The HVADC Cultivator
Freedom Hill Farm
Freedom Hill Farm in Otisville, Orange County, is on a mission. To help grow that mission, the small dairy, with a herd of beautiful Jersey cows, recently received a significant Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) from the United States Department of Agriculture with the help of Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) to help grow distribution for their exciting line of yogurt, buttermilk and kefir.
Though they had been planning for growth for some time, Freedom Hill made the decision to apply for the VAPG grant close to the submission deadline and reached out to HVADC to assist. In just two weeks, through HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls Program, Freedom Hill Farm’s Chris Vreeland and farm manager Stephanie Bishop worked with experienced Business Technical Assistance consultant Brian Zweig to craft a convincing proposal that will increase Freedom Hill’s distribution capacity into the New York City region.
Freedom Hill is a multigenerational farm run by Rick and Julie Vreeland, their son Chris and Bishop, a Cornell agricultural business graduate, who grew up on her own family’s farm. Freedom Hill is driven by the family’s strong Christian faith, which empowers them to give back to their community, as well as invite anyone to stop by, visit the farm and learn about their operation. They also have a quaint farm store filled with offerings including raw milk.
Rick Vreeland grew up on the farm but left for 26 years to run his own 2,000 head dairy. Then in 2001, Rick and Julie decided it was time for a lifestyle change. They sold the larger farm, and in 2003 moved home to Otisville and started dairy farming again with Rick’s father Dick, after Rick says he had a vision from God.
“Our mission is that we would like to see more people have access to good quality dairy,” said Bishop. “We are really excited to offer new customers in New York City a better option. Brian (Zweig) was a huge help guiding and mentoring us through the grant process.”
The VAPG funding Freedom Hill will soon receive will be used to scale up and market their delicious line of yogurt kefir and buttermilk in the metro market. Bishop says they are excited to bring access to the quality of dairy that Freedom Hill’s Jerseys produce. To accomplish that they needed the capital to purchase inventory, containers and labels as well as invest in design and marketing.
“VAPG was a good fit for them,” said Zweig, “Their business was in order. It was just a matter of conveying that through the grant proposal. They are passionate about their work and that’s why they were successful.”
This project isn’t just about opening a new market for the farm; it’s also a move to diversify operations as the family looks to the future when Chris Vreeland officially takes the reigns of the operation from his parents.
“Planning for a farm’s generational transition isn’t just about navigating legal paperwork,” said Mary Ann Johnson, HVADC Executive Director. “It’s also about embracing new markets and technologies that allow the next generation of farmers to excel in an ever changing world. The Vreelands have a great product and their expanded consumer base means more people than ever get to find out what we already know, Freedom Hill Farm is a special place with a great product.”
To learn more about the scope of BTA HVADC provides through Incubator Without Walls, visit https://www.hvadc.org/iww.