Friday, April 10, 2009
Whatever happened to Walnut Acres?
Does anyone on our e-list remember Walnut Acres Farm? I am not referring to the mass produced organic processed food that can be bought in many stores with the name Walnut Acres but the farm in Penns Creek, PA. When I was a kid my mother used to go to their bulk food store. It was the first organic bulk food store in the USA. In addition, they grew a lot of what they sold. Walnut Acres farm was started by Paul and Betty Keene in 1940s. They actually got their inspiration to farm organically from Ralph Borsodi at the School of Living (the same organization that holds the land in trust at Ahimsa). In 1946 the Keene's bought a run-down farm (with no electricity or running water) and started farming and selling their produce locally. Word got out and the business grew into one of the most successful mail-order food companies in the country. Things changed after Betty died in 1987 and Paul turned the business over to his daughter and her husband. They felt pushed to get big or get out and cut a deal with AOL founder David Cole who invested $4 million in the business. This was the end of an era, the new corporate owners decided that they needed to go big and go online and that the original farm was actually a burden. They sold off the farm, muzzled the original owners, and kept the logo and corporate name. I learned all this from an informative article I stumbled across online, it outlines the whole sad history of Walnut Acres. You can read it here (pdf).