There isn’t an American industry that hasn’t been altered in some way since the start of the pandemic nearly 7 months ago. While many small businesses have permanently closed, others have successfully pivoted to stay open and even grow. Some, like Abers Acres, have seen growth simply by doing what they’ve always done.
“We weren’t sure how to approach the spring [planting season] there was so much uncertainty,” said Sue Abers of her certified organic farm in Kennedy, NY.
According to Abers, the demand for organic produce, especially from delivery services like FreshFix has helped the farm expand it’s reach. “COVID has encouraged people to think more about where they get their food,” Abers said. Adding, “they are also more supportive of the farm stand.”
Since 1984, Sue and John Abers have been dedicated to the production of pick-your-own and ready-picked choice seasonal fruits and vegetables. “I grew up on a dairy farm and my husband married the farmer’s daughter,” Abers said. The couple wanted to do something on their own and started growing nursery crops. “We planted a field of strawberries, which was really successful, and grew the business from there. People out here were hungry for it.”
By 1990, that hunger allowed the Abers to add a second location about two miles away from their home farm. The tomatoes, corn and raspberries are among several crops grown there and protected by the Abers’ Labrador retrievers, Max, Molly and Sky. The dogs patrol the farm overnight to keep out deer, raccoons, and other wildlife. “They’re worth their weight in gold,” Abers said.
In 2002, they expanded again with a third farm in North Warren, PA.
During that time, Sue and John also grew their family. “We raised hard working kids,” Abers said, recounting the farm chores her three sons and two daughters would complain about as children. “Now they come back and have fun working on the farm but as kids they thought they worked so hard,” she said with a laugh. Adam Abers stayed on the family farm after earning a degree in agriculture from SUNY Cobleskill, where he learned about crop and soil science and sustainable crop production.
Adam is responsible for the farm’s certified organic status which has helped the Abers’ earn grants to improve infrastructure including a new state-of-the-art irrigation system. Over four years, starting in 2000, he developed a new management system including sustainable practices like cover crop rotation and other biological controls. The result is high quality, flavorful, and nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables.
Abers Acres was one of our first farm partners. “Joshua reached out to us for organic produce pretty early on,” Abers recalled. “I liked that he wanted to promote local and organic, especially since the large grocers don’t really seem to care or want to make the investment in organic products.”
Abers said she has planted more because of her partnership with FreshFix. “We realized early on that we were never gonna get rich as farmers, but I keep about six full-time employees now and that’s enough for me.”