Conference Tours Refresh Participants
by Susan McCue, editor, Small Farm News
As tour participants step off the bus at Rombach Farms, audible cries of delight ripple through the crowd. All eyes are on the brilliantly colored pumpkins carpeting the ground in all directions. Facing north, pumpkins stretch in endless rows out to the great pumpkin pyramid towering 20 feet above the grassy field. To the east and west, they overflow out of wagons and wheelbarrows or lie heaped in mounds stacked throughout the u-pick area.
Direct retail sales are the only way to market effectively in his area, says Rombach, whose family has farmed the land for three generations since 1928. "We lose 30-75 percent every year, so wholesale is hard," he explains. Buyers call him a few days before they need supply, and "If I have it, I'll sell it to you," he says. On-farm sales are part of the farm's history. In the 1950s, Steve's mother started selling produce at their farm stand. She and Steve's father remain on the farm, which is now operated by Steve, his brother, and a cousin.
Owned by the same family more than 100 years, the aptly-named Centennial Farms has passed through six generations since 1854 to current owners Bob and Ellen Knoerschield. The Knoerschields, who share the farm with their children and grandchildren, make sure to keep abreast of agricultural trends that can keep the farm profitable and maintain its century-long success.
"We keep trying to come up with money-making schemes," says Ellen. "That's one reason why we're so diversified. Every year, we have something that doesn't make it. Recently, the Knoerschields planted 1,000 walnut trees with plans to use them for lumber. On a wagon tour of the farm, Bob Knoerschield points out the new trees, then shares a tip as he passes his peach orchard. To keep deer away, he ties a cake of soap to the tree. The deer don't like the soap, so they stay away, he reports happily.
Then he shares a tip about liability insurance with the tour group. Not long ago, he switched to a package offered through the *North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association noted in the Summer issue of Small Farm News. "It's worth joining just for the insurance alone, and the excellent meetings, if you can get to them," he says.
*For more information about North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association liability insurance, call (888) 884-9270.