Ask Me About My Farm Number 2; Starting from Scratch: two Engineers take on Farming

Kari Kelso

Posted on November 30 2016

Ask Me About My Farm Number 2; Starting from Scratch: two Engineers take on Farming

Welcome back to our second Ask Me About My Farm feature! If you grew up on a farm (or  maybe you live on one now) you know that most people don't go out and start farming without previous experience or a family tie to farm life. Most People.  Meet, Amber, The Brunette Farmette. She's a chemical engineer by day, and a farmer by...well, all other hours of the day and night! Amber and her husband have built their farm from scratch, and her story is a fascinating one. 

Who: Amber Stahl, 27

Where: Poconos, PA

What She's Wearing:  Old Fashioned Windmill tee in Oatmeal. See it here.

Farms What: Chickens, Pigs, Vegetables, and Fruit

Job:  Chemical Engineer
Fact: First generation farmer, part time homesteader
Nickname: Brunette Farmette
MantraFood, Farm, Family
Instagram: @brunettefarmette

Her Story:

I graduated from The Pennsylvania State University Chemical Engineering department with a focus in biology in 2012.  I still was not sure what I wanted to be when I grew up but knew that I wanted to use my science background to work on the world's largest problems by offering environmentally sustainable solutions.  I entered the real world working for DuPont, and that is where I began to formulate my strong opinions on the world's food system.  Little did I know I would soon be working on THE world's largest problem.

In the summer of 2014, my fiancé's parents presented a unique opportunity to us that enticed us to move to the Poconos.  They had a one acre plot that they were not utilizing, and we decided to take on the modern day, first generation millennial farmer and homesteader lifestyle.  His family is in the construction business and turned our wildest dreams for a green, sustainable life to a reality.  We continue to support ourselves with our engineering jobs, while expanding the farmette.

My fiancé  Anthony began building automated systems for our animals, while I started the design for our food plots. 

We started out with laying hens, which I quickly scaled up to a full on breeding program.  We then took on pigs which was very interesting--remember we are first generation so we learn by trial and error.  My fiancé  Anthony began building automated systems for our animals, while I started the design for our food plots.  We were learning so much that I started my Instagram around this time to share my failures and successes as a means of helping others who might be starting out as well.  As I kept experimenting with new crops (and ways to process and preserve our harvests), our family started to prepare for a small scale vineyard.  This is now our second year with grapes, and the wine making process is well underway!  Each month we take on more and more, small scale at first until we learn enough to scale up.  We want to be diverse and agile in this climate, and show people just what can be done in PA through permaculture (permanent agriculture).

My chores include feeding and watering the livestock, and all of the fun cleaning and maintenance that comes with that territory!  I am also planting and harvesting the crops from the four food plots, and learning the fruit tree and wine making aspect.  Primarily, my main focus is to keep everything alive!

As a chemical engineer, I grew up battling the boys in science and technology, and as a farmHER I get to do the same

I have grown so much over the past two years, and keep pushing myself to continue to learn and take on more projects while planning for future expansion.  There was a time when I regretted not majoring in Agriculture in college because I never realized farming could be a career, but I have learned to apply my engineering degree and build on my strengths.  I recently accepted a teaching job at Penn State to pursue my passion in educating green design.  And will be working towards my dream of becoming a Master Gardener through their outreach program.
My Message:
As a chemical engineer, I grew up battling the boys in science and technology, and as a farmHER I get to do the same.  Women are also the minority in both industries.  I want women and girls everywhere to know that they can do whatever they put their mind to, and that they can turn their passions into careers, even if it takes a lifetime. 
The average age of farmers is 60-something, and it is important to encourage and inspire more youth to get into the field (literally).  I feel that the concept of feeding the world is absent from the education system, so I do my best to take in homeschoolers for projects/field trips, meet with the local ag community to learn from them or share experience/advice, and help my neighbors and friends who now want to be cool like me and start their own farm. 
@brunettefarmette instagram
I could write pages on this subject, definitely check out my @brunettefarmette instagram account to follow along this journey.  Did I mention my 2050 goal is to feed the world?  Well, it is.  At least my community through my farm to fork strategy.

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  • Karen DiBello: December 01, 2016

    Amber you have definitely found your passion with the chickens and gardens. I still have that image of you bending over in your garden with your rubber boots on and it was raining and a bad storm was brewing with thunder and you still wouldn’t budge.
    I’m so happy that you have joy in all that you do. Most people spend there whole life trying to find that.
    Keep going girl!!!!
    We love watching it all unfold!

  • Robert Germano: December 01, 2016

    Cuz, make sure you clean the path to the chicken coop of rocks and stones. They are fall hazards that could break a bone !!

  • Jackie DeBone: November 30, 2016

    Grandma Spino would be so proud of you. I remember her 5 gardens all around Hilltop and her chickens in my back yard on Bierer Street. This is a wonderful article. I love that you are using your professional training to make this a better world. Your Cousin Jackie from Birmingham, Alabama

  • Lou Pevarnik: November 30, 2016

    Your Grandma Rosie would be very proud of you. I was always a farmer/gardener at heart. Loved growing vegetables and flowers. We even had cattle back in the middle to late seventies. I would always give your Grandma Hot Peppers and Tomatoes. We wish you the very best. Lou and Deb Hershey PA

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