In 1865, shortly after the end of the American Civil War, a farmer in PA Dutch Country built a brick farmhouse and a small roadside stand to sell the produce he was growing. Working in relative obscurity and without any modern distractions, old man Hodecker created and fine tuned a process that transforms celery into a delicacy that has become a holiday staple for many in and around Lancaster County.
This process that was developed back in the 19th century has been handed down through five generations of farmers. It starts in early to mid summer, when the non-GMO celery seed is planted into the ground. Over the next few months, the celery is cared for through the heat and dryness of July and August. September is often when the first crop is ready for harvest. But unlike the tough, green celery you find in most grocery stores, Hodecker celery is brought through an additional process called blanching that was developed by old man Hodecker. The blanching process involves wrapping up the celery plant around itself, and burying the stalks underground. While underground and shielded from the sun, the heart of the plant feeds on the outer parts. Over the course of weeks, the outer part of the celery becomes bitter and woody, and gets thrown away afterwards. But the inner celery gains a totally unique flavor and texture that is sweet, crisp, and amazing.
In 1950, Jay Hodecker became the 3rd generation of farmer to grow celery when he took over his grandfather's stand and continued to refine the process and grow the business. Even then, folks would come from as far as the Lehigh Valley in order to have the sweet celery at their dinner table. In 1985 the tradition continued when Merv Shenk bought the business. For 32 years, Merv and his wife Angie would continue to tradition of planting, harvesting, trenching, and blanching.
In 2007, a 17 year old young man named Josiah from a neighboring farm began to learn the Hodecker process under Merv. Ten years later, on November 3rd 2017, Josiah Rohrer took over business and became the 5th generation of farmer to continue what old man Hodecker created in 1865. For years to come, Hodecker celery will continue to delight folks looking for sweet Hors d'oeuvre during the holidays.
Here at The Bake Shoppe, we love celebrations. We especially love the holidays. And we are always looking for new products or services to help make your special day even better. Over the past few months, it's why we've added a entire gluten free line. It's also why we now carry premium greeting cards and other celebration gifts.
And now, we are excited to announce that we have partnered with Hodecker Celery Farm to become their new retail location! The Bake Shoppe at Country Table & Hodecker Celery Farm customers will now be able to buy their holiday baked goods & bleached celery at the same location, here at 740 E Main, Mount Joy PA. We are just a five minute drive from the old Hodecker Celery Farm stand. From the old stand, go south on Esbenshade Rd for less than a mile, make a right at the Sheetz, and we are at The Country Table complex on the left hand side about two miles up the road. Directly across from Giant.
We are proud to see two Lancaster traditions, and families, come together. Just as my husband and I are continuing the Country Table bakery tradition that was passed down from my in-laws (the Daly's) we now also get to be a part of the Hodecker tradition being carried on by my brother and dad (the Rohrer's). Please stop by to celebrate the new addition to The Shoppe!