A business with deep roots

Webbs: A Pennsylvania family runs a farm shop on land that has been in the family for 230 years.

March 28, 2004|By Mary Ellen Graybill | Mary Ellen Graybill,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

STEWARTSTOWN, Pa. - "When people come in here, they are pleasantly surprised," Eunice Webb says from behind the counter of her farm shop, surrounded by country crafts, honeys and innumerable collectibles.

Among the treasures is a locally made pie safe with a notched tin facade, decorative painted gourds and a handmade hutch holding authentic bonnets.

This is the Lonesome Pines Farms shop, at Webb Road and Route 851, just east of Stewartstown in York County, Pa. The quaint shop is not only a spot for area residents to pick up fresh produce and gifts, but also a reminder of an era long past and the merging of two families with centuries of history in the area.

FOR THE RECORD - An article on the Webb family farm near Stewartstown, Pa., in last week's Harford Sun contained two editing errors. The farm is named Lonesome Pine Farms and a reference to mandevilla plants should have indicated that they are produced by a York County grower for sale at the Lonesome Pine Farms shop.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Paul "Skip" Webb inherited 196 acres in Fawn Grove from his father, James Webb, whose ancestors bought the land from the Penns in 1774. When he married Eunice Payne Webb 57 years ago, that land was merged with the 204 acres of farmland that had been left to her. The two farms received the Double Century Farm Plaque from the Department of Agriculture in 1974 for keeping the land in the family for more than 200 years.

The Webbs met on a double date. After Skip completed his service as a pilot in World War II, he and Eunice married. They have two children, Paulette, 52, and Jennifer, 41. Another son, Steve, died last summer at age 55.

Through the marriage of Skip Webb and Eunice Payne, two farms fused, creating a way of life that their children continue to embrace.

"I have great memories of growing up on the farm," Paulette says. "One of the things we used to do in the summertime is dam up the creek. We didn't go to the swimming pool; we had the creek."

Jennifer, who also liked farm life, describes building hay forts in the barn with her siblings.

"It was just absolutely the best place to grow up," she says.

Keeping up with farm maintenance and production helped solidify family bonds, Skip Webb says. The family used to grade the eggs of more than 800 chickens, checking each egg for size and quality.

"When [the children] are working together, you hear their problems, and it's easier to solve them," he says. "We always had a conversation. You learned what they were doing, and they knew what you were doing."

Across the road from the Webbs' farmhouse, built in 1870 by Benjamin Fulton Payne, an ancestor of Eunice Webb, Paulette began selling the eggs on a card table when she was 12, she says.

To add to their income, the Webbs later sold vegetables and pumpkins along with the eggs, she says. "That's how our shop got started," Paulette says.

Today, the Lonesome Pines Farms shop sells birdhouses, silver-plated antique spoons, embroidered handkerchiefs and old postcards, some dating to 1905.

The shop, fully established in 1990, has drawn the surrounding community to the family.

Debbie Grace of New Park, Pa., said she and her son Derrick, 11, enjoy visiting Lonesome Pines Farms to look through collectibles and to get a snack for her son after school.

"We loved going there," she said. "I could look at everything and then talk to Mr. Webb, because he would talk to you and say something to Derrick like, `How are you today?' Then Derrick would buy a little toy. It's a nice little place [where] we would love to stop and just browse through."

Paulette says she still enjoys working in the shop and takes pleasure in seeing familiar faces in the fall.

"When I go up there and help out with the pumpkins, there are people that come now every year at Halloween time," she says. "You get to see the little kids grow up into adulthood. ... Some of them are married now and bringing their little ones to get pumpkins."

The goods produced by the Webb farms vary from month to month, Eunice says. In the spring, mandevilla plants are produced, and in the summer, crops such as squash, tomatoes and sweet corn are common.

"Each season has its own specialty," she says. "Skip and I harvest [3 acres] in the summer, and then in the fall we have pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn. There are colorful mums outside the shop in the fall."

Locally made wreaths and greens are available at Christmas, Eunice says, and the Webbs' honey and homemade apple butter are popular in the winter.

"The prices are reasonable, and I find treasures every time I come in here," says Jody Trott, a retired elementary school teacher from Harford County. "I enjoy coming in here. I love to talk with the Webbs and find the treasures."

Skip and Eunice Webb say they will not give up work soon. "We will never retire," he says. "We put in long days. The thing about it is, you have to have a reason to get up."

The Webbs cherish their ancestors' history of farming and hope to continue the tradition through their children and their grandchildren. "Farming is a way of life," Eunice says. "It's your whole life. You work together."

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