Eby on the job in West Cocalico

By on April 27, 2016


Leon Eby, the new West Cocalico Township supervisor, acted as if he’d been on board a long time at his first meeting on April 19.

He freely offered opinions and asked questions.

Eby, 63, grew up on a Mennonite farm in East Earl Township. He did not go to school beyond eighth grade.

“As was the custom with a lot of farmers at that time was that when they were needed on the farm, they dropped out of school,” said Eby.

Eby has lived in West Cocalico for 40 years.

“Currently I’m a poultry producer and a cash-crop farmer. In the past I did feed cattle,” Eby said.

Photos by Michele Walter Fry Leon Eby, the newest West Cocalico supervisor.

Photos by Michele Walter Fry
Leon Eby, the newest West Cocalico supervisor.

Eby cannot be categorized as “just” a farmer. He is an individualist who does not fit into a niche of his society.

It’s clear Eby is a leader in pursuit of excellence.

He renovated his house by hand, originally built in 1750, and it looks as if it should be featured in Town & Country. It was featured, with photos, in the May 2006 edition of Lancaster Farming.

Every wall is covered by wood paneling, real wood.

“The interior walls are quarter-sawn red oak which were originally the exterior siding,” Eby said. “I ran them through a planer to refinish the surface.”

Leon Eby and his wife Elsie at their home.

Leon Eby and his wife Elsie at their home.

Leon married Elsie in 1973, and she did her share of the renovating.

“I love Cocalico Creek Country Store,” said Elsie, about the store in Stevens.

Eby was asked how he acquired these skills.

“I just learned it on my own,” said Eby. “It took about 10 to 15 years before we got it all finished.

In his pursuit of excellence, Eby uses precision farming practices such as a satellite guided auto-steer farm tractor and equipment.

Eby and Elsie’s hobbies include riding motorcycles, he rides a Harley, and likes to read and keep up with current events and issues.

A seemingly odd choice for a former Mennonite, Eby is currently reading, Extreme Ownership, How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, written by two retired Navy Seals.

Here are lines from the book:

It’s not all macho bravado – instead, it’s more about communication, decision making and taking ‘extreme ownership’ of the situation and doing what needs to be done…

Eby tends to be a natural in leadership positions. Although both he and Elsie grew up Mennonite, he is an elder at Oasis Fellowship in Akron, past secretary of the Ephrata Area Young Farmers, and member of the Pennsylvania Farm Borough.

Eby has spent 15 years on the planning commission for West Cocalico.

“I understand the process people go through in the township,” said Eby. “I feel I have a pretty good grasp in how things work.”

Eby is taking over the vacant seat left by Terry Scheetz. Scheetz and Ray Burns, who took office in January, had expressed their desire to have a representative from the farming community a supervisor.

“It gives farmers a voice on the table,” said Eby.

“As a farmer, I’ve seen agricultural practices change dramatically over the last 15 to 20 years,” Eby said. “As larger and more modern farm equipment and livestock operations, the changing pace of agriculture hasn’t always been welcome in some municipalities, but fortunately in West Cocalico, that’s not been the case. For me, since it’s a large portion of our land mass, I think it’s important that we have someone from the agricultural community be represented on the board.”

Eby doesn’t want to be a one-issue supervisor.

“I understand there’s other people in the municipality too, and I don’t want to say they’re all I’m representing,” Eby said. “I want to represent everybody.”

Eby went through a process to officially preserve his farm.

“I’ve seen a lot of farms being developed and maybe not just being developed but I’ve seen a lot sold off,” said Eby. “We have some prime agricultural lands here and I just felt it was a way to protect it.”

Leon and Elsie have a son who lives in North Carolina and a daughter who lives locally. Their son has given them one grandchild, and their daughter is set to have twins soon.

Elsie doesn’t seem to have concerns of Eby’s new position.

“People know him and they know what he stands for,” said Elsie. “West Cocalico knows us.”

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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