Located in Upper Macungie Township, about 25 minutes from Lehigh’s campus, Grim’s Orchard and Family Farms has been retailing and wholesaling plants and vegetables since 1973. Every year the farm hosts its fall festival, which has to comply with recreational and food regulations.
On Oct. 5, the orchard was cited for violating active recreation zoning regulations. These regulations do not permit certain outdoor activities in agricultural environments.
The farm was cited for parts of its fall festival, which includes bounce pillows, a baseball toss, a caterpillar slide and hayrides.
“There is really no cut-and-dry item of what they can and cannot sell,” said Daren Martocci, the director of planning and zoning of Upper Macungie Township. “Everything they grow off their farm is fair game. But when they start to get into concessions and have a restaurant on the site doing those things, that’s a different story.”
Martocci said Grim’s Farm can continue selling all of its fruits and vegetables and up to 50 percent of crops that weren’t grown on site. Although the zoning board is not going to draw the line on specific foods Grim’s Farm can and cannot sell, Martocci said board members want the farm to be in compliance with regulations.
In the past five years, the zoning board has seen an increase in recreation violations across farms in Upper Macungie Township.
As a result, the zoning board is creating an ordinance in “agritainment” to prevent future violations from occurring. Agritainment activities are defined as farm-related tourism that is permitted in return for a fee on agricultural land for recreational or educational purposes.
“So we’re trying to work with the township on an ‘agritainment’ ordinance,” said Joshua Grim, the owner of Grim’s Orchard and Family Farms.
Martocci hopes the ordinance will be passed sometime this year.
“It would legally allow any entertainment associated with the agricultural use, which is exactly what Grim’s is doing right now,” Martocci said. “But it would bring them into compliance.”
After this ordinance is passed, Grim’s farm will legally be allowed to host its fall festivals. Grim’s farm would also be permitted to grow crops that do not mesh with the agricultural sales regulations in place right now.
Martocci said the ordinance will benefit Grim’s farm as well as other local farms and orchards.
“It will offer other farmers the ability to do the same thing, whether it be wine festivals, barn weddings or jazz festivals,” Martocci said.
Martocci also said the citations that came out this year give Grim’s farm the opportunity to operate their business as they normally would until the end of the festival this year.
Grim said they have 30 days to comply with the zoning, and their 2017 season will be over within those 30 days.
“In no way is the township trying to stop what they’re doing or take away components,” Martocci said. “We just want them to be in compliance.”
Grim said the farm will continue to do business and does not yet have plans for changes next season.
“We’ll have to just see how the agritainment ordinance comes about or what is in there that allows us to do what,” Grim said.
Grim’s Farm is popular among Lehigh students for its hayrides, corn maze and apple picking.
Ali Toth, ’20, and her sorority went apple picking at Grim’s farm for a sisterhood event earlier this semester.
Toth said the people who worked at the farm were accommodating of such a large group.
“It was easy for us to stay together because it wasn’t too big,” she said. “I loved being able to have my entire member class together doing the same thing.”
Audrey Schimmel, ’20, also visited Grim’s farm with friends.
“It really isn’t far, and it’s a great way to leave the Lehigh bubble and explore new places in the Lehigh Valley,” she said.
Schimmel said she was unaware of these violations and hopes it doesn’t affect Grim’s atmosphere and activities.
She said she agrees with the zoning board’s decision to cite the farm for its violations and thinks it was smart to give the owners an opportunity to make these changes instead of harshly punishing them.
“I’m glad they’re able to continue their business until the end of the season,” Schimmel said. “It is their prime time of the year, so if the town made them close, it would’ve definitely negatively impacted them.”
Grim said business has not been negatively impacted by the violation.