The Poconos largest foray into organic farming opened its doors Thursday, June 18. Sprawled over 381 acres in Long Pond, Pocono Organics may be one of the largest public-facing regenerative organic farms in North America.
The operation, which is partnered with the Rodale Institute, was inspired by founder Ashley Walsh’s struggle with gastroparesis, a condition that impacts stomach muslces and prevents patients from digesting food properly. Walsh described her powerful results of using organic foods as medicine.
"The doctors told me that they could help me by cutting out parts of my stomach and using feeding tubes," Walsh said. "Those weren’t options I was willing to accept and so started my journey with organic foods."
"Instead of being sick five days a week, I was sick five days a month."
Local lawmakers Mario Scavello (R-40), Jack Rader (R-176), Rosemary Brown (R-189) and Maureen Madden (D-115) were on hand at the grand opening ceremony, touting the farm’s efforts to improve the surrounding community.
"Shortly after getting elected, I met with Ashley and learned of her medical journey and having a similar story, I followed this from the beginning," Madden said. According to Madden, funding from the multimillion-dollar Pennsylvania Agriculture Bill was used to employ veterans at farms such as Pocono Organics.
"It’s just an amazing project to have in our community that we can all benefit from. It’s wonderful to have a community partner that is always looking for ways to enhance and involve and improve our community." Madden said.
In addition to the agricultural arm of the operation are a market and café located inside the 30,000-square foot packaging and processing facility. The facility, along with its greenhouses, were designed to reclaim rainwater to irrigate greenhouse crops. The farm also draws power from a nearby 3-megawatt, 25-acre solar farm which also powers the Pocono Raceway.
Visitors can learn about the soil-to-seed-to-plate journey of their food while at the farm café. Fresh from the farm produce as well as organic meat products and pre-made dishes can be found in their market. The property also includes an event space to engage the local community and agritourists with special events and a calendar of workshops, educational classes, wellness events and more.
"We are currently growing 20 acres of hemp for our CBG and CBD products and will be also providing fiber hemp for textiles," said Jonathan Skaro, Pocono Organics Farm Director. "We hope to soon get into the cannabis, marijuana business as well."
"We know that the future is organic and we want to help people reach healthier food grown locally." said Walsh.