A certain kind of charm and sweet, simple nostalgia resides at Merrymead Farm — the kind that is generated by friendly employees who earnestly believe in the work they do and in the support for their community. Sounds a bit like Weavers Way, which may be why the Co-op has been selling Merrymead milk since 2005. Always wonderful to see two wholesome businesses in harmony!
Merrymead Farm, near Lansdale, has been in the same family for more than 100 years. These days, Merrymead, along Valley Forge Road in Worcester Township, includes a small retail store that sells the farm’s milk and ice cream, along with baked goods, local eggs, meat and honey. Outside, there’s a farmstand with seasonal produce from Lancaster County — to “save people the trip” — plants and gardening supplies. In the fall, of course, pumpkins and mums line the parking lot.
I recently talked with Kelsey Givler, 29-year-old farmhand and fifth-generation Merrymead family member. She elaborated: “Merrymead is owned and operated by the Rothenberger family. My mom, Donna Quigley, grew up on the farm, along with her dad, Maynard Rothenberger, his dad, Oscar Rothenberger, and his uncle, Amandus Rothenberger.” The Rothenbergers used to sell their milk to a bulk processor, but in 1971, they established their own on-site processing operation and retail store.
“The farm only uses its own milk. . . every ounce comes from our cows, which we know are being fed a wholesome diet and treated with the utmost attention,” Kelsey said. “We milk 100 cows daily, which give us ample supply for our store and wholesale accounts.”
Kelesy says people can “taste the difference” between their milk and generic bulk-processed brands. Is it the love? That and butterfat. “Our half-and-half and heavy cream are made with higher percentages of cream,” she noted.
So what is a vegan like me doing at a dairy farm? As Kelsey and I conversed, we found our values converge in many ways. The farm’s Holstein herd has the freedom to roam and graze at their leisure in good weather; Merrymead grows their own corn, alfalfa and white wheat for feed. Their chickens, pigs, goats and other animals in the barnyard serve no business purpose, but remain essential to the farm’s family.
We also agreed that we’re part of a generation that is accustomed to convenience and instant gratification, something that might turn people away from quality and over to the side of mass consumption.
Despite competition from Big Milk, Merrymead remains in business, distributing to local restaurants and coffee shops as well as food markets. They host visits from school groups and camps, allowing young people to see the animals and learn how milk gets from the cow to the glass. In the fall, Harvest Day Weekends feature hayrides, games and a corn maze. And any time of the year, visitors can see the animals and watch the afternoon milking, from 3:30 to about 6 p.m.
Being a Lansdale/Hatfield native myself, but having not been to Merrymead since my elementary-school days, I found my recent visit was educational and rewarding. I recommend it.
“And get an ice cream cone!” says this vegan.
— Kris Varga, Weavers Way Chestnut Hill Staff