The HVADC Cultivator
HVADC BTA Client:
Shaker Creek Farm
When Shaker Creek Farm in Stephentown wanted to ramp up their pasture-raised poultry operation, increasing profits weren’t the only factors to consider. Owners Keegan Schelling and Alison Basdekis wanted to make sure that their business plan for the expansion factored in their desired quality of life.
Through HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls program the couple worked with Business Technical Assistance (BTA) consultant Greg Mruk to craft a business plan that worked as well for their lives as it did for the farm enterprise. Though working seven days a week, 365 days a year, has historically seemed like a farmer’s cross to bear, Schelling and Basdekis rightly wanted to buck the trend and (with planning) work breaks and even a vacation into their schedule.
“Greg was tremendously helpful,” Basdekis said. “The weakness for us, and many farmers, was the financials. He really helped build our confidence and we got some really important knowledge.”
Basdekis was looking to leave her day job as a private school administrator to farm full time. Mruk worked with the couple to not just prepare them for the shift in income but also, he said, to mentally prepare for the change in daily activity.
“They impressed me right from the start. They understood what they needed and together we found ways to make that work,” said Mruk, who is inspiring in his ability to integrate clients’ personalities and goals into their business plans. “There’s a psychological component to making a plan that will change what defines you,” he added.
A positive work-life balance has been shown to have many benefits. Addressing this important but complex issue is an unexpected example of the nuance of service HVADC and its partner organizations in the Agricultural Viability Alliance can provide through one-on-one BTA.
With its new business plan, Shaker Creek had a busy year, expanding their operations three-fold and getting a coveted booth at the Hudson Farmers Market, one of the most lucrative and high-profile markets in the region. They also moved their processing operation to a new USDA certified facility that allows them to sell their exemplary birds to restaurants and other venues like buying clubs.
Mruk said one area that has been helpful for Shaker Creek and other small scale chicken operations is parting out their meat in processing. Not every consumer is comfortable purchasing and butchering a whole bird. Having product processed and broken down into more accessible cuts at a USDA facility brings more attention and interest to local poultry.
“Greg’s a farmer too. So, we were able to talk about business but also farming techniques,” said Basdekis. “Towards the end of the process it felt like we were really speaking to a peer.”
After this busiest season ever for the farm, Basdekis says they are going to take a little time to decompress and evaluate what worked and what didn’t in their approach. After that she said they are eager to build a sustainable and thoughtful five year plan. “It’s hard to think about next season yet. We need a week to breath.”
To learn more about the types of BTA services available through HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls, visit https://www.hvadc.org/iww