The Seed Farm

The Seed Farm

Cultivating new farmers when we need them most


Thanks to a special conservation program that began in Pennsylvania 30 years ago—one that helps limit development on farmland—Lehigh County has now preserved over 23,000 fertile acres on more than 300 farms, in perpetuity.

But over the years, as the amount of preserved land grew, there was a new challenge: finding farmers to actually cultivate it at a time when people were getting out of farming. The solution: a farmer training program called The Seed Farm, on a 44-acre stretch of county-owned property in Emmaus.

“The Seed Farm was formed as an effort to make sure there were new farmers ready to take over the land,” says Lindsey Parks, who serves as executive director. The program started as a collaboration between Lehigh County and the Penn State Extension in 2007, and was incorporated as a non-profit in 2010. 

This year, The Seed Farm is supporting three new farms as part of its farm incubator program, in addition to running a workshare training program for people who want to get a taste of farming without fully committing. The workshare program grows produce for a community supported agriculture (CSA) program for employees of St. Luke’s Hospital Network.

A Space for Farmers Without Land

The farm incubator helps aspiring farmers overcome what can be a big barrier to entry if you don’t come from a farming background—access to land, equipment, and guidance. Participants can lease land cheaply, rent out tractors, and access greenhouse and cooler space without needing a lot of cash up front.   

After a few years of building up a customer base and working out the kinks with the farm manager’s help, they’re then ready to move onto a more permanent location.

Traditionally, the farms in the incubator program have been focused on small-scale vegetable production. But this year, The Seed Farm sought to diversify the types of farm businesses they hosted and wound up with two cut-flower farms and a beekeeper who wants to produce mead. 

“I have been so excited to see the local flower industry growing like it has,” Parks says. “Until recently, you’d only see vegetable growers with a small section of flowers at farmers’ markets. But the popularity of locally grown flowers has grown so quickly that we’re seeing businesses that are totally focused on that. 

“That’s what’s exciting about being part of the Lehigh Valley local food system—people are so involved and excited to be supporting local farmers that these opportunities open up so quickly.”

Many Changes Ahead

The services The Seed Farm offers have evolved quite a bit during its short history, as they’ve experimented with how to best provide resources to future farmers while operating on a shoestring budget. 

Previously, The Seed Farm offered an intensive apprenticeship training program. About 30 students have graduated from the program and an impressive 17 now own or manage their own farms, while others have gone on to work in farm-related industries.

The farm incubator helps aspiring farmers overcome a big barrier to entry

But in 2016, the apprenticeship program ended after it became too difficult to compete with other organizations offering similar programs for which participants didn’t need to pay tuition. “The programs we offer are quite resource intensive, but we currently only have two staff members, so it’s difficult to access the money we need for this type of production,” Parks says.

In June, The Seed Farm announced plans to become a part of the Community Action Committee of Lehigh Valley (CACLV), which runs the Second Harvest Food Bank, to help ensure that the organization can continue its mission. The new partnership, which will likely be approved this fall, could provide many new opportunities for The Seed Farm, including working with urban farms in Allentown, creating farm programs for kids, and growing produce for the food bank. 

“There are so many opportunities for feeding people in the Lehigh Valley that—up to this point—we haven’t been able to focus on. We’re looking forward to working with the food bank to open up that communication between farmers and lower-resource communities,” Parks says.

How to Support The Seed Farm

The Seed Farm has one major fundraising event every fall: a fun, fancy, farm-to-table dinner in one of their greenhouses, featuring gourmet food cooked by local chefs. This year’s dinner is on November 11, 2018, and features silent and live auctions where you can bid on everything from art to jewelry to gift certificates to specialty dinners. (Buy tickets online at

Parks also loves inviting community organizations to host events at the farm. In the past, they’ve had popular outdoor theater productions and yoga workshops.

“There’s so much potential and so much that can be done here. If you have some kind of event or workshop that you want to offer to the public, we’re here as a resource for that.”

Check it out!
The Seed Farm is actually a park that’s open to the public. Visit from sunup until sundown to walk the property or go fishing in the pond. 5854 Vera Cruz Rd, Emmaus

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