LaFarm manager Lisa MiskellyBy Kathleen Parrish

When Lisa Miskelly first decided to become a farmer she was more interested in growing people than vegetables.

“My original intention was to use farming as a vehicle to rehabilitate ex-offenders into society,” says Miskelly, the College’s new assistant director of food and farm, who discovered her passion for agriculture while interning at a dairy that produced artisanal cheese in Vermont. “I wasn’t sure what that was going to look like, but that was my vision. I wanted farming to be an educational and therapeutic experience for those who needed that.”

The closest she got was running draft-horse-powered farms in Lehigh County and now Nazareth, where she and her husband moved last year. They sell strawberries, onions, arugula, eggplant, and other produce they grow through community-supported agriculture, a program in which customers pay for weekly boxes of fruits and vegetables in advance of the harvest. The produce is then picked up weekly at the farm during the growing season, an arrangement Miskelly leverages to deliver lessons on sustainability and locally grown foods.

“We always thought of our farm as an educational experience,” she says, “but it wasn’t as direct as LaFarm.”

Miskelly, who started last month, says she plans to continue many of the initiatives started by her predecessor, Sarah Edmonds, including increasing production at LaFarm’s 2 acres in Forks Township.

“I think this is an exciting time to be coming to this position,” she says. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm for LaFarm in the community.”

Few are more excited than Miskelly, who finally gets to use soil and seeds as a living classroom to enhance the work students are doing in other disciplines, such as engineering, social sciences, and food justice.  

“I really see LaFarm as a pretty amazing opportunity for students to get their hands in the dirt and do some physical labor while exploring more academic aspects of agriculture and the role agriculture plays in our society,” she says.

Ten Things Lisa Miskelly Wants You to Know About Her

  1. For the past five years, my husband and I have been farming with a team of Percheron-Morgan draft horses who plow, cultivate, and do about 50 percent of the work on our home farm.  Not only does every interaction with a horse teach me a little more about myself, but horses also tread lightly on the soil and provide fertility through farm-made compost.  
  2. My favorite thing to grow is strawberries because I love to eat them, and because they are beautiful to harvest.  
  3. I did my undergraduate degree at Marlboro College in Vermont, a small liberal arts school where I studied political theory, focusing on studying the challenges faced by ex-offenders as they re-integrate into society.
  4. I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Md., far away from farming.  My great-grandfather and grandfather were bakers in Baltimore, specializing in peach cake.  My mom’s cousin still runs the family bakery in Maryland today.
  5. I first got into farming in college, where as a senior I ran a pre-orientation trip for incoming first-year students working on our small college farm and visiting other local farms and food activists.
  6. My first farm jobs were dairy farming—working at an artisan cheese sheep dairy in Vermont and then an organic dairy farm in New York. 
  7. I love to cook, bake, and share food with others. During the rare moment when I am not farming, I am usually cooking food or preparing a feast for a gathering of friends and family.
  8. I live with a 7-year-old cattle dog named Rocco, who is a loyal companion and an instant friend to any visitor who happens by.
  9. I am a member of the Buy Fresh Buy Local Board for the Greater Lehigh Valley, and a strong advocate for building a just food system through strengthening our local food economy.
  10. I could (easily) eat ice cream every day.  Especially chocolate.

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