Butler County tour to connect locals with farms

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Butler County farmers will open their fence gates and barn doors to the public for the 15th time in an annual celebration of an industry employing thousands and feeding even more.

The free, drive-it-yourself Butler County Farm Tour will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday focusing on the northern shelf of the county.

"I just mailed 2,000 fliers to families who came out for last year's tour,'' said Ron Fodor of the county's soil and conservation bureau and a spokesman for the tour program. "Depending on the weather, it could be a record-setter."

While many participants are locals, Mr. Fodor said he sees big numbers of attendees from the Pittsburgh region, where residents don't have as many opportunities to see farm life up close.

"Some people don't ever see a cow first hand. This gives people a chance to see where their food comes from and how a farmer lives," Mr. Fodor said. He said he appreciates the opportunity to focus on the agricultural industry that employs about 2,000 people in an array of enterprises that produces an estimated $43 million in food, timber and other products annually.

This year's tour features three stops: Hickory Hollow Farm on Stowe Road in Parker, Fantasy Whitetails on Cemetery Road in Boyers, and Zanella Milling on Main Street in West Sunbury.

Hickory Hollow is owned by Valerie and Steve Pieper. A 400-acre farm, it is worked by Charles O. Stowe and family and has been since 1914. The farm features a saw mill; crops of corn, oats and hay; and farm animals such as horses, goats, chickens, cattle and a donkey. Hay rides will be offered and various holiday crafts will be for sale on site, as well.

At Fantasy Whitetails, visitors will get a gander at deer farming. Roco Sloboda raises whitetail deer as a retirement project and has 100 in his herd. Some 30 acres of the 400-acre farm are devoted to deer.

The deer are selectively bred with bucks in November and newly born fawns live separately. The animals are sold to other breeders and to some who want to populate hunting preserves.

"The kids will love it. I have fawns we're bottle feeding," Mr. Sloboda said.

The Zanella Milling operation will give visitors a chance to see one of the last operating buckwheat flour mills in the county. The mill is operated by John and Anita Zanella and their six children. The business does custom grinding and mixing for customers, along with manufacturing its own line of animal and wildlife feeds. The shop also carries local honey and a selection of Con Yeager spices and meat processing kits. Con Yeager is located in Jackson.

Meanwhile, the West Sunbury United Presbyterian Church on Church Street will serve pancakes, kielbasa sandwiches, apple dumplings and other baked goods. Refreshments will be available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. within walking distance of the mill.

Information: www.visitbutlercounty.com


Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.


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