Port Farms to host eclipse-themed event

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(From left to right) Sean Lally, Steve Dusicsko, Kelly Port, Casey Dusicsko, Jerry Port, Halle Specht and Stephen Port celebrate after a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of Poverty Knob Farmhouse Ales. (Submitted photo)

WATERFORD, Pa. — Since Port Farms opened in 1897, it has undergone numerous changes. From beginning with potato crops in the late 19th century to expanding into soybeans and dairy cattle in the mid-20th century, now the farm functions as a multi-faceted agritourism destination with event spaces, educational field trips and a brewery.

Port Farms event and festival season typically runs from late summer to the beginning of winter, but this spring they are opening their doors early for the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse coming to Erie, Pennsylvania on April 8.

Port Farms is in the path of totality and is hosting an Eclipse on the Farm event on April 8 that will feature live music, games, goats, eclipse-themed beer flights and more.

“It’s a one-stop shop for the entire day, (we’re) combining our two locations, our farm and brewery,” said Emily Watson, director of marketing at Port Farms. “We really have something for everyone.”

Port Farms transition

Port Farms originally started as a potato farm in 1897. The farm operation eventually expanded to raise livestock like chickens and dairy cows in the early 20th century. It wasn’t until fourth-generation owners Jerry and Kelly Port started purchasing parts of the farm from Jerry’s father in the late 1980s and 90s that agritourism entered the conversation.

In the 90s, Port Farms transitioned from growing potatoes to soybeans and corn. However, around this time, the dairy industry started taking a downward spiral for the Ports’ and their income began to drop.

As a result, they needed to come up with creative ways to “bridge the gap,” said Kelly Port, co-owner of Port Farms.

In 2003, Jerry and Kelly attended a Christmas tree seminar at Penn State University where they received recommendations to grow pumpkins, wildflowers and other retail products alongside Christmas trees.

Port Farms
Port Farms hosts flower festivals every August where guests get to pick flowers. (Submitted photo)

They went back to the farm and set up a little shack to sell home-cooked food like pulled pork, hamburgers and chocolate chip cookies. The shack would be the start of their retail empire which would expand into Port Farms’ annual Flower Festival, Fall Harvest and Country Christmas celebrations.

In 2002, Kelly also started experimenting with another idea: education. She got the idea after visiting her son and daughter’s school to give a talk on what farmers do. She quickly realized none of the kids in the classroom had an idea of where their food came from.

To educate the kids, Port Farms began hosting farm field trips and now they host 7,000 tours each season. Kelly says the tours haven’t just benefited the kids though.

“We have a lot of little kids here, but what was really awesome is it brought their parents in too, and a lot of those people do not know where their food comes from,” said Kelly.

Port Farms
Port Farms offers school field trips to educate kids on where their food comes from. (Submitted photo)

Brewery

In addition to Port Farms festivals, event space and educational field trips, they also opened an on-farm brewery, Poverty Knob Farmhouse Ales, in November 2023.

The name originates from a portion of the land Jerry’s grandmother Beatrice Port called “Poverty Knob” because of its lack of crop production due to dry ground and constant groundhog infestations.

The Poverty Knob Farmhouse Ales building was originally built to store potatoes and eventually, corn and soybeans. Now, it’s home to a 10-barrel brewhouse with a production area and taphouse.

From the start, Jerry and Kelly wanted to incorporate locally grown foods into their beer.

Already, they have used some of Port Farms’ pumpkins for a fall harvest ale and nearby a farm’s peaches for a sour ale.

Despite the upkeep required for a farm tourist space, Kelly says the benefit of expanding to agri-tourism over the years has been the more consistent paycheck.

“When you get a check in July for your wheat and then you get a check in October or November for your beans, you really have to manage your money well,” Kelly said. “This has given us the opportunity to have some income in off seasons, have income year-round as opposed to two times a year.”

Eclipse event

Port Farms will host an Eclipse on the Farm event on April 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will have attractions like feeding goats, rope courses, jumping pillows, ball zones, etc.

The brewery will also feature eclipse-themed beer flights and live music from several different musicians and DJs throughout the day.

The Poverty Knob Farmhouse Ales will be open and serving food alongside food trucks.

Leading up to April 8, Port Farms will host a plethora of other activities and live music the weekend before. Guests will also be able to camp at Port Farms over the weekend starting on April 6.

The entire solar eclipse on the farm will last roughly 2 hours and 28 minutes and totality will begin at 3:16 p.m. and end at 3:19 p.m. The first 1,000 guests will receive complimentary eclipse glasses.

“We have a unique place where we have lots of parking, we have attractions and we have (an) unobstructed view, not city lights,” said Watson.

To attend the event, ticket purchases are required. Ticket prices range from $75 to $250 depending on the length of stay. For more information on the event, visit simpletix.com/e/eclipse-on-the-farm-tickets-157479.

Related article: Businesses capitalize on solar eclipse with themed events

(Liz Partsch can be reached at epartsch@farmanddairy.com or 330-337-3419.)

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