The HVADC Cultivator
FFBA Participant Marge Randles, Argyle Cheese Farmer
Located in Argyle, New York (Washington County), a short drive from Saratoga, Lake George and Vermont, and dating back to the 1860s, is a 225 acre family farmstead that is home to Argyle Cheese Farmer. Using milk produced on-site to create high quality yogurts and artisan cheeses, owners Dave and Marge Randles work to create award winning products. This year Argyle Cheese Farmer won the gold medal for its plain Greek style yogurt, the highest award in that category at the New York State Fair. They have previously won gold and silver medals, in 2016, and gold in 2015 for other yogurt and cheese products.
The Randles began Argyle Cheese Farmer producing yogurt, and have expanded its line of products to include cheese, cheese spread, cheesecakes, buttermilk and salad dressings. They were the first in the area to offer their yogurt in recyclable or returnable glass containers. While they already have a diversified product base, they are always adding or testing new products. According to Marge “one of the great things about being small is that you have the opportunity to try different things and test market them or conduct product research. Not only with the product itself but its packaging as well. I feel both are important.” If she wants to test a new flavor she does it at the farmers’ markets first. They have had to limit their cheese sales recently to retail only, as the demand has been so high there isn’t a way to keep up with demand at their current facility. There are plans however in the future, to expand the production footprint of the business, incorporating additional production spaces and possible tours or viewing areas. At this time, their on-site store and weekly Saturday farmers’ markets, they do three each week – Glens Falls, Saratoga and Troy, are keeping them busy.
Marge was a participant in the Farm and Food Business Accelerator (FFBA), a six-month Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) curriculum based intensive entrepreneurial training program. She heard about it through an email from HVADC and thought it sounded like a good fit. She is a firm believer that you get out of something what you put into it and feels that it was a good use of time to help grow the business and help open up ideas and solutions that may not have encountered alone. She found the most helpful aspect of the FFBA program was the access to specialized expertise such as lawyers, marketing, general consultants for finance and general business consulting. She said it was very helpful from a financial aspect as it allowed her to learn how banks and resources view businesses like food entrepreneurs and how to present yourself in a way, financially speaking that would allow you to be taken seriously and to present yourself in a good light, when seeking to gain access to capital. She also felt that the opportunity to network with other FFBA participants was valuable, giving them all the opportunity to both learn from experiences others have had, and to be able to assist others encountering challenges she has already faced.
For more information about Argyle Cheese Farmer please visit them at https://cheesefarmer.com/
For more information about the Farm and Food Business Accelerator visit https://www.hvadc.org/ffba