Pipersville Residents Held Hostage By Slaughterhouse Horrors  

Aside from the PA Department of Environmental Protection, and County Commissioner Marseglia, most other local, state and federal agencies have failed to address local families’ concerns. An injunction is finally forthcoming.
All images provided by PA-DEP public record documents.

Something stinks in Pipersville and many local residents say the pungent smell is coming from Kingdom Provisions, LLC, a slaughterhouse located at 5960 Durham Road, where turkey buzzards are constantly perched in trees and an abundance of flies is considered commonplace.

“It is a disgrace that this has been allowed to go on for as long as it has been. It is frustrating that as a homeowner and taxpayer I have had to put the amount of time and energy into this ongoing problem to even come close to finding a solution,” said local homeowner Bronwyn Gafden, who has been directly impacted by Kingdom Provisions.

Open dumpsters and other containers, photographed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP) in response to countless complaints lodged by local residents, contain disturbing photos of slaughterhouse remnants including heads, entrails, and even the lower half of an entire animal only partially covered in a dumpster. Images of dead fish, due to slaughterhouse liquids draining into a stream, were also documented.

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“I have called every government agency imaginable for the past 2 years countless times, and here we are, now in a worse spot then before,” Gafden added. “There seems to be some sort of disconnect with various agencies and ability to enforce or monitor this company and their unacceptable and harmful practices.”

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“I started being bitten up by flies during my afternoon exercises outside. The smell kept getting worse, and not going away,” said local homeowner Brian King. “After a few weeks I realized this was the smell of rotting animals, and the flies biting me were spawning in the waste piles.”

AD 4nXe2yju9QKBJ71TOW8TdJLda2Y3jdNs3EokRExlqJ32fp7NrbBDp5hBuTqvhsoQS1dxyBuJcyCoTVKXQ PI9q Yr3 PAlEvEMBvZ1l5wzgUD1LN993jGvyUk9RJS0dOfenL eXzzmdOFvMaCBLf0lKfop8?key=Kd54yjO3GCvlwbpq4f7uDQ - Bucks County Beacon - Pipersville Residents Held Hostage By Slaughterhouse Horrors  
In August 2023, the Bucks County Herald wrote about odor grievances from residents. “The stench, they complained, extended for miles around the facility, particularly over the past few weeks, saying they “can’t open their windows anymore” and that the smell is “sticking to clothing and making them sick.”

Things went from bad to worse when, in addition to the odor, new concerns – specifically the liquid slaughterhouse waste began puddling on their properties.

“In the driveway, just as in the backyard, syrupy puddles splattered feet from her doorstep,” wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer in March 2024. “At her property line, pools of blood practically formed a small creek.”

One agency who stepped up to address the problems was the PA-DEP who, according to public records, appeared to be doing all they could to help the local residents.

According to documents reviewed by the Beacon, PA-DEP appears to have logged the first of at least 130 separate complaints about Kingdom Provisions, spanning over the last 16 months, prompting site visits, inspections, the issuance of various citations, and photography to document the various sources of the horrible aroma.

“The DEP has been very responsive and consistent with their efforts to find a solution to the ongoing issue. Unfortunately, regarding this specific issue, they have limited authority to actually resolve our problems but they have been consistently on top of every single complaint and concern,” Gafden said.

Neighbors have observed other troublesome incidents.

“They are definitely delivering animals outside of normal working hours and certainly not at a time when the USDA is present,” said local resident Evelyn King, “The times vary but are very often after dark and sometimes during the middle of the night, midnight or after.”

Brian King, Evelyn King’s son who maintains a separate residence in the area, has also observed the arrival of livestock  late at night. “They consistently deliver their emaciated livestock at midnight on Mondays, Tuesday’s, holidays, etc., whenever officials can’t attend.

“They need to scale the amount they slaughter to the amount they were told they could do, not over 4 times that,” he said. “The property is far too small for composting 400 animals a week.”

A PA-DEP inspection report dated July 31, 2023 confirmed the number of animals being processed at the slaughterhouse.

Gafden agreed. 

“They are slaughtering an unimaginable number of animals every week. 300-400 animals a week is the number reported by the USDA but there are truckloads of animals that are unaccounted for by the USDA coming in the middle of the night, weekends, and even on holidays,” she said.

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Portion of Second Page of PA-DEP Inspection of July 31, 2023

Where were the township supervisors, the Bucks County Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture? Many in the community were puzzled by the silence from their elected officials and state agencies whom they believed could, or should, have the authority to do something.

Rumors of animal cruelty were confirmed to be true by two United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) citations that were issued by the Food Service and Inspection Service (FSIS), a division within USDA.

The first violation occurred on October 19, 2023, when a Consumer Safety Inspector (CSI) heard and then observed the botched and inhumane slaughter of a steer that caused the animal needless immense suffering.

“This steer spent his last moments in terror and agony as slaughterhouse workers repeatedly shot him, dangled him upside down, and slit his throat,” said PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden in a news release.

The second violation occurred on January 18, 2024, when a Consumer Safety Inspector (CSI) heard and then observed sheep jumping four feet from a truck to the floor, causing serious injury, panic and undue pain.

Both violations warranted notices of suspension to “withhold the federal marks of inspection and suspend the assignment of Inspection Program Personnel” (IPP) at Kingdom Provisions due to the inhumane handling of livestock.

Both suspensions were abated once the business provided written responses to the USDA outlining corrective action that would bring slaughtering practices into compliance with federal laws.

Ephraim Z. Stoltzfus

The Beacon reached out to Stoltzfus for comment several times but he opted not to be interviewed for the article. 

Who is Kingdom Provisions and how is it possible that one business has the ability to rob an entire community of the right to quiet enjoyment of their properties with no ramifications?

A two-part BBC documentary produced in 2009, “Trouble in Amish Paradise,” and “Leaving Amish Paradise,” features Ephraim Z. Stoltzfus, his wife Amanda, and four of their children. The film tells the story of the family’s exit from the Amish community and reports Stoltzfus to be running a dairy farm and making harnesses for racehorses at the time.

In the second part of the documentary, the narrator says “Ephraim has given up work so he can spread the gospel,” yet within a few years, Stoltzfus would establish and operate several limited liability corporations.

Pipersville Land Purchase & Sale

The long-ago shuttered slaughterhouse known as Gouldey’s Meats, located at 5960 Durham Road, was sold to Plumstead Acquisitions, LLC, in April 2021. A portion of that property would later change hands again and operate as a slaughterhouse under the management of Kingdom Provisions.

Dewey “Chip” Bunch, III of Shangri La Contractors, a relative of Republican State Representative Shelby Labs, along with Nick Lykon, a former Plumstead Township supervisor, are principals in Plumstead Acquisitions, according to the deed.

The Durham Road property is located within Labs’ statehouse district, and residents told the Beacon they reached out to her office for assistance when air quality issues started to become problematic.

Initially, the smell was blamed on cow hides that were composting. “Labs’ team told the neighbors that Kingdom Provisions had agreed to clear the hides from the property,” wrote the Bucks County Herald in August 2023, but the removal did little to reduce the intensity of the putrid smell.

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Local property owner Tom Ott reported that the community never experienced problems with the previous slaughterhouse owner. “Most of the neighbors have been living here for 30, 40 years plus. Gouldey’s has been here all the time. To my knowledge I, and my neighbors, never had a problem,” he said. “This is a health issue that affects everyone in the surrounding area.”

“When we moved here 42 years ago, we very rarely smelled anything from the Gouldey’s. Occasionally we smelled the pig manure a few times a year if conditions were just right,” said Evelyn King.

The property associated with Kingdom Provisions and Plumstead Acquisitions faced challenges from the get-go. An Enforcement Notice (pages 13-32) was issued to Plumstead Acquisitions and Kingdom Provisions on August 4, 2023, for lack of various zoning permits, and the emission of odorous gasses. Both companies disputed the allegations and appealed.

Minutes from a September 2023 Plumstead Township Board of Supervisors meeting, specifically the commentary from Township Solicitor Jonathan J. Reiss, document an extraordinary resolution to all the problems.

“Mr. Reiss stated that the property owners quickly started to address the violations at their property and have contracted with a company to remove the animal waste and have produced evidence to establish that the cement pad was used as part of the operation before and therefore per PA Supreme Court case law the property owner can enclose it with an addition.”

One of the alleged violations rendered moot was the “emission of odorous gasses,” based on a single PA-DEP inspection on Aug. 17, 2023, indicating there were no odors that would be cause for a violation. However, it wasn’t long before the smell of death once again blanketed the area.

Plumstead Acquisitions transferred parcel number 34-004-031 to Kingdom Equity Partners, LLC in December 2023.

The address of record on the property deed is 233 Gunhart Road, Mohnton, Berks County, which belongs to Stoltzfus, however according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

The Kingdoms of Stoltzfus

“With [a] newly minted USDA inspection for their Bucks County slaughterhouse, Ephraim Stoltzfus said he and his partners plan to provide an important service to small meat producers who want to sell direct to customers, restaurants and through local retail shops,” wrote Lancaster Farming.

“‘We spent a lot of money to recondition the building and get it up to USDA specs,’ Stoltzfus said, according to Lancaster Farming. “We’re set up to kill beef and also lambs and goats, but primarily beef is what it’s set up for. We’ll do the slaughtering under USDA.”

The article identifies Ken and Kerry Rush as Stoltzfus’ partners in Kingdom Provisions, LLC, a business that was incorporated in June 2022.

Stoltzfus filed paperwork to establish Kingdom Livestock Transport, LLC in 2013 according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. The address of record for the Berks County business is 233 Gunhart Road in Mohnton.

An online docket service revealed a citation was issued to “Ephraim Z. Stoltzfus” on February 22, 2018 for “Unlawful to Violate Provisions of Quarantine Order,” in Berks County District Court MJ-23301. The case was captioned “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Ephraim Z. Stoltzfus.”

On March 9 the docket indicates the court had issued a summons, was awaiting a plea and a summary trial, but on April 23 the charges were withdrawn.

- Bucks County Beacon - Pipersville Residents Held Hostage By Slaughterhouse Horrors  

There is absolutely no record of the case on the Pennsylvania Judiciary Web Portal.

The headline of an October 30, 2020 article in the Reading Eagle reads “Berks County hauler charged with illegally importing thousands of farm animals.”

“In court documents, Stoltzfus is described as a licensed domestic animal dealer and hauler. The animals are transported to farms, auctions and processing facilities,” wrote reporter Ron Devlin.

“Between June 24 and 28, Stoltzfus transported 376 animals from Texas, Oklahoma, and Minnesota to a Pennsylvania farm that is unlicensed to slaughter. There were no health certificates for the animals from Texas, which has an outbreak of vesicular stomatitis virus,” according to the article.

“Between Aug. 26 and Sept. 11, several thousand animals were bought, sold or transported by Stoltzfus without documentation of their origin or disposition,” Devlin reported.

Devlin advised that the charges followed a records inspection conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), which indicated a lack of required documentation, resulting in the inability to track livestock.

The article also says that Stoltzfus surrendered to county detectives and was awaiting arraignment.

When contacted for additional details, Devlin told the Beacon that he had no further information regarding the prosecution.

Except for the Reading Eagle article, there are no other traces of this criminal case.

A Right-to-Know to the Berks County District Attorney revealed that the record had been expunged.

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A review of dealer/hauler inspection reports for Kingdom Livestock Transfer provide potential clues as to why criminal charges were filed according to documents obtained by the Beacon via Right-to-Know requests to the PDA for the time period January 1, 2018 through March 31, 2024.

In addition to a handwritten “Warning Notice of Violation” dated August 26, 2020, a typed report summarizes the late August inspection conducted at the Berks County business by state officials with Stoltzfus’ son, Samuel.

Two inspectors from the Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services, a division within the PDA, conducted a “thorough look at all of Kingdom Livestock’s records for the past three months (June-August),” according to the report. “There was a significant issue on record keeping for the sources of the animals hauled… In addition, it was noted there was no record of animals hauled and sold to Centinar Farms (SIC) in New Jersey.” The lack of documentation was spotted by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture who contacted PDA.

The report also says that a USDA Animal Health Technician from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) found “untagged animals from Kingdom Livestock” had been conveyed at New Holland, a Lancaster-based livestock auction.

Additionally, the PDA inspector noted approximately 120 untagged adult billy goats from Texas in a pen at the Berks County location.

The report ends with the inspector noting, “There was not enough space on the inspection form to list all of the farms, sale barns, auctions, and live markets they [Kingdom Livestock Transfer] deal with.”

Remarkably, many dates noted by PDA inspectors correspond with dates in the Reading Eagle news article.

The expungement of court records is disturbing because it robs the public of knowing what, if anything, happened to Stolzfus or to the animals. 

Kingdom Livestock Transfer passed inspection as a dealer/hauler in 2021 and 2022, although a Dead Animal Complaint form issued by the PDA on July 6, 2021 reports a “dead goat lying along fence line in wooded part of 233 Gunhart Road property.”

It is unknown if inspections were conducted over the last 18 months because, according to the PDA Open Records Officer, “no inspection report for 2023 and 2024 to date was found in our database.”

Additionally, no records were provided for the years 2018 and 2019 which is unsettling in light of the online docket from February 2018 reflecting a charge of “Unlawful to Violate Provisions of Quarantine Order,” a violation likely predicated on a PDA inspection.

In addition to PDA, Stoltzfus has also faced consequences for his dealer/hauler business from USDA.

In March 2021, the USDA reported Stoltzfus to have violated the Packers and Stockyard Act (P&S) that requires full payment for livestock by the close of the first business day following purchase and transfer of ownership.

“Between May 5 and July 28, 2020, in 18 transactions, Kingdom [Livestock Transport] failed to pay timely for 5,727 head of livestock totaling $995,866 … Failure to issue the full payment for purchases is an unfair trade practice and a violation of the P&S Act.”

Violators can face civil penalties up to $29,270 per violation, but the USDA offers the option of waiving their right to a hearing and entering into a stipulation agreement.

Stoltzfus entered into such an agreement on February 1, 2021, waived his right for a hearing, and paid a penalty of $1,600.

Stoltzfus incorporated yet another business, Shepherd’s Touch Farm, in July 2018 using the same Berks County Address as Kingdom Livestock Transport.

Shepherd’s Touch provides “custom” animal slaughter and advertises their ability to provide Halal or Dhabihah meat. “We are a family run Amish Halal Farm, that specializes in fresh farm meat,” the website says.

Halal meat is a ritualistic slaughter and adheres to Islamic dietary laws as prescribed in the Quran.

There are two types of slaughter in the United States, USDA inspected and “custom.” The difference is that “custom” slaughterhouses are not overseen by USDA. At best, they are inspected periodically by the federal agency.

All slaughterhouses in Pennsylvania must apply and maintain a Meat Establishment License, issued by a division of the PDA’s Bureau of Health and Diagnostic Services division, regardless of whether they are USDA or “custom” and the state reserves the right to inspect any slaughterhouse.

Right-to-Know document requests for Shepherd’s Touch advised “no records were located regarding violations or a meat establishment farm.”

The lack of a “Meat Establishment License” was further confirmed with a follow-up call to the PDA who was unable to find such a license for Shepherd’s Touch.

“Custom” slaughters, such as those performed at Shepherd’s Touch, are not observed or inspected by USDA, and the retail sale of meat from a custom slaughter is prohibited and must be marked “Not For Resale.”|

Many animal advocacy groups, including the Animal Welfare Institute, view ritualistic and custom slaughter, versus USDA slaughter, as a loophole to avoid any oversight, referring to them as “a license to neglect and abuse farm animals.”

In sharp contrast, USDA inspected slaughterhouses have an inspector on the kill floor for every slaughter and the USDA stamp provides resellers and buyers with the knowledge that the meat they are buying is safe and free from disease.

In early 2024 Shepherd’s Touch applied for a Retail Food Facility License from the PDA. A copy of the application for the license was obtained via a Right-to-Know request.

The application indicates that Stoltzfus plans on selling deli meat, cheese, raw meat, deli salads, eggs, baked goods, honey, dried herbs, and other items.

The initial inspection for the retail entity at Shepherd’s Touch Farm was conducted on March 8. The report indicated that the store was not in full compliance, and the need for corrective action was indicated.

“The floor area of the retail food facility is extremely dirty and in need of cleaning,” the inspector wrote, with instructions to correct the problem by the following day.

A Retail Food Facility License was issued by the PDA’s Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services.

Kingdom Provisions, LLC was incorporated on June 3, 2022, and a Meat Establishment License was applied for on August 31 of that same year. However, Kingdom Provisions was already on the property, located at 5960 Durham Road, as a lessee according to a Plumstead Township zoning hearing board application.

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Plumstead Township

Over the last few years, meeting minutes from the Plumstead Township Board of Supervisors are dotted with mentions of the Durham Road property and its owners.

The first mention of the property appears in January 2021 when Chip Bunch and Nick Lykon expressed an interest in the preservation of 58.25 acres known as the Gouldey Tract that consists of four land parcels.

At the time, the board expressed concern regarding the funding for land preservation.

July 2021 minutes address the “Gouldey Farm (Plumstead Acquisitions)” and an application to obtain zoning for a “boutique butcher shop on the property that is USDA approved with local raised animals.” This specific zoning would apply to one parcel of the Gouldey Tract that is now Kingdom Provisions.

Counsel for Plumstead Acquisitions and its principals Nick Lykon and Chip Bunch were present, as was Ken Rush who is a partner in Kingdom Provisions.

Lykon said he wanted “to bring the farm back to its glory days,” and “that they are in the process of preserving the farm and also want to continue to farm it.”

Township Supervisor Daniel Hilferty expressed concerns with the concept of the boutique butcher shop and noted that “the applicant is appealing the zoning officer’s decision,” and questioned the hours the business would be open.

Local resident Jim Dykes asked if slaughtering would take place on the premises and wanted to know how many animals would be kept at the property.

Rush said they “may slaughter 20 animals a day” and impressed upon the board that they would be selling to the community.

Dykes voiced objections based on noise, tractor trailer traffic and animals roaming off the property.

Township Solicitor Reiss recommended that Dykes address his concerns to the zoning hearing board.

In a 4-1 vote, with Hilferty voting no, the supervisors approved sending a letter of support to the zoning board as long as certain stipulations, such as hours of operation, were met.

Dykes’ apprehensions weren’t wrong, but no one could anticipate what would eventually take place.

“The DEP traced the pollution that killed off all the fish and wildlife in Cabin Run creek directly to Kingdom Provisions,” Gafden said. “They have destroyed the land that was intended to be preserved and continue to put every resident in this area at risk.”

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Ott believes everyone in the area should have their well water tested.

“I am concerned that an area which does not have public water but instead well water is being polluted by illegal dumping of animal blood and cleaning chemicals seeping into the aquifers,” said Brian King.

Residents are also concerned that if this problem doesn’t resolve, their property values will fall.

At the July 12, 2022 meeting the board voted unanimously for Resolution #2022-19 to authorize the acquisition of a conservation easement on the Gouldey Tract at a cost not to exceed $114,920, plus closing costs.

Some of the township’s money for open space projects is funded, in part, by local taxes.

The Kingdom Provision Easement

The Bucks County Agricultural Land Preservation Program oversees conservation easements and guidelines are provided about the many details involved in this type of real estate transaction.

Simplified, if a land owner’s property qualifies, a conservation easement may be established.

“Farmers are compensated for the difference between the development value of their land (Fair Market Value) and the agricultural value of their land. Easement values are determined by a qualified real-estate appraisal. Conservation easements willfully sold by a landowner at an amount less than the appraised value (bargain sale) are eligible to receive a federal income tax charitable deduction,” reads the program guide for the Bucks County Agricultural Land Preservation Program.

Conservation easements guarantee parcels of land remain preserved in their natural state and be free from development. Once in place, easements are permanent, regardless how many times the property is sold, and serve to preserve the land for future generations in perpetuity.

Additionally, the establishment of a conservation easement does not release the property owner from maintaining the land as prescribed.

“Once the easement is in place, it will be the responsibility of the owner of the farmland tract to comply with the requirements of Chapter 138e 221-227 of the state regulations regarding permitted and required acts including maintaining a soil conservation plan, the construction of buildings, and part-time or off-season activities,” the guide says.

Bunch and Lykon were successful in creating conservation easements on all four parcels that had previously been referred to as the Gouldey Tract.

One of those parcels was then sold to Stoltzfus and his partners, making Kingdom Provisions responsible for maintaining the easements in accordance with an assortment of laws.

Stoltzfus is not in compliance with the laws that regulate the conservation easement on his property.

On April 26, following a site inspection on April 24, John Ives, the Director of Agricultural Land Preservation and Municipal Open Space Programs, advised Stoltzfus in writing that he had 20 days to contact and discuss the results of the site inspection that showed a lack of compliance of the easement. Failure to do so would result in enforcement action, including prosecution.

On May 16 Plumstead Township issued a notice of violation for the easement.

Both the agricultural land preservation program and township have documented many infractions including creating waste dumps, altering the land surface, polluting the land with slaughterhouse waste and dumping trash, concrete and toxic materials on the easement.

“They have not maintained the property. They have ruined the conservancy with waste, and have altered the landscape to prevent the blood from piling throughout our yard, but have not addressed the issue,” Brian King said.

“We saw them dumping more blood [and] we took videos. As soon as they saw us filming them, they would immediately turn around and go back to their buildings, only to return a few hours later in an attempt to dump it when we were not looking,” Evelyn King said. “This happened 3 or 4 times that we witnessed. The land is under the mandate set by the PA Conservancy, and we were led to believe the land was not to undergo any changes in landscape.”

Is The End In Sight?

Frustrations began to boil over at the May board of supervisors meeting where many residents made public comment about the impact the slaughterhouse has had on their day-to-day lives.

Minutes for the meeting have yet to be posted, however in a recording of the meeting the solicitor advised that legal action, beginning with an injunction, would commence.

Gafden, who is at her wits’ end, reached out to Democratic County Commissioner Diane Marseglia.

Within weeks, Marseglia had done more to help the residents than the township had over 18 months by pursuing every possible path to help the resident including conference calls with federal and state agencies.

“The township has made it clear what they have the authority to do and what they cannot do,” Ott said. It seems they can approve items based on certain requirements but are not able to stop them when they don’t follow those requirements.

“The one person who has been most effective in trying to help us through this mess is Bucks County Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia,” he said. “Just Monday she had a conference call with 27 people including a representative from Congressman Fitzpatrick. She is in the fight with us on this.”

Marseglia is reported to have reached out to the county’s legal counsel who is now involved in addressing violations of the easements and are ready to pursue an injunction if necessary.

Property owners have no faith that anything other than legal action will bring their horror story to an end.

Some have tried to reason with Stoltzfus without success including Evelyn King who said she has spoken to Stoltzfus many times only to receive empty promises.

“They have not been honest or transparent with a single individual or agency regarding what is occurring on site. They have told lie after lie and excuse after excuse but the problems continue,” Gafden said. “They were given more chances than imaginable to resolve these issues and they are either incapable or unwilling to comply.

“I believe as long as Kingdom Provisions is allowed to operate at this location neighbors will continue to suffer, the land and water will continue to be polluted and our health will continue to be jeopardized,” she said. 

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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