Slatington farm not just average farm
September 5, 2003
By Terry Ahner Of The Chronicle
Not all farms are all work and
least not at Byler's Farm in Slatington, where in addition to hours upon hours
of hard work, the family that
the 18-acre site also offers its visitors action-packed fun mixed with an
by Urbane and Janet Byler since 1967, Byler's Farm has become renowned for its
wholesome products, tireless work ethic and rapidly growing Pumpkin Festival.
Held in October, the Pumpkin Festival has become a big hit, especially among elementary and nursery school aged children, according to Jason Byler, who, along with his wife Janine currently runs the farm while his parents are in Honduras. There, they are helping with a relief and service organization of the Mennonite Church.
“Really, it's a way for us to get rid of produce,” Jason Byler said of the festival. “Our main goal was to make sure it is educational, because it is geared towards early school aged children.”
said children come from a number of local schools - including Peter's Elementary
in Slatington, as well as Tamaqua, Kutztown, Allentown and Bethlehem.
estimated anywhere from 7,000 to 8,000 children visit the farm weekdays
throughout October, and another 4,000-5,000 people visit on weekends. Groups
who attend the festival include families, schools, church groups, Scout troops
and birthday parties.
do pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn for Halloween and harvest,” Byler said.
activities at the festival include hayrides to the pumpkin patch to pick, a
pumpkin, seeing turkeys, a cow, a calf, pigs, a pony, rabbits and other
animals; milking the cow; feeding chickens and goats; gathering the chicken's
eggs, sliding down the big slide into a pile of hay; walking through a maze of
hay bales, shelling corn, and pony rides on weekends.
But things weren't always that way as is usually the case, the farm had to expand
its horizons over time. When the Bylers first bought the farm, the main crop was
pick-your-own strawberries, Jason
Byler said. They also raised and sold apples, pears, peaches, pumpkins,
raspberries, cantaloupes, squash and other products. Several decades later -
during the mid- to late-1980s -
the Bylers decided to come up with the festival.
farming doesn't come without its price, as farmers often must spend grueling
hours - sometimes
the entire day working in the
is no such thing as a
typical day,” Byler said. “There's always animal-feeding every morning,
which takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour…
a variety of maintenance issues,
like tractors, mowing, plowing, planting and field prep.”
fact, Byler said he begins working as early as 6:30 in the morning during the
stop for lunch, dinner and usually work until dark," he said. "During
the winter, it's usually a little less, somewhere between four to six hours.”
Byler said he and his family get great satisfaction from the work they do.
hoping that it provides people with a way to stay in touch with where their food
comes from… the earth,” he said. “There's also a lot of satisfaction for
us personally when we plant a pumpkin and watch it grow.”
Byler and his wife will continue caring for the farm until his parents return
from their stay in Central America in February of 2005. .
owners Urbane and Janet Byler
have been working out of San Pedro Sula since
leaving their farm in February
assignment is coordinating a program called, “Connecting
People”. As part of their
assignment, they are helping prepare ways for delegations from North American
churches to visit Honduras, as
well as learning about the
culture, faith and living conditions in the country,” Jason Byler said.
said his parents spent several years in Mexico with the Mennonite Central
Committee during the mid-60s, during which time they “worked with agriculture
and showed people how I to grow crops.”
been to Central America before,
so it isn't as though they're newcomers,” Byler said. “They're well-known