Roadside Stands: Your Best Source for Fresh Foods
Jun 26, 2015 02:22PM
● By Bill Simpson
The farms of Lancaster and Berks counties are now producing copious quantities of fruits and vegetables, and roadside stands are connecting farmers directly with consumers.
In Pennsylvania’s first and third most productive agricultural counties (according to AgCensus.usda.gov), roadside stands are easy to find. From major highways to lightly traveled country roads, the stands range from a simple card table to an old barn to modern buildings with refrigerators and freezers. The offerings at local roadside stands include produce fresh from the field, canned goods such as pickles and jellies and gourmet items such as whoopee pies and homemade root beer.
Regardless of the specifics of the operation, shopping along the roadside has benefits for both the consumer and the farmer. Nothing can be fresher than produce picked just minutes before it arrives at the stand, and buying directly from the grower keeps money in the local economy.
Bruce Emswiler, of Lancaster, says he probably eats more tomatoes than anyone else on Earth, and his primary supplier from June through November is The Tomato Barn, in Washington Boro. “Nothing beats the flavor of a fresh, local tomato, especially a Jet Star,” he says. “They’re the juiciest that I buy all year, and The Tomato Barn has the best Jet Stars.”
While tomatoes are the obvious focus of the business, the owners know that man does not live by tomatoes alone, so they also sell a wide range of produce items. Their website, TheTomatoBarn.com, proclaims, “Chances are, if it’s grown in Lancaster County, we sell it.”
In New Danville, Lancaster County’s other summer treat, sweet corn, is in ample supply at The Corn Wagon (TheCornWagon.com). From July through September, The Corn Wagon becomes a scene of polite chaos as corn lovers compete for the tender ears that wagons haul in from the adjacent fields. The Corn Wagon also carries a full range of other produce items, and is a popular place well into November for cool-weather crops such as broccoli and cabbage.
Barbara Stank, of Lancaster, is a self-described foodie who regularly shops at roadside markets. “Flavor is fleeting, so if you’re going to put the time into cooking, it makes sense to use the freshest ingredients you can,” says Stank. “Last summer, we found a stand on Marietta Avenue called Rolling Gardens, and they’d often be bringing things directly from the field to the stand while we were there. You can’t get it any fresher than that.”
Shopping at roadside stands is the ideal way to support local businesses and to enjoy the freshest foods possible. To find a great roadside stand, simply get your motor running and head out on the highway—or down a quiet road in farm country.
Bill Simpson is a writer in Lancaster who enjoys running and bicycling. He would buy more from roadside stands if his own garden were not so productive. Connect with him at [email protected]