Larry Engle met Darlene Arbogast in 1971, they were married, and one year later bought the 120-acre farm in rural Middleburg that is known as Engle's Farm, Greenhouses and Garden Center. Larry's passion for growing has been the driving force behind the growth of Engles now with 60,000 square feet of greenhouses that encompasses 18 acres. The term locally grown has true meaning at Engle's in that 95% of the plants grown by Engle's are grown from a seed, cutting, or a root.
In the beginning it was Engle's Farm and Greenhouses and a small building with a porch served as the farmers market for fresh vegetables back in 1974. The Engle's grew mostly watermelons and cantaloupes. In 1983 they became a PA Certified Farm Market and grew everything from sweet corn to baby gherkins for pickles, snow peas, and Luffa sponges. Yes, Luffa sponges. Luffa sponges are the fibrous interiors of the fruits of the luffa sponge gourd, a challenging plant to grow. Larry apparently loves a challenge and Darlene says she knew she was in trouble when Larry's first present to her was a seedless watermelon. (Seedless cultivars are produced by crossing a tetraploid (4X=44) inbred line as the female parent with a diploid (2X=22) inbred line as the male parent of the hybrid. The reciprocal cross (diploid female parent) does not produce seeds. The hybrid is a triploid (3X=33), and is female and male sterile.) I guess Larry learned that science in horticultural school... well, he did have Vocational Agriculture in High School. But actually Larry's full time day job was delivering mail as a rural mail carrier until he retired in 2005. All this seed cultivating, growing and building of greenhouses was a side job. Another year and another greenhouse is how they describe their growth with many evenings spent picking those little tiny gherkins cucumbers at harvest or going thru seed catalogs in the off season.
The Engles also sold locally grown produce to some grocery store chains. One local chain turned him down on the seedless watermelon. Now days its hard to find a watermelon with seeds in grocery store. Larry was way ahead of his time on that one!
As their business continued to grow so did the popularity of flowers and the Engles could not grow enough varieties to satisfy the demand, so more greenhouses were built. For years Darlene handled the nine to five demands of a garden center until Larry retired from his postal job.
Today Engle's Farm, Greenhouses and Garden Center is known far and wide as the biggest in the state for variety. Each spring they open their doors to thousands of hanging baskets, shrubs, trees, seeds, potatoes, herbs, and vegetable plants including 50 varieties of tomatoes plus annuals and perennials. Proven Winners are the most popular perennials and Engle's is known for 32 for 39. That's a 32 pack of perennials for $39.00. Engle's is a "Proven Winners Certified Garden Center".
In the late fall and winter you can find Larry and Darlene going through the seed catalogs and thinking of their spring crops. They both think about the issues close to heart of all gardeners: the notions of growing your own and of conservation, of taking risks and the creative process of collaborating with nature and the surrounding communities. From farm market to garden center to your home it's been a good 40 years of growing.