Knowledge is power. (Sue Masenheimer)
A peaceful drive through the gentle York County countryside takes you to the village of Stoverstown and Sonnewald, Pennsylvania Dutch for "sunny forest".

The founding family and current team at Sonnewald Natural Foods seek to inspire their customers to lead healthier, more sustainable lives. They've been doing so since the 1940's. "We encourage people to take the next step, whatever that is for them," says co-owner, Willa Lefever. The Sonnewald team lives by the motto, "Good health comes from the farm, not the pharmacy." Together, they offer their growing customer base a host of healthy options like nutrient-rich locally grown produce, a full line of certified organic grocery items and an abundance of bulk foods. They combine these offerings with the incredible knowledge base of the Sonnewald staff and the many other resources found in the store and on the farm.

This unique and vital grocery store started in an equally unique way. In 1955, Harold "Tim" Lefever gave his new bride, Grace, a flour mill as a wedding present. It wasn't long before friends and neighbors started asking her to grind flour for them. As the Sonnewald team will tell you, the 8,000-square-foot grocery store began, quite simply, in the family laundry room. "We got into this," says Willa, daughter of Tim and Grace, "because my parents wanted to raise their family in a healthy, wholesome way and were questioning what our society was being encouraged to believe.


" The Lefever family was exploring how to live a balanced life in a world that appeared to be more and more unbalanced. They discovered a lot of their answers were right in their own backyard. Sonnewald has always been an advocate for organic farming and sustainable living. In fact, Sonnewald pioneered solar energy in this area when Tim built the family home in 1951. Grace still lives in what is possibly the oldest solar residence in PA. In 1962, the store moved from the laundry room to occupy a corner of Tim's plumbing and electrical shop.
For this year's weed walk dates visit (Supplied)
Until the late 1980's, the store grew steadily based solely on word of mouth. At Tim's passing in 1986, Willa returned home and expanded the store. In 1989, Willa's husband, Bill Kaiser, joined the family. By 1994, they had outgrown Tim's shop and in 1996 they built and moved into the present location. The interior of the store is beautifully decorated with wall murals, painted by longtime customer and friend, Dan Hendrix.

Sonnewald's produce department is stocked full of certified organic and chemical free fruits and vegetables, many of which are local and in-season. In the supplement section, customers choose from a broad selection of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, probiotics, homeopathic remedies, essential oils and herbs in every form.

Oldest solar residence in PA? (Sue Masenheimer)
Adjacent to the supplement section is the customer service and information area. While plenty of free literature can be found throughout the store, the library is an excellent resource. Their huge collection of books is always discounted by 20% and they cover the full gamut of health topics. The library desk provides a place for patrons to do research. Customers are encouraged to be responsible for their own well being. "Your health is your job," says Bill, "should you be fired or given a raise?"

The self-service bulk foods room is an exceptional part of the Sonnewald experience. It is temperature-controlled and holds over 250 bins filled with grains, beans, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, pastas, granolas and snacks, plus natural salts and sugars, and herbs and spices. In keeping with the origins of the store, Sonnewald still grinds whole grain flour for patrons while they shop.

In addition, Sonnewald carries a full line of natural and organic groceries. Local products include whole grain breads, raw honey, unpasteurized milk and cheese (both cow and goat), free range eggs, and antibiotic and hormone free meats from grass fed animals. If you have special dietary needs or restrictions of any kind, Sonnewald can help. They also offer healthier/less toxic products for personal care, household cleaning, and pets. Educating their customers and their community has always been the focus at Sonnewald. Over the years, they have hosted countless lectures, classes, and workshops. Upcoming events are posted on the bulletin board located in the foyer of the store and on their web site. Each spring, for over 30 years, Grace Lefever has led small groups on a "Weed" Walk. Participants enjoy a casual stroll around the Sonnewald property, learning to identify and use edible and medicinal plants that grow in this area. Grace explains that many of the most nutritious foods are free and growing all around us. Another opportunity for community involvement is the Earth Day Celebration, which may become an annual tradition as well.

Tune into the radio show "Sundays with Sonnewald" on WHVR 1280 AM from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. as Willa and her guests engage in some lively discussions concerning all aspects of personal and community health. Past shows can be heard on the store's web site Whether your goal is improving your own health, the health of your family, your community or the planet, you'll want to team up with Sonnewald.