Old-time Farming Becomes New Again: Community of Oasis at Bird-In-Hand
Feb 28, 2013 11:18PM
● By By Bill Simpson
In the old days, farms were small, and farmers delivered their produce, meats and dairy products directly to their customers, or farmers and consumers met each other at a local market. All produce was organic because chemical fertilizers did not exist, and farm animals grazed in the fields. Then advances in transportation and refrigeration made it possible for food to travel great distances. The connection between farmers and consumers disappeared, and food shopping became a thoroughly impersonal experience as supermarkets grew bigger and bigger, and foods traveled great distances from all parts of the world, losing nutrients along the way.
Today, consumers are again seeking a personal relationship with the producers of their food as well as a sense of freshness and fairness that this relationship ensures. A movement to re-establish that connection has been growing rapidly. Community of Oasis at Bird-In-Hand (Oasis), located in the heart of Lancaster County’s fertile farmlands, is a leader in that movement.
Oasis brings together a group of about 35 local farmers who do not use chemical fertilizers but instead work hard to build the nutrient content of their soil. The philosophy behind Oasis is to provide real live food. Everything from Oasis is nutrient dense and free of hormones, antibiotics and chemical fertilizers, and Oasis tests its food for purity and nutritional power. The founders of Oasis have two strong motivations behind their efforts. They want to help local Amish farmers maintain their agricultural heritage, and they want to make the best foods from Lancaster County available to residents and anyone who visits.
Oasis gives consumers three different ways to receive their food. One is the retail store, located in Ronks, just a few hundred yards north of Route 30. The store carries a wide range of products that are not available anywhere else, such as fermented foods, herbed salt and hand-blended herbal teas. It also carries a large line of cheeses, including both raw and pasteurized, made from 100-percent organic, grass-fed, cow’s milk, plus butter, both salted and unsalted, and goat’s milk cheese. All meats at Oasis come from free-range animals raised without the use of antibiotics.
In addition to shopping at the retail store, consumers can now visit the new Oasis stand at Lancaster Central Market or become a member of Oasis’s consumer-supported agriculture (CSA), which supplies in-season summer produce for 25 weeks, starting in mid-May.
Everything old becomes new again, and Oasis is bringing back the old idea of real, live food produced close to home by farmers who truly care about the quality of their products. “We’re all very excited about this local, nutrient-dense movement, and we’re glad to be a part of it,” says Dale Stoltzfus, general manager and produce coordinator at Oasis.
Bill Simpson is a Lancaster writer and natural living enthusiast who helped bring community gardens to East Hempfield Township. Contact him at 717-892-6836.