Sonnewald launching new 'eat local' farmer's market


June is going to be a busy month for Willa Lefever, co-owner of Sonnewald Natural Foods.

The family-owned business at 4796 Lehman Road in North Codorus Township — a 60-acre chemical-free farm — will be celebrating its 60th anniversary in June and launching a new farmers market on June 6.

Lefever calls the small piece of land at 1939 Stoverstown Road the "Town Commons," where the Sonnewald Life Institute will be launching the market.

The market comprises 15 area vendors who are either local farmers or people selling goods made by local farmers, she said.

"York County has some of the richest farmland in the nation," she said. "Not only should we be feeding ourselves, we should be feeding people in other places."

Vendors will sell vegetables, alpaca fiber products, native plants and shrubs, local pasture-grown meats such as beef, pork, poultry and rabbit, and eggs, wool, maple syrup, and jams and jellies.

One vendor, Wild Abundance, will specialize in foraged foods found in the wild, such as dandelion, mustard greens and wild garlic.

The market will be open 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays and 3-7 p.m. Wednesdays, Lefever said.

Anniversary celebration: To celebrate the anniversary, the store will host industry experts, demonstrate products, give out door prizes and feature specials.

Lefever, who no longer works at the store, will lead farm tours and weed walks.

She said there isn't a specific date when the business started, but her father bought a flour mill in June 1955 so the family could grind wheat for personal use.

People soon started contacting the family to grow wheat for them.

"So we're really celebrating this unintentional local family business that has somehow managed to survive for 60 years," she said. "If we look back in Sonnewald's history, the common denominator has always been education."

That denominator figures to grow with the launch of the Sonnewald Exchange from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. June 6-7 inside the south building of Morningstar Marketplace, 5309 Lincoln Highway West in Thomasville.

The exchange is modeled after the Little Free Library, a place where anyone can leave a book or take a book, Lefever said.

After seeing a Little Free Library at the Friends Meetinghouse in downtown York, Lefever knew she wanted one at Sonnewald and, eventually, someone at the company suggested using the space at Morningstar. Lefever said the space will be unstaffed.

"We hope that everybody will help to keep it straight and neat," she said. "The Sonnewald Exchange will just be a self-managing community service."

The booth is 16 feet by 24 feet, significantly bigger than most Little Free libraries. Lefever said the exchange will also accept magazines and CDs.

"We want people to understand that just because Sonnewald sponsors this, it's not limited to health books," she said. "The only thing we're not accepting is pornography."

To build an inventory for the opening, community members are invited to bring books to the store, Lefever said.

Nonprofit: Sonnewald Life Institute, an educational organization dreamed up by Lefever and her husband, Bill Kaiser, recently received confirmation from the IRS on its nonprofit status.

Lefever and her husband are currently two of nine members on the institute's board of directors, which determines the direction of the organization.

Lefever said the board, which is actively seeking additional members, would take control of all of Sonnewald's properties after she and her husband are gone.

The book exchange is the first significant project of the institute, which is focused on educating the community about all aspects of sustainable living, she said.

"One aspect of living sustainably is sharing more things, repurposing things, reusing things, creating as much value for as many people as possible, versus buying a book, looking at it and throwing it in a Dumpster," she said.

The institute has no specific agenda, Lefever said, but has its own destiny.

"It might be a challenging philosophy for a lot of people, but at Sonnewald, we're not really focused on making things happen. We're really focused on allowing things to happen," she said. "We feel there is a universal, divine plan and that we need to spend more time just listening and sort of receiving guidance and direction instead of the more traditional American approach of going and making it happen."