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A Farm Rooted in History - Happenings Magazine — Happenings Magazine

A Farm Rooted in History

For Dave Nonnenmacher, farming isn’t just a hobby— it’s part of his family heritage.

In the mid-1800s, Dave’s German great grandfather cleared the land in Hawley and began the farm while working in the nearby Dorflinger Glass Factory. The farm was passed down through the generations. Today, Dave is retired from his job in education and spends hours working the land, growing crops to use at home and to sell to a few local clients including The Settler’s Inn in Hawley.

Though the entire property is 54 acres, this year Dave planted about an acre of fruits and vegetables. While he grows many common vegetables, he also includes multiple Asian varieties that are typically not found in a seed catalogue. In the past, he has successfully grown orach, yacon and bitter melons. He also has a passion for sweet potatoes. “No farmer was growing sweet potatoes here,” Dave explains. “The notion that they could be grown here fascinated me.” He browsed through the varieties offered by the Sand Hill Preservation Center and decided to try a few. A few quickly turned into 21 varieties! In his best year, Dave says that he exceeded 5 pounds per plant, and many of the yellow and purple types he grows have a delicious flavor.

Dave also has a passion for traveling. He and his wife journey to Asia each year in search of new rare plants to try on the farm. “Wherever I am, I’m poking around in fresh vegetable markets, scouring seed racks in stores and visiting seed sellers or farms, always on the lookout for something new,” he says. “In fact, there is a variety of stir-fry lettuce offered by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds that I collected from a farmer in the highlands of Malaysia.” According to Dave, the farm has the widest variety of Asian vegetables in Wayne County.

He believes shopping locally is important for the community. “Circulating money in the community keeps it viable,” he says. Dave also explains that knowing your farmer can keep him accountable for using chemicals in his crops. Additionally, he says those who take advantage of “Farm-to-Table” dining enjoy fresh, delicious produce that changes with the season. Since 1985, Dave has partnered with The Settler’s Inn, selling them everything from haricots verts to zucchini blossoms.

At age 73, Dave plans to keep experimenting with his farm for as long as he can, even after he stops selling to clients. In the future, he hopes to introduce new varieties of common vegetables and “push the envelope” with exotic crops. If successful, he plans to pass on the crops he gathers to one of the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture farmers so they can grow them commercially. Dave’s farm will continue to thrive for years to come under his watchful eye, and he looks forward to enjoying every minute of it. “I can’t resist having my hands in the soil,” Dave said. -Megan Kane