Mariaville Angus in Delanson, N.Y., and Barber’s Farm in Middleburgh, N.Y., and are two very different family owned and operated farms. Mariaville specializes in black Angus beef and other meats, and Barber’s in homegrown vegetables. But the substantial results that have come from both farms being in the inaugural group of vendors at the popular Schenectady Greenmarket are quite similar. With the exposure and increased clientele they have received at the market since it began in November 2008, both have expanded and taken their farms in new directions.
When Mariaville Angus first started selling to customers at Schenectady Greenmarket they had one product as their name suggests: black Angus beef. But their customers began asking for more and soon the animals the Chandler family raised for hobby became part of their business. They now have three breeds of pigs (red waddle, Yorkshire and durocs), lambs, goats and pastured chickens. In July 2010, they began raising laying hens in a mobile hen house, bringing 50 to 60 dozen brown eggs to each market, which typically sell out during the first two hours the market is open.
Over the past three years the Chandlers have doubled their sales at the market each year. The full-time jobs they have worked, Chris as a bus driver and photographer and her husband Bob as a builder of log homes, in addition to running the farm, now support only their family, instead of the business. “We used to work full-time jobs to support the farm. Now the farm is supporting itself. We still work full-time, but the farm is now running independently,” Chris explained.
The family, which includes sons Bobby, John and Billy, plans to build a farm store this year, and start a CSA in Delanson. “It’s the exposure at Schenectady Greenmarket that has made people aware of us. Once people try our meat, they just come back,” Chris said.
Last year, average daily attendance was 2,700 at the outdoor market and 1,900 at the indoor market. The market has opened up Mariaville Angus, and all of the vendors, to many new customers. “We have so many more customers now because so many people come through Schenectady Greenmarket,” Chris said.
Cindy Barber, President of Barber’s Farm, likens the effects that the market has had on her farm and the rural community to a pebble being tossed into the water.
“This hasn’t just been an economic engine for downtown Schenectady. It’s also been an engine for us to expand our own businesses in our own communities. To the people who envisioned this market…how could they have imagined that little pebble would make such a big ripple?”
Last month, while temperatures plunged below freezing for several days in a row, Cindy and her nephew, Jacob Hooper, Vice President of the farm, were seeding new beds of spinach in one of the two high tunnels they built to harvest vegetables year-round. They also grow carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips in the high tunnels which are kept warm with geothermal heat.
“That first season, I could have 1,000 people going by my table at the market. Out here in Schoharie County, I would have maybe 100 cars go on my road…When we first started at the market, we were bringing what we’ve always had as a winter keeping crop, potatoes, onions, squash and we sold out…So in Summer 2009, we put up the first high tunnel growing system. We were able to plant more crops. We knew we had an audience.”
Barber’s Farm went from being a retail operation from May until November to a year-round enterprise, with farm owners hiring additional employees for the farm stand in Middleburgh and the Schenectady Greenmarket table. They now also flash freeze their vegetables , including sweet corn, tomatoes, broccoli, red peppers and butternut squash.
Betsy Henry, Chair of the Board of Schenectady Greenmarket, reflected on the market’s impact on its vendors this way, “We are thrilled that our vendors have been able to expand their businesses because of customers at Schenectady Greenmarket. It’s exciting to know that our market and our customers have had such a positive impact on the local economy.”