Pictured (left to right) are Jeff Leindecker, PA Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff and Director of the Bureau of Farmland Preservation Douglas Wolfgang.
ROCK SPRINGS, Pa. — Jeff Leindecker can remember having a green thumb at the ripe old age of 12. He comes from a long line of farmers, being the seventh generation on his family’s farm in Ohio Township, Pa.
Leindecker developed a passion for gardening and sustainable agriculture by working with his grandfather, Harvey Crawford, who became a full-time farmer at 13 with his father.
Leindecker earned a degree in horticulture from Penn State University. Then, after working in the greenhouse and landscaping industries for a few years, he returned to his family’s farm.
Although his grandfather passed away, Leindecker is keeping the family legacy going by growing vegetables for fresh market sales.
Leindecker received the Century Farm award from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at Ag Progress Days Aug. 18. He was one of four farmers to be recognized for century or bicentennial status.
Other winners were the Rexford C. Russell Farm in Rome, Bradford County, established in 1796; the Harold and Esther Hoffeditz Farm in Mercersburg, Franklin County, established in 1887; and the Anna Lou Oswald and Sons Farm in New Tripoli, Lehigh County, established in 1799.
Besides Leindecker’s Liberty Farm, Allegheny County is home to six century and bicentennial farms.
Liberty Farm was purchased July 22, 1817, by Leindecker’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather, who immigrated from Ireland.
The original 288 acreage was part of the depreciation lands granted to Revolutionary War soldiers, said Leindecker.
(Story continues below photos)
Liberty Farm 1910
Liberty Farm 1930
The land was almost always used for farming, but the 288 acres were eventually divided and sold.
Leindecker’s and his parents’ properties are the only chunks of land still in the family, totaling about seven acres.
So just what does Leindecker’s garden grow? His produce list from early summer to early fall includes: baby spinach, broccoli, peas, radishes, green beans, watermelon, eggplant, peppers, cabbage, lettuce, winter squash, pumpkins and ornamental gourds.
(Story continues below photo)
2009 Liberty Farm produce
This summer has not been without its challenges, Leindecker said.
He was devastated to watch all 200 of his tomato plants be wiped out from tomato blight. Despite such a setback, he remains positive.
“There’s always next year,” he said.
One of his more unique crops was bok choy, a Chinese vegetable similar to cabbage. As Leindecker discovered ways to use the vegetable, he took photos and posted them to Liberty Farm’s Facebook page, which now has more than 80 fans.
Although only in his first growing and selling season, Leindecker has jumped headfirst into marketing.
He participates in a community supported agriculture program, where he sells subscriptions to customers. Subscribers receive e-mail updates about what products are available for purchase.
Leindecker also sells his produce at a stand near his old high school, located at 1105 Rochester Road across from Sir Pizza, as often as three times a week, depending on the weather and his produce.
He hopes to soon set up a farm stand at home, and his goals don’t stop there.
For the time being, Leindecker works a full-time job as a landscaper. He would like to have the farm be his only source of income within three or four years.
Located so close to Pittsburgh, Leindecker believes he can establish a successful niche market.
And although the prospect of owning a successful small business is exciting to Leindecker, what drives him the most is his passion for the land and making things grow.
“I’m still amazed that you can plant a seed in the spring and get food from it,” he said.
Liberty Farm photos provided by Jeff Leindecker