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"Thirsty for Good Vibes Thursday"

Part 1: Rappelkeppi Farm, Kutztown, PA

Photo courtesy of Erin Orben 2020

Rappelkeppi Farm is a beautiful, certified-organic farm located in Kutztown, PA. It is the pride and joy of the Orben family. They offer a variety of fresh, organic produce and herbs. Their farm stand also provides provisions from other local farms and businesses. Some other delicious items include mushrooms from Primordia Farm, coffee, vegan cookies and baked goods, and other seasonal plant-based treats.

{Pennsylvania-German Dictionary} Rappelkeppi: obstinate, stubborn, rebellious

Thirsty for Good Vibes Thursday: Part 1. Rappelkeppi Farm

In my search for Good Vibes, I will be interviewing local families, businesses, and organizations who advocate for environmental and agricultural literacy and conservation, encourage nature-based education and play, enlighten those around them with meditation and mindfulness practices, and collaborate with others to share talents and gifts that inspire positivity.

“As for farming...'You gotta wanna.' It is a lot of hard work and I wear a lot of hats—literally and figuratively!”

The bio from the website reads:

"We are the Orbens: Chris and Erin, plus two young sons and a sweet old dog. We grow organic vegetables on our farm in Kutztown PA — which we are lucky enough to call home. We are inspired by rebels — both subtle and overt. Sometimes it takes a great deal of stubbornness to follow a dream, accomplish a goal or make positive change. In fact, the previous owners of our farm were just this way. Paying tribute to this spirit and homage to the farm’s Pennsylvania Dutch history are part of what Rappelkeppi is all about.

What drew us to farming from other careers is hard to narrow down, but between the beautiful sunsets over the hilltops, the comfort and freshness of a home-grown meal, and the opportunity for our boys to learn from nature every day – everyone who visits seems to understand. It just makes sense for us.

Above all, we love the self-reliance and even defiance of growing our own food. You may notice that we do not produce or sell animal products (meats, dairy, eggs, etc.) We are a family of happy herbivores, and choose to share foods that we love and enjoy. Whatever role plants play in your diet, we hope you will take home a feeling of connectivity – soil health, nutrient-rich food, nourishing meals, strong bodies, happy hearts, empowered minds. As parents, we are very aware of our planet’s uncertain future. We believe that the best way to make change is to stop being an individual, so we invite you to share these simple yet powerful plants with us! Food is best shared in community, and ours is open to everyone. Let’s all learn from each other."

All photos courtesy of Erin Orben, Rappelkeppi Farm

Above (L to R): Some delicious example of tomatoes, herbs, potatoes, and eggplants available at the farm stand and local Farmers' Markets. The barn has been updated with beautiful new hex signs. I will personally advocate for this organic peaches-and-cream variety of sweet corn, mark your calendars, it is scrumptious.


So Erin, you're a mother of two young children and you recently moved onto a decent-sized farm. Why now? Why this farm?

Erin: Chris, my husband, has wanted to farm for years and had been working on the financials for quite some time. He had his mind set on a large property, where as I would have been open to a much smaller farm since we are beginners. In the end, I guess you could say we found this farm shortly after opening our minds to more possibilities. We found this farm online and it seemed too good to be true—organic, fully restored house, solar panels, and within a reasonable distance from family and schools. Most importantly— it is a beautiful and diverse property with strong out buildings, fields, meadows, forest, creeks, and views galore. Every day I pinch myself.

What steps were necessary to make this transition?

Chris worked tirelessly contacting banks and completing loan applications, a detailed business plan, etc. After that there was a period of waiting for everything to be approved. Then it was a matter of moving in and starting everything from the ground up. The previous owners had retired from farming, so most of the land was in a preservation program. Luckily, they had maintained organic standards all those years, so we were able to update the organic certification without a transitional period. We built a greenhouse, carved out fields, and did everything from scratch.

What inspired you to make this move now (then)?

I was inspired by my husband's dream and dedication to making it happen. It was incredibly scary to move out of our comfort zone in the convenient suburbs, minutes away from grandparents, stores, parks, all to start a new [to me] line of work. We just simply had to move through the fear and keep leaning into the new challenges.

"We just simply had to move through the fear and keep leaning into the new challenges."

It has been nearly a year, what are some challenges and champion moments you have experienced on this new path?

The general lifestyle challenges were the biggest adjustment. We used to live in the suburbs, minutes away from everything and everyone. Now we are more remote, but we actually love it. Covid19 was a challenge for obvious reasons, but it was a blessing in disguise because I was able to focus on building this business rather than constantly driving my kids around [sports, playdates, parks, classes, etc].

Some champion moments included building a hoop house by ourselves and getting our produce into some of our favorite places to eat: Hive in Kutztown, Firefly Café in Boyertown, and Healthy Alternatives in Trexlertown. We also started working with a new [to us] café in Wyomissing called Greenhouse Café. These places took a chance on us and we could not be more grateful.

Some of us might be wondering, what is your educational background? What were you doing before you became a farmer? Did you have experience or training in farm life before this transition? How did you prepare yourself for this new lifestyle?

I have a BS in Psychology from the University of Scranton and an M.Ed. in Secondary School Counseling from Lehigh University. In addition to working as a school counselor, I also worked in a wrap-around and outpatient setting providing behavioral therapy and counseling services. After having my first baby I worked at Ju-ju Monkey, a natural parenting store which along with cloth diapering my children, exposed me to a local network of parents who all had knowledge about holistic care, environmentally friendly products and practices, etc. Before moving to the farm I was a stay at home mom for about four years, working part-time from home as an office assistant.

No, I personally did not [have experience, take courses or training in farm life]. My husband had a lot of farm training and also was solely responsible for our lovely home garden in our previous home. I like to say that I am along for the ride, but that it is a great ride to be on! I also think that we can all give ourselves more credit and trust that we can adapt, learn as we go, and apply skills from previous jobs or careers to new paths.

So, I know you are a certified Organic farm. Many people have varying opinions on the Organic label. Have you found additional challenges to maintain the Organic certification or not since you started off on the right foot?

There are challenges because, though we would do a lot of similarly even if we weren't certified, you constantly have to check the lists of approved products. There is a LOT of paperwork and note keeping, but I suppose most of that is good practice for any kind of business. We were extremely lucky that we never had to do the transition ourselves, it had already been done.

Everyday, I pinch myself.”

What tips of advice could you share with others who want to become more sustainable or even work on or own a farm?

I really think you need to open your mind, even just a crack, to some uncomfortable truths. There is going to be something that resonates with you, whether it be from a documentary, article, whatever. Learn from it, make a small change, and see where that takes you. For me it was watching a documentary YEARS ago called "Vegucated." I had been curious about a vegan diet as I was already dairy free due to health issues. In that movie I learned that switching to a vegan diet from a standard American one can reduce your carbon footprint MORE than switching to a hybrid car. That stuck with me because it was a change I could make without spending any additional money or telling a soul. That became a ripple effect: paying attention to the impact of my food choices, cloth diapering, growing our own vegetables, supporting local businesses, as many reusable products as possible. Start somewhere that is meaningful to you and be open to learning. Even now as a vegan and an organic farmer, I would NEVER consider myself an expert on all things environment/sustainability. We all have to be open to constant learning.

As for farming – as the saying goes, “you gotta wanna.” It is a lot of work and I wear a lot of hats (literally and figuratively!) I could not have done any of this without my husband, who seems to pull the knowledge and capability out of thin air. If that person is you, or if you have that person in your life, then go for it.

What types of support systems are necessary to run a farm with small children?

I imagine it depends on the type of farming, but COVID has really showed us that we can accomplish pretty much anything we need to get done with their company [our young children]. It is not always easy, but so far we haven't had any MAJOR issues. Our boys were 4 and 6 when we started, and they have grown a lot this year. I think if we had toddlers or babies it would be a completely different story and we would definitely have needed more hands-on help around here.

What types of food and services do you offer now? How would you consider growing in the next five years?

We currently grow a variety of produce and will be selling that through our new CSA program as well as at a local market or two. We will also continue to work with local cafés. In addition, we just finished selling off a barn full of hay, and we have other field crops (corn, soy, etc.)

Goals for the next few years include diversifying: maybe growing pumpkins (we tried last year but it didn’t go well, back to the drawing board,) flax, fruit trees and/or bushes, maybe even hemp! We would also like to start hosting events and maybe even establish a rentable campsite.

Would you be receptive to hosting courses or workshops or collaborating with people who offer those things now but have no place to meet?


What are your plans or hopes for the future?

I would like this to become an event space of sorts, but it’s a tricky balance since this farm is also our family residence. We would also like to diversify in terms of what we grow. There are a lot of irons in the fire, but for now we are taking new steps one at a time (CSA, markets).

Another goal that is very important to us is to find buyers for the row crops who would use our goods to feed humans. We really want to move away from those crops feeding animals who will become food for people. It is not a sustainable cycle, especially not at a global level, and we hope to remove ourselves from it as much as we can.

Find out more about Rappelkeppi Farm on their website and social media accounts:

Instagram: @rappelkeppifarm

Facebook: Rappelkeppi Farm

Thank you Erin and the Orben family for all of your time and consideration for this interview. The work you do is so important to the vitality of our community and to the many growing families who are considering becoming stewards of the land while also giving back to the current and next generations.

Not going to lie, we have been discussing purchasing land or a farm so we can grow our own food, support our family, and allow our children to run free and wild in meadows of natural childhood. I am keeping my ears and eyes open for opportunities to grow. The days seem to fly by so quickly, I'm worried we won't have enough time with our children at this stage when they are still so full of wonder. It is compelling to read that even though a little scary, it can be done. I really like that quote, "We just simply had to move through the fear and keep leaning in to the new challenges." With determination, open communication, and love a young family can move to a farm and make it work. We can eat clean food, drink clean water, breathe clean fresh air, and our children can play in nature free of worry. We can share our talents and gifts with others and build our community even when we live outside of our comfort zone. We can accomplish anything we put our minds to with a positive outlook, a little support, and a healthy amount of elbow grease. I can't wait to see what the future holds for this family and their farm. I hope, if you are local, you stop by their website and try some of their yummy goods.

Grow, Learn, Love

Thank you for tuning in and reading my blog. If you ever want to collaborate in the future, feel free to email me at Until next week, have fun, shop local, and stay wild friends!

1 comment

1 Comment

Lindsey Kleinberg
Lindsey Kleinberg
Mar 15, 2021

#certifiedorganic #familyfarmers #shoplocal #lovelocal #locavore #organicfarmers #kutztownPA #hexsigns #veganlife #outdoorsall4 #raiseawildchild #authenticchildhood

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