More than 340 acres of historic Lancaster County farmland are set for new ownership after Elizabeth Farms sold at auction Friday afternoon for over $7 million.
The sale marks the first time in two and a half centuries that the land will not be owned by a member of the Coleman family.
“I never felt like an owner. I only felt like I was taking care of it, and I think I did that,” said Bill Coleman, the farms’ eighth-generation heir, who has been an owner since 1976.
Coleman added that he was pleased with the bids submitted for his land.
At Friday’s sale, Elizabeth Farms was split into three adjacent lots, located off of the 200 block of Hopeland Road in the Brickerville area of Elizabeth Township, near a stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Those lots were auctioned separately.
The largest parcel — at 190.5 acres along the southeastern border of Hopeland Road — sold to David L. Sensenig, a Lititz-area farmer, for $3.42 million, according to auctioneer Randal V. Kline.
Reached by phone about 5 p.m. Friday, Sensenig said he did not want to discuss his plans for the land.
A collection of buyers from Lebanon County submitted the winning bids for both of the two other lots, which measure 100 and 56.7 acres across land north of Hopeland Road.
Respectively, buyers Brian Boyd, Eric Fetter and Justin Bollinger and their families bid $2.95 million and $969,570 to win the parcels, Kline said.
Later Friday, Boyd said the group intends to continue farming, events and tourism activities on the land — hopefully seizing on its history, which dates to the American Revolution.
“It is incredibly exciting,” Boyd said, slightly disappointed the group couldn’t win all three lots. “We would have loved all three, but it takes big pockets.”
Elizabeth Farms has been in the Coleman Family since the late 1750s, according to a brochure circulated by Kline, Kreider & Good Auctioneers, who managed Friday’s sale.
Weeks prior to the auction, Coleman recounted some of that history, speaking to an LNP | LancasterOnline reporter about the farms’ agricultural legacy and its role in the Revolutionary War, as well as some historic visitors to the area, which included the nation’s first president, George Washington.
More recently, the land supported a Christmas tree farm, farm-to-table restaurant, wedding venue and Mangalitsa hog farming operation, according to the auction brochure.
Much of that operation was housed on the smaller parcels won by the group from Lebanon County, and Boyd said they plan to keep things running similarly.
“We are going to continue everything right the way it is,” he said.
Boyd said he and Fetter are farmers and Bolligner is an attorney. The group also plans to graze cattle in the area, Boyd said, though he stressed his excitement at being able to open the properties to visitors — a business practice known as agritourism. Many farmers across the region have embraced agritourism as a way to bring in additional revenue to subsidize traditional farming efforts.
“It’s the only way to make a living farming,” Boyd said. “That’s why we want to keep as much together as we can.”
The land’s unique history wasn’t lost to the auctioneers, who noted in their brochure that Friday’s auction granted an “opportunity to buy a one-of-a-kind farm” that has been in the Coleman family for more than 260 years.
They highlighted native sandstone houses and barns at the site, describing them as “in very good condition.”
And in coaxing bids at Friday’s auction, Kline reminded prospective buyers of the properties’ history.
“They don’t exist like what we got,” he said.
Several hundred people turned out to watch as bidders competed for the parcels.
Curvin M. Horning, who helped conduct the auction, said the crowd was much larger than normal. He guessed that was because of Elizabeth Farms' long and storied past.
“It’s sort of like a historical event,” he said of the sale.
Potential buyers yelled out their bids beneath a tent that shuddered in the wind as heavy rain soaked the surrounding farmland.
By about 3 p.m., the parcels were sold.
Hours later, Coleman spoke over the phone, explaining that he was happy with Friday’s outcome.
“I am satisfied that I did the best I could to take care of the farm for the last 45 years,” he said. “Now, it’s someone else’s turn.”