Small girl with father working in vegetable garden, sustainable lifestyle

Garden & Produce

God saw all that he had made and it was very good.

Genesis 1:31


We are blessed by our Creator who loves us and provides for our well-being. He has created a good earth for us to live on and has entrusted us to care for it. As we learn more about the condition of our soils and the environment, we acknowledge our great responsibility to leave a greener tomorrow than what we found today. This quote is a challenge to all of us…

“We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own. “

Moses Henry Cass

Healthy families are another wonderful blessing that our Heavenly Father gives to us. At Lancaster Ag we focus on gardening so that we can improve human health. When we plant our own gardens or rows of produce on our acreage and grow nutrient-dense food, we are assured that we are doing our best to raise healthy families. Our goal for our family members is for them to live long, vigorous, and productive lives.

The link between human health and the food we eat has been known for a long time. Americans are beginning to realize that a large part of our epidemic health problems stems from two things: lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets and the decreased amount of nutrients found in present-day produce. Recognizing that the challenges of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and various emotional and mental disorders that are connected to food in some way, we recommend returning to a healthy lifestyle through the variety of foods we eat. Growing our own salad greens, root vegetables, green vegetables and fruits in nutrient-dense soils is a great start.

The Value of Gardens

At Lancaster Ag we count it a wonderful privilege to work with all the gardeners and produce growers who use our programs and products. It is truly a pleasure to service your needs, make recommendations and troubleshoot your problems. Currently this is an exciting segment of our business and one to which we are deeply committed.

Reuben’s father, Stephen Stoltzfus, experienced a terminal health crisis in 2001. That is what has driven our company’s research efforts to create a healthy environment and fine-tune sustainable agriculture. Through owner Reuben Stoltzfus’ own health issues, he has developed a determination to find answers that improve soil, plants and human health. Our passion is promoting healthy living through farming and gardening.

We recognize the value of gardens and farms that produce truly healthful food. There is order in the natural system that God has created by which people can live off of the land to sustain their life and health. At Lancaster Ag we are constantly learning about the conditions of soils, environment and climates with which our Creator has blessed our Earth. The challenge for us is to be faithful stewards, manage our natural resources well and leave the land better than the way it was passed on to us. By carefully and methodically enriching and balancing the soil, we will bless future generations and pave the way for a healthier nation.

Gardens in the 21st Century

A man holds in his hands harvest vegetables from the garden. Selective focus.

A return to gardening is an exciting and innovative trend in the 21st century. Even though it means counting the cost of the time and effort involved, then paying the price and following through, the benefits are great. Lancaster Ag services many gardeners who are part of thousands of people opting for healthier lifestyles by working the soil and planting backyard gardens.

Gardeners need to be willing to become knowledgeable about the process, then work hard to be successful. Gardening involves preparing and fertilizing the soil, planting seeds, monitoring growth, watering plants and weeding rows. Later, the produce must be harvested and the excess preserved for future use. In spite of the hard work, gardening is easier than spending time in hospitals and better than spending money for major medical care. It is like the old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

For most gardeners the number one reason to garden is for the food. Naturally, food nourishes the whole being. In spring, summer and fall it is a feast for the eyes when bowls of steaming fresh vegetables are passed around the family kitchen table just minutes after being picked from the garden. Snacking on crisp raw vegetables recently harvested is an incomparable delight in freshness that cannot be found in the industrial food chain.

Gardening is a physical activity for the entire family. Multiple generations can work together. Young children, retirees and those in between can share the many tasks of gardening. It is great exercise for people of all ages as grandparents and grandchildren pick peas and beans, working their way down the rows side-by-side, with the parents picking up the heavier work. Gardening for the most part must be done outdoors. The fresh air and smells of the earth invigorate the body and soul.

There are also financial benefits to planting a garden, especially when feeding a large family. At harvest’s end when the canning shelves are filled, it is satisfying to know that the family has high-quality, nutritious food to eat all winter long. What started with a packet of seeds has blossomed, grown and filled many canning jars. When there is such a bountiful harvest so that there is more produce leftover than a family can possibly use, the excess can be sold at a roadside stand. The extra income provides money to pay for improving the soil in the garden. Neighbors and passersby are glad to purchase the freshest vegetables available.

Happy young and old farmers working with garden tools outdoors at community farm

God has entrusted us with caring for His Earth. The soil that He created is a resource for us, one that He has gifted to us so that we can sustain human life. As gardeners and farmers, we have an obligation to work the land carefully and responsibly. We have the awesome task of being stewards, which means actively managing what God has given us. Gardening is caring for God’s creation at its best.

The spiritual nurture that gardening provides comes from walking and talking with God in the garden. He desires daily conversations and fellowship with us. Our praise and thanksgiving for the timely rains he sends and His bountiful harvests go directly to the heart of God. Connecting with God first thing in the morning as we work in the garden before the noonday heat, starts the day right. We exercise faith in His mighty power when we depend on Him for rain, sun, warmth and the sprouting of new life. When the seedlings break through the soil, it is the miracle of life played out over and over again.

For some people it is emotionally satisfying to work in the soil. Turning over the dirt around the plants helps the mind to deal with the disappointments of yesterday and anticipate the joy in upcoming events. Some say that gardening is a soul thing that goes down to the core of one’s being. Others say the love of gardening is a gift from God. Still others say that it refreshes and delights. They are drawn to the garden and are nurtured by the time they spend there watching things grow.

Benefits of Family Meals

Tending a garden and eating family meals together go hand-in-hand. The interconnection of working together to tend the garden and then sitting down to a feast that comes directly from the labor of one’s hands is rewarding. The fresh, sweet tastes of food that is nutrient-dense make the hard work worthwhile. Enjoying good health and a happy family life are benefits from eating together around the table on a regular basis.

Family working together in greenhouse. Portrait of grandfather, child working in family garden.

An important part in family life is working together to prepare the food for the table or to preserve it at the end of the harvest. Even the very young children in the family can be given tasks such as breaking green beans in half or picking silk from an ear of corn. Children are more eager to be involved if they know they are valued and their work is praised. If they see Mom and Dad working together to can peaches or make applesauce, they want to be a part of the scene. When young and old work together in the kitchen to cook daily meals using fresh whole foods from the garden, the children learn skills they will use for a lifetime. Plus, it teaches them to eat the many different nutrients needed for a healthy diet and to eat their colors.

Family meals enhance communication and ensure the worth of each person. Parents listen to their children talk about their playmates and school activities, while parents share about on-the-job happenings and whom they met at the auction or store. All members of the family take turns sharing about their day’s events. Mealtimes are a great time to teach and learn! Research shows that the children whose families eat together on a regular basis make more positive choices in life.

Buying Fresh and Local

Presently most produce in the United States is shipped an average of 1500 miles before it is sold. In order to reverse this situation, one of the healthy choices that many families in our country are making is to buy locally. Raising a garden on a large scale obviously does not fit with everyone’s lifestyle and circumstances. Being able to buy the extra produce from neighbors’ gardens or from local produce growers or farmers has many advantages for the whole community. Here are ten reasons to think local first and buy from local, independently owned businesses whenever possible.

  • Eliminates the middleman – more of the food dollar goes directly to the grower
  • Strengthens the local economy – keeps food dollars local
  • Creates local jobs – small businesses provide the most jobs to residents
  • Better service – local people have a better understanding of the produce they are raising and selling
  • Supports community non-profit groups – small businesses contribute more than large businesses
  • Makes a community unique – one-of-a-kind businesses are not based on a national plan, but rather, their own interests and the needs of their customers
  • Saves on fuel – very little transportation costs by not shipping food across the country or internationally
  • Provides freshness at its peak – food starts losing nutrients as soon as it is harvested
  • Better appearance and taste – fruits and vegetables are picked when they are ripe
  • Assures that harmful growing practices are not used – consumers can speak directly to growers about their applications and soil conditions
fresh farm grown vegetables at local farmers market

Demand for Real Foods is Increasing

Real foods are nutrient-dense herbs, fruits and vegetables raised in soils rich with balanced minerals and alive with biology. Nutrient-dense is the key word in the definition of real foods because both the soil in which fruits and vegetables are grown and the foods themselves are nutrient-dense. This means it is important to put minerals back into our soils and make those soils sustainable for future generations.

When there is a lack of sufficient minerals in our foods, the eleven vital systems in our bodies suffer. Keeping our bodies well tuned with real foods will go a long way to prevent serious health problems in these systems: endocrine, immune, reproductive, musculoskeletal, nervous, circulatory, digestive, lymphatic, respiratory, urinary and skin.

The high cost of real food is of great concern. Buying local and planning summer meals around seasonal vegetables ripe in the garden or from nearby roadside stands and farmers markets are ways to save on the food budget. Another way is to cook meals from scratch by using fresh, whole ingredients instead of opening pre-packaged food. Eliminating food waste is also a savings of the food dollars that a family has to spend. Over forty percent of America’s food is thrown away and of that amount, only three percent is recycled in creative ways such as compost piles.

Gardening Family gardeners plant a plant in the ground.Agroculture.plants garden, farming, freelance

Small family farms help communities stay vibrant. Many people today are worried about the great distances their food travels before they consume it. When farmers and produce growers can sell their real foods locally, it lessens the dependence on long supply lines for food and profits the local economy. For example, the Buy Fresh, Buy Local initiative in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania reported this finding in April 2012, “If all Lancaster County households shifted 5 percent of their grocery budgets to local foods, our local economy would capture an additional $45 million annually.” That is a significant influx of cash.

Lancaster Ag encourages you to transform barren backyards into lush gardens. When your body craves fresh vegetables, simply step outside your back door, walk 30 feet and pick the ingredients for a real foods dinner. When you follow Lancaster Ag’s Garden Programs your garden will flourish. This means carefully following the programs step-by-step, nurturing your soil and using our beneficial garden products. Then your family will enjoy the health that comes from a diet of real foods.

Soil Conditions in Gardens and Fields

In conclusion, we must garden and farm from the bottom up. The beginning of great gardens and produce acres that produce healthy, nutrient-dense produce is the soil. The number one goal for gardens and produce acres is the production of top quality herbs, fruits and vegetables that taste delicious as opposed to low-grade, inferior produce. Unfortunately, from 1940 to 1991, the produce quality in the United States dropped. On the average, fruit lost 60% of its mineral density and vegetables lost nearly 80%. The largest sphere of influence with which to raise the quality of our current produce is the soil.

The condition of our soils is important because all life on earth is dependent on soil. A close look at healthy soil reveals that it is teeming with life and activity. It is rich in organic matter, insects, earthworms, air, water and nutrients. Healthy soil retains nutrients and has a texture allowing water and air to permeate it. The four major components of soil are mineral matter, organic matter, water and air. The mineral matter (stones, gravel) usually originates from the bedrock that lies beneath the soil. Organic matter (humus) is the decayed remains and waste products of plants and animals.

Hands harvesting fresh organic potatoes from soil

It is important to note that the mineral composition of the soil is what makes the difference between rich fertile soil and poor infertile soil. Plants need minerals to be in an available and balanced form. Minerals are what create sweetness, flavor and nutrition in fruits, grains and vegetables. Without balanced minerals, it is possible to achieve high production, but not the highest-quality nutritional food.

We at Lancaster Ag are awed by the complexity of the many elements needed in the soil for good healthy life to exist at that level. It is interesting to note that all of these elements are supplied through the natural system in amounts that are adequate and balanced. When we neglect the natural system, deplete the soil or add detrimental ingredients, we upset the balance of nature and create a domino effect of problems that begin in our soils, extend to our plants, then to animals and eventually to our own human health.

Lancaster Ag offers a quality line of garden products and programs that enhances the natural system and enables growers to raise nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that benefit human health.

Measuring the Quality of Fruits and Vegetables

Dr. Carey Reams, an agricultural and human health consultant, discovered an easy, efficient and inexpensive method of determining produce quality. He realized that minerals in the food give energy to people and that those minerals are actually carriers of energy. Humans need minerals, not for the elements themselves, but for the energy associated with those elements.

Dr. Reams discovered that a rise in plant sugars as measured on an instrument called a refractometer indicated a corresponding rise in mineral density. The units of a refractometer are measured in degrees Brix (°Bx). One degree Brix corresponds to 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and thus represents the strength of the solution as a percentage by weight. The general rule is the higher the Brix value, the higher the quality.