Taking a farm vacation in Bradford County: People from all over the world stay at Berry Fields Farm in Overton Township
BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN
OVERTON TOWNSHIP -
In 2009, the New York Times published a story about the 44 "most compelling destinations" for tourists to go to that year.
The destinations cited in the article included Hawaii, Vienna, and the castles in Great Britain.
One of the 44 destinations happened to be in Bradford County, Pa. It was the Berry Fields Farm in Overton Township.
The farm was also featured on NBC's Today Show several years ago, after the producers of the television show saw the New York Times article, said Charles Gerlach, co-owner of the farm.
The 51-acre farm, which has a guest house that can accommodate up to 10 people and an apartment that can lodge up to seven, offers an opportunity for the public to have a "true farm experience' while on vacation, he said.
"They come and see what we do," he said. "It's extremely hard work."
Lodgers have the option of doing farm chores, if they wish, he said.
"The kids usually love it (the chores)," he said. "They will collect (chicken) eggs, and play with cats and rabbits. There are a lot of things to do and enjoy."
Partly because of the publicity the farm has received, people from all over the world - including South America, Europe, China and Japan - will book a stay at the farm when they travel to the United States, he said.
But another reason they chose to come is that the Berry Fields Farm is a sustainable organic farm, he said.
Sustainable means that the farm is operated in a way to meet the needs of those living now, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, according to the Gerlachs.
"We belong to the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association," which is a resource for people who are interested in finding a farm to take a vacation at, "and we're probably the only farm in the association that is organic," Charles Gelach said.
The rest of the farms that are members of the association are probably conventional farms, he said.
The farm also operates a dining room, where the public can dine on weekends if they make a reservation, said Gerlach and his wife, Barbara.
The dining experience at the Berry Fields Farm is "farm to table," he said.
Gerlach explained that his wife will pick vegetables and fruit grown on the farm, which are used the same day to prepare meals in the dining room.
"You can't beat that," he said.
Most ingredients used in the food that are served in the dining room are grown on the farm or are products purchased by the farm that are certified organic, according to the farm's website.
"Everything we do here is organic," Charles Gerlach said. "We use no sprays, nothing toxic, for anything," he said.
The livestock on the farm feed in pastures, and they are not given growth hormones or antibiotics, the Gerlachs said.
The farm, which is on the side of K-hill mountain, also features a 40-mile view to Wyoming and Luzerne counties.
Among the activities that guests enjoy are picking blueberries in the farm's 2-acre blueberry patch, collecting sap from maple trees, and having campfires, the Gerlachs said.
Charles Gerlach said he purchased the farm 47 years ago.
While there had been a farm on the site 100 years ago, it was overgrown at the time he bought it, he said.
Charles Gerlach, who lived south of York, Pa., where he designed and built homes, would come up to the property on weekends to clear the land and develop the farm.
He said he built all the buildings on the farm.
"We (Charles Gerlach and his wife) had no farming background or experience" before developing the farm, Charles Gerlach stated, according to literature distributed by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. "We had a lot to learn."
Charles and Barbara Gerlach learned a lot about agriculture through PASA, according to the PASA literature.
Barbara Gerlach currently serves on PASA's board of directors.
Erin Meunier, who lives in northern Virginia and who was staying on Saturday at the farm, said it was the third time that her family has stayed there.
"It's a little slice of heaven up here," she said.
Although she is staying on a farm, "this is modern living," she said.
Meunier explained that the apartment she is staying in has a full kitchen with a dishwasher, a satellite television, a gas fireplace, cell phone service, and WiFi.
Meunier's 9-year-old daughter said she had a lot of fun planting peas and enjoys petting the cats and rabbits.
Erin Meunier said she and her family will make day trips from the farm to locations such as World's End State Park and Knoebels Amusement Park.
Erin Meunier said that, while staying at the farm, she cooks with fresh farm products from the Berry Fields Farm.
For example on Saturday, she was planning to cook rigatoni that day using an onion, pepper, and ground beef, which all was produced at the farm.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org