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Blue Berwyn Farm: The secret’s in the size

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Posted on: August 11, 2021

By A.R. Cabral

Tucked away in a cozy neighborhood in Berwyn Heights, this fully operational urban farm could be mistaken for an impressive garden — but it’s home to much more than that. On only a tenth of an acre of front lawn, Stephanie Young and her husband, Alex Lopatka, are running a full-fledged produce and flower farm.

Alex Lopatka and Stephanie Young of Blue Berwyn Farm at the Hollywood Farmers Market in July.
Credit: A.R. Cabral

“So the property itself is about a fifth or a sixth of an acre,” said Young. “And the farm space is about a tenth of an acre. A lot of people in the farming community don’t have beds that are as closely spaced as ours, or room to move around in. We pack everything really close together.”

Seventy-two tomato plants, 36 pepper plants and 50 feet of cucumber plants fill some of the neatly organized beds you’ll find on the property. The farm sells fresh produce during the spring, summer and fall, and Young and Lopatka grow everything themselves.

“We started growing food for ourselves and got interested in expanding because we really enjoyed the whole process,” said Lopatka. “After we expanded to the point where we couldn’t eat all the food ourselves we started this actual business.”

Blue Berwyn Farm at the Hollywood Farmers Market in July.
Credit: A.R. Cabral

The couple met in grad school at the University of Maryland. Young studied applied mathematics and scientific computing and Lopatka studied geology. Both value sustainability and the environment, according to Young.

After graduation, the couple got married, and Young took up gardening — something she’d been passionate about since her childhood in Brattleboro, Vt. They moved to College Park in 2013, and then to Berwyn Heights in 2016. It was there that their new garden blossomed.

“We quickly had more food than we knew what to do with so that’s when we started selling in front of our house in 2020,” Lopatka wrote. “That was very successful so that led us in the Fall, after the growing season, to think about how we wanted to expand and what we wanted to sell.”

The couple founded Blue Berwyn Farm last summer. They sell through a subscription service and at the local farmers market, Young said.

Their subscription service is a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. Subscribers receive a weekly bundle of seasonally available produce. They offer three CSA periods which are each nine weeks for a total of 27 weeks for someone who subscribes for the entire season.

“It’s about $25 a week, we try to give more than $25 worth of produce every week,” wrote Young. “What we have changes depending on what is available. This week we had leeks and we had our slicing tomatoes. A few months from now they will be getting lettuce or spinach or something like that.”

Young and Lopatka grow flowers, too, and offer a flower CSA.

You can always find Young and Lopatka at the Hollywood Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Young’s love of everything local is firmly rooted in her Vermont upbringing; she remembers picking blueberries at the farm down the street and having neighbors who made their own maple syrup.

Credit: A.R. Cabral

“So to me it was very important to be able to provide food locally,” Young wrote. “I don’t want to grow here, in the Berwyn Heights area, and take vegetables to another county. … I want to sell here to my neighbors to the people I know.”

And those neighbors come out to support the farm, too. Shoppers line up throughout the morning for Blue Berwyn’s produce.

“Last week we came and tried some ground cherries from Blue Berwyn Farm and they were great!” said Kelsey Mohler, whose 3-year-old daughter enthusiastically agreed with her.

Julia Beavers, market manager at the Hollywood Farmers Market, said that these markets exist to showcase local farmers and crafters.

Credit: A.R. Cabralau

Beavers is a fan of Blue Berwyn Farm. “They are always on time and their stuff is fresh,” she said. “They know what they are growing, they can talk about what they’re growing and how they are making it. The produce is fresh: it’s crisp.”

That crisp produce is the result of hard work and attention to detail. Though the farm’s fruits and vegetables are not USDA certified as organic, Young said that none of their plants are ever sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Instead, Young and Lopatka use natural pest management methods to sustain their healthy beds.

Even as busy farmers, Young and Lopatka make a point of being neighbors, too. They hope to make their community feel more whole.

“I tell people here [at the market] on Saturday [to] come see us at the farm tomorrow, it’s two miles away,” said Young. “We are literally your neighbors. To know the people you buy food from is really important to me.”

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