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Monday, October 17, 2016

The "Garden Spot Of America: Celebrating Agricultural Week" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Celebrating Lancaster County's Agricultural Week with a visit to one of Lancaster's leading farms in the county.  Tomorrow I will tell you about the tour I took to Kreider farm in the town of Manheim, Pennsylvania, but today I will give you some background into what Lancaster County has meant to me throughout my lifetime.  I am not a farmer, but I did get a taste of farming through my uncle Bob, who would invite me to visit his family's homestead from time to time.  Went hunting with uncle Bob on his family farm, visited a few times when the butcher would arrive to butcher the pigs that were raised on the farm and had quite a few chances to visit for family picnics in the meadow by the stream that ran through the farm he called home for many years as a youth.  Didn't really enjoy the first two topics I just listed, but had the best time "creek stomping" for salamanders and crayfish when my mom and dad took my brother and I to the farm each summer for the family picnic.  
Sign telling you that this is the Kreider Family Farm.
Lancaster County is known as an agricultural community since it is almost 72% farmland with 439,481 acres of farmland of which 106,417 acres (24%) are preserved from development.  Those 106,417 acres are contained to 1,362 farms that are themselves protected from development.  The crops which fill the majority of those acres are corn (101,005 acres), forage-land for hay and grass silage, and greenchop (81,560 acres), corn for silage (72-539), soybeans (34,657 acres) and wheat (12,466 acres).  For those readers who don't know what I mean by silage, it is grass or other green fodder that is stored in airtight conditions such as in a silo and is used as animal feed in the winter.  The top livestock (animals used for food) raised in Lancaster County are: (1-3) Chickens, which make up the top three with 11 million egg-producing chickens; 10 million broilers and other chickens raised for meat; and 3 million pullet hens (15-22 weeks old) used for flock replacement; (4) Hogs and pigs which number 360,000; and (5) cattle and calves which number 277,000.  Lancaster County has approximately 23,800 agriculture jobs which is about 8% of the workforce in Lancaster County, $1,088,057,016 in earnings or 8% of all regional earnings and $6,699,582,779 in sales.  Starting to understand the importance of agriculture in Lancaster County?  Money wise, the current annual value of the top three crops produced is: $469 million in poultry and eggs, $425 million in milk from cows and $159 million from cattle and calves.  
Sign in front of the Kreider Homestead.
The farm I visited today, Kreider Family Farm, began in 1717 when Christian Hershey came to Lancaster County with a group of German-Swiss Mennonites and had land deeded to him by William Penn.  His payment for the land was to be one red rose given annually.  Today's logo for the farm features a cow with a red rose in it's mouth.  Then in 1736 Christian's grandson, also Christian, purchased 400 acres of land including the farm I am visiting, and built a small house on the land.  In 1770, the last two Conestoga Indians in Lancaster County, after living under the protection of the Hersheys, died and were buried on the property thus the name of road that passes close by the farm of Indian Village Road.  In 1792 another generation of Christian Hersheys, and his wife Elizabeth, built the existing limestone farmhouse and barn.  
Logo used to show the payment of the Red Rose.
Christian's brother Isaac moved from the farm to what is now the town of Hershey, PA.  In 1826 Isaac built a stone farmhouse in Hershey for his son Jacob whose son Milton eventually founded Hershey Chocolate Company in Lancaster and later moved it to Hershey, PA. The farmhouse where Milton was born is located on the campus of the Milton Hershey School where my one-time baseball coach and Godfather to my daughter, Bob Beitzel, went to school.  Another Hershey, John, in 1875, and his wife Adeline took up residence in the farmhouse on the property where I now stand and were parents to Mary who ended up marrying Noah Kreider who grew up in Paradise, PA.  In 1934 the couple purchased the farm at public auction from John Hershey and now call it the Kreider Homestead. Seems John didn't want to play favors within his own family so put the farm up for auction hoping, and probably knowing, that a family member would buy it. 
The Original Hershey/Kreider farm with the family
graveyard in the green area in the bottom-right.
This year they celebrated 81 years of business. The farm has grown in 1934 from 103 acres, 200 chickens, a dozen cows and assorted crops to over 2,500 acres, 6 million egg-laying chickens and 2,000 cows. This is one farm in a county of over 1,000 farms.  The history of Lancaster County farms and the agriculture business is being celebrated this week.  What a grand place to live and raise a family.  I have never regretted my choice to stay and raise my family in Lancaster County where i was born and where hard work and core values are part of the fabric of "The Garden Spot of America."  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy   

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