Apr 30, 2023
Gray Family Farm is Moving Along
As if Shelley and Roger Gray, of Gray Family Farm and Ivy Rock Farm, in New Windsor, didn’t have enough going on with their busy farms, popular CSA and horse programs, the farming couple are branching out again, now selling what they say are the best portable chicken coops on the market.
Shelley is a 2019 graduate of HVADC’s Farm and Food Funding Accelerator (FFFA) program and her farms have seen significant growth since then, she says, due in part to connections and lessons she took away from her time in the FFFA.
Any farmer who uses portable coops or chicken tractors for moving grass-fed chickens around a pasture will tell you; they are a finicky piece of equipment. After years of using other coops or making their own, the Grays found Porta-Coop, out of Brickhaven Ohio, and liked their model so much that they asked to become a distributor.
The coops are made of top quality materials, have a taller door than others, and can be moved by one person with the chickens still contained and scurrying along underneath. Farmers may now buy them directly from the Grays by contacting them at the farm or through their website.
Shelley said improving her marketing was one of the biggest takeaways from her time in the FFFA program. The other was the peer connections she made with HVADC’s other clients.
“I loved it,” she said of the FFFA, “It has benefited me a million ways to Sunday, especially the peer-to-peer experience. I now have farmers I can call to talk about any problem, who I know and trust. And Diane Greco (FFFA marketing advisor.) helped us so much with our marketing. I actually felt guilty for the amount of quality business expertise we had access to.”
Shelley and Roger worked for 45 years in theatrical set production before “retiring” to their farm full time. Their company Centerline Studios provided sets for major productions including Broadway shows such as Hamilton. The couple moved their home and business up to the Hudson Valley in 1979 and started a family farm right away. That farm started feeding friends and neighbors and eventually grew into the direct sale poultry and produce operation it is today. The Gray Farm CSA has consistently sold out and now also features products from farmers Shelley met through the FFFA.
In 1995 the Grays also started Ivy Rock Farm, which offers horse boarding and riding, along with daily training, educational and therapeutic riding programs.
“It was a pleasure having the Grays take part in the FFFA program, and we are so glad to provide them with useful business technical assistance,” said HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling. “It’s amazing how many things they seem to be able to do at the same time and while maintaining such high standards of quality and excellence.”
With all their success, the Grays took on selling Porta-Coops purely out of a desire to spread the word to fellow farmers about a product they were amazed by. The coops are more expensive then less complex models, but Shelley says they were amazed by how much easier they made their workload, which pays off.
“It’s an investment but you save in labor,” Shelley said. “They are powder coated and have this great UV repellent roof. You can just walk into them, and they last so much longer than anything we used before.”
To learn more about the Business Technical Assistance services of HVADC, visit https://www.hvadc.org/business-technical-assistance.