Strawberry Picking & Art Expeditions In The Hudson Valley
Our next stop is Greig Farm, a Pick - Your - Own farm in the heart of the Hudson Valley in Red Hook, New York. Located just 100 miles outside of New York City, this farm, appropriately dubbed an agricultural park, by the owner is filled with activities fit for every visitor. This Pick - Your - Own Farm has created a host of experiences that appeal to visitors from families to art enthusiasts. They grow a variety of fruits and vegetables including asparagus, strawberries, & Sugar Snap peas. I interviewed the owner of the Farm, Norman Greig, to learn more about the farm and their experiences. As the owner of a multi-generational farm, Norman shared a wealth of tips and advice for those considering entering the farm experience economy.
The Greig Farm approach to farm experiences, has been to curate a selection of activities that allows visitors to come and spend the entire day on the farm. The farm is accessible to visitors via car, train, and plane! With their own private airport, Greig Farm gives visitors traveling by plane the option to fly in for the day. Their farm experiences come under 5 different categories including Accommodations, Arts & Entertainment, Dining, Direct Sales, & Recreation. Within those categories the farm hosts 8 different experiences throughout the year. Their experiences include:
Arts & Entertainment
SoHu (South of Hudson) Craft Market
Farm Salon Art Gallery
Papa’s Best Batch (Smokehouse & Sammich Shop)
The Hudson Valley Farmer’s Market (Grocery Store & Eatery)
Pick – Your- Own Fruits & Vegetables
In addition to these offerings, Greig Farm use to include entertainment farming where they hosted live events. Norman mentions that Entertainment Farming is another path farm owners can take, however, for Greig Farm, they wanted to get back to their roots. In doing so they offer less entertainment, and focus on the agricultural experience.
Greig Farm was originally a dairy farm established in 1942 by Norman's father. Building on the legacy of his Father, Norman began what he describes as a “gradual adaptive reuse of the land.” He transitioned the once dairy farm into a hub for fresh picked fruit and artisan eats building out each farm experience one at a time. Greig Farm's first experience was the Pick - Your - Own operation which began in 1952. At the time, the operation was not intended to be an experience, as it was a gleaning project to meet the need of the community when the market broke.
Norman started building out farm experiences by evolving the business as the market he was serving evolved. Talking to visitors before they left, and attending national farm conferences is how he gained new ideas. He added the market in 1985 and the shop in 1991. The gallery and the craft market were added in the last two years. The build out for each additional operation was capital intensive but, Norman was intentional with how he grew the farm. Each time he renovated a room he thought “how I can reuse this so that it has synergy with the room.” In doing so, each part of the farm's current operations holds part of the farm's history.
1. The Changing Market
Visitors reasons for coming to the farm to pick their own fruits and vegetables has shifted. In recognizing that shift Norman had to adapt to visitors changing needs.
2. Zoning & Related Regulations
Zoning and getting approvals for adaptive reuse of the land was a challenge as Norman began to build out the farm operations. The farm had large buildings that were used while they were operating the dairy farm. Gaining approval for the adaptive reuse of agricultural buildings was the biggest hurdle.
With decades of experience operating farm experiences, Norman had a plethora of tips and advice for those that are interested in developing their own farm experiences. Here’s what Norman had to say.
Identify the market and try to have the business evolve to keep up with the market. "The pick per customer has gone down substantially... it’s entertainment rather than arriving here for product. So it’s important to add what they need." Also be aware of what your target market is aware of, as he notes that "the general public is sensitive to [knowing about any] chemicals."
"In everything you do, it's very important to manage liability. So think about how to keep it safe. Think about how to not create accidents. Think about people who don’t know agriculture."
Color Coding & Purchase Value
For Pick - Your - Own, plant crops that turn color when they are ripe and are high value crops.
"When you open your world to the community its an opportunity for growth." Norman also notes that this is not for everyone.
Fill The Day
"When someone is getting ready to go ask them where they are going next and whatever they tell you maybe that's what you need to add."
Cost of Admission
“If you do a gate or admission charge on coming in you will get big resistance on that. If you charge by the piece while [visitors] are there they [will] think nothing of it.”
“It's important to have fun. The money flows when people are having fun.”
Interested in checking out Greig Farm for yourself? Learn more about them here.