hall

Entrepreneurial middle schoolers evolve
into focused jerky makers

1998. Downingtown Middle School Cafeteria. Fifth period lunch. I had just finished my brown-bagged salami, mustard and Cooler Ranch Doritos sandwich, and scrounged through my backpack for the $5 bill my mom gave me each morning for drinks and snacks. I got the same thing everyday: strawberry kiwi lemonade ($1.49), a giant chocolate chip cookie ($1), and a Taco Bell soft taco ($1.50). Yes, our cafeteria actually served Taco Bell, an inconceivable travesty by current childhood nutrition standards, and heaven on earth to a 12-year-old. It was that golden era of flavor, when adulterated concerns like “health” and “natural ingredients” never got in the way of unalloyed indulgence.

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Earning Her Chops

illustration by Alexander Ciambriello

I have no interest in slaughtering animals. I have borne witness and it’s intense, hot, primal and best left to the people who are skilled at doing it quickly and humanely. But as a meat-eater, I wanted to “get to know” a whole animal in a visceral way, not just frozen packages of muscle and bone. One Sunday last winter, armed with sharp knives, determination and the book Whole Beast Butchery, my friend Ann Karlen, the founding director of Fair Food, and I took on the challenge of “breaking down” a pasture-raised hogget, or adolescent sheep. Three hours later, that beast was arrayed before us, a buffet of roasts, chops and stewing meat. 

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Chards of Conversation

It all started after overhearing a conversation in Nepali. The Bhutanese couple behind me on the bus was talking about their first days in America. I had learned bits of the language years ago when I worked on organic farms in Nepal after high school, so I turned around and said, “Namaste.” Almost immediately they asked what I did, begging me to help them find a way to get their hands back in the dirt.

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Return to Power: Why we need a new Benjamin Franklin

At the peak of February’s ice storm, 715,000 households in the Philadelphia region were without power. But is being “without power” the same as being powerless? I live in a Montgomery County neighborhood that has managed to escape weather extremes: no tornadoes, hurricanes or drought-induced wild fires. But icy rain and bitter cold overwhelmed us. Towering trees glazed and shattered. Power lines festooned the streets. Sudden silence fell, leaving thousands of people powerless.  Gov. Tom Corbett and President Barack Obama, in a rare show of accord, declared our region a natural disaster emergency area.

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