The Sandy Ridge Farm Brings Back a Simpler Way of Living
by Linda Sechrist
At Touhill’s Sandy Ridge Farm, in Doylestown, the two-legged and four-legged residents all have purposeful work to do. The goats clear the brush; the chickens help prepare the ground for planting by eating grubs and insects that are bad for crops; the sheep keep the grass mowed; dad wears lots of hats; and mom home schools the kids, with the age-appropriate ones helping where they are needed. “Even the miniature donkey does his share by looking cute and greeting visitors to our farm market,” says Shawn Touhill.
The surrounding community was happy when they discovered that Touhill intended to turn his 10 acres into the first “new” farm in the Doylestown area within decades. Up until 2006, when he and his wife purchased their land, developers and builders generally bought any available terra firma for residential or commercial development projects. “My wife and I wanted this land for several reasons—for our children to have a valuable and respected trade through which they can cultivate various important skills, and as a simple way of living that takes us all back to our roots,” says Touhill.
Prior to farming, Touhill’s experience spanned a number of different subjects, but agriculture wasn’t one of them. A Renaissance man of sorts, he was able to transfer his knowledge of horticulture and adapt a multitude of life skills that he learned from renovating and restoring houses. “My wife and I completed a number of projects in the area that are considered adaptive reuse projects. For instance, we restored the Oscar Hammerstein II home in Doylestown and turned a vacant funeral home in a nearby town into retail shops. Our work to convert our 10 acres into a farm and a farm market, as well as creating and organizing the Bucks County Food Guild, has allowed us to use all the skills we had previously learned, plus new ones,” explains Touhill.
The Touhills grow a wide range of produce naturally—free of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers—and are preparing for organic certification. Because the land was not previously farmed, there is no three-year conversion process. Farm market customers and members of the Bucks County Food Guild await news of the daily harvest, which is posted on the Sandy Ridge Farm Market Facebook page. “The guild concept is a result of many requests from our customers for a CSA, which doesn’t fit our present model but it could be something we consider in the future. We felt that the guild concept was better because it gives customers more flexibility to choose from a larger variety of food items and produce rather than relying only on what a single farmer has in his harvest,” explains Touhill. For example, at their discretion, guild customers can spend their pre-paid subscription fee on grassfed meats, eggs, produce, raw milk, honey, baked goods and other items. At any one of the three levels, the affordable fee can readily compare with the cost of groceries at any public market, where “fresh” is sometimes a marketing term. The guild consists of 50 different local producers that also grow naturally, without GMO seed or antibiotics.
Reminiscent of times past, when life was less complex and moved at a slower pace, the Touhill’s farm and market are based on the same values that guide their lives. “It’s good to have meaningful work and be of service to others. It’s also simpler to have as much as possible under one roof, and to gather as frequently as possible in a place where you can share life with family and friends,” enthuses Touhill.
925 Sandy Ridge Rd., Doylestown. For more information, call 215-340-1042 or visit SandyRidgeFarmMarket.com, July 2013.