In 1932, Elmer and Mary Renninger purchased the farm on Second Avenue in Royersford from the Hauck family. At that time, the farm was known as the Mingo Stock Farm. It was a diversified farm with milking cows, chickens, pigs, and steers. Milk was sent by cans to Supplee, Willis, and Jones in Philadelphia. The pigs were fed by-products from Kinsey Distillers in Linfield, PA.
In 1947, Elmer started hauling milk to Bechtel’s Dairy and selling eggs and sweet corn at home while helping Mary raise three children. The egg business grew to as many as 2,000 chickens. Eggs were also sold wholesale to Jerry’s Market in Phoenixville and to several restaurants in Royersford. In the summertime, yellow sweet corn was wholesaled to several small stores in Royersford at $0.02 an ear; white sweet corn was $0.03 an ear.
1947 was also the year that Jay spent Christmas in the hospital due to a fractured skull. He was 6 years old. Jay was sent to fetch hay from the upper barn, while climbing the ladder it crashed to the ground, taking Jay with it. The ladder is still in the upper barn, bolted to the wall and has not sent anyone to the hospital since.
The years went by and the children grew up. The eldest, Marjorie, went on to become a third generation school teacher; eventually settling in Pittsburgh, PA. Marlene sought a career in nursing and put her roots in Downers Grove, IL. Jay remained home on the farm to join his father in the family business.
In the early fifties, retail sales ended, more cows were added (28 head to 42), chickens and steers were phased out. Jay took over raising the pigs. One thing he learned quickly: brood sows and single men don’t mix. Brood sows always seem to give birth at night, in the middle of winter, and it is best to be around. His most troublesome sow once gave birth to 28 piglets over the course of 3 days. She was also famous for getting out of the pig pen. One day, she led her piglets down onto Second Avenue to bask in the sun while nursing, thankfully traffic on Second Avenue was minimal at that time – one car a day was a lot of traffic.
In August 1962, a fire completely destroyed the main barn. This called for a change of direction. The current barn was built to hold 60 cows. Elmer and Jay concentrated on milking cows, sending the milk to Bechtel’s Dairy and phasing out pigs.
Jay and Carol were married in November 1969. In 1970, retail sales of sweet corn resumed. A lawn mower pulling a flat wagon parked under the oak tree where we still sell corn today. Sweet corn was $0.35 a dozen and there was a self-service bucket on the end of the wagon. Sweet corn sales continued to grow; soon cantaloupes were added as were any other extra vegetables from the family garden. The farming operations grew as well, more cows were added to the herd and additional ground was rented.
Jay and Carol’s family grew to 3 girls. Leigh Ann, a CPA, is married to a career Navy man and they have two daughters, Kate and Elizabeth. Amy can often be found here at the farm helping us sell sweet corn and pumpkins. Believe it or not that’s what she does in her free time; she’s actually a fourth generation elementary school teacher in the Spring-Ford Area School District. Jennie is a dental hygienist who lives in Royersford, and helps out as time permits.
Growing up, the children helped sell sweet corn but their favorite job was helping Pop-pop pick and count cantaloupes and going to Twin Boro Diner for doughnuts.
The farming operation grew to 700 acres, 130 cows, 125 head young stock, 2 full time hired men, 5 part time workers — usually teenagers. Many former Spring-Ford students have memories of helping Renninger’s haul hay and straw or to help with the cows — milking, forking manure, delivering calves, etc. Unfortunately, this does not happen anymore.
Mary passed away in 1994. This forced the sale of the part of the farm now known as the Highlands. It was decided to scale back and sell the cows in March 1995. Half of the herd went to an Amish farmer in Lancaster County and the other half were spread out among other farmers. Realizing we would need more income, the sales of pumpkins started in the fall of 1995.
Jay received his first greenhouse kit for Christmas in 1995. An 8′ x 8′ greenhouse which grew tomato plants for the spring. The plants were put on a sweet corn wagon and sold self-service. In a couple of days, several hundred plants were sold. To meet the demand for plants, two 10′ x 20′ greenhouses were handmade, bending pipe around a silo to make a hoop. The original greenhouse was retired and now serves as the Manger each Christmas at Grace Lutheran Church in Royersford.
More tomato plants and flowers were added to meet the demands of our growing customer base. We started selling flowers in the spring, more corn and vegetables in the summer, and more pumpkins and gourds in the fall.
In the fall of 2000, the big greenhouse from the Collegeville Agway store became available, and we snatched it up. With this 20′ x 70′ greenhouse, the 2 homemade 10′ x 20′ greenhouses, and a 20′ x 30′ greenhouse built in 2004, we thought for sure we would have enough room to house all the seedlings and spring plants. Alas, there is still not enough room.
All this time, sweet corn was still selling on a flat farm wagon under the oak tree. In 1996, a canopy was put up under the oak tree to provide additional shade and to protect customers from rain — this was a big improvement. The following year, a second canopy was put up to protect the other vegetables and peaches were added to the produce available for sale. Flowers and pumpkins could now be sold under cover as well. This continued until the spring of 2003 when a used 20′ x 30′ greenhouse was purchased and put up beside the house, replacing one of the canopies. The canopy under the oak tree is still used to sell sweet corn from the wagon in the summer and pumpkins and gourds in the fall.
Renninger’s Farm is still a family farm. Our spring season starts approximately April 15th with bedding plants, hanging baskets, planters, perennials, vegetable plants, yard ornaments, etc. We can also custom make your planters.
Our summer season starts approximately July 10th with sweet corn, some of which is custom grown for us in Lancaster County. We sell white, yellow, and bi-color sweet corn along with tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, tree-ripened peaches and other summer vegetables. The sweet corn usually lasts until mid-September when our fall season picks up. Summer vegetables continue until frost. Mid-September marks the beginning of our fall season. We have Halloween pumpkins of all shapes and sizes starting with tennis ball size itty bittys to 100 pounders and every size in between. Gourds of every size, shape, and color imaginable and a few you would never imagine. Several sizes of straw bales and corn shocks are available along with lots of other goodies to fill all your fall decorating needs. If baking pumpkin pie is your specialty, come to Renninger’s to find the perfect pumpkin. We also have fall vegetables including winter squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Did we mention we also have tree-ripened apples?
When November rolls around, our season is basically over. People often ask what we do in the winter; well it’s hard to believe it takes until January to get caught up in our work. We still have corn to harvest for our livestock, clean up inside and outside of the greenhouses, plastic to pull up in the gardens, tomato cages to remove from the fields, flower beds to clean off, machinery to be put away, buildings to be repaired, and animals to be housed for the winter. There are always projects to be done on a farm, especially before the snow falls. January is the month to order all seeds and supplies for the spring season. Farmers also need to continue their education and January is the perfect time to attend seminars on pesticides, greenhouse management, farm crops, etc. There is also plenty of bookwork to catch up on and work ahead on. April 15th gets here in a hurry. As we pass Valentine’s Day, our spring season starts in the greenhouse planting. Short winter, guess we better get to work! See you soon.
~Thanx, The Renningers