MOUNT JOY, Pa. — “We have talked about coming to Amish country for years,” said Peggy Downs, member of the Marion County Cattlemen, a group of beef producers from Kentucky who took an extra-long trip to see the Lancaster County countryside, tour a factory and visit two farms along the way in only a few days.
The group leaves home each year to take a trip to see other farms. However this year, the trip was a little longer than normal, and the group left a day earlier to travel the extra miles.
“We’ve been a little bit of everywhere” in the past, said Downs, who is a member of the committee that plans the annual tour.
Normally on the bus Thursday through Sunday, the group left on Wednesday this year to see the farms, tour the New Holland manufacturing plant and take in a dinner theater preformance and smorgasbord during the visit.
The Pennsylvania Center for Beef Excellence arranged for the group to tour the beef operations at Nissley Bros. in Mount Joy and Masonic Village in Elizabethtown while in Lancaster County.
Aside from the quiet hours sitting on the bus, “there’s no leisure time,” Downs said, laughing.
The group has been taking trips for at least eight years and typically raises money by catering events and selling ribeye sandwiches, hamburgers and all-beef hot dogs at cookouts, a county fair and a community festival.
Past destinations include St. Louis, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa and Mississippi — “anywhere we think we can talk to farmers,” Downs said.
Group members have questions for the producers they visit on the tour.
“We want to know what are you doing that we’re not doing, or ways of saving money,” she said. “It’s very beneficial. And once in a while, they learn a little bit from us.”
Rita Spalding, also on the trip planning committee, said that essentially the same group of people returns every year for the tour. The trips allow members to “get to know each other really well,” she said.
More than 40 members of the Marion County Cattlemen made the trip. The group is a county branch of Kentucky Cattlemen, the third largest association in Kentucky.