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How Amish and Mennonite growers supply their produce

Even with all of the modern conveniences available to growers these days, one can appreciate the old-fashioned types of methods long-time growers have used.

At Four Seasons Produce in Lancaster County, PA., what’s old is still new for some of its suppliers. Four Seasons is in fact located near Ephrata, a region of Pennsylvania that still has a good-sized Amish and Mennonite population. “Due to their religious beliefs of simplicity and non-worldliness they farm and live without many modern conveniences and instead use horses or mules, and in some sects Steel-wheel tractors,” says Jonathan Steffy of Four Seasons.

So Four Seasons has several dozen Amish and Mennonite growers who grow seasonal fruits and vegetables for it—including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini, sweet corn, cantaloupes, watermelon and pumpkins. And while five or six growers are close enough to deliver directly to Four Seasons’ warehouse in wagons and horse, the rest, the company arranges to pick up from on fleet. “It’s not a huge percentage of our supply over the course of the year, but it’s an important one,” says Steffy. “It’s a symbolic one that ties us to the community and our rich agricultural roots in Lancaster County.”

The growers working with Four Seasons must all be Good Agricultural Practises (GAP) certified and so sometimes Four Seasons drives its Amish growers to Penn State Agriculture Extension Food Safety meetings early in the year.

Managing communication
With no use of electronics, communication can be tricky. “Our busy buyers must arrange a common time to chat each week about volume, quality and pricing with our Amish growers who don’t use cell phones or email,” Steffy says. “Instead of scheduling a receiving appointment, we just tell them to bring their products over during the late morning and we’ll bring a high-lift down the ramp to unload their wagons as quickly as we reasonably can. We invest time setting packing, packaging, spec and price range expectations with them before the season starts since the daily real-time is challenging.”

In turn, Four Seasons takes that produce and then distributes it throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic U.S. “So perhaps those pumpkins from Amish country will be sold at a retailer in Washington DC or New York City,” Steffy adds.

For more information:
Jonathan Steffy
Four Seasons Produce
Tel: +1- 717-721-2800

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