Penns Valley, Pa.: A Chain of Tradition

While other communities control raw milk as though it were toxic waste, residents here have access to dozens of raw-milk dairies, thanks to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture's work with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

  • Several hamlets make up the Penns Valley, Penn, community.
    Photo by Cyndy Engley
  • The Neff Round Barn in Centre Hall.
    Photo by Cyndy Engle
  • Motorists share the road with Amish buggies.
    Photo by Cyndy Engle

Each year, MOTHER EARTH NEWS selects a handful of sustainable communities to highlight in our annual Great Places feature. Check out the other towns featured in our 2014 installment: 8 Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of.

Penns Valley, Pennsylvania. This community in central Pennsylvania is not a single city, but a string of tiny towns that dot the valley along the main roadway. Its beautiful ridge-and-valley topography challenged settlers who arrived in the early 1800s, but many of those families remained in the area, forming the communities of Millheim, Centre Hall and Spring Mills.

“The older generations in this area set a tone with their mores and traditions,” says Cyndy Engle, who has lived in the area for 12 years and was attracted to it because of its undercurrent of respect and care, as well as her appreciation of the area’s history. It is, however, a place where a “quick trip” to the grocery store can end up taking an hour, she says. “You see people you know in every aisle and you stop to catch up on their family news. The deli counter person knows what your family likes and also makes recommendations for events going on in the valley. At checkout, the cashier not only knows your name, but also how you like to have your produce packed.

“The grocery shelves are lined with products bearing local family names,” Engle says. “I love knowing that the food I eat was grown in the same soil as that on the bottom of my shoes.”

Brian Snyder of the nationally recognized Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture says PASA works statewide to bring farmers together to learn from each other and to build relationships with consumers looking for fresh, local and sustainably produced food. “Our soils are rich here, and home gardens proliferate — many in the front yard,” Snyder says. “Many gardeners grow their own meat animals alongside their vegetable gardens.”



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