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 Natural Awakenings Lancaster-Berks

Roaring Brook Market: People, the Planet and the Power of Local Food

Feb 28, 2014 01:02AM ● By Gisele Siebold


In 2013, Sarah McGahran and Trex Proffitt collaborated on a local food system project; a feasibility study for the creation of a local food hub in Lancaster. McGahran's vision of changing the local food system, combined with Proffitt's interest in sustainable finance and entrepreneurship, led them to establish Roaring Brook Market and Café, located on East King Street, in Lancaster’s Historic East Side Merchant Row.

Proffitt, a Lancaster resident and professor of business and entrepreneurship at Muhlenberg College, in Allentown, is passionate about local food and fast-tracking the local food economy.

McGahran, CEO of Roaring Brook, is in charge of sourcing fresh, local products. Traveling from farm to farm, she interacts with local farmers while collecting produce, meat and milk to bring local, healthy food downtown to the store. She says, “Our mission is to support and strengthen our local food system to increase the availability of affordable, locally grown food for Lancaster’s emerging market of conscientious consumers.”

Rachel Cooke, chief cook, rounds out the team as the third worker-owner committed to incorporating local foods into everyday diets. Well-versed in plant-based lifestyles and cooking, she prepares meals in the café using the fresh ingredients found at Roaring Brook Market. The team’s long-term vision includes infrastructure to facilitate multiple stores, institutional sales, a farm and a tavern.

Local, transparent and sustainable: as these three words trend in healthy lifestyle circles, they help the Roaring Brook team connect to consumers.

Local refers to producers and suppliers within a radius of 50 miles. According to McGahran, the significance of local is in rebuilding and maintain the heart of the Lancaster community, known for its healthy, available foods.

Transparent means knowing the whole story of the food– how it is grown, who is growing it and the interconnectedness of the local community, especially the contribution of local farmers. Neighbors help neighbors through food.

McGahran encourages farmers to use organic growing methods instead of conventional fertilizing and pest management. Because the demand for organically grown produce is high all year long, farmers are willing to listen to suggestions, change their farming practices and grow produce during the winter months by adding hoop houses and other methods.

Sustainable encompasses the relationship with the natural environment and all the business’s stakeholders, which means running an environmentally and socially responsible business. McGahran proposes that Roaring Brook “works with businesses that share our mission to prioritize the health of the environment, the community and the planet in their overall business practices.” Product selection includes looking at product availability, with high priority given to products grown locally or at least in the United States, if possible; however, certain popular products, like pineapples, are not always available domestically.

Eating fresh, organic foods does not necessarily come at a higher price. Roaring Brook is open about the fact that products are marked up an average of 50 percent, but that the reason is to make sure that fair wages can be paid throughout the supply chain—a sustainable business practice that allows farmers to be compensated fairly and the business to remain solvent. McGahran encourages consumers to shop comparatively among organic retailers and conventional stores that sell organics, rather than assuming that the big-box conventional grocery stores have cheaper prices. Roaring Brook provides access to authentic, fairly priced, locally sourced food, including self-serve bulk grains, rice and nuts at very reasonable prices.

Cooke and McGahran love working full time at the store. McGahran feels that Roaring Brook is a lovely complement to Central Market, and part of what makes Lancaster special. “So many business owners here are running their own businesses,” she comments. “People know who they are buying from because we are here to assist them with choices and take their suggestions for items they would like to see for sale. This makes them feel important.”

Roaring Brook Market and Café is located at 155 E. King St., in Lancaster. For more information, call 717-208-7280, email [email protected] or visit or

Gisele Siebold, a resident of Lancaster County, is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings.

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