I have a bumper sticker on my car that asks, “Who’s Your Farmer?” so I decided to begin a series of articles profiling our local farmers. Meet Amber Parise of Rising Hill Farm.
The past ten years—the last five in particular—has seen a large influx of young farmers in Bucks County. They are passionate about growing healthy, fresh food using sustainable and organic practices. Aren’t we lucky to live here?
Amber Parise, 29 years old, and a native of Bucks County joined this local movement officially last summer when she began a small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm on an acre of land in Ottsville.
“When I was 19 I told people I wanted to be a farmer and they would make a face,” Amber recalls. “Now, not so much.”
Amber has had her hands in the soil her whole life. She grew up on her parents’ 17 acre property in Ottsville and always loved gardening. During high school and college, she worked at several local farms—Peace Tree Farm in Kintersville, Blue Moon Acres in Buckingham, Penn-Vermont Farm in Bedminster and Myerov Family Farm in Perkasie.
“These people helped me define the path that I chose,” Amber says. “In particular, my years working with Neil Myerov at Myerov Family Farm influenced me profoundly.”
Not a surprise then that she got a degree in Agronomy at Delaware Valley University. “I learned a lot at Del Val about so many ways to farm. I had a different picture of what farming was before I went there. There are just so many ways you can do it.”
“Obviously I’m much more on the small-scale using sustainable methods. People ask me, ‘Where’s the tractor?’ And I say, I don’t want to do that, I’m not trying to rip up the soil and destroy what’s under there.”
I asked Amber why she decided to start the farm. “I’ve always been a gardener. My parents instilled that in me when I was young. I’ve been renting since I moved out of here, and I didn’t want to wait for ‘someday’ when I buy a place and have the land to work.”
As we sat at the kitchen table in her parents’ house talking, her 6-year old son, Wakan, was running around playing with his 3-year old cousin, Harper. Grandmom (Jill Parise) was in the mix as well as Amber’s sister.
“I’m one of five sisters—and all have children—and I have two older brothers,” Amber explains. Family members and friends chip in to help her. Her father, John Parise, is a big part of the farm. “Not only is he allowing me to use his land, but he is always around to help with fencing, digging, planning, and harvesting.”
Amber started the CSA last year offering five shares. She hopes to do 10-15 shares this year, as well as selling at the Plumsteadville Grange Farm Market on Saturday mornings.
On only one acre she is growing a lot: peas, radishes, arugula, kale, beans, beets, carrots, greens, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and herbs. CSA members also get to enjoy blueberries, raspberries, elderberries, and fruit from pear, cherry, apple and peach trees.
Her other love is flowers. “Last year we grew zinnias, chamomile, straw flowers, Calendula, cosmos and sunflowers and I plan on adding more varieties this season.”
Amber has two part-time jobs, in addition to running the farm. This is often the case with many farmers. They need the “outside” job to support their real love. ”I could get an agronomy job but that would be 40 hours a week and I wouldn’t have time for this.”
Right now, Amber is spending about ten hours a week working the farm, planting seedlings, and preparing the field. During the summer, that will go up to 20-30 hours per week.
What are her plans for the future? “Slowly keep moving forward. My whole thing is to do it without debt and do it at a pace that I’m not going to burn out. I can do what I want with a few acres. It’s incredible what you can grow in a 10×10 plot. You can grow a lot of food for your whole family, and a 100×100 plot – that’s a lot of food right there.”
“It’s really the only thing I can see doing full-time as a career. On the side I bartend and waitress to pay the bills, but this is really what I want to do.”
Also at the Plumsteadville Grange Farm Market on Saturday mornings 9 am – 12:30 pm beginning May 21, 2016
Want to meet more of your farmers? Here’s a few more posts.
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