Nov 15, 2021
More often than ever, new Hudson Valley farm businesses are being started as the second chapter in the career of accomplished business professionals.
More often than ever, new Hudson Valley farm businesses are being started as the second chapter in the career of accomplished business professionals. But even with all the experience in the world, these entrepreneurs know when to look for help when launching a new agricultural enterprise.
John Fishkopf, founder and CEO of Klocke Estate in Claverack spent a successful 30 years in international finance before deciding to slow down and take the time to craft the brandy of his dreams. In an effort to secure a funding stream best suited for agriculture, Klocke worked with HVADC and recently closed on a $100,000, seven-year, HVADC Agribusiness Loan through a New York Job Development Authority (JDA) loan program. HVADC is one of eight designated lenders in the state for the $10 million low-interest loan program which assists small agribusinesses. Fishkopf said the funds were vital to getting Klocke the equipment needed to get the farm, distillery, tasting room and event space off the ground. He also said working with HVADC has had the added benefit of providing needed networking opportunities and opportunities to learn a lot about the region’s agribusiness community.
“I’ve had a passion for wine and spirits since college and visited wineries in California and Europe,” he said. “I considered it as a career then but went to business school.”
In the 90s while working in Prague, Fishkopf started making brandy at home with fruit from his landlord’s trees and fell in love with the process. He came back to the Boston area in 2000 and began looking into how he could start distilling in earnest.
Years passed and, finally ready to pull the trigger on a full scale farm distillery he looked to Columbia County. The beautiful farm he found in Claverack has a spectacular view that will mesmerize guests when the estate is fully operational.
“The best tasting fruit is grown in the Hudson Valley so, in theory, the fruit here should be the best for making brandy,” said Fishkopf logically. “We are making an experiential destination facility unlike anything else in the area. We want it to be a Sonoma- like experience.”
With a lifelong brandy obsession, it’s little surprise Fishkopf is close friends with Dan Farber of Osocalis Distillery in California, who, he says, is the best brandy maker in the country. Fishkopf is leaning on his friend, guru, and now business partner to give Klocke the magic touch.
But brandy making takes time. It needs to age at least a year or two and the best sits for over five years. Fishkopf has been planting apple and pear orchards as well as grape vines, which will not mature for years either. His first batches of brandy will be made with the best fruit from neighboring farms.
This long wait accounts for the name Klocke, the middle-Dutch word for clock. Fishkopf doesn’t see time as an imposition on his process, but rather an ingredient and asset. For some lenders who may think only in terms quarterly earnings, that’s a hard concept to valuate.
“As a lender HVADC saw in Klocke what we see in all farms and farm businesses - a long term investment, and a generational community asset,” said Todd Erling, HVADC Executive Director. “Farms have nature, the seasons, and weather as complicated business partners. They don’t have to move at the same pace as other industries, and we shouldn’t expect them to. The best fruit ripens in its own time.”
To learn more about the HVADC Agricultural Loan Fund Program, visit https://www.hvadc.org/hvadc-agribusiness-loan-fund-program.