Sonnewald Natural Foods is Growing a Healthy Community
Sonnewald Natural Foods, located on the 60-acre, chemical-free Sonnewald Farm, in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, is much more than a health food store. The business, which began in 1955 with a flour mill purchased by Harold “Tim” Lefever for his wife, Grace, is today a community health and sustainability hub. Sonnewald’s new mission statement honors the work Tim and Grace’s daughter Willa Lefever, her husband Bill Kaiser and the rest of the Sonnewald family has done to “sow seeds and nurture growth of healthy and harmonious living.”
Billy Krouse, webmaster and people and environment coordinator at Sonnewald, says, “It sums up the work we’ve done and intend to continue, and the priorities of both the younger folks on the team and the people who’ve been here for quite some time.” The Sonnewald core values are sustainability, education, empowerment, diversity and service (SEEDS).
“We reuse and repurpose everything possible,” says Willa. “We compost like crazy, and when we have things that are of no use to us, we make them available for our customers to take and upcycle. Those are just small pieces of a large endeavor for sustainability.”
Krouse points out that the Sonnewald store has no dumpsters. “Even though we’re a grocery store, we produce no more trash than a residence in our community,” he says.
Sonnewald has a longstanding initiative toward providing community education. “A common way of shopping these days is you hear about something good—let’s say probiotics—from a friend,” Krouse explains. “So most people get on Google, they read about probiotics and they end up buying it online or at a big box store. Here, that whole process happens under our roof. Y0u can get that education and find what you’re looking for. We’re a personal assistant for your overall well-being.”
Although Sonnewald is a retail operation, Krouse says the preliminary objective isn’t turning a profit; it’s about empowering the community. “I think we provide a safe environment for people to explore their well-being,” he says. “Sonnewald is a whole family of people who are here to be personal cheerleaders for your health.”
When it comes to diversity, Sonnewald is dedicated to bringing people together over good food and a healthy lifestyle. “We’re working to bring unity to our community,” Krouse notes. “We try to offer events and workshops; bring in different people and get involved with community. We embrace that we’re all different and have different needs for our bodies, minds and souls.”
Krouse emphasizes that service is the central tenet of the company’s decades of work. “We are committed to being servants over merchants,” he says. “We’re not here to just sell you a product; we’re here to help you make positive choices for your health. We’re just here to be of service so people can make good decisions for themselves and decide what they want to do with their money. We inspire people to take control of their health and like to think Sonnewald isn’t just a place to go shopping; it’s an experience.”
Willa points out that the company’s ideals of sustainability, organic farming practices and stewardship that began with her father also represent Sonnewald’s service to the Earth. “We each have to develop an awareness that our participation on this planet affects others. It affects the animals, plants—the Earth itself,” she says. “Human beings are part of a community of interdependence that is critical for survival. If we continue to live in the wasteful, greedy, polluting, self-centered way of recent decades, human beings will become extinct. Sonnewald Natural Foods evolved out of my parents’ sharing their enthusiasm for living sustainably. It was their belief that if we want to change the world—and I do—that change has to start with me.”
Sonnewald Natural Foods is located at 4796 Lehman Rd. For more information, call 717-225-3825 or visit Sonnewald.org.
Kate Morgan is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine and can be reached at byKateMorgan@gmail.com.