The past 8 months have been a wild ride! Plunging headfirst into the monumental task of starting her own farm/business alone- at the most difficult time of the year- just when winter was set to arrive- Moriah has emerged from the storms (both physical and metaphorical!) with lessons learned and resolve intact to be a careful, loving steward the land … But some adjustments to the dream had to be made…
Moriah Bilenky, owner, manager, and sole employee of Moriah's Horse Powered Farm grew up in a suburb outside of Philadelphia. Though not raised on a farm and with little idea of what farm life meant, at the age of 10, Moriah knew she wanted to live on a farm and be a farmer. She started out working with horses by walking down the road every day to a neighbor who had a pony and cleaning out the pony’s stall in hopes for a work/trade-to-ride situation. Every once in a while, that day would come, but, in between, Moriah would muck the stalls, do yard work, take care of the ducks, and fix fence just to enjoy the smell of horse. Moriah did all she could to be involved with horses, even if it took just showing up at a stable and picking up a pitch fork to offer free labor in exchange for just getting to be there. In this way, by age 16 she had worked her way up to Stable Manager at Tyler Park Stables. She stayed there till she graduated from high school.
After searching long and hard for a way to learn more about farming while also getting an education with minimal classroom time, Moriah headed out to Nebraska to attend Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA). There she gained a foundation in farming that would eventually lead to where she is today. At NCTA Moriah majored in Agronomy. She was one of two Pennsylvanians at the school and the only one from a "large" city. She was also one of only two girls in the Agronomy program. It took a while for her to be accepted and for her to fit in and be taken seriously. At NCTA Moriah actively worked to increase her farming knowledge by taking on a farm practicum in her first semester as well as a crop project. Both involved operating farm equipment for the first time and many other firsts. Moriah also did an internship at the school farm her first summer. During this two-year period, Moriah learned how to plant wheat with a no-till drill, plant corn and soybeans with a 12 row planter, disc a field in preparation for planting hay, plant that hay, harvest that corn and wheat with a combine, lay pipe for irrigation, and a little bit about feeding and raising beef cattle. After graduating from NCTA with an Associate of Science in Agronomy Moriah realized school wasn't so bad and decided to continue her education in the Midwest at Iowa State University. Moriah majored in Global Resource Systems and Horticulture with an emphasis on fruit and vegetable production and management. She traveled to Nicaragua and learned about permaculture design and to Costa Rica to study tropical crop production. In between sessions she came home and received an internship at Pennypack Farm and Education Center, a 360 member, organic vegetable CSA. Moriah received hands-on experience on the subjects she had been studying at school- This was just the push she needed to get more involved in the science of vegetable production. The following semester, Moriah was hired in the vegetable production lab at Iowa State where she worked for the last two years of her college career.
Upon graduation, Moriah was on the fence about which way she wanted her career to go. Should she stay in Iowa and accept the fellowship for grad school her professor had offered her? Find a job that involved her Global Resource Systems degree that would take her abroad again? Or something else? Moriah felt it would be something else. She turned down the fellowship and took a job back home at Pennypack Farm and Education Center as a seasonal farmer. During the drive home from Iowa, as she crossed into Pennsylvania, it all came rushing back to her- all she knew and wanted when she was 10- only more informed and more sure. In her home state, she would start her own farm- the most honorable profession she believed a person could do, grow food for people.
During her season a Pennypack farm Moriah created a clearer picture about her farm and what it would look like. After a visit to Natural Roots Farm, a horsepowered CSA in Massachusetts, Moriah's picture was even clearer. She would bring her two lifelong passions together, farming and horses. Moriah would be part of the growing wave of young farmers taking an old style of farming and making it new. By mid-season Moriah set her sights on starting her own operation by 2015 and using horsepower. She set out on a search for land, After long nights on the internet, cold calls to landowners, following any lead she could, Moriah found the 10 acres she is leasing now. She collected equipment, moved onto the property in November, the horses arrived and it seemed that all that was missing was a few supplies! The winter of 2014/15 was a harsh and sometimes cruel teacher. But this first harvest is full of promise and it has brought hope and new ideas. Although she has discovered the need of a tractor and some accompanying implements at this time, a wiser, stronger Moriah is as determined as ever to grow produce for the community sustainably, responsibly, and organically.
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