The Pole Cat’s Meow
Howard farm prioritizes restoring, living with the land
HOWARD — Nestled in the hills of Liberty Township in the Pole Cat area of Marsh Creek on a narrow country road you can find the Pole Cat Hollow Farm, home to the Stuber family and their farm animals.
The farm is approximately 200 acres with their animals grazing only about 70 acres of pastureland at this time. The family believes in regenerative agriculture practices and that the food supply chain in the U.S. has become far too complex. Their mission is to restore the land, soil and water system to a healthier state and to offer people of the community healthy and humanly raised animals for consumption.
According to local history, the land was documented as being used for farming purposes dating back to 1900. By 1938 the farm was owned by Joseph and Elizabeth Heichel who had cleared and were using some of the land for row crops and grazing areas. By the 1970s the farm had been passed down to the Heichel’s daughter Myrtle and her husband Oscar Leitch, who had allowed some unused portions of the pastureland to reforest.
In 2011, when Glenn Fenner owned the property the farm was clear-cut and the tree stumps were removed. Unfortunately, much of the good topsoil was bulldozed into the windrows with the stumps and little was done to prevent soil erosion. Fields were fenced and buffalo were raised and grazed upon the pasturelands. A few years of the farm being left fallow from 2014-2017 with the exception of a horse or two did not improve the quality of the soil.
Greg Stuber and his wife Nancy Kaltenbach bought the farm in the summer of 2017 with a goal of using Regenerative Agriculture Practices to build soil and plant resilience. Healthy, living soil has the potential to pull and store tons of carbon from the atmosphere which can aid in mitigating the effects of extreme weather caused by climate change. Healthy soil has the ability to absorb and retain water that protects the land from both flooding and drought.
“People want to know where their food comes from and that it is free from chemical additives,” Greg and Nancy said.
Having a non-Genetically Modified Organisms certified label guarantees that the food products are produced without genetically engineered food, supplements or ingredients and that the animals are raised, cared for, and humanly treated by the highest animal welfare standards.
Greg and Nancy along with their three younger sons, Gregory who is soon to be 15; Wayne age 12 and Henry age 9 live on the Pole Cat Hollow Farm. They raise Idaho Pasture pigs, broiler and laying chickens, turkeys, ducks, Katahdin sheep and Red Devon beef cattle. A Blue-Tick Coonhound and a mixed mutt round out the menagerie of animals at the farm.
“Our pigs are a newer breed that thrives in a pasture environment that are raised slowly that produces a darker, richer meat that is sold by the half or whole hog from our website and also at local farmer’s markets. You don’t see our pigs rooting up the soil as other pigs commonly do. They are content dining on the pasture plants or hay,” said Greg.
The broiler chickens come from a Pennsylvania hatchery that are raised in chicken tractors that are moved daily to allow the chickens to have sunshine, plenty of grasshoppers and crickets along with other insects, worms and plants. In addition to their diet, the chickens are fed non-GMO, antibiotic free feed which causes their meat to retain more moisture for a better taste and is healthier for the consumer’s diet. No herbicides or pesticides are used on their pastures.
The young turkeys and ducks are also housed in tractors until they become larger and then are contained using electric netting fences. Pasture raised poultry is rich in vitamins A and D.
“We usually sell between 400-500 processed chickens each year and we offer turkeys around Thanksgiving time. As it stands now we have about 53 turkeys that will be available in November,” Nancy said.
A laying flock of chickens provides brown eggs that are gathered and washed with an all-natural cleanser. The eggs have bright yellow yolks and a thicker consistency than commercially produced eggs.
The eggs are sold by the dozen.
Katahdin sheep are a hardy breed of hair sheep, having hair instead of wool so they don’t require shearing. The sheep and their lambs are housed on one-acre plots and are moved regularly for plentiful grazing.
A small beef herd of medium-sized hardy Red Devon cattle are well suited for the farm’s regenerative grazing plan.
Greg works full-time on the farm and often doesn’t leave the confines of the gated driveway for days at a time.
“The gate at the end of the driveway isn’t meant to deter people from visiting, but rather it’s meant to keep our animals contained,” Greg said. “It’s not uncommon to be greeted by the dogs or a group of grazing sheep in the front yard when you come here.”
Greg grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey and until a few years ago worked on the road traveling in warmer states more than 200 days a year as a structural steel builder for outdoor concert settings. Greg had no farming background but now he’s settled into his farming routine of checking on all the animals, moving the animals and portable fence lines daily, keeping an eye out for wild predators that can harm the animals and closely monitoring the temperatures of the many freezers that house the frozen USDA inspected products available for sale.
Nancy’s limited farming experience stems from growing up near Clarion and taking care of their beef and chickens there. She now works full time as a Quality Engineer for a medical device company in State College. She is responsible for the marketing and sales of Pole Cat Hollow Farm’s products.
Pole Cat Hollow Farm animals can be custom ordered and are then scheduled for butcher at an approved USDA site, usually Rising Spring Meat’s or Mark’s Custom Meats. Meat that is sold to restaurants, at farmers markets and grocery stores must be handled this way.
“Our meat is used in the menus at the Revival Kitchen in Reedsville, at Bonfatto’s in Bellefonte and by Wetsu Catering and Uncle Albert’s Restaurant in Lock Haven. We have a portable freezer that is loaded on our trailer for the Saturday morning farmer’s markets in both Bellefonte and Lock Haven that we go to. By keeping the meat frozen we can insure that the food will be of the best quality at your time of purchase,” said Greg.
The couple’s three sons, Gregory, Wayne and Henry, are kept busy with their daily farm chores while an older son, Roger Free, is stationed with the Army at Fort Bragg.
To his parents delight, Wayne, age 12, has become especially interested in growing and cultivating the Shiitake mushrooms.
Mushrooms grow naturally on decaying hardwood trees. The Shiitake’s are very nutritious and tasty and provide many positive attributes. Mushrooms have been known to lower the risk of obesity, boost energy and immunity, supports heart health and strengthens bones. Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories and provide good fiber and amounts of vitamins B and D. These mushrooms are used in soups, salads, meat dishes and stir-fry recipes.
Pole Cat Hollow Farm can be found on Facebook and the web at www.polecathollowfarm.com. An online order form and prices are listed and you can feel free to reach out to Greg and Nancy at any time.
Greg Stuber can be contacted at 814-883-9322 and Nancy Kaltenbach can be reached at 814-360-3300.