It’s true that there’s nothing quite like the Lands at Hillside Farms. This non-profit, historic, and educational dairy farm is located in Shavertown, Pennsylvania. Shavertown itself is a quiet and peaceful village in the Back Mountain area of Luzerne County and within one of its sprawling green valleys lies this regional treasure.
The farm is composed of 412-acres of pastureland, cropland, and some wooded areas with a dairy store, greenhouse, mercantile, and more. For many years, it has represented Luzerne County’s last remaining fully processing dairy farm.
The Dairy Store may be one of the best-known features of the Back Mountain, and for good reason. It’s a “local food hub” where you can find hundreds of products all in one sweet spot. Artisan cheese, raw honey, certified organic vegetables, baked goods, jellies, jams, salsas, and syrups are just a small selection of what’s available on a daily basis.
Hillside also proudly sells their own farm-produced goods. Pastured 100% grass fed beef, pastured eggs, pastured pork, and Hillside Gold pastured dairy are all available, including their famous homemade ice cream. Hillside Farms’ dairy store also offers GMO-free pastured chicken and a variety of sustainably harvested Alaskan salmon.
Outside the dairy store, you will find a variety of animals living on the premises, including Babydoll sheep, American sheep, alpacas, cows, ducks, chickens, a pot-bellied pig, and a very pretty peacock named Skittles.
While the ice cream and milk are reason enough to stop by for a visit, they’re certainly not the only things Hillside Farms has to offer.
Both the Mercantile and Greenhouse are beautiful historic structures full of charm and quality, affordable local and USA-made products. Fair trade items from India and Haiti are also available. Some of the many mercantile goods for body and home include milled soaps, creams, candles, one-of-a-kind jewelry, purses, wallets, scarves, hats, local artwork, and children’s books, clothes, toys, and more.
The farm’s workshop also has an assortment of chairs, tables, benches, coasters, and more. The Potting Shed, located next to the Mercantile, has a broad range of furniture and unique accents suited for every taste.
The rare Lord & Burnham greenhouse was constructed in the early-to-mid-19th century and was fully restored in 2011. The greenhouse offers a large variety flowers, vegetables, gardening tools and supplies, and seasonal items.
Besides providing high-quality local goods, the Lands at Hillside Farms offers a rare educational opportunity for the community. Where else can you visit a real working dairy farm and actually learn about how cows are managed and milked? Here is the opportunity for a front-row seat to life on a dairy farm. It’s more than just a glimpse–it can be an immersive experience. Ultimately, one of the goals is to teach healthy, sustainable life choices.
In the late nineteenth century, local anthracite coal from Northeastern Pennsylvania was the powerhouse of much of the Industrial Revolution in the US. William L. Conyngham, a prominent Wilkes-Barre coal broker, purchased 100-acres of land from Joseph Harter of Trucksville. Conyngham ultimately purchased more land comprising the valley, consolidating smaller farms to create one large estate. He owned more than 700-acres, 400 of which became Hillside Farms, his grand summer and agricultural estate.
Conyngham developed an extensive farm system and 38 unique buildings dating back from the early 1800s to late 1800s. The Summer Cottage was the first addition. The 34-room cottage provided an escape from the heat of Wilkes-Barre summers. The three-story, balloon-structured building with its wrap-around porch still stands today and can be rented for a number of events, including weddings, showers, business meetings, and farm-to-table dinners.
Other buildings on the property include greenhouses, dairy barns, hog houses, and horse facilities. The farm was a center of agricultural excellence. Some of the quality animals include award-winning Clydesdale and Belgian draft horses, Dorset sheep, Berkshire hogs, and a dairy herd of both registered Holstein-Friesian and Milking Shorthorn cattle. Hillside had one of the oldest registered Holstein herds in the country and an award-winning herd of Jersey cattle, too.
Development as a commercial dairy began in 1900 and the famous Hillside milk and ice cream have both been served at the dairy store since 1977.
Today, the Lands at Hillside Farms is publicly owned. The non-profit was formed in 2005 and entered a lease-to-purchase agreement with the Conyngham family when they decided to leave the dairy business. In 2009, the property was officially purchased after $4 million was raised.
Besides the land buildings, the purchase also included thousands of other unique items throughout the property. The inclusion of these historically significant objects has enabled the property to essentially become a living history museum. The Lands at Hillside Farms is a modern representation of farm life in the early history of rural America.
The experience and the beauty of this living piece of history is a truly distinct highlight of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Individuals and families also travel from all over to experience what the farm has to offer. Approximately 350,000 visitors stop by Hillside annually.
As a local business, support for Hillside directly benefits the community. Whether you’re buying their delicious chocolate milk (seriously, it’s the best chocolate milk you will ever experience) or volunteering your time, you are contributing to the improvement of the local Back Mountain community.
If you’re looking for things to do this summer, stop by for some delicious homemade ice cream, read the calves a story or two in the nursery, or consider volunteering your time. Every year, approximately 4,000 students get to learn about science, agriculture, history, nutrition, land conservation, sustainable living, and community service at Hillside. It’s truly a “classroom without walls” where the community can come together to maintain and grow–both the property and themselves.
Summer Farm Camp is available for children entering kindergarten through 8th grade until August. Each week features slightly different themed experiences. Campers will work alongside staff members and assist with chores relevant to the farm operation. Each session also includes experiments, animal interaction, hiking, games and more.
Sarah is a content writer and social media assistant with a BA in literature/creative writing from Wilkes University. When she’s not spending her days at work writing, reading, and drinking coffee, she’s usually at home reading, writing, and drinking coffee. She also devotes a fair amount of time to HGTV, drawing, and doting on her dog. As a creator, Sarah believes in emphasizing personality through design and DIY projects.