This is part two in a series of posts about the Smucker Farms team’s recent visit to Lancaster County.
Here at Smucker Farms of Lancaster County we try to carry a variety of products. Our small team is constantly seeking new goods to share with our customers. However, we have had some help with this since the beginning. While our business was taking shape, so was Oasis at Bird-in-Hand, a co-operative of small and family-run Lancaster County farms. This collaborative effort now provides nearly 80 percent of Smucker Farms’s meats, cheese, produce and other products.
Oasis’s farmers are committed to producing nutrient dense crops while maintaining the high quality of their farmland. This is achieved by practicing chemical free and certified organic growing techniques. The farmers’ concern for their effect on the environment extends to the “equipment” they use. All produce comes from horse and mule-powered farms, which use less petroleum than conventional farms.
Oasis was founded by three Lancaster locals to meet the demand of those who are looking for fresh, local food. Each of the trio offers a specialized knowledge of different aspects of farming. This collective wisdom has helped them successfully establish a system to get food from farmer to consumer as quickly as possible. The founding trio includes Dale Stoltzfus (produce manager), Elmer Lapp (meat manager) and Leroy Miller (dairy manager).
While in Lancaster, we had the opportunity to visit some of the producers that participate in the co-op, including Lapp Family Farms, Misty Creek Goat Dairy, and Abraham and Annie Stoltzfus.
LAPP FAMILY FARMS
Lapp Family Farms contributes a variety of goods to Oasis, including meat and produce. The family’s patriarch, Elmer Lapp, is the co-op’s meat manager and is responsible for providing pastured, grass-raised and finished beef, humanely raised pork, and pastured chicken. The family also grows fresh produce, including a variety of organic herbs and strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, which will be available later in the growing season. On our way to visit the co-op’s headquarters we stopped by Elmer’s farm and saw some of the largest green onions we have ever seen. And according to Elmer, they aren’t even done growing yet!
MISTY CREEK GOAT DAIRY
When we arrived at Misty Creek Goat Dairy, the area was bustling with activity. Children played outside in the yard of the nearby Amish schoolhouse. Goats vied for our attention by bleating loudly as they enjoyed their breakfast. And Misty Creek owner, Amos Miller, worked on a new batch of goat cheese. The farmer is also the primary cheesemaker for many of the small production raw milk cheeses distributed by Oasis. Amos is a gregarious and upbeat man who is passionate about his goats’ milk and goats’ milk cheeses. Fortunately for us, he is very generous with sampling his creamy creations! As we tasted the cheeses, Amos described how the flavor profile of each wheel is directly affected by the diet of the animal as well as when the milk is produced. For example, spring cheeses tend to be creamier and richer while the texture is more dense and piquant in colder months. In addition to the traditional methods used by cheesemakers throughout the world, Amos is constantly researching and experimenting with ways to craft new flavors unique to Misty Creek. Most recently he succeeded with Midnight Dream, which receives some of its deep flavors from being soaked in port and two varieties of tea.
ABRAHAM & ANNIE STOLTZFUS
Abraham & Annie Stoltzfus manage to run a bustling household of vibrant young children while producing a wonderful array of delicious organic greens on their two acre farm in the rolling hills of Lancaster County. The couple gave us a tour of their hoop-house where they grow produce for Oasis in the colder months. Here we saw the colorful swiss chard, mixed baby greens, bibb lettuce, red leaf lettuce and cilantro that we sell at Smucker Farms, some of which had been harvested that day to be delivered to our store. We were so enamored with the greens that we each took a bagful home with us for dinner that night!