Things are just Peachey in Belleville

Posted by Jamie Oberdick on 06/03, 2013 at 02:32 PM

Things are just Peachey in Belleville

Sign outside Peachey's Greenhouse saves parking for the horses

Tucked into a beautiful slice of Pennsylvania known as the Big Valley, Belleville is a small town around 25 miles to the southeast of State College in Mifflin County. Belleville is a community with a variety of different Amish and Mennonite groups. One of the groups of Amish are known as the Peachey or Renno Amish, also known as “black-toppers”. Named after the Peachey family, the Peachey folk are industrious with a variety of businesses in the general Belleville area carrying the Peachey name. Two of my personal favorites are local food related—Peachey Greenhouse and the famous A.J. Peachey and Sons. This past Saturday, I decided to take a drive and pay a visit to both of them.

There are two basic ways to get to Belleville. If you do a Google maps directions search, you will see them. One is a bit faster, driving on US 322 down through Seven Mountains and taking the PA 655 Belleville/Reedsville exit, then following PA 655 until you get to Belleville. While this one has beautiful scenery, I call the other way “The Scenic Route”, taking you down PA 26 to PA 305 and into Belleville. This way takes you past the Jo Hays Vista, up and over Pine Grove Mountain, through Greenwood Furnace State Park and finally over a wooded ridge that opens beautifully onto Amish farms and the town of Belleville. It takes a bit longer but it is a very pleasant drive.

Saturday I took the 322 way down as I needed to stop at an ATM. Here’s an important thing to note if you are visiting Belleville—cash is king with many of the Amish/Mennonites here, and they don’t take plastic. My first stop, Peachey’s Greenhouse, is an example. They take cash or checks, period. So, be advised to hit the ATM before you visit, and if you forget, there are several ATM opportunities at convenience stores and banks along 655.

Another important thing about a trip to Belleville—while the scenery is beautiful, pay attention while driving. The horse dung on the road is a sure sign that you are sharing the road with horse-drawn buggies. Be extra alert for traffic to suddenly and significantly slow down. Also, with all the agriculture around, you may encounter farm machinery being driven on the road and that slows traffic down as well.

A forest of tomato plants at Peachey Greenhouse

To get to Peachey’s Greenhouse, you take Beck Mountain Road off 305, just to the west of the main town. Turning on Beck Mountain Road is like turning the page back in time. Many of the families living on this road are Amish/Mennonite, and as you make your way to the greenhouse, you will see sights like Amish children playing in yards, draft horses and their drivers laboring in the field, and on this particularly hot early June afternoon, an Amish gentleman napping under a front-yard shade tree with his hat over his eyes. About a mile-ish up the road is the greenhouse, on the left. Watch for a lumber yard with wood piled high all around on the right as a marker for where to turn. That wood, by the way, is part of a business called, you guessed it, Peachey Builders.

The greenhouse is run by Amish people, and they really could not be nicer. The prices are outstanding, and as an avid gardener I appreciate the plant quality as it is evident that the staff take good care of the plants. They offer a nice variety of plants, including edibles such as vegetables, berries, melons, and herbs. One of the reasons why I was visiting Saturday was to get sweet potato starts to plant in my veggie garden, and not every greenhouse offers them. Along with the edibles, they offer a good mix of ornamental annuals and perennials, and reasonable prices on accessories like containers, potting soil, garden decorations, etc. They even have Venus fly traps!

One quite cool feature of the greenhouse is the staff speaking Pennsylvania German. When I was there Saturday, a fairly long line formed, and the sole cash register attendant quickly dispatched a boy to get a few more people to help check people out. He of course spoke to the boy in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect.

Sausages from AJ Peachey and Sons are fantastic when grilled.

After loading up with plants, I then went onto AJ Peachey and Sons. AJ Peachey and Sons is located about halfway between the 322 Belleville/Reedsville exit and Belleville just off 655 on Barville Road. The turn is a real blink-and-you-miss-it sort of road, so keep your eyes peeled for it.

As many remember, several years ago AJ Peachey had a devastating fire that reduced their store and restaurant to a pile of smoldering rubble. They are still rebuilding their facility but in the meantime have several temporary buildings in place including a food store, a craft store, and a smaller version of their restaurant.

Not everything AJ Peachey and Sons sells is local food, but I go for the local-raised meat and made-on-site baked goods. AJ Peachey is a carnivore’s dream. They make excellent pork products, especially their bacon, sausage, and that love-it-or-hate-it Amish breakfast staple, scrapple. They also sell meat pudding. For the uninitiated, that’s a pork product that you can turn into a gravy that’s pretty good on pancakes. They also sell their own hot dogs, and good news for parents who want their children to avoid nitrites—they sell nitrite-free hot dogs. They also offer local-raised beef and chicken.

AJ Peachey baked goods are outstanding as well. They bake some very good sandwich bread, and make a pretty mean cookie. During Christmas-time, they sell an old Pennsylvania Dutch favorite cookie, sand tarts.

Along with the grocery store, AJ Peachey has a restaurant and a gift shop. The restaurant has a fairly limited menu compared to what they have had before the fire (now featuring sandwiches, salads, etc instead of full meals) but they do still have their excellent fried chicken on the menu. Also, they have a Saturday morning breakfast buffet featuring their local meat and eggs.

From the Peachey Greenhouse to AJ Peachey and Sons, the Peachey Amish certainly have made a mark on Central Pennsylvania’s local food scene, making Belleville worth the visit.

{name} Author: Jamie Oberdick

Bio: Editor, Local Food Journey | Passionate about supporting local food in Central PA


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