Ed Sonnenberg, Hundredfold Farm (outside of Gettysburg PA)
South Mountain is the northern extension of the Blue Ridge mountain range in Pennsylvania. Nestled in the picturesque foothills of South Mountain just west of the historic borough of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is the cohousing community of Hundredfold Farm. Situated at nearly 1200 feet up a winding gravel road on approximately 75 acres, the community members, or “Folders” as we call ourselves, enjoy scenic vistas and a rural lifestyle on this idyllic property.
What one cannot help noticing when visiting the community are the acres of pine and evergreen trees necklacing the hills and fields. Since its inception, the community has operated Seven Springs Tree Farm LLC, a seasonal cut-your-own Christmas tree farm that was in existence when the community purchased the property. Initially, households that joined Hundredfold Farm were required to buy into Seven Springs Tree Farm and help operate it during the selling season. The community is a mixture of active retirees and professionals who endeavor to keep the tree farm in operation while maintaining their own careers. However, in order to accommodate the downturn in the real estate market and to attract residents to the Hundredfold Community, it was decided to drop the requirement and make joining and staying in the business as a partner optional.
Although the farm has traditionally been open to the public from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, preparation for the tree season is a year round effort. The majority of the work performed on the tree farm is done by the Folders themselves, either as paid labor or as sweat equity. Young seedlings are planted early in the Spring for harvesting upon maturity years later. The tree fields are mowed throughout the year from late Spring until opening day. Laborers are hired to trim the trees and weed between the individual trees.
If you love the freedom of working outdoors then this is the place for you. The smell of pine and freshly mowed fields is intoxicating. Folders often see fox, pheasants, turkeys, deer, snakes, and turtles in the fields. However, there is also poison ivy, hornet nests, groundhog holes, and brambles! Farm work requires dedication and labor.
The tree farm also operates a gift shop and café during the tree season. Folders stock the gift shop with products and crafts from local artisans as well as items from fair trade organizations. Wreaths are hand decorated by a community member and offered for sale. The café offers hot chocolate, cookies, hot dogs, and other treats. Seasonal entertainment is also scheduled for the public. The tree farm has been in operation for twenty plus years and many families make coming here a holiday tradition.
When the shop is closed for the season work still continues. Final bills have to be paid and taxes filed. During the deepest months of winter, the fields rest and Folders get a reprieve before planning for the next season.
The Christmas tree tradition continues at Hundredfold Farm as Folders investigate other opportunities and possibilities for themselves, their land, and their community.