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Feature Family Farmers: 
Mud Pond Farm

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Photography Courtesy of Abigail Shaeffer


One of the absolute best parts of writing and editing this magazine, if not the very best part, is the people we meet. Along the way, we’ve had the great blessing of meeting the kindest and most hardworking of folks. And some of you have been with us from the very beginning. There was a time when we had no hard copy of the magazine to show to people, we just approached a few folks with our idea, desperately asking if they’d consider advertising so we could actually print the thing! 


One of those individuals who was excited about the idea from the very beginning, and encouraged us greatly, even before we were able to cover his county in the magazine, was Benjamin Rust of Mud Pond Farm. So now that we’re able to spread our reach to Lackawanna County and cover Dalton, PA, we are privileged to share all that Mud Pond Farm offers with all of you!


Every time we visit Mud Pond, it seems they are hard at work on something new, and I was surprised to learn about all the different ways they’ve served their community with everything from agro-tourism offerings to USDA butcher services to meat birds. Mud Pond has done it all, it seems. And now, they’ve entered into a new phase in their business of honing in on their main areas of expertise and striving hard to perfect those processes for their customers. Along the way, they’ve learned a lot, and they have a lot to teach us. My note-taking during our interview was half to write this article, and half selfish, as I learned a great deal I wanted to incorporate into our own growing processes on the farm. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

Benjamin Rust and his family and staff run Mud Pond Farms, a beautiful 50 acre piece of land they purchased in 2012 when they moved here from Factoryville. “I grew up on a dairy farm,” Ben said, “and farming is in my blood. We wanted land. We had young children and we wanted them to grow up on the farm.” The first crop on the farm was strawberries! “We planted 25,000 strawberries on black plastic. We didn’t spray them, so there was a lot of work involved. We cut the runners of all of those plants by hand, had help from our neighbors and put the kids on it too,” Ben shared. After strawberries, they added blueberries to their offerings, and featured a U-Pick with their berries seasonally. One of the biggest draws is the natural, no spray, no pesticide way these berries are cultivated, ensuring customers get the cleanest product right from the farm. 

I loved learning more about the strawberries as it’s something I grew up planting with my dad on a very small scale, and would love to incorporate on our farm for ourselves. Ben taught us that strawberries are very susceptible to diseases and pests, so they would undertake the laborious process of rotating the entire plot and letting the previous plot rest. A ton of work, indeed - but this helps them ensure their berries are top notch, which is important to Mud Pond, and appreciated by their customers as the strawberries sell out every year they’re offered!

So after the berries, Ben explained that they started raising Berkshire pigs, and then Wagyu! Both of these animals were chosen for their reputation as premium breeds, the quality and flavor profiles of their meat being a cut above the rest. And then one thing just led to another, as it usually goes with farming! They did pumpkins in the fall and explored the agro-tourism world. And they added pasture-raised birds. They’d push the birds out into the pumpkin fields when the season was over, to pick at the leftover pumpkins, as the seeds are a natural dewormer and feeding on the gourds grew healthy, great-tasting birds. 


But when the demand for their beef grew and they were struggling to get slots at the butcher, they had the idea of adding a butcher shop to their services at Mud Pond Farms. The butcher shop was built in 2018. “It was slow getting started,” Ben explained, “and then COVID hit. People were buying more bulk meat as scarcity hit.” But like anything worth doing, Ben described, “the learning curve was steep. But we had really good teachers and help. It just takes time to establish that trust and credibility.” 


In addition to the custom butcher shop and USDA added in last year, Mud Pond now operates a farm store on the property as well. This allows them to bring in local animals, harvest them, and make them available to the immediate surrounding area. They’re open every day and offer, as well as typical cuts, snack sticks, kielbasa, bacon, sausages, and Italian cured meats. Tony and I can attest to the amazing smell of the Italian meats as they hang curing as soon as you walk in the front door. 

I asked Ben the same questions I ask just about everyone - the blessings and the challenges. “I like working with my family,” Ben shared, “so we can all be together. And I like making food! It makes me happy to be able to be part of the farming community and be a help and support to them.” As far as the challenges, Ben shared that quality control and perfecting of processes with differing variables that come into the butchering world can be daunting. But it’s a process that continues to provide quality food to the community, which is of great importance. Ben shared that Mud Pond is just grateful to be part of that link in the local farming community, which helps folks connect to their food source and understand that connection. 


Like Mud Pond Farm, we appreciate being part of that network, helping the communities in NEPA find their local farms, enjoy what they do, and learn from them. We’ve learned a great deal from Ben and his family at Mud Pond, and we look forward to learning more from them in the days to come. If you’d like to visit the farm store, or experience the U-Pick berry season, check out Mud Pond’s website for more information:

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