N.Y. couple discusses expanding ag markets
Lauren Prezorski of Cold Spring Farm in Cobleskill, N.Y. joined a virtual presentation moderated by Middlesex County Ag Extension Agent Bill Hlubik at the recent Vegetable Growers’ Association of New Jersey online gathering in late February.
Prezorski spoke and took questions in a seminar titled “Expanding Your Farmers Market in 2020-Creative Marketing in Tough Times.”
Cold Spring Farm is a 1st generation farm of about 31 acres of vegetables and 80 acres of field crops.
“We have a wholesale and retail market,” Prezorski said, “and to be honest, our farm goal right now is we want to become more retail, less wholesale, we do a lot of wholesale right now with pumpkins and ornamentals in the fall.”
The couple phased out their wholesale delivery service last fall, but allowed those customers to pick up at the farm stand.
“We’re very fortunate the same couple of ladies work with us every year and they’re just part of our family. We do use local labor, we have access to college students and local kids we rely on,” she added, noting the farm is not far from the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown and is also close to State University of New York-Cobleskill.
Lauren married husband Lenny Prezorski in 2006 and while Lenny is now full-time with farming, she continues to work off the farm part-time.
“It was a gradual expansion, so when Lenny retired, in 2011 we had an opportunity to buy a used greenhouse,” she said. “I have a background in flowers and greenhouses and I wanted to be more involved with that.
“We put up our first greenhouse in 2011 and found another used greenhouse and added a high tunnel in 2013.”
In 2014, the Prezorski’s moved their farm stand to the front of their property. By 2016, they added a walk-in cooler and in 2018 they put in a third greenhouse for flowers.
With their expanded farm stand in place for the 2019 season, Lauren noted they were far less weather dependent and no longer had to sit outside in New York state weather.
Their expanded farm stand sports four garage doors across the front and a neighbor’s sheep farm provides a nice view out the back of their farm stand.
Once they added an enclosed farm stand they began selling Christmas trees, wreaths and holiday decorations, she said and noted, “in addition to vegetables we grow here, we supplement with local fruits and milk.” They also raise layer chickens and sell farm fresh eggs.
“Cleanliness and freshness with the stand has always been important,” she said, noting they go through all of their produce on display every day.
“Sometimes it takes all day to do that, but that is really what we pride ourselves on, the freshness of our produce,” she said.
“We try to add some different varieties of produce every year, be it okra or specialty peppers or new kinds of tomatoes,” she added.
She said they also noticed some customers come in and go directly to the corn table or the tomato table, “so just by switching tales around, sometimes we increase sales.”
“We also like to display lots of flags, lots of colors, the inside of the farm stand is all natural wood and concrete floors so it’s pretty boring; we try to liven it up with the colors and displays.”
She acknowledged she and Lenny were long overdue for even a simple website.
“You want to enjoy your business, even though we knew we needed it, neither one of us enjoys that part of it,” she said.
They knew they didn’t want to spend all that much money on a website so they reached out to SUNY-Cobleskil and a student designed a website and another student designed a logo for Cold Spring Farm.
“Not only did we get a logo, we got stationery and business cards and it was all less than $100 so we can’t complain.”
While there’s no comparison population-wise with farms in central New Jersey and Cold Spring Farm in Cobleskil, N.Y., many New Yorkers head upstate in the summer months and the Baseball Hall of Fame is also a big draw to the area in “normal” times.
“People come here from all different parts of the state and we take them on tours” she said, noting, “it’s only a short walk from our farm stand to our cold spring, which the farm is named after.”
In 2020, much like many farm stands around New Jersey, Cold Spring Farm enjoyed a boom in business, as people were reluctant to go into supermarkets.
“Last year was the first time we were open the full year with the farm stand. Business increased all season, we were drawing in not only more people, but they were buying much larger quantities, it was mentioned before that some people weren’t coming as often. We had a lot of customers this year who really got into canning and freezing.”