Keener Poultry has been a Lebanon Farmers’ Market mainstay since 1978, going back to the “old” market house on North 9th Street. It was an original vendor at the current market house at 33 S. 8th St.
But there’s been a big change, one that many longtime customers may not have noticed.
“I’m 77 years old,” says founder Ken Keener. “I knew that sooner or later it was going to come to an end, and I didn’t want to just close and go out of business. I wanted to find somebody to keep it going.”
So, after a lifetime in the poultry business, Keener quietly sold Keener Poultry to Bert Miranda at the end of 2022.
The business’s name lives on, and Keener is still serving loyal customers on market days, now as an employee.
And, the business remains under local ownership.
“A lot of people inquired about buying it, but we could never get together for various reasons,” Keener said. But, “when I started talking to Bert in the fall of 2022, one thing led to another. He grew up in Lebanon and said his dad used to take him to market when he was a kid.”
Keener realized Miranda was serious about the future of the business when he asked for help. “When Bert said ‘I need you to show me how to do things,’ I realized he would be a good owner, so I agreed to stay on as an employee.”
When asked how long he intends to work at the business he founded, Keener wasn’t sure. “It’s going to go on for a little, I guess as long as I can work.”
He seemed to be only half joking when he added that he might eventually retire “somewhere along the line, maybe in the next 15 years.”
Keener has been around the poultry business in one way or another for his entire life. He grew up on a farm near Elizabethtown, where his dad and grandfather ran a hatchery and sold eggs to commercial wholesalers such as Lancaster County’s R.W. Sauder.
They eventually realized that they could do better buy selling eggs directly to customers.
“We got into marketing eggs on our own because the middlemen back in the ’60s didn’t pay a lot. We used to get 15 cents a dozen, and that wasn’t enough to pay our feed bills.”
“So, we started selling eggs on door-to-door routes in Harrisburg and Steelton, three or four days a week,” Keener said. “We also sold directly to restaurants and stores, and we ended up in farmers’ markets.”
So how did Keener get to Lebanon?
“We had a stand in a farmers’ market at Park City Mall in Lancaster,” Keener said. “We were right next to the S. Clyde Weaver [a Lancaster County butcher] stand. Their president, Paul Neff, told me there was a market in Lebanon where the chicken vendor wanted to retire, and would I be interested?”
Keener eventually purchased that business from John Harnley, renamed it Keener Poultry, and the rest is Lebanon Farmers’ Market history.
Keener is optimistic about Downtown Lebanon and the Lebanon Farmers’ Market.
“I always thought it was neat to be a part of the Farmers’ Market and I realize how important it is to the downtown Central Business District.”
Looking down from the mezzanine level at Saturday morning shoppers on the main market floor, Keener seemed satisfied with where he and the business he started are at.
“The unique thing about businesses at the Farmers’ Market is that you really get to know people. I have a lot of friendships that I’ve formed here over the years. I feel like I’ve spent the last 45 years doing something worthwhile.”
“I’m just glad I’m not leaving an empty space.”
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using this contact form and we’ll do our best to get back to you.
Do you want to see more from LebTown?
Support local news. Cancel anytime.
Already a member? Login here
Free news isn’t cheap. If you value the journalism LebTown provides to the community, then help us make it sustainable by becoming a champion of local news. You can unlock additional coverage for the community by supporting our work with a one-time contribution, or joining as a monthly or annual member. You can cancel anytime.