The HVADC Cultivator
FFBA Participant Dylan Dembeck of Minkus Family Farms
Dylan Dembeck, of Minkus Family Farms (MFF), is a participant in HVADC’s inaugural Farm & Food Business Accelerator Program (FFBA). Dylan is Food Safety Officer and Director of Business Development at MFF, as well as the son-in-law of MFF founder Rick Minkus. Prior to his role at MFF, Dylan spent ten years working as trader and portfolio manager on Wall Street.
Located in Orange County, MFF is a true family farm. Rick, along with his wife, 2 sons and Dylan, all play a key role in the business. MMF got its start when Rick began farming 60 acres in 1993. Although Rick is a first-generation farmer, he quickly expanded his acreage, and now MFF cultivates over 1500 acres and grows about 30 million pounds of onions per year. As MFF expanded, Rick realized that the farm would benefit from Dylan’s business know-how and asked him to come on board in 2014. Dylan’s son had just been born, and as he was commuting daily to NYC, he decided it was a good time to join the family business and decided to take the leap. His aim is to continue to grow and expand MFF operations.
Dylan oversees the packing, selling and wholesale division of the farm, and is in charge of developing business opportunities. MFF is a self-sufficient operation with growing, packing and shipping all taking place on site. MFF has their GlobalGap certification, which means that they have been audited and determined to have Good Agricultural Practices, and they have also passed their Safe Quality Food (SQF) audit. Both of these certification serve as positive signs to potential customers.
MFF is among the largest onion farms in New York State. Over the next ten years, Dylan would like to expand operations, get larger accounts and direct-to-retail accounts. Realizing that ‘eating local’ has become increasingly important to many consumers, Dylan saw an opportunity to expand MFF’s marketing efforts through the FFBA program. Currently MFF onions are mostly sold at wholesale produce markets, but Dylan aims to sell to direct retailers, especially those in NY State, in response to the high demand for locally produced goods.
Sustainability is an important facet of business at MFF. Two of their facilities are equipped with solar panels, and their warehouse features 62 skylights, thus cutting down on the need for electric lighting. When lighting is needed, it is supplied by high efficiency LEDs. The storage warehouses are equipped with ten 20 foot fans, which keeps the storage facility at an ideal temperature for the onions without the use of refrigeration.
In addition to their other certifications, MFF participates in New York State Grown & Certified. In order to participate, a farm has to be GAP certified (Good Agricultural Practices) and adhere to New York’s higher standards for food safety and environmental responsibility. MFF was approached by the NYS Grown & Certified program because they are viewed as representative of some of the best of NYS agriculture. As part of this program, an environmental assessment was conducted, at no cost, by the NYS Soil & Water Conservation Committee to ensure that MFF practices responsible and sustainable farming. As it becomes increasingly important to consumers to know where their food comes from, the NYS Grown certification is highly advantageous. Dylan is hoping that NYS Grown & Certified produce will become highly sought after and therefore can command a higher price. He is also hoping that MFF’s various certifications will help them get a foot in the door at big retail grocery stores.
Dylan first heard of HVADC at an accelerator event in Newburgh in the spring of 2016, and realized that the FFBA was targeted towards Hudson Valley producers. Dylan had noted the interest in locally grown produce growing over the years, and the FFBA tied in to his plan of highlighting MFF’s NY roots.
Now halfway through the FFBA program, Dylan is very happy with what he has learned and experienced so far. From meeting and sharing experiences with his fellow FFBA participants, to the guest speakers who offer insight in to business situations and “how things work”, he has found the FFBA to be of great help as he seeks to expand and grow opportunities for MFF. It has also been a good refresher on best practices, so that MFF can be sure that they are doing everything correctly. Dylan found especially helpful the opportunity to work with FFBA consultants on trademark and contract law, which is an issue that will grow in importance as MFF expands. Equally valuable have been the networking opportunities that FFBA has provided, which have connected him with professionals that can guide him and give advice.
With regards to being a part of the inaugural FFBA class, Dylan feels that it is a great program with a diverse group of participants that are all at different stages in their business, which is helpful as it offers different and fresh perspectives. His one critique is that he wishes the classes were longer as they offer so much valuable information.
Overall, Dylan finds that FFBA meets all of his expectations, as it covers all of the areas that he finds necessary to assist in running a business well and validates that MFF are doing the right things to help their business grow in a sustainable way.
If you, or someone that you know, would like to be a participant in the next FFBA program, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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