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Once a novice, now a pro

Created date

September 20th, 2010
PA_10.10_TractorDriverWIDE
PA_10.10_TractorDriverWIDE

[caption id="attachment_14631" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="Ed Riffert where he s at home, behind the wheel of his tractor. "][/caption] Fall is the perfect time to be outside. The air smells fresh and crisp; the leaves are changing colors; the temperatures are dropping just to the point where a nice cozy sweater is all one needs to stay warm. [caption id="attachment_14633" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Apple picking is a fun and popular fall activity over at the orchards. Their rule is you only pay for what you pick. "][/caption] Fall is the time for apple cider and pumpkin picking and anticipation of the holidays. And just 20 minutes southeast of Maris Grove, in Middletown, Pa., Linvilla Orchards, a 300-acre family owned and operated farm, is in full swing.

A man and a tractor

Ed Riffert, who recently moved to Maris Grove, drives for Linvilla Orchards. A man comfortable behind the wheel, Riffert makes deliveries to farmers markets in Lancaster, dropping off produce that Linvilla sells in Amish country. Riffert also drives the trucks that drop people off in the fields so they can pick their own produce, and if people don t want to pick it themselves, they can buy the produce in the Farm Market. Linvilla Orchards is abundant in its bounty the fields spill over with apples, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines, apricots, grapes, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, straw, pumpkins, winter and summer squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and even Christmas Trees. People only pay for what they pick, and they are given the opportunity to connect with the land as they do so. Though being a part of all of this is unique and productive to Riffert, his favorite job is driving the tractor for the hayrides for kids. The tractors have 30-foot hay wagons, and we take the school kids out to the fields and give them a tour, Riffert says. Our guide shows them what farm life was and is like and what the Native Americans did back in time, and then they get a 20-minute hayride in the fields. For the younger kids, there s a tour to the witches houses where women are dressed up like good witches; they tell stories and hand out candy. As much fun as he has at his job, Riffert wasn t always comfortable behind the wheel. Once he retired from the Chevron Oil Refinery, his wife suggested he try something new. Why don t you go learn how to drive a tractor? she asked him. He felt some trepidation because he had no clue how to drive one, but his love for the land and learning new things, as well as his wife s encouragement, spurred him on. Linvilla trained him on-site, and he s been working there for the last 14 years. And he loves every minute of it. We re so glad Ed is here, says Rob Ferber, a manager at Linvilla Orchards. He is a very special man whom we re all very fond of.

Man with a plan

Riffert drives as much as he can; in the busy season March through December he s behind the wheel at least three days a week. And on the offchance that he s not called in, he keeps himself busy in other ways. On Tuesdays he volunteers at the USO at the Philadelphia airport, and on Thursdays and Fridays he volunteers at the Marine Corps League. At Maris Grove, he s involved with the veterans group and helps with the monthly Episcopalian service. Riffert also makes children s toys in the woodshop. Riffert likes to be active; since he moved to Maris Grove just over a year ago, he s never even opened his dishwasher. He enjoys coffee, juice, and the occasional bagel at home; otherwise, everything he needs is on campus and out in the fields. He s simply a man with a plan to drive as much as he can. Whether you want to pick apples or take your grandkids to Pumpkinland, Linvilla Orchards is the place to create genuine family memories. And you just might be lucky enough to be driven around the fields by Ed Riffert, the man who loves his tractor.

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