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Lancaster County markets....


Kibbee Nayee
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I grew up in Lancaster County, and I admit to being spoiled by what I grew up with. Great abundance of high quality and organic produce, before organic was cool, and the best meats and cheeses at the best prices on earth. When the Air Force took me to other parts of the country and the world in the late '70s, and then landed me in the DC area in the early '80s, my comparison for quality and quantity was and always will be Lancaster County.

One of the unique features of Lancaster County, which still surprises me since there are few comparisons anywhere else in the country, are the family-owned mega-markets where quality, quantity and value cannot be matched. Picture a super Wegmans with better prices, but each one individually owned by a family....and with a few covered stalls for the horse and buggy to pull into. Shady Maple, Stouffer's of Kissel Hill, Herr's in Millersville, and a few others are worth a day trip to fill up a cooler with a month's supply of meats and produce (well, maybe not a month) as well as the requisite pig-out at the attached smorgasbord.

Unfortunately, the downtown markets have gone touristy. I recall when the Central Market was a real market, with the horses and buggies lined up outside at 4am with the Amish farmers bringing in their goods, and I would walk around with my mom and strike deals here and there. Howry's meats would cut me special cuts and make sure their best and freshest London Broil was fresh cut from the center so mom could make kibbee nayee for us. And of course, to this day, the local countryside is dotted with farm stands along the roads, where the produce is sold the day it's picked.

On to the long-winded question....why don't we have such a business model here? It is obviously thriving just a hundred miles north of us, even in a down economy. Is it because we have the upscale mini versions, like Wegmans and Harris Teeter? Is it because our local countryside doesn't produce the bounty that Lancaster produces? Because, if there was a Shady Maple within 10 miles of my house, I wouldn't shop anywhere else.

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Growing up in an Amish community, I think some of it also has to do with the type of labor they have. Often times they have large families, and I am not just talking about kids, but extended families. And when the huge patch of strawberries is ready to be picked everyone comes over and harvests and then they go to the next farm. If they need help plowing, they call their brothers who send their sons over with their tractors. Or they call a neighbor who comes and lends a hand. Then they all sit around either preparing strawberries to be canned or sold, or shelling peas, etc. It is often times done as a massive group. They also don't pay them so reduced labor costs, they provide for them, as a family, but no wages, often sons build there house on the same property, or as the Mom and Dad age they move out to the smaller house. If your sister has kids down in NC and isn't farming she sends them up for the summer.

Also the value of the land doesn't have to be factored against, how much could I sell this to a developer/vintner/etc. And the number of people who grew up as farmers who want to continue on to be farmers is much larger, although still shrinking as the Amish community continues to do. In the outside world there are very few children that grow up on a farm that want to continue to farm when given other options, and the people who didn't grow up farming find it pretty much an impossible thing to begin doing, as there are years of knowledge and hard work ahead and the hours are brutal. There are some that do, but it is a mighty small percentage and growing up on farms I can't blame them. It is also dangerous, the number of farming related deaths isn't small.

And much of the tourist attraction part of Lancaster helps subsidize the farming part.

The price incurred in raising animals has greatly raised, especially with all the odd weather across the country, hay becomes a commodity with all this intense heat in this area. A few years ago there were people driving from this area up to Garrett County to buy hay from my Dad and others for almost any price they would sell it at they were so desperate. That makes profit margins low. Lancaster is far enough north and back in a little bit, it may receive some reprieve as to some of that weather, like Garrett County, but I am not sure.

In an Amish community they pool together for expenses for the community, especially in terms of healthcare. My nanny had to have a bone marrow transplant and the community came together to raise the money. There isn't health insurance really. The church requires that they help the community and all give back and support that community so that helps also in terms of being able to continue that sort of life. School in Amish communities is often not the same hours as normal schools, to help around harvest times. And at least where I grew up if you were Amish it was mandatory only until 8th Grade, you could choose to continue if you wished. Most sects don't allow cars, so the lifestyle is much thriftier and more community based.

So I think the whole fiber of that society helps to create the factors that make the farming community there so strong, and as we don't have a lot of those same things, make it less available here. If you recently read about the whole immigration mess down in Georgia with peaches, there is such a strong correlation between labor wages and farming that it makes surviving in an area like this with some of the highest costs of living and housing costs very hard. Especially when you can choose another career path.

But I am no expert, I just grew up on a beef farm and had an Amish nanny and was pretty much accepted into the Amish community there and worked like an Amish kid. (I always joke that I don't know why my Mom paid her I earned my keep)

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Thanks for the reply, Katelin. Where did you grow up?

You describe the Amish side of the equation well. The big markets I was referring to are either owned by the Lancaster County entrepreneurs -- the Mennonites -- or else reflect the hard working ethic of Lancaster County. The Amish are deeply involved in all aspects of the Lancaster County food scene, but they aren't trying to establish large businesses and make a lot of money.

Another unique Lancaster County example -- you won't find a 7-Eleven anywhere. Turkey Hill, which was started by a Mennonite family -- I grew up with one of the Frey daughters -- dominates the convenience store market in Lancaster County. Turkey Hill was an actual dairy, and then the convenience stores were started by the same family in the '60s to better sell the dairy products, then both were bought by Kroger a few decades ago.

And yet another example -- in 1976 I worked in downtown Lancaster at the big Post Office, as a part-timer when I was in college. That big building is now the global headquarters for Auntie Anne pretzels, founded in 1988 by the Beilers, another Mennonite family.

There's something different about the source-to-consumer food industry in Lancaster. I think Katelin did an admirable job in explaining the work ethic, but I think there's more there that we could be learning from down here.

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Thanks for the reply, Katelin. Where did you grow up?

You describe the Amish side of the equation well. The big markets I was referring to are either owned by the Lancaster County entrepreneurs -- the Mennonites -- or else reflect the hard working ethic of Lancaster County. The Amish are deeply involved in all aspects of the Lancaster County food scene, but they aren't trying to establish large businesses and make a lot of money.

Another unique Lancaster County example -- you won't find a 7-Eleven anywhere. Turkey Hill, which was started by a Mennonite family -- I grew up with one of the Frey daughters -- dominates the convenience store market in Lancaster County. Turkey Hill was an actual dairy, and then the convenience stores were started by the same family in the '60s to better sell the dairy products, then both were bought by Kroger a few decades ago.

And yet another example -- in 1976 I worked in downtown Lancaster at the big Post Office, as a part-timer when I was in college. That big building is now the global headquarters for Auntie Anne pretzels, founded in 1988 by the Beilers, another Mennonite family.

There's something different about the source-to-consumer food industry in Lancaster. I think Katelin did an admirable job in explaining the work ethic, but I think there's more there that we could be learning from down here.

I grew up on a farm close to Oakland in Garrett County, MD, the Amish town nearby is called Pleasant Valley. I have had my Nanny since I was 9 months old and went to her home daily during the week, and in summers until I was old enough to stay home by myself.

Mennonites and Amish are very similar, but the Mennonites have a less strict guidelines for living, generally on the amenities side. But they are similar, and the Mennonite community has lost fewer members than the Amish community. I believe for even Mennonites creating business, they really are required by their religion to be fair and honest in all their dealings, not proud. And just by their nature are normally very hard working as that is a major part of their religion, like the Amish. They have the added benefit, that Philadelphia was one of the largest cities in our early history, so that area had the ability to be prosperous from a time that many other areas were not, it was the original bread basket of the colonies in the very beginning, and the ability to send food items to Philly. Philly historically was one of the great food centers for the country. And many Amish Mennonite businesses have succeeded in that area based on their culinary traditions (think of the Reading Market).

The Amish and Mennonites are actually very good at making money out of simple things and creating businesses when given the opportunity. In Garrett County the best bakery is there, and many women set up road stands in the summer to sell pies and fruit. There is a greenhouse and other businesses. Funny enough you will find similar great delis and little stores in many Mennonite and Amish areas, such as Verona, VA. Interestingly enough a lot of the businesses are mostly run by women as the men tend farms, the bakery I discussed above was started by two sisters who didn't want to marry, but needed to make an income. I think a lot of their businesses thrive because of their honesty and their prices are normally fair. From what I have experienced in my community they really try to price things fairly.

A lot of their things taste better also because they believe in honest butter and lard. I miss hand churned butter so much. You are definitely right there is so much we can learn from them. I was so blessed to grow up the way I did, I learned so much, and it definitely gave me a good work ethic. Of course my nanny is so sad that I am a lawyer, but she consoles herself with the fact that I do family law and try to help families and kids. I still think she prays for me quite a bit and wishes I would change professions.

This would be a really neat to research! Kibbee maybe next we can celebrate your book signing! I really think you are onto something neat. There are so many originally Pennsylvanian food companies, it is amazing to think back about how different things were before cross country shipping and refrigeration. I think I got a lot of info on Lancaster and Philly on the Burt Wolf shows I had no idea how historic of a food town Philly was until then, but it makes a lot of sense considering it's location.

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Thanks for the reply, Katelin. Where did you grow up?

You describe the Amish side of the equation well. The big markets I was referring to are either owned by the Lancaster County entrepreneurs -- the Mennonites -- or else reflect the hard working ethic of Lancaster County. The Amish are deeply involved in all aspects of the Lancaster County food scene, but they aren't trying to establish large businesses and make a lot of money.

Another unique Lancaster County example -- you won't find a 7-Eleven anywhere. Turkey Hill, which was started by a Mennonite family -- I grew up with one of the Frey daughters -- dominates the convenience store market in Lancaster County. Turkey Hill was an actual dairy, and then the convenience stores were started by the same family in the '60s to better sell the dairy products, then both were bought by Kroger a few decades ago.

And yet another example -- in 1976 I worked in downtown Lancaster at the big Post Office, as a part-timer when I was in college. That big building is now the global headquarters for Auntie Anne pretzels, founded in 1988 by the Beilers, another Mennonite family.

There's something different about the source-to-consumer food industry in Lancaster. I think Katelin did an admirable job in explaining the work ethic, but I think there's more there that we could be learning from down here.

I grew up on a farm close to Oakland in Garrett County, MD, the Amish town nearby is called Pleasant Valley. I have had my Nanny since I was 9 months old and went to her home daily during the week, and in summers until I was old enough to stay home by myself.

Mennonites and Amish are very similar, but the Mennonites have a less strict guidelines for living, generally on the amenities side. But they are similar, and the Mennonite community has lost fewer members than the Amish community. I believe for even Mennonites creating business, they really are required by their religion to be fair and honest in all their dealings, not proud. And just by their nature are normally very hard working as that is a major part of their religion, like the Amish. They have the added benefit, that Philadelphia was one of the largest cities in our early history, so that area had the ability to be prosperous from a time that many other areas were not, it was the original bread basket of the colonies in the very beginning, and the ability to send food items to Philly. Philly historically was one of the great food centers for the country. And many Amish Mennonite businesses have succeeded in that area based on their culinary traditions (think of the Reading Market).

The Amish and Mennonites are actually very good at making money out of simple things and creating businesses when given the opportunity. In Garrett County the best bakery is there, and many women set up road stands in the summer to sell pies and fruit. There is a greenhouse and other businesses. Funny enough you will find similar great delis and little stores in many Mennonite and Amish areas, such as Verona, VA. Interestingly enough a lot of the businesses are mostly run by women as the men tend farms, the bakery I discussed above was started by two sisters who didn't want to marry, but needed to make an income. I think a lot of their businesses thrive because of their honesty and their prices are normally fair. From what I have experienced in my community they really try to price things fairly.

A lot of their things taste better also because they believe in honest butter and lard. I miss hand churned butter so much. You are definitely right there is so much we can learn from them. I was so blessed to grow up the way I did, I learned so much, and it definitely gave me a good work ethic. Of course my nanny is so sad that I am a lawyer, but she consoles herself with the fact that I do family law and try to help families and kids. I still think she prays for me quite a bit and wishes I would change professions.

This would be a really neat to research! Kibbee maybe next we can celebrate your book signing! I really think you are onto something neat. There are so many originally Pennsylvanian food companies, it is amazing to think back about how different things were before cross country shipping and refrigeration. I think I got a lot of info on Lancaster and Philly on the Burt Wolf shows I had no idea how historic of a food town Philly was until then, but it makes a lot of sense considering it's location.

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Thanks for the reply, Katelin. Where did you grow up?

You describe the Amish side of the equation well. The big markets I was referring to are either owned by the Lancaster County entrepreneurs -- the Mennonites -- or else reflect the hard working ethic of Lancaster County. The Amish are deeply involved in all aspects of the Lancaster County food scene, but they aren't trying to establish large businesses and make a lot of money.

Another unique Lancaster County example -- you won't find a 7-Eleven anywhere. Turkey Hill, which was started by a Mennonite family -- I grew up with one of the Frey daughters -- dominates the convenience store market in Lancaster County. Turkey Hill was an actual dairy, and then the convenience stores were started by the same family in the '60s to better sell the dairy products, then both were bought by Kroger a few decades ago.

And yet another example -- in 1976 I worked in downtown Lancaster at the big Post Office, as a part-timer when I was in college. That big building is now the global headquarters for Auntie Anne pretzels, founded in 1988 by the Beilers, another Mennonite family.

There's something different about the source-to-consumer food industry in Lancaster. I think Katelin did an admirable job in explaining the work ethic, but I think there's more there that we could be learning from down here.

I grew up on a farm close to Oakland in Garrett County, MD, the Amish town nearby is called Pleasant Valley. I have had my Nanny since I was 9 months old and went to her home daily during the week, and in summers until I was old enough to stay home by myself.

Mennonites and Amish are very similar, but the Mennonites have a less strict guidelines for living, generally on the amenities side. But they are similar, and the Mennonite community has lost fewer members than the Amish community. I believe for even Mennonites creating business, they really are required by their religion to be fair and honest in all their dealings, not proud. And just by their nature are normally very hard working as that is a major part of their religion, like the Amish. They have the added benefit, that Philadelphia was one of the largest cities in our early history, so that area had the ability to be prosperous from a time that many other areas were not, it was the original bread basket of the colonies in the very beginning, and the ability to send food items to Philly. Philly historically was one of the great food centers for the country. And many Amish Mennonite businesses have succeeded in that area based on their culinary traditions (think of the Reading Market).

The Amish and Mennonites are actually very good at making money out of simple things and creating businesses when given the opportunity. In Garrett County the best bakery is there, and many women set up road stands in the summer to sell pies and fruit. There is a greenhouse and other businesses. Funny enough you will find similar great delis and little stores in many Mennonite and Amish areas, such as Verona, VA. Interestingly enough a lot of the businesses are mostly run by women as the men tend farms, the bakery I discussed above was started by two sisters who didn't want to marry, but needed to make an income. I think a lot of their businesses thrive because of their honesty and their prices are normally fair. From what I have experienced in my community they really try to price things fairly.

A lot of their things taste better also because they believe in honest butter and lard. I miss hand churned butter so much. You are definitely right there is so much we can learn from them. I was so blessed to grow up the way I did, I learned so much, and it definitely gave me a good work ethic. Of course my nanny is so sad that I am a lawyer, but she consoles herself with the fact that I do family law and try to help families and kids. I still think she prays for me quite a bit and wishes I would change professions.

This would be a really neat to research! Kibbee maybe next we can celebrate your book signing! I really think you are onto something neat. There are so many originally Pennsylvanian food companies, it is amazing to think back about how different things were before cross country shipping and refrigeration. I think I got a lot of info on Lancaster and Philly on the Burt Wolf shows I had no idea how historic of a food town Philly was until then, but it makes a lot of sense considering it's location.

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My husband's Mennonite relatives, whose ancestor arrived in Pennsylvania in 1720, established many businesses, food businesses among them, in the Harleysville/Souderton area in Montgomery County, PA (that's also where Dan Cole grew up). While Alderfer Shoo-fly Pies haven't gotten beyond very local distribution, here in DC I've found smoked ham from the Alderfer Bologna Co. at Balducci's and Alderfer Eggs at Rodman's.

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I guess the part I'm having a hard time articulating is how taken-for-granted these places are in Lancaster, just a part of the everyday life....but open one of these in the DC area and throngs of foodies would fawn all over it, praises would be sung by esteemed critics, chefs would treat it as a go-to source for ingredients, and temples would be constructed in its honor.

I usually begin my pilgrimages there around this time, when the sweet corn is being picked same day, the tomatoes are exploding with real tomato flavor and the abundance is growing toward the crescendo of September when the harvest brings the world's most perfect dish -- chicken corn soup -- to the fire hall festivals around the county.

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Unsure of the right place to put this, but this Lancaster County butcher shop, which also has byob dining, looks pretty worthy of a visit:  Rooster Street Butcher.

The shop with the byob dining is in Lititz, PA, and they're also at the Lancaster Central Market several days a week.

I never get up to those parts anymore, but if I did...

 

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On 5/20/2016 at 9:58 AM, Pat said:

Unsure of the right place to put this, but this Lancaster County butcher shop, which also has byob dining, looks pretty worthy of a visit:  Rooster Street Butcher.

The shop with the byob dining is in Lititz, PA, and they're also at the Lancaster Central Market several days a week.

I never get up to those parts anymore, but if I did...

 

WOW! I love that you mentioned Rooster Street Butcher! They are a highly regarded by many cooks/chefs in the area. You can often find product from the butcher shop on various menus throughout the city of Lancaster.  They have by far the best charcuterie board I have had to date. These boards are made of of various pates ,cheeses and smoked meats as well as an addition of pickled veggies. 

Could this thread please be moved to the Philly forum, @DonRocks?

On 7/14/2011 at 5:16 PM, ktmoomau said:

This would be a really neat to research! Kibbee maybe next we can celebrate your book signing! I really think you are onto something neat. There are so many originally Pennsylvanian food companies, it is amazing to think back about how different things were before cross country shipping and refrigeration. I think I got a lot of info on Lancaster and Philly on the Burt Wolf shows I had no idea how historic of a food town Philly was until then, but it makes a lot of sense considering it's location.

I am happy to help in listing all of the local purveyors in Lancaster County for a guide in hopes that this will create a curiosity to venture outside the DMV in the direction of Philly.

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