Apr 15, 2022
Hearty Roots Farm in Clermont has been growing with every season.
Hearty Roots Farm in Clermont has been growing with every season. The farm store is busy selling their produce, eggs, pork, and other local items year round and production is up. Two years ago owners Ben Shute and Lindsey Lusher Shute made the decision to acquire a New York State Grown & Certified designation, but meeting the requirements and navigating the application process can be burdensome when you’re already busy farming.
Hearty Roots turned to HVADC for the funding they needed to reach their goals. HVADC has the capacity to administer New York State Grown & Certified Grants on behalf of Hudson Mohawk Resource Conservation and Development Council Inc. The Shutes were awarded the funding out of a field of 16 applicants. Hearty Roots received the grant in 2020, and with HVADC guidance, has administered the funds to complete necessary infrastructure projects. The Shutes started the farm on rented land a few miles down the road from their current location in 2004. In 2012 they were able to buy their current property. The site has a beautifully rustic, renovated farm stand right on Route 9, but their washing and prep station was lacking all-weather infrastructure. “When we were on rented land we were totally limited by lack of infrastructure,” Ben Shute said. “We were washing things under a tree with a hose. At the time that was fine. When we bought our own land we wanted to invest.”
When the Shutes moved into their forever farm they built an indoor wash station that was a great improvement, but still could not be used during all four seasons and was eventually not sufficient for meeting their new goals of full year operation and increased production. Shute also noted that since the original wash station was built, the state’s rules governing wash procedures were further developed. “It was a shifting target,” he recalled.
A sizable portion of Hearty Roots’ business is root vegetables, which are certified organic by NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC. Those little tubers need quite a bit of washing before sale. The farm previously used a large barrel washer to tumble and sift away dirt from their potatoes, carrots and other hearty roots. Their existing facility implemented a lovely but outdated wooden tumbler which did not meet the requirements to become Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified.
With the grant and BTA from HVADC, Hearty Roots has been able to upgrade their wash station so the building is now a year-round facility including a GAP-approved steel and polycarbonate barrel washer. The Shutes worked with HVADC associates Jennifer Bock and Avalon Bunge to get everything in order for the grant application.
“Hearty Roots is a really well run farm. Becoming NYS Grown and Certified will open up a lot of doors,” said HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling. “The Shutes have proven their business acumen and agricultural expertise. HVADC is so happy that we were able to provide them with the grant and Business Technical Assistance they needed to reach their goals.”
“The process was good. There were a handful of other grants we looked at and they were a headache,” Shute said. “This one was much easier because we had an intermediary in HVADC, an organization we had a relationship with.”
With the improvements in place Hearty Roots is now offering a year round CSA program and expanding their business operation and sales. The farm store saw a major uptick in business during the beginning of the pandemic as more shoppers looked to local reliable food sources and Shute was happy to report that the new customers have become loyal regulars. In addition, the Hearty Roots Farmstay, located in the property's 1820s three-bedroom farmhouse, is welcoming visitors.
Shute says being able to stay open year-round keeps customers happy and has the added benefit of allowing them to keep employees on staff all year, alleviating some of the insecurities of seasonal labor.
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/incubator-without-walls and for more information about New York Grown & Certified, visit https://www.hvadc.org/nys-grown-and-certified.