Cathy Thompson Bowers added 2 new photos Rotary meeting held at Episcopal Church, Coudersport, Pa.
COUDERSPORT ROTARY CLUB NEWS - JAN. 9, 2017
Sergeant at Arms, Jim Plotts, introduced his guest speaker, Sharon Fitzgerald, owner of Fitzgerald Family Farm located in Coudersport, PA.
The Fitzgerald Family Farm is a family business associated with agriculture. Sharon is also a Veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Her occupation is mom, wife, farmer, substitute teacher, and is involved with many community activities. She is also Rotary’s 2017-2018 Secretary elect.
After 20+ years of moving around the world with the U.S. Air Force, Sharon’s husband, children and she decided to settle here in north central PA. They did not intend to become maple sugar producers or anything specific. There greatest desire was to have a safe and healthy environment to raise their children and get away from the city.
After settling down in Potter County, the family decided to start the Fitzgerald Family Farm. This was a day-by-day adventure for the whole family as they slowing began getting in to different aspects of agriculture. Their business kept growing and growing as they became interested in various adventures.
They are involved with maple syrup producing, making honey; raising Idaho pastured pigs, raising Bourbon Red turkeys and growing organic fruits and vegetables. They started out with just a few chickens and that was like a “gateway” animal. Before they knew it, they had many chickens, which later began laying many eggs. They decided to start selling their eggs.
Later, they entered a High Tunnel program that assists with agriculture programs. They erected a 26’ wide by 96’ long tunnel in their back yard for growing many agriculture products. The tunnel is not heated, however it extends their growing season by approximately 3-4 weeks at either end. Sharon stated that one could grow just about anything in a high tunnel, such as flowers, parsley, radishes, and a variety of vegetables.
With such a large tunnel, they had more room than they needed, so they set up an irrigation system, collecting rain water off the roof of the tunnel .The water goes in to gutters that go in to tanks, so they have irrigation throughout the entire tunnel.
Having so many vegetables Sharon began going to the Farmer’s Market in order to sell their produce. Unfortunately, in this area one does not get too much of a turn out. At times, they had 20 people a week and there were other vendors competing with each other. After 6-7 years, Sharon decided to have her produce available for her neighbors, which was more cost effective and cost efficient.
Sharon’s husband began having conversations with a Maple Syrup producer and the producer introduced them to maple syrup. They began tapping trees using the blue tubing system. The tree sap runs through the tubing and ultimately ends up at a large collection tank. In the beginning, they just collected the sap and sold the sap to the producer. Later, they decided to buy their own evaporator, build a sugar-house and began making their own maple syrup. Now, they have a wonderful agriculture business of organic fruits and vegetables, as well as other products, i.e.,
• Honey bees – they are honey producers with about 15 hives.
• They raise Idaho Pasture Pigs – they are a smaller pig and they do not root as a regular pig. They eat grass and the grass where they walk is the only place gets disturbed.
• They also raise Bourbon Red Turkeys.
• They sell their own eggs.
• Horses (for pleasure) – this is Sharon’s first love. She told the club that she loves her horses and has four of them and loves to ride.
One can buy the Fitzgerald honey and maple syrup at the Cream & Sugar and PCO (Potter County Outfitters), both businesses located in Coudersport, or at their home at 144 Snowman Rd., Coudersport, PA.
Thank you to Sharon Fitzgerald and the Fitzgerald Family Farm for bring such a wonderful agriculture business to Potter County. Your home- grown honey, “real” maple syrup, organic fruits and vegetables, and variety of poultry, Bourbon Red Turkeys and Idaho pasture pigs is an asset to everyone.
“The high tunnel system is a conservation practice available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or the Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) program. For more information about program eligibility, how to apply, and payment rates, visit the PA Financial Assistance page or contact your local office. To find your local office visit http://offices.usda.gov.”