Car dealer farming tilapia for Leg Up market

David Weissman
  • Stan Shaffer, of Stan's III Service Center, is raising tilapia on his 150-acre farm
  • Shaffer has been selling the fish to the recently opened Leg Up Farmers Market
  • He's run Stan's Service Center for 35 years, but gave the reigns to his son and daughter-in-law

Longtime used-car dealer Stan Shaffer has a fishy retirement plan.

The 66-year-old former owner of Stan's III Service Center in York Township has been raising tilapia at his Lower Windsor Township farm since September. The recently opened Leg Up Farmers Market in Manchester Township is Shaffer's first, and currently only, customer.

Shaffer said he's able to contain approximately 1,100 tilapia in his aquaponics system, which sits inside a greenhouse on his 150-acre farm.

Stan Shaffer shows the roots of Romaine lettuce growing in water filled with nutrients from his tilapia, Friday, March 18, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

The self-sustaining system utilizes the fish waste to feed plants, including lettuce, kale, strawberries, tomatoes and peppers, which Shaffer said he sells locally. Shaffer said he only needs to keep tabs on the water quality, and the system runs year-round.

Shaffer said Leg Up's demand for tilapia has been greater than he originally anticipated, and he's looking to expand the system to a new, larger greenhouse that will triple production within the next year.

"This started out as an experiment," Shaffer said of the aquaponics system. "We feel like we definitely know what we're doing now."

Currently, he sells the market approximately 40 pounds of fish per week, which is typically 20 to 25 tilapia, he said.

The farm used to hold big-game animals — part of Shaffer's original retirement plan — but his daughter was killed on the land by an axis deer four years ago, and all game were quickly removed.

Stan Shaffer has shifted from selling Subaru's to farming tilapia, which he sells to Leg Up Farmers Market, Friday, March 18, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

Shaffer still organizes black bear hunts with his son in Quebec during May and June.

He ran Stan's Service Center for 35 years but recently handed the reins to his son and daughter-in-law after the business moved late in 2015 from 701 Cape Horn Road in York Township to 5823 Lincoln Highway East in Hellam Township.

Shaffer is still helping out around the shop, but he's getting ready to give tilapia farming his full attention.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said of his retirement. "I gotta keep active cause I'm more of a workaholic."

Leg Up Farmers Market, at 3100 N. George St., held its grand opening on March 16.

Locally sourced and fresh foods are focal points of the 18,700-square-foot store. Those items will come from farms within a 100-mile radius of the store.

A special logo will alert customers to the local products, according to Louis Castriota Jr., president and CEO of Leg Up Farm.

— Reach David Weissman at