State hospital farm feeds residents at many facilities
In this third column, Mr. John McDevitt, former assistant farm manager of the Allentown State Hospital farm in Weaversville, helps us remember the farm colony. His words:
The farm contained 800 acres and produced food and milk for the Allentown State Hospital. Land was purchased from local farmers, the Fuller estate and the Atlas Portland Cement Company. Much of the land and buildings were part of the original Craig Settlement, which is the oldest non-Native American community in Northampton County. Known as the “Irish Settlement,” it dates back to 1728, long before the Revolutionary War.
Over the years, the hospital’s agricultural program was gradually shifted from Allentown to Weaversville. As late as 1968, there were still about 3,000 egg-laying hens in Allentown. Rhubarb and asparagus were still grown in Allentown, but all of the remaining farm operations were brought to Weaversville.
Over the years, the operation at Weaversville changed to keep pace with the needs of the hospital and other institutional markets. In the early years, the farm was very diversified, producing a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beef, pork, chicken, eggs and milk.
In the 1970s, the hospital produced, processed and delivered all the milk needed by the Department of Public Welfare [now the Department of Human Services] facilities at Clarks Summit, Fairview, Retreat, White Haven, Hamburg, Wernersville and Allentown. The milk processing plant consisted of pasteurization, homogenizing, packaging and storage.
In addition, large acreages of corn, alfalfa and small grains were produced to support the livestock enterprises.
The farm maintained a large herd of registered Holstein cattle and worked closely with Penn State University on research to improve the dairy herd and general agricultural practices.
The dormitories housed a number of patients from the hospital. The farm and work provided therapeutic benefits to them.
The farm proved to be home away from home for many of the patients.
In the next column, the state enacts a law that affects patients working on the farm.