Meet Kathleen from Tulip Tree Hill Farm

Kathleen and her brother as children with the animals.

Tulip Tree Hill Farm is a tiny little farm in Southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania specializing in heirloom vegetable and herb seedlings. Their selection is perfect for gardeners who enjoy growing food for the table that has been served in American homes for generations Tulip Tree Hill specializes in not your run-of-the-mill varieties. Instead, they offer many unique heirlooms including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, and melons. They also raise interesting and unusual seedlings for the adventurous gardener: artichokes, licorice, roselle, and even cotton, not to mention flowering beauties like German Chamomile and Munstead Lavender.

With such an extraordinary selection, we wanted to know more about Tulip Tree Hill and Kathleen, the wonderful grower behind these great heirloom varieties.

1) What’s this history behind Tulip Tree Hill, and how did you come up with such a beautiful name for your farm?

Five years ago I purchased this property from my parents who were ready to downsize after living here for nearly thirty years. The name of the farm and studio stems from the numerous Tulip Poplars in the woods at the back of the property. Also, the farm sits at the top of a hill which is one of the high points in the area.

2) How does being in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania influence what you grow and raise?

Lancaster County is blessed by some of the richest farmland around and has a long farming history. Southern Lancaster County, especially, is still largely composed of small family farms, although Tulip Tree Hill is likely one of the smallest!

3) When did you start specializing in heirloom vegetable and herb seedlings, and what made you turn to growing such unique heirlooms plants?

2009 was my first real foray into growing heirloom vegetable and herb seedlings. While there are many greenhouses locally, most sell bedding flowers and perennials and it is almost impossible to find heirloom and unusual vegetable seedlings. Since my own interest lies in unique and unusual varieties, I saw a niche that had yet to be truly filled. So 2009 became a year of planning learning, and building the greenhouse.

This year sees not only the beginning of selling heirlooms, but also of the market garden. The very same varieties I’m selling as seedlings will also be put in the ground here to be nurtured, raised, harvested, and sold at local growers markets.

4) Which heirlooms are are you favorites to grow and eat?

Tomatoes have to be at or near the top of the list because of the many sizes, shapes, and colors available. But I also adore peppers and enjoy making hot sauces for my own kitchen as well as gift-giving. Eggplants also come in a surprising variety of colors and I’m looking forward to the reactions I’ll get with them at market. Something new in my kitchen last year was fried squash blossoms – delicious!

5) What heirlooms would you recommend to someone just starting out with their own vegetable garden?

I’d say don’t try to fight your local weather, but work with it. Someone gardening in a warm, sunny area would do well with tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, while a gardener in a cool, wet area might have better luck with broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. But having said that, I have to admit I’ve never let that stop me! Last year, for instance, I tried growing cotton here in zone 6, just for fun. It was the coldest, wettest summer I can remember and even so, I still got a couple of cotton bolls. My best advice is to experiment, have fun, and see what happens!

6) Does Tulip Tree Hill grow anything besides plants?

Tulip Tree Hill is also home to Babydoll sheep, Shetland sheep, American Buff geese, and a variety of bantam chickens. We have a limited number of their offspring available for sale here on the farm in the spring (we don’t ship animals). Keeping me company amongst all of this are my three standard schnauzers, Big, Dora, and Ava.

The resident sheep of Tulip Tree Hill

7) Beyond growing plants, you’re also a very accomplished artist. How do you see Tulip Tree Hill influencing your art and your art influencing your outdoor surroundings?

Where I live definitely influences my art. The natural world, with it’s flora and fauna is where I draw my inspiration from. The cawing of crows in the woodland, a quiet dewey morning, and seeing the sheep grazing at twilight all fill up my soul.

Kathleen Stoltzfus, “Migration Song”

Kathleen Stoltzfus, “Wonder of Flight”

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