Southwestern Pa. Correspondent
EIGHTY FOUR, Pa. — When Sam and Bev Minor, owners of the SpringHouse, decided to buy a farm, they did so with unconventional goals in mind. But through their faith in God, hard work, and perseverance the Minors have turned their dreams into reality and become a well-recognized and beloved part of the local landscape. They have also helped to educate thousands of children and adults about what it means to be in the farming industry.
“We never planned to farm in the same manner that many people plan to farm,” Bev Minor said. “Our plans always surrounded a shop where we would sell milk and cheese to the public. When we went farm shopping, we never looked at how the fields laid; we counted cars to see how much traffic a storefront would have.”
“At the time that we were looking to buy, I was working away from home a lot,” Sam Minor said. “We didn’t want that for our family, so we looked into other options. A farm and small cheese shop seemed like a viable way to earn a living and keep our family together.
“We started by buying 81 acres and renting another 323 from a neighbor,” he continued. “In 1974, we really tested the road traffic when we put up a little shanty to sell corn from. Our five kids, who were between six and twelve at the time, manned the shanty. It went pretty well, so we started building in the summer of 1975. We opened the store and the cheese processing room in December of 1975, selling 17 gallons of milk on the first day.”
Around 1978, a friend suggested that they host a chicken barbeque on the farm.
“He gave us his recipe, and we tried it,” Sam Minor said. “It was quite a success. In fact, we still do barbeques here about five times a year from the same recipe.”
With the thought planted that food service might be an area of growth worth tending, the Minors added on to the store in 1986.
“We love our cows, and we love our farm,” Sam Minor added, “but we had debt that we had to pay. We wanted a business that our kids could have a future in, and we believed that the kids all needed the opportunity to go to college. So we watched the numbers, and saw that while milk sales had grown, the real future seemed to be with the food. So we started smoking meats, we added a bakery and started making lunches available. Until we added the restaurant seating, people would hold their food and stand at the freezers, or if the weather was nice, they would go out to the picnic tables. Expansion became necessary.”
The farm has a milking herd of around 125 cows. Milk is processed on site and they make chocolate, whole, 2 percent, and skim milk. They also make heavy cream.
Farm tours and educational experiences for the public were also implemented very early.
“I grew up knowing the importance of educating others about farming,” Bev Minor said. She served one year as the Pennsylvania Milk Maid in the late 1950s, a precursor to the Pennsylvania State Dairy Princess Program. “My dad did farm tours at his farm before Sam and I ever married. There are so many kids who don’t have the experience of being on a farm or understanding how they work or how they benefit everyone. We did tours for free here until we started doing so many that we had to employ others to lead them.”
More than 5,000 youth come to the Springhouse each year to learn about farming. “We talk about the weather, pricing and all of the other things farmers deal with,” she said.
At the plant, people can watch milk being processed through a large window at the store.
Family values and faith are at the heart of everything that happens at the SpringHouse.
“We are committed to our faith, our customers, and our employees,” Sam Minor said. “We have 70 full and part-time employees from high school kids to people who have been with us for between 20 and 30 years. We take great satisfaction in watching employees grow, achieve and succeed, and we believe that God has called us to help people wherever we can.”
“We are fortunate to have three of our five children living on the farm,” Bev Minor added. “Our son, Sam, takes care of the farming portion of the business, while two of our daughters, Marcia and Jill, head up the restaurant and the catering elements. We are also blessed that 11 of our 20 grandchildren live on the farm. They are involved in the farm to varying degrees as well.
“When we discuss adding any new element to our business plan, we ask ourselves a question,” she said. “We ask whether the new plan keeps us true to ourselves and focused on the farm. We have kept our dairy cows all of these years because it is who we are. We are farmers, and we are not just here to entertain.”