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AlB-Lancaster Farming, Saturday, July 29, 2000
Retail Marketing Stretches Ag Horizons
(Continued from Pago A 1)
downside is that local fanners
must compete pricewise with
those in other countries.
An example of this was men
tioned by Stephen Quigley, a
managing partner in Mer
rymead Farm Inc., a dairy farm
and farm market in Lansdale.
As a farmer, Quigley is frustrated by low commodity
prices and stifling government regulations. At the same
time, to remain profitable, Quigley is forced to make
astute business decisions. That often means it is cheaper
for him to buy elsewhere than raise it himself or buy from
a neighboring farmer.
Quigley found he could have Canadian pumpkins de
livered to his farm cheaper than raising them or than
buying them from other growers in the state.
While this news sounds discouraging to farmers, Quig
ley, Janet Finney, Roy Brubaker, and Romaine Erb
shared how they are finding ways to remain profitable in
the changing market.
Both Quigley and Finney cater to entertainment farm
“People don’t want to pay for food, but they’ll pay big
bucks for entertainment,” Quigley said.
Realizing this, Quigley has helped steer Merrymead
Farm into a place where families come to spend money.
The drawing card is that Merrymead is the closest work
ing farm to Philadelphia. Eighteen family members and
additional seasonal help are employed on the family farm
that has a 100-cow herd and 400 acres.
Visitors are charged $4.50 each to visit the farm.
“They pay to go to a museum. Why shouldn’t they pay
to see our farm?” Quigley asked in regards to the attrac
tion of animals and open space.
People are willing to pay. Merrymead has been so suc
cessful that traffic is sometimes backed up five miles in
either direction waiting to get into the farm on a busy
Merrymead, open seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to
10 p.m., makes 50 flavors of ice cream, operate their own
bakery, and are constantly trying new activities.
The store’s biggest retail growth has been in tlowers.
But complicating the growth is the strict zoning laws en
forced by his county.
“We are only allowed to sell what we can dig with
hand shovel. Zoning is horrendous,” Quigley said.
“Business is big, but the future doesn’t look good,”
Quigley said of the battle with zoning laws that stifle
their growth and are often times ridiculous.
The farm is not allowed to erect a permanent building
but is allowed to continue a bakery business within three
sheds on the property. This inconvenience requires addi
tional labor in walking back and forth between sheds and
in transporting baked goods from one place to another.
Eight rooms of the farmhouse are used for office space.
The barns and six trailers are used for storage.
Zoning will not allow permanent signs, so a sign is
erected on a wagon and moved periodically.
Merrymead is surrounded by development. But, Quig
ley said, milk sales remained flat in the last five years de
spite the population increase.
“The neighbors go to the supermarket for milk. They
don’t want to another stop for milk,” he said. They do
come for ice cream. In the summer, the store employs 75
students who work 12 at a time dipping ice cream.
Quigley is the first to say that the family could not sur
vive by relying strictly on agricultural pursuits. Some of
their attractions include having the world’s largest pig,
offering unique games of chance such as the harvest
slinger which pays better than a whole dairy herd for a
year 13 hayride wagons, Johnny Appleseed re
enactment, and many seasonal events.
Janet Finney doesn’t live in Philadelphia, but her
family has also managed to carve a successful business
with entertainment farming concepts in Crawford
County. The entertainment started by accident with a
few pumpkins in 1958. The family now raises 30 acres of
pumpkins and five acres of Indian corn on their 100-acre
Property. They rent an additional 50 acres. A former
dairy farm, it is now a vegetable farm with no irrigation
system. They grow everything they sell except apples and
cider at the roadside stand.
Seasonal pumpkin sales are the Finneys’ forte. Finney
turns pumpkins into the big, bad wolf and the three little
pigs, Wizard of Oz characters, and other storybook per
The Finneys do not charge for entrance to their farm,
but they sell Pumpkinville treats such as hot dog and
vampire specials and sometimes offer rides on their regis
Finney said the entertainment aspect of Finney’s
Pumpkinville draws customers. Even if they do not buy
anything that day, they usually become repeat customers
of the farm market, making it worth the no admission
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Niche marketing has pro
vided a nice income for the Roy
Brubaker family. Since 1992,
Brubaker has been operating
Village Acres, a 15-acre certified
organic vegetable and small
fruits farm in Juniata County. A
former missionary, Brubaker
said organic farming was his
first stab at farming. On his
farm, top soil was shallow, not
well-drained, and polluted with
stones, which continues to be an
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Some of the marginal land is used for raspberries, blue
berries, and perennials since the soil doesn’t require till
ing for these crops.
Brubaker said that being part of the Tuscarora Or
ganic Growers has enabled him sales and opportunities
that wouldn’t be possible operating alone. About 65 of
the co-op sales are in the Washington D.C. area to res
taurants and retailers.
During January and February, co-op members decide
what each member will grow, negotiate changes, addi
tions, and diversity.
The Brubakers also operate a community-supported
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■ 430 SpringviHe Road
Ephrata, PA 17522
717-788-2142 • 1-<800)-874-7531