MEXICO, NY – As the fall approaches, many farmers are starting to sell apples, pears, pumpkins and other produce.
More and more people are looking for fresh produce so competition is growing and farmers need an extra edge to bring in customers.
For new orchard owner Mark Greco, of Greco Family Farm and Orchard, that meant not only growing and selling, but adding attractions to make it fun for customers to stop in.
This year, his family has added a five-acre corn maze to the mix with some assistance from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County.
Cornell Cooperative Extension Agricultural Team Coordinator Jonathan J.J. Schell said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œFarmers donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t make money growing their produce, they make money selling it. Bringing customers in is an important part of making a farm viable.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
With support from Oswego County, Cornell Cooperative Extension is establishing a new Agricultural Economic department designed to work closely with local farmers and help them understand the economic and business trends that can make their farms successful.
For Greco, that meant someone from Cornell Cooperative Extension to consult with and discuss several options to consider that could help bring more customers to his West Fifth Street Road farm.
Farming is a second career for Greco.
Still young in his early 40s, he left his first career, a New York City Police captain, to move to the former Wadsworth farm last year with his family to raise horses and grow several different fruits and vegetables.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThis has been a lot of hard work, but it allows me to stay close to my family,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYouÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re working hard, but everyoneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s together.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
He worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension soon after his arrival and understood the importance of marketing his farm in order to sell produce directly to his customers.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe have a pumpkin patch, a u-pick apple and pear orchard, petting zoo and more,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œCornell Cooperative Extension has been a great resource to help find new ways to attract customers to the farm.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
This year, the GrecoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s added a corn maze with the help of Cornell Cooperative Extension and some of their own research.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe have worked with another local grower who planted the corn,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Greco said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt took us about two weeks to cut the maze. When we are done with maze the grower will come in and harvest the corn. It is a good deal for everyone involved.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
GrecoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s 21 year-old son designed the maze that spells out ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œGrecoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â from above and features five hidden pirate treasurers along the way.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe thought it would be something fun to add to the maze if people could search for something as well,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s early yet, but I think it makes a great addition to the farm along with the petting zoo and the hay rides.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Schell said the Greco Farm is one of the first farms that Cornell Cooperative Extension has worked with utilizing their new agricultural economic development initiative and is encouraged by the results so far.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThis is a great way for us to work with farmers by assisting them with increasing revenue and help them expand ways to get customers to their farms,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Schell said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe agriculture producers in Oswego County have much to offer. We help interested local farmers with branding, image, expansion into niche markets, adding value to agriculture products, and partnering opportunities in larger markets as well.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Schell said another goal of the new program is to create a brand identity for Oswego County produce so consumers know when they are purchasing local products.
He also plans to develop a farm market map for the county so consumers can find the produce they are looking for.
Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Paul A. Forestiere II has been a strong advocate of farming as a prime economic driver in Oswego County for many years.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe agriculture program here stresses that farming is business, especially in Oswego County,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Forestiere said.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â “Agriculture, or agribusiness, is a major economic player in New York State, and especially throughout Oswego County. Our role here is multi-faceted as an advisor, a consultant and educator. Our work in economic development is a way to educate farmers and help them grow not only their crops, but their business as well.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Greco has taken the resources available at Cornell Cooperative Extension and put them into practice creating an experience for the whole family at his farm.
For more information about Greco Family Farm and Orchard, call (315) 216-4180 or visit www.grecofamilyorchards.com
Cornell Cooperative Extension is a key outreach system of Cornell University with a strong public mission and an extensive local presence that is responsive to needs in New York communities.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension educational system enables people to improve their lives and communities through partnerships that put experience and research knowledge to work.
For more information, contact Oswego County Cornell Cooperative Extension at (315) 963-7286 or visit http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/oswego