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.

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An aerial photo of Trailside Organic Farm at Cornwall Manor shows the bank barn, hoop houses and growing area now expanded to two acres. (Photo courtesy of Paul Weidman, Cornwall Manor’s Vice President for Plant Operations)

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.

Read More: Cornwall Manor begins construction of barn at Trailside Organic Farm

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.

Cornwall Manor CEO Harry McConnell speaks at a ribbon-cutting event for the new bank barn at Trailside Organic Farm. (LebTown)

“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.

Read More: Cornwall Manor expands Trailside Organic Farm to advance health and wellbeing

“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.

Cornwall Manor and Rodale Institute leaders pose for a picture following the ribbon cutting ceremony. From left to right: Katie Landis, Trailside Organic Farm assistant farm manager; Rick Carr, Rodale Institute farm manager; Harry McConnell, Cornwall Manor president & CEO; Jeff Tkach, Rodale Institute CEO, and Ian Frederick, Trailside Organic Farm manager. (Provided photo)

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.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony at Cornwall Manor’s Trailside Organic Farm Barn.

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.

Read More: Cornwall Manor plans new clubhouse and apartment building for The Woods

An outdoor dining area is planned as part of the new clubhouse. An existing stormwater pond will be turned into a more attractive water feature as part of the plans. (Provided 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.

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Davis Shaver is the publisher of LebTown. He grew up in Lebanon and currently lives outside of Hershey, PA.


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