The HVADC Cultivator

HVADC Client Update:
Mountain Winds Farm

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Randall Grippin grew up on a lot of land with a lot of maple trees in Berne New York, in Albany County. He’s worked a variety of different jobs over the years and while the family acreage at Mountain Winds Farm was used for homesteading and farming for the family’s use, it wasn’t always the family business. But over the past 16 years Grippin has tapped more and more of those maples and begun selling syrup at local markets and at their farm store.

Now Mountain Winds Farm has over 2,000 taps and 20 miles of pipeline to bring the sap down to the sugar shack. As the side business became a larger part of Grippin’s operation, his two daughters, now in college, started pushing their dad to incorporate. It was a good idea! 

Recently, through the Incubator Without Walls program, HVADC connected Grippin with the Business Technical Assistance he needed to turn his Mountain Winds Farm maple production into an official Limited Liability Company (LLC). Grippin worked with HVADC consulting attorney and financial advisor Megan Harris-Pero to get the certification and he said she made the process much “slick and easy.” Harris-Pero’s practice in Saratoga Springs focuses on the areas of business law, estate planning, estate settlement and elder law.

“We are looking, long term, into getting our kitchen license,” said Grippin. “The powers that be (meaning my daughters) are interested in chocolates and other things. Being an LLC gives us a lot of extra levels of protection.”

Grippin said he’s been on the HVADC mailing list for a long time and then one day an email popped up about the Business Technical Assistance opportunities available to farmers like him and he saw an opportunity to strengthen his business and get his daughters off his back for a minute. 

Grippin’s older daughter Christina has a degree in agricultural business and the younger Laura, is currently in college at SUNY Geneseo. His son Daniel, Grippin says, is his “number one fire guy.”  

Mountain Winds Farm is still condensing their syrup in a wood-fired boiler by hand. Loyal customers say the process gives the farm’s syrup an extremely subtle but defining smoky character. What really gives Mountain Winds its character is Grippin – all the hard work he’s put in and the family he does it all for. In addition to maple syrup, he is also producing value-added products such as hard and soft maple candy, maple sugars, and maple cream. 

“Mountain Winds is a great, family-focused operation,” said HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling. “They’re producing great syrup and apparently great kids too! We are so glad that the Grippin children prodded their father into turning the business into an LLC. It will help the business in the short term and set it up so the next generation can take over more smoothly in the future.”     

Turning a farm or any business, into a LLC makes that business a legal entity separate from the personal finances of the business owner. The LLC can buy, sell and hold property apart from its owners and is also responsible for its own debts and other liabilities. On a family farm it is often hard to delineate the line between life and work but becoming an LLC is an integral step to growing a business and eventually handing that business off to ones successors. Now as an LLC, Mountain Winds seems well positioned to accomplish both.  

In addition to legal services, HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls program provides Business  Technical Assistance in the form of business planning, strategic planning, marketing, grant writing, land access, and a variety of disciplines that can help farmers and food producers improve their chances of long-term success.

To learn more about the type of Business Technical Assistance that HVADC can provide through its Incubator Without Walls program, visit https://www.hvadc.org/iww.