Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Root's Country Market and Auction

Root's Country Market and Auction
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

The Main Drag
Farmer's markets are Lancaster County at its roots.  So today we are off to visit Roots, the oldest privately owned farmer's market in the county.  I know, that was a really poor play on words but I couldn't resist!  As some of you may know, I love to go to farmer's markets.  It's the best place to find excellent quality eatables from every level of the food pyramid.  In addition, there is a flea market, country crafts, tools, clothing, and everything in between.  Farmer's markets are a throw back to an era that has mostly evaporated into the modern age that has consumed our world.  Roots is old school because it is a combination of the traditional stands along with live small farm livestock auctions at the barn.

Vegetables by the Bushel Basket
Roots was founded by A.W. Root in 1925, who started a small poultry auction. Soon stands began to be set up to sell food and other items to the people who flocked to watch the bidding.  I know, another poor play on words... Anyway, as time passed the auction grew and today has several hundred stands selling an endless variety of goods. The farmer's market, flea market, and auctions take place every Tuesday year round and you can still see poultry auctioned off in the evening. Root's just celebrated their 85th anniversary this summer and the future looks bright as the crowds continue to pour in every week!

Zerbe's Homemade Potato Chips
The thing I like best about Roots is that it is not too big and it's easy to find what you are looking for, yet still leaves room for you to explore and discover something unique.  Many Root's vendors retain the traditional high quality items you associate with Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.  There are very few stands selling cheap junk type items as you might find at larger farmer's markets.  The best way to start out when visiting Root's is to take a quick walk through, to take it all in and create a plan of attack.  In summer, the fresh vegetables are the star of the show and the prices are very reasonable as you are skipping the middleman price hikes and buying directly from the farmer.  No produce grown in California can be found here!  It's the freshest you can find, it helps the local economy, and the environment.  Going to Root's can help save the earth!  You can go green by buying your greens at Root's!  Ok, I apologize again, you don't have to say it...

Raub's Fresh Made Subs
After a quick once through tour, it's time to eat!  You pass by mountains of baked goods, fresh cut french fries, deep fried vegetables, funnel cakes, barbecued pulled pork sandwiches, pierogies, and anything else you could never eat on a diet.  However, with the vegetables you just bought, you can eat healthy by making a gigantic salad for supper to balance things out.  So now that you have the green light of guilt free dining, where should we start?  We like to hit the Bixler's french fry stand as an appetizer and then move on to Raub's Subs for the main course, accompanied by a large (diet) birch beer to wash it down.  If you have room, there are many options to choose from for dessert.  Katelyn skipped the main course so she could indulge in a soft serve ice-cream cone with a whoopie pie to save for later.  Just for the record, we did have a big salad later that night!

Amish Quilts
Now that we have satisfied our essential primal needs, we can burn some calories by exploring the rest of the market.  Household items abound throughout the interior stands and are often quality made by the very people selling them.  You can't do that too many places in the America, especially at your local commercialized mall. When you go to a farmer's market you can find quality furniture made of real wood that doesn't require a twenty-three step assembly process using a screw driver!  Been there, done that!  We recently purchased a set of beautiful bookshelves for our living room that were reasonably priced and built to last.  There are many hand crafted items, art work, country crafts, and Amish quilts, just to name a few.   There are so many things to take in, more than the eye can absorb in just one day.

The Board Game Stand
The flea market across the street at the Old Mill building is a different experience of the Root's market.  Here you will find antiques and old items for those individuals who collect things from America's past.  There are endless items to pour over inside the Old Mill and in the parking lot out front.  If you are missing a piece from a collection or want to find a toy from your childhood, this is the place you might make a discovery.  One of my favorite items is the collectible glassware from fast food glory days of past promotional campaigns.  I was able to locate several stands containing the old McDonald glasses containing the throw-back characters of the villain Hamburgler and lovable Grimace who's body-type is no longer politically correct for the image of a fast food giant.  The old boxed board game stand was overwhelming in size and scope but your childhood favorite game of Uncle Wiggly or Parcheesi were surely somewhere within the tall stacks of games.  Where did all this stuff come from?  As you explore, you can identify with Mike and Frank on the reality show American Pickers on the History Channel where American history is revealed one piece at a time!

Flea Market Collectibles
Back over at the market is another two story building with a few more collectibles, a small satellite branch of the Old Mill flea market.  Downstairs is a large room of fancy glassware, not really my thing.  However, upstairs is a toy stand selling modern and antique toys from long past.  I am always on the lookout for a Tonka truck I had as a kid that was a mid-size orange dump-truck with a big black snowplow mounted on the front. No luck today.  There is a guy selling old model Lionel Trains, a historic coin collector stand, and a nice elderly lady selling antique housewares.  You never know what you might find.  One man who was selling old tools, also had a marble bust of a ancient Greek philosopher for sale.  A lot of people come here to sell the items they produce with their hobbies, like the bird house guy and the woman selling her original handmade jewelry creations.  I'm getting thirsty!  Let's take a quick break for some fresh squeezed homemade lemonade, a taste you could never get from a powdered concentrate in a can at the grocery store.  I was tempted by the Amish homemade root beer but the gallon size glass bottle looked a little heavy to be lugging around.  Maybe on the way out.

Rabbits, Pigeons and Ducks
We stopped by the small livestock barn, where farmers were making deliveries of ducks, rabbits, chickens, and goats for the evening auction scheduled to begin at 5:00 PM, later that night.  Since I currently wasn't in the market for a nice goat (My wife Susan said No!) we moved on to see what else we could find outside. There was a stand selling beautiful summer fresh cut flowers, freshly roasted peanuts still in the shell, and homemade fruit pies warm from the oven.  Many of the people operating the family stands are second and third generation that have maintained a presence in the same stand locations for decades.  Young children helped out at many stands, which suggested they were being groomed to be the next generation of family members to work the stands in the future.  Farm markets are a microcosm of life in Lancaster County with every race, culture, and religion represented to one degree or another.  Everyone working together in harmony, much like William Penn envisioned with his concept of the Holy Experiment.  It still works.  As a history teacher, I couldn't help myself but to add a little reference to Pennsylvania history.

Interior Market Stands
Inside, you will also find the relics of the old school butcher shop that has since been absorbed by the mega supermarkets, just like everything else.  I remember when I was a kid, my mother still visited the Markley's Meats butcher shop in Brunnerville, located north of Lititz once a week. They also had a stand at the Central Market in center city Lancaster, where we would also stop by to see the friendly Markley brothers who were quick to greet you with a smile and a slice of bologna or American cheese.  They worked with another butcher in their employment who was named Butch.  You can't even make this stuff up!  Markley's Meats are long gone but stands similar to the one they manned at the farmers market can still be found at least half a dozen times within the out buildings at Root's.  S. Clyde Weavers is one of the most popular and all seem to compete with their own special recipes for spicy meat snack sticks or beef jerky.  Many still wear the cotton white aprons and matching paper hats of a bygone era.  In a way, the atmosphere could pass for 1950's America again.

The Watermelon Wagon
So take a trip to Root's Country Market and Auction, back to a bygone era, ingrained with the tradition of the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage of long past but not yet lost. The market is open every Tuesday from 9AM to 9PM and is located on Graystone Road in Manheim.  For more details, please check out their informative website at...

You All Come Back Now, Ya Hear?


  1. Jeff-
    Roots! I love that place, but never seem to go. I will have to make a date with Roots in the near future. I appreciated your mention of Markley's Meat Market. My neighbor and I went there about once a week to get free meat ends. We took turns asking because we didn't want to do it, but they were always really nice to us. We were probably 5-6 years old. Markley's was in the metropolis of Lexington. Brunnerville is where the big city kids lived. We weren't allowed to go that far from home. :) Thanks for the reminder and the memories.

  2. Jeff, really enjoyed this post! We go to Roots many, many, many times during the year. The kids love it as much as we do. Great pictures!


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