Farmer Ben & Three Springs Fruit Farm

What is your favorite part of the Headhouse Farmers Market and the neighborhood?

Three Springs Fruit Farm at Headhouse Market

Three Springs Fruit Farm at Headhouse Market

The people! It seems too obvious or too sentimental but it's the only answer, really. Getting to know people over the eleven years we've been attending Headhouse Farmers Market has been so rewarding. I'm honored to call so many of them friends after all this time. I've seen families begin and grow. I've shared so many laughs and hugs. These aren't the kinds of things I expected to be part of it when I started all those years ago.

What is your favorite place to grab a bite in the neighborhood?

Hmm, good question! Lately, we've been getting Puyero regularly - it's a great mid-market lunch that's sturdy and substantive without requiring a nap after which is a must for farmers market folks. Plus those Venezuelan flavors are bold and crave-able - we usually get the arepas. Always up for Pizzeria Stella! Incredibly kind folks and the pizza is off the charts - good for mid-market lunch as well. If I'm getting something aftermarket, a lot of places are closed between brunch and dinner service - in which case I scoot down 4th street a few blocks south of Puyero to the world-class crew and culinary team at Hungry Pigeon who not only serve some of my favorite food in the city but will always be open when I need a bite.

Farmer Ben at his stand.

Farmer Ben at his stand.

What initially made you decide to be a farmer? Why in this neighborhood?

I didn't know much about farmers markets when we got started at Headhouse. But I remember my parents and I drove out to Headhouse from Adams County to check it out one Sunday afternoon before it all started. All of us agreed; we might not know much about farmers markets, but if you put one here, it was destined for great things.

Now with the benefit of several years of experience, I know that the nearby walk-able residential population, the unique history of the area and that market house specifically - all of the nascent and historic businesses, the community organizations that support us, The Food Trust - I know better NOW why it works.  But at the time, as a 22 year old fresh out of college, it felt more like this market chose me than the other way around.


What has been your most memorable market experience?

There's no one moment that really stands out about the rest to me. Probably my favorite moments have just been being goofy with the friends, family, and the wholly awesome people who have helped me out at that market over the years. The jokes, the puns, the mid-market morale-inducing high fives.


Any celebrity visits?

On occasion! World Series Champ Brad Lidge came by a few years ago. Politicians like Mayor Nutter and the late Senator Arlen Specter have visited over the years. It's still a community market at Headhouse though, as it should be. That gives me more satisfaction than anybody well known who might swing through.

What do you want people moving into the neighborhood to know about farmers and the market?

The job of growing great food and assisting in great meals for your friends and family - that's a job that we're passionate about and we take it seriously. That being said... we really don't take ourselves that seriously. Good food should be fun and accessible and unpretentious - and interactive! We love talking with folks, answering questions, swapping recipes etc.

Interesting fact that most people don’t know? 

I feel like the origins of our name, Three Springs Fruit Farm, can be lost on people because it sounds contrived and generic. The patent deed that came with the property when my great-great-grandfather David Ferdinand purchased it in 1901 had a marker at this location called "Three Springs". There wasn't a town here, there were just three springs on the property. That deed was signed by Governor Mifflin in 1797 and we still have the original copy - pretty good shape, it being 220-odd years old and all!


How do you give back to the community?

When you're passionate about providing only the best quality to our market customers, it means you can often find yourself with a decent quantity of produce that didn't quite make the cut. Close to home in Adams County, we're able to pass some of this delicious and healthy produce to our neighbors through The Gleaning Project of South Central PA. If I'm at Headhouse Farmers Market on a Sunday and I find myself with a similar situation, Philadelphia's Food Connect is at the market each week to put that excess in the hands of someone who needs it in Philadelphia. If you have a moment to download their app, they've made it really easy to participate. We certainly value these organizations and the work they do and we're confident you'll feel the same


How did you get into Farming?

On some level, I was born into it. I'm the seventh generation in my family to farm in our little corner of Adams County. But what ultimately led me back was the kinds of people I'd get to work beside in Adams County and my appreciation for my family and my agricultural community in Central PA.


What Markets do you serve and what is your relationship to The Food Trust?

We do markets in Baltimore, DC, and in our Central PA area in addition to attending Headhouse with The Food Trust. We share a great relationship with The Food Trust. They were the first organization to accept us as a vendor - the first two markets we ever did, one of which, of course, we still do today. The organization and structure required to start and operate these farmers markets is massive. I'm so incredibly fortunate that I don't know just how difficult it can be to get one of these off and running. They can't help me very much with waking up early and the weather and stuff like that which is why I've never asked but anything else, if they could be helpful, they were. Plus the caliber of the people they working there is always exceptional.

What is your favorite thing to grow? What is most in demand?

To the surprise of very few who know me, my favorite thing to grow is apples! They're very diverse, they're very versatile, they're resilient.

They are well suited to the same land that I have my roots in and that provides a special bond by my estimation. Apples are almost TOO good because, when stored correctly, we can have them twelve months out of the year at market. For this reason, peaches will always be most in demand at our stand. When a peach is perfectly ripe, it's a pretty incredible market score and you only get 10-12 weeks of them each year.

What is your favorite thing to make with what you grow? Any traditions?

Alcohol! No, I'm serious! Because apples are so great and make such a diversity of flavor and aroma, I've learned one of the best ways to appreciate them is to ferment the sugars into alcohol and really get to know some of these apple varieties a little better by doing so.


I take mine at about 55 degrees F with a few wedges of PA farmstead cheese - that's my aftermarket tradition. Our farm also makes Ploughman Cider - an enterprise that, while still less than 1.5 years old, was first imagined over a few chilled Strongbow pints at what's now Cavanaugh's Headhouse, directly behind our market stand. We also sell bottles at Headhouse Famers Market on First Sundays each month if you think you could benefit from some cider inspiration as well.