Located alongside the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail near Cornwall Manor’s Woods campus, the two-acre Trailside Organic Farm is now home to the newest bank barn in Lebanon County.
Cornwall Manor officially opened up the new bank barn in a ribbon-cutting event held Friday afternoon, Oct. 20, onsite at the new approximately 3,800-square-foot facility, which was designed by Beers + Hoffman and constructed by Arthur Funk & Sons Inc.
The two-level bank barn has a production area downstairs, with a packing house, refrigeration, and storage, and a completely finished multi-use room upstairs. Cornwall Manor CEO Harry McConnell said that the space will be used for everything from art classes to square dances.
The barn is the latest expansion at the Trailside farm, a collaboration begun in 2021 between Cornwall Manor and Kutztown’s Rodale Institute, a leader in regenerative organic agriculture.
During his speech, McConnell credited Cornwall Manor vice president for advancement Vicki Deitzler, who developed the idea for the farm while working under former CEO Lee Stickler. McConnell said that Deitlzer got Stickler on board with the plan for the farm, which required a significant investment that was made feasible by the clear vision for the site.
“But you know what? It was that vision that was needed,” said McConnell. “And look where we’re at today.”
McConnell said the Rodale Institute was the other key for the Trailside Organic Farm turning the “rocky, shaley ground” into a “vibrant organic farm,” as Rodale Institute CEO Jeff Tkach would later describe it.
“For many reasons, this partnership was a good match and a benefit for both our residents, and we are extremely proud to be the first retirement community to partner with the Rodale Institute, and serve as a model for other continuing care retirement communities around the country,” said McConnell.
Tkach, who spoke after McConnell, described his first visit to the site and seeing “open, barren, rocky, shaley ground.”
“While I appreciated Vicki’s vision, I have to say I had a little bit of trepidation wondering how we were going to transform that rocky, shaley ground into a thriving, verdant organic farm,” said Tkach.
“But this team did it. Just two years, in less than two years, we transformed this very land that we’re standing on today into a verdant, productive regenerative organic food system that really, as Harry pointed out, is a model for disruption for continuing care across the country and around the world.”
The farm today benefits from several improvements made over the last two years, including two hoop houses – caterpillar tunnels with clear plastic – and irrigation lines. Lettuce, spinach, and cherry tomatoes in particular benefit from the hoop houses because they hold the heat better at night.
Standouts this growing season included cantaloupes, corn, zucchini, and tomatoes.
Rodale Institute employees Ian Frederick and Katie Landis oversee the day-to-day operations at Trailside Organic Farm and work with about 20 residents who volunteer at the farm. McConnell said he expects that number to increase in the future. The program, he said, “aligns with Cornwall Manor’s commitment to health and well being.”
Trailside Organic Farm and the barn are located near Cornwall Manor’s Woods campus, which consists of 126 houses divided into four neighborhoods. Cornwall Manor is now doing site work nearby the farm for a new $13 million clubhouse, to be built near an existing retaining pond that can be seen in the above aerial photo.
Although the new clubhouse will be most convenient for residents of the Woods campus, it will be available for use by all Cornwall Manor residents. Later, Cornwall Manor plans to build apartment buildings alongside the clubhouse. With a new cafe planned for the clubhouse, residents will one day be able to enjoy a salad while looking at the very place where it was grown.
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.