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When Louis Castriota Jr. started his foundation Leg Up Farm in 1997, he had a master plan.

First, he had the idea of Leg Up Farm, a place that can serve those with special needs in his community. Castriota saw a need for a comprehensive center with a range of programs that helped special-needs children, not just those with one need or condition.

It took 13 years to realize the facility — a sprawling 16,000-square-foot campus in Mount Wolf, equipped with fitness, socialization and horse-riding centers, which opened in 2010. The facility now serves more than 700 children, according to Castriota.

Secondly, Castriota set his sights on serving adults with special needs and created Able-Services in 2014 in Emigsville.

In even quicker time, his third idea — or “phase three” as he’s called it — came to fruition: To help everyone in the community by creating a full-service, natural grocery store.

“When we eat well, it gives us the opportunity for our bodies to perform better,” Castriota said. “Everyone can use that.”

Leg Up Farmers Market celebrated its one-year anniversary Sunday with a special birthday celebration that included a chocolate cake large enough to share with hundreds of customers.

The store has products free of preservatives and artificial colors and flavors, Castriota said.

“You can really have peace of mind that there will be no (harmful) chemicals in the products you buy here,” he said.

Castriota is founder, president and CEO of Leg Up Farm, and he said his latest “phase” is a win-win for the community. The two facilities providing services to those with special needs are local, and most of the profit at Leg Up Farmers Market goes to the two nonprofits.

“A woman just thanked me for the Able (Services) program as she came in,” he said. “That’s really gratifying."

Customers: Castriota said the event brought many first-time customers, and many of them came from word of mouth and social media.

“I heard about it on Facebook,” said Spring Garden Township resident Lori Ehrlich.

The first-time Leg Up Farmers Market visitor said it was “a lot more impressive” than she thought it was going to be.

“I expected a less-busy farmers market, but it’s an upscale grocery store,” she said.

Ehrlich’s friend, Debby Scalet, said she heard about Leg Up Farmers Market “a long time ago” but finally made it out after she saw an ad about the one-year celebration.

The Springettsbury Township resident was struck by the many free sampling tables around the store for the one-year anniversary.

“It’s great because you try things you wouldn’t ordinarily buy,” she said, “and the kids like it, too.”

Scalet’s daughter, Sophia, 10, enjoyed the honey ghee, while Ehrlich’s daughter Emma, also 10, favored her vegan brownie sample.

Manchester Township resident Julie Wilt came for the first time with her friend and regular customer Angie Morthland. Wilt said she also was surprised.

“It’s awesome,” Wilt said. “We had no idea it was the one-year anniversary, and when we came in we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, is there a party out here?’”

Wilt said she tries to buy organic food when she can and was pleased with the variety in the stores. Morthland said shopping at a place with many local products “makes it even better” to frequent the location.

“I know a couple of families whose children go to the school,” she said, so shopping at a business that has its profits go toward those programs makes it “absolutely” worth going to.

The vendors: As part of the anniversary festivities, there were more than a dozen vendors providing free samples of their products to customers, and many of them were pleased at the traffic inside the store.

“This was an event we didn’t even know about until recently,” said Dan Laiosa, vice president and head of sales at Tierra Farm, an organic nut company near Albany, New York. He said it’s important vendors such as his company offer samples to customers because of the price of organic foods, which often scare away customers.

“They’re not cheap, but this is a great opportunity for us to talk to customers and show we stand behind our product,” he said.

Laiosa’s assessment fell in line with Wilt’s experience at the the Farmers Market.

“I sampled the granola,” Wilt said.

“That damn salad, the ghee,” Morthland interjected. “We get suckered into everything.”

As a regular customer, Morthland said Sunday’s anniversary was a big showing of customers for the market.

“There are people here today for this soirée that normally would not shop here, I can tell you that,” Morthland said. “It’s a little secret treasure.”

Although he is not a local resident, Laiosa said he liked the store.

“It’s a nice store,” he said. “If I lived here, I’d shop here all the time.”

Sharon Stallman, a local product representative offering samples of Barlean’s, a line of organic oil supplements, said she frequents Leg Up Farmers Market as a representative of products sold at the store and as a customer.

The Manchester Township resident said on both fronts, the day was “excellent.” She said the store reminded her of Sonnewald Natural Foods, the natural-food store in North Codorus Township.

“This is exciting, because to have this in York is ...” Stallman gestured with her head, “monumental.”

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