This article is based on a presentation given at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown by Frank Stoltzfus, farm manager.

Changing Times

Farmer Frank Stoltzfus is as much of an institution at the Masonic Village Farm as the farm itself. For a third of the farm’s 110-year history, he’s served as farm manager. Now, that tenure ends on June 5, 2020, as Farmer Frank retires from the role.

“There have been a lot of changes, and a lot of things that stayed the same,” he said, speaking about both the farm and the wider campus. For example, when Farmer Frank first came here in 1985, Masonic Village at Elizabethtown only had 500 residents; today, it has over 2,000. But Farmer Frank’s blue tractor from 1999 is “still my favorite piece of equipment.” The farm currently has 600 acres in pasture and crops, including 250 acres of no-till row crops.

Don’t Have a Cow

Did you know Masonic Village had the first beef herd in Lancaster County? In 1990, Masonic Village Farm “got serious about the beef business,” according to Farmer Frank. They bought Byland Strong Box as a calf to begin breeding shorthorns – a virtually untapped market in this part of the country at the time. Thirty years later, they had 170 cows calve this spring.

In addition to quality cattle, Masonic Village Farm has also raised up some of the next generation of agriculture professionals. Masonic Village Farm is in its 20th year of hosting interns from the local high school agriculture programs or Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters.

“Of those 20 people, I know 15 of them who are still in agriculture. I’m proud they got part of their education here. It’s been a real joy to work with these kids and have them come through our program,” Farmer Frank said.

Where’s the Beef?

The Masonic Village Farm recipe – “blue sky + green grass = red meat” – has created a product with a following. Masonic Village Farm’s commitment to excellent beef has been recognized in several ways. In 2016, Masonic Village Farm won a National Beef Quality Assurance Award from the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA).

“This just confirmed that we were doing a good job,” Farmer Frank said.

In 2019, the farm was certified humane. This required a third-party audit of the entire farm and a 50-page application. But, according to Farmer Frank, the farm “was doing 90% of the things already,” so it was worth the work! Cattle received awards at the PA Farm Show until 2018, when MVF Hot Rod was the last bull shown by the farm. The Happy Valley Meat Company in Manhattan, NY, distributes 90% of Masonic Village’s beef. In fact, the Las Vegas restaurant Momofuku (part of celebrity chef David Chang’s Momofuku Group) serves Masonic Village beef exclusively. The Masonic Village Farm Market also sells the farm’s beef.

What’s Next For Farmer Frank?

After Farmer Frank retires on June 5, Scotty Miller – a member of the Masonic Village Farm family since 2015 – will take over as Farm Manager.

“Even though Frank has smaller feet than I do, they’re plenty big shoes to fill,” he said.

A cause close to his heart will occupy Frank in retirement: assisting his missionary friends with projects overseas. (Learn more about Frank’s previous mission work here.) At Sikolongo Bible Institute in Malawi, Frank will serve as project manager on a housing project for nurses and expectant mothers. At Zambian Christian University, he’ll help build housing for the campus’ visiting lecturers and teach sustainable agriculture to the students. We will miss him, but know he’s making great use of his talents!

“I consider it a real privilege to have been able to live here and work this land on this set of farms for this amount of time,” he said.

Happy retirement, Farmer Frank!

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