History of the Masonic Village Orchard and Farm Market
J. Carlton Schultz, Farm Manager, 1929-1969
A century and still growing
Quality local produce since 1910
In the early 1900s Masonic Lodges across the country set out to establish a location in each state where they could build a haven for Masons, their wives, widows and orphans. The Pennsylvania Masons determined that the rural setting in central Pennsylvania was the perfect tranquil location to carry out their vision. In order to retain the rural setting, 700 acres of cropland including 40 acres of orchards were planted in 1910. This became what is today the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown Pennsylvania (known then as the Masonic Homes). The Masonic Village is a not-for-profit continuing care retirement community, children's home and community service organization owned and operated by the Pennsylvania Freemasons.
The rolling hills of northern Lancaster County are considered an excellent site for orchard establishment because of the good soil. The elevated site is advantageous in that the cold air can drain downhill during spring frosts to help protect blossoms from damage. The soil texture is deep and well drained, which is just what fruit trees need to flourish.
By the 1930s production acreage had increased to over 60 acres of fruits and vegetables. A new cold storage and retail building was built in 1934. This building is still used today for cold storage space, fruit grading, a bakery and our retail farm market.
From 1910 until the mid 1960s, the Masonic Village was a totally self-sufficient facility. All of the food needed for the residents was raised on the Masonic Villages' farms. Any excess produce was sold to the local public or loaded onto the train and marketed in Philadelphia. As with most things, many changes have occurred in the past century. The resident population continued to grow and production labor costs continued to increase until it became cost prohibitive to continue to be self-sufficient. The orchards and beef operations have remained in order to maintain the serene setting while providing the residents and surrounding community with homegrown fruits, vegetables and meats.
The Masonic Village orchard is the second largest tree fruit producer in Lancaster County. Our current orchards have grown to include over 10,000 trees on 80 acres. Each season we produce approximately 8000 bushels of apples, 2000 bushels of peaches, 300 bushels of pears, 200 bushels of nectarines, 3000 quarts of sweet cherries, 2000 quarts of tart cherries, 700 quarts of plums, 500 quarts of apricots and 2000 pounds of pumpkins. The produce is used to supplement the dining menu for the 1200 residents at the Masonic Villages. The remainder of the produce grown at the Masonic Village is sold through our retail Farm Market or sold wholesale to other local farm markets. Blemished produce is sent to area processors who turn it into products for resale such as jam, jelly, preserves, fruit butters, cider and applesauce.
The Masonic Village orchard has been a proud steward of the land for 100 years. We continue to grow quality wholesome produce on our farm in order to preserve sustainable agriculture for our generation and generations to come.