Photo credit – Kelly Weisner
4-H Members (Back Row L to R) Marisa Berger, Konnor Weisner, Sadie Berger and Alex Weisner (front) carry on the 6th generation farm family in Kutztown, PA.*
In the 1950’s, Kutztown, PA farmer Norman Berger raised a variety of fresh produce, eggs, milk, and meat. Folks in urban areas had limited access to goods, so farmers like Norman conducted what we now call “direct to consumer” marketing. Several times a week, Norman and his wife Goldie packed up their “locally grown” goods onto his 1950’s International pick-up and drove to the city of Reading, PA. The residents of Reading and the greater Berks County depended on these weekly fresh deliveries. Supermarkets as we know them today did not exist. In addition, many families did not have reliable transportation to get to where the food was available. Families relied on these weekly deliveries to supplement their pantry of staples as Goldie, age 89, states, “the customers most wanted eggs and potatoes.” Norman and Goldie operated their “Huckster Route” for over 20 years.
Ask working millennials or Gen Xer families today, and many believe the “Farm to Table” or “Farm Fresh to You” movement is not only a unique new concept, but a valuable time saver! A quick google search for fresh produce deliveries produces a variety of options to choose from for the rebirth of the “Huckster Route.”
Norman and Goldie farmed for 40 years alongside Norman’s brother Earl and Goldie’s twin sister Lottie. Two brothers, two twin sisters running a family farm in Berks County Pennsylvania. Norman and Goldie had three sons, the eldest Victor who took over the family farm. Victor had two children, the eldest Kerry who followed in his family’s footsteps and took over the 5th generation of the family farm. Kerry’s sister, Kelly, supports the agricultural community as a Penn State Extension Educator in the 4-H program. Each of Norman and Goldie’s grandchildren have two children who are carrying on the farm family tradition as members of the Lehigh County 4-H Potato Judging Club.
These 4 great grandchildren recently competed against a total of 139 4-H members from 13 counties across the state at the 2020 PA Farm Show in the 4-H Potato Grading and Identification Contest. This generation is too young to remember the many years of harvesting and grading potatoes for the family Huckster Route, but they are keeping a family tradition alive!
Konnor Weisner, age 10, was named the top individual scorer at this year’s contest from over 118 other contestants ages 8-18. Only one-half point behind was his cousin Sadie Berger, age 13, placing 2nd overall! Konnor, Sadie and two other teammates carried their “B” team to first place out of 20 teams in B division. Marisa, age 15, placing 27th overall and her team placing 5th in A division. The youngest, Alex Weisner, age 5, participated for his first year, as a 4-H Cloverbud.
Victor, their grandfather is very proud this generation is keeping his family’s tuber skills current, even though the farm no longer grows potatoes. “I’m glad to have these kids help on the farm, knowing they are keeping a family tradition alive.” Both families continue to raise potatoes in their family gardens.
All counties in Pennsylvania are encouraged to form a potato judging team for next year! Training materials are available, and groups are welcome to come for a trial run if they wish. Horticulture Educators, Master Gardeners, local gardeners, and potato producers are all good resources for volunteer leaders. Contact Kelly Weisner at [email protected] if you would like more information. Even if the 4-H members only learn a little bit about potatoes, they are developing important life skills and having a great time!
Administered in Pennsylvania by Penn State Extension, 4-H is a non-formal educational youth-development program of the United States Department of Agriculture that helps young people develop knowledge and skills to become capable, caring and contributing citizens. To find your local program, visit the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/4-h.