We lunched somewhere, though the details have already gone fuzzy in my memory. As we rode onto Lehman’s Roadside Market within a few miles of the Accomac, the conversation turned from the ordinary to the philosophical – family farming, the satisfaction of growing a portion of the food we eat, my frustrations with chipmunks raiding my yellow tomatoes. Adventures like this don’t come often, and I was savoring every moment. If you know farms, you know food.
Lehman’s Produce & Roadside Market has been offering farm-fresh produce and dairy for sale on its 300 acres since 1983 when Brian took over operations from his father. As we walked past piles of butternut squash, snake-neck pumpkins and bins full of sweet corn in conversation with Brian, my eyes kept focusing on his hands. These were without question the hands of a farmer, roughened by the fields. Every scar, every crease told a story. The photo at left is one of my favorites from this series – this is food as it should be. A beautiful thing.
Denny and Robert Ilyes of Twin Pine Farm are carrying on the legacy left by their father, raising beef and produce in Seven Valleys. Long known for producing a sweet bologna, Twin Pine opened a retail store less than a mile from the farm, butcher shop and smokehouse in 2002; Denny says with a proud smile that all the beef that passes through the butcher’s counter in the store was raised on the farm – truly calf to counter. There’s undeniable transparency in all means of production from calving until slaughter at Twin Pine; I came away with a deeper appreciation for local agriculture and its role in the community and a few samples of Twin Pine’s famous sweet bologna to remind me of the place and the lessons learned.
Shaw Orchards has a long and storied history in Stewartstown; seven generations of the Shaw family have farmed here with the first commercial fruit trees planted in 1909. This family knows apples – as a conversation with Mary Sue quickly revealed. When you meet Mary Sue (and you will if you attend the Farm-to-Table!), there’s a sense of familiarity in her voice. Comforting and heartwarming, but tempered by the razor wit and keen business sense that comes with nearly thirty years of managing the market in what was once the original orchard packing house. Shaw is currently growing twenty-five varieties of apples – and there is perhaps no simpler pleasure than plucking a Gala apple off the tree and snacking while zipping around the orchard on a golf cart while Mary Sue tells stories. I can’t wait to go back.
So join me this Saturday evening for the Farm-to-Table Dinner, meet these purveyors and others and learn from them. You’ll be glad you did.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, an organization that works hard to promote farms that are healthy for both people and the environment around them.