The HVADC Cultivator
FFBA Participant Jennifer Soukup of Soukup Farms
Jennifer and Mark Soukup, owners of Soukup Farms, were participants in HVADC’s first Farm & Food Business Accelerator Program (FFBA). Soukup Farms is a third generation family farm, producing and selling pure New York Maple Syrup. Started as a hobby in the early 1950's the operation expanded to over 800 taps in the 1990's and today has more than 2,700 taps in three sugar bushes.
Over the last three years Soukup Farms greatly expanded its syrup production, as well as its sales in both retail and wholesale markets. The Soukups have expanded their product line to include value added products such as maple candy, maple cream, maple cotton candy and their new maple granulated sugar and coffee-infused maple syrup. Within the last three years they have also grown their agritourism business at the farm, hosting multiple seasonal events; increasing brand awareness, and on-farm business. In 2016 they opened their sugar house as a retail location on weekends from September through December. Currently two of their products; their maple syrup and coffee-infused maple syrup, are appearing in the Hudson Valley Bounty’s new Bounty Bag offerings.
Jennifer Bock, HVADC’s Program Associate, recently spoke with Jennifer Soukup about her experience with the FFBA Program, how it’s helped her business and upcoming plans and events.
Bock: How did you come to be involved in the FFBA program?
Soukup: A referral from a past newsletter and we sent in an application. We were accepted and participated.
Bock: What did you find to be the most valuable aspect of participating in the FFBA program?
Soukup: Timelines. They helped keep the bigger picture and our future plans in focus and plan for the future while keeping the current crop intake and production from taking over.
Bock: How has FFBA helped you adjust your business plan?
Soukup: We were able to streamline and it helped us to find our marketing niche
Bock: Initially when you came to the FFBA program, you had plans to expand your sugar house. How are those plans?
Soukup: We have temporarily put our plans for expansion on the backburner. We realized that we didn’t want to rush into expanding and not expanding enough. We’re currently looking at expanding some on-farm events and marketing options.
Bock: You also had plans to add more add more value added products to your line. How is that coming along?
Soukup: We’ve recently launched two new products: A granulated maple sugar and the coffee-Infused syrup with a maple mustard.
Bock: What is the biggest market for your goods?
Soukup: It’s pretty evenly split. We do wholesale, Farmer’s Markets and various events.
Bock: What type of events do you get involved with?
Soukup: Among other things, we’re a part of the NYS Maple Association. We participate in Maple Weekend in March. September 9th and 10th we will be at the Hudson Valley Food and Wine Festival at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. On September 16th our farm store opens for the season. On October 21st we have our Annual Harvest Festival at the Farm. It’s a full weekend free event featuring hay rides, a hay maze and Pick-Your-Own Pumpkins, among other things. We’re hoping to add other events and we will announce them via our Facebook page
Bock: What would you tell someone who might be interested in applying for the next FFBA program about your experience?
Soukup: Do it! I’ve already recommended it to farmers I know. We learned a lot from this experience. Getting input from other people in the group has been helpful with everything from different sales approaches to how to handle staffing as we grow.
Soukup Farms is Located at 271 Halls Corners Rd, Dover Plains, N.Y.
For more information visit: http://www.soukupfarms.com