Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cool story: Get to know our vendors...

Matt Rebert sent us this great story about his grandfather and the history of Rebert Farms. We love learning the back story of our vendors and friends! The article was written by Tom Piper for the Adams County Fruitgrower’s Association. Benny’s Fruit Market Benny’s Fruit Market, located on the west side of Old Route 30, the Lincoln Highway, near McKnightstown, in Adams County, in its’ 36 years of existence has become a landmark for those seeking to purchase fresh fruit in season. A family business started in 1965 by Stanley and Evelyn Rebert, the market continues since 1988 to uphold its reputation for dependable quality under the second generation of owners, Gary and Kathleen Sterner Rebert. Stanley or “Benny” Rebert as his high school buddies nicknamed him, was born August 15, 1921, third of five children in the family of Ornan and Helen McGlaughlin Rebert. He had an older brother J. Ruhl, and three sisters. The family lived on the former Emory Wentz property, owned in recent times by Mr. And Mrs. Ingolf J. Qually at 980 Flohr’s Church Road in Franklin Township, Adams County. His father worked for the Franklin Mining Company, extracting ore from the west side of Flohr’s Church Road on the farm. When this firm declared bankruptcy, Ornan moved the family to Fox Hill Orchard where he was employed by Chester Eshelman, a son-in-law to John Musselman. In 1927, Ornan joined with his brothers John and Clair in forming the Rebert Brothers partnership. They purchased the 216-acre Keller Orchard near Orrtanna, with apples, peaches and some open farmland. Stanley grew up on this farm, developing his interest in the fruit industry as he worked in the orchard with his father and his uncles. He remembers the 300-gallon sprayer powered by a Leori two-cylinder engine (this engine remains in use today), which was pulled through the orchard with a team of four mules. Spray material was nicotine to control codling moth plus lime and sulfur for the control of apple scab. Tobacco stems were brought from Lancaster County and boiled to extract the nicotine for use in the spray. The brothers retired in 1955 and the orchard was sold at public sale to El Vista Orchards. Times were tough in the late 1920s and 1930s. Peaches, if you could sell them, brought 50 cents per bushel, remembers Stanley. The varieties were J.H. Hale, Elberta, and Belle of Georgia. Apples were packed in wooden barrels and were exported to Europe; one popular variety was the King David. Later, one-bushel baskets were the container of choice and the apples were marketed in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Pickers were paid four cents per bushel for picking apples. Stanley attended Grammar School in Orrtanna and was graduated from the Fairfield High School in June of 1940. He started working for the Orrtanna Canning Company in 1941, firing a boiler at a wage of twenty –seven and one-half cents per hour. When the canning plant burned in 1943, Stanley was transferred to I.Z. Musselman Orchards. He found Mr. Musselman to be a wonderful person to work for and stayed on for a total of 26 years, working as a manager or foreman for twelve years. There were no mechanical harvesters in the 1940s and 1950s. School children by the hundreds were transported to county orchards to pick cherries. Evelyn Miller, a dairy farmer’s daughter from the Low Dutch Road east of Gettysburg, a high school senior, was among the 200 pickers employed at the I.Z. Musselman Orchards. She met Stanley in the cherry orchard. They married June 5, 1948. Benny’s Orchard and Market Stanley or “Benny” Rebert takes pride in the fact that he designed and had built the house in which they live at 765 Old Route 30, between Cashtown and McKnightstown. His wife Evelyn was one of five children of Theron J. and Esther M. Miller. She and Stanley are the parents of daughters Carol and Debra, a son Gary, and a foster daughter, Ellie Owens, who is a Penn State graduate. The family provided a temporary home to seven foster children through the years. They have seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild. Stanley and Evelyn purchased two tracts of land totaling about thirty acres and located on the Green Ridge west of Cashtown, in 1958. When he decided to go in business for himself in 1967, he began by clearing twenty acres of this land and planting it to fruit trees. Designed to supply the demand at Benny’s Retail Market, the twenty acre orchard included apples, peaches, pears, sweet and tart cherries, plums, and apricots. Nearly one acre was devoted to strawberries, which Stanley says was the most profitable crop he produced. He liked the Raritan variety, which he grew on the matted row system. Other small fruits such as blueberries and raspberries together with some vegetables: sweet corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers were also grown. Apple varieties included Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Stayman but also Transparent, Summer Rambo, Smokehouse, and Jonathan to extend the marketing season. The first apple trees were on standard rootstock, trained to a low growing form, not a difficult task since the soil did not support vigorous growth. Later plantings established in the 1960s were on M106 semi-dwarf rootstock. While Stanley tended the orchard, Evelyn worked for 30 years as a Teachers’s Aide in the Gettysburg School District and during the summer months and in spare time, managed the family and the retail market. The orchard and market provided employment and valuable learning experience for the children as they grew up. The market was always neatly painted, clean, the produce of excellent quality and well displayed. Surplus fruit was marketed wholesale to Ralph Sandoe in Biglerville and to Knouse Foods Cooperative for processing. When he retired in 1988, Stanley sold Benny’s Market to his son Gary and daughter-in-law Kathleen. Kathleen now manages the market and the family finds time to grow strawberries, other small fruits and some vegetables for sale there. Gary runs his own masonry business. Now enjoying what he terms “partial retirement”, Stanley enjoys time spent in a deer stand in the wood lot adjoining his former orchard. A member of the local fire company and the Adams County Fish and Game Association, he also enjoys fishing and introducing his grandchildren to these sports. Stanley Rebert says he has enjoyed his career in the fruit industry. While it meant a life of hard work and not a little risk, it has positive advantages, which produced a good living for his family. He pointed to the changes in consumer demand at the retail market, reflecting the changing life styles of our society. Purchases of smaller quantities dictate changes in packaging and merchandising to maintain sales volume. Matt adds: Since that article was written, my parents Gary and Kathy have bought the rest of the farm from my grandparents. Benny’s Market is still running strong. A few things have changed from the time this article was written. The Leori sprayer was retired in 2007. My grandparents now have seven great-grandchildren. We now grow a larger variety of fruits and vegetables. Everything we grow is sold retail as fresh fruit, we no longer wholesale or grow for the factory. My parents have three children, Matt, Marci, and Mark. I graduated from Penn College in 1999 and work full time for my father’s masonry company. I am married and have 2 young boys. My sister graduated from Franklin & Marshall and is currently finishing her Master’s Degree. She is married and lives in nearby Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. She helps run the fruit stand on weekends. My brother went straight to work after high school. He too is a mason by trade. He is married and has two young daughters. Since settling in Adams County, the Rebert men in my family have either been masons or fruit farmers. My father chose to do both. My brother and I have also chosen to do both. My parents bought one tract of my grandparents land, my wife and I the other. My parents, brother, and I all live in houses on the farm. My brother and I recently thought that it would be an appropriate time to once again expand the farming operations. We were thinking of ways that we could keep our children interested and active in the farm. That’s when we came up with the idea of attending a farmer’s market. I hope that this has given you a better background on my family’s farming history. We look forward to working with you in the future. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, Matt! We are really pleased that Rebert Farms will be joining us at Cheverly Community Market this season.

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