Essex Farm Family Diversifies To Make Changing Consumer Preferences
From pick-your-own to a farm store to hard cider, Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, Massachusetts, has a consumer’s fruit needs covered. However, the farm did not start as fruit-based, it actually has its roots in poultry and dairy, according to co-owners Glenn and Karen Cook.
Cider Hill Farm began in 1978 when Ed and Eleanor Cook purchased Battis Dairy Farm with the hope of transforming it into an apple farm. Shortly after, Cook’s son, Glenn and wife Karen, bought the adjacent Vedrani Poultry Farm. Currently the farm grows fruits and vegetables on nearly 70 acres of the 145-acre farm, which offer many of these as pick- your-own.
On May 10, 2017, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF’s) Young Farmer and Ranchers (YF&R) committee visited Cider Hill Farm as part of a social event. With more than 20 young agricultural enthusiasts present,the group was eager to learn how the Cooks grew their operation into the success it is today.
“Many people think we have been here for three or more generations,” Glenn Cook said. “But that isn’t true. My wife Karen and myself are first generation farmers so we understand what young farmers are going through.”
Over the years, Glenn and Karen Cook have expanded their operation into many different facets, including renewable energy. Currently, on farm they have photo voltaic systems, wind turbines and biomass high-efficiency wood boilers.
“We thought the wind turbines would be a good investment when we installed them,” Glenn Cook said. “However, we simply do not get enough wind to make them generate enough energy. But they are still an important part of our renewable energy portfolio and we paved the way for a dozen other farms in Massachusetts to install turbines after our success.”
After many years of growing the operation into a success, Glenn and Karen are looking to slow down, “from 70 hours a week to 40,” and are planning to pass the farm to their son, Chadd, who also shares their entrepreneurial spirit. As such, his interest lies in fermentation, according to Karen Cook.
“We are different from big cider companies as we can sell local,” said Chadd Cook. “When we sell cider in our store, we will be making full retain on every single bottle, instead of taking the 40-60 percent cut that happens when you work with a distributor. As such, every bottle we sell will earn us $9-10.”
But producing cider, also means producing a different variety of apples, known as dessert apples. At this time, Cooks have planted a few plots of these apples to use in their cider production.
“Dessert apples add a tannin contact that you wouldn’t normally have in apples,” Chadd Cook said. “While we currently have three ciders we make from the apple varieties we have, we plan to add English apple varieties in the future.”
Additionally, Chadd Cook is looking to add ice cider to their in-store offering and eventually have 10-15 varieties of cider available for sale.
“Ice cider is super, super sweet,” Chadd Cook said. “It tastes like what people think hard cider should taste.”
They hope to end up with 10-15 varieties of high-quality cider for sale in their store, which matches their philosophy. “Their primary goal has always been to grow and offer customers the very best quality food possible,” according to the website. Following the tour, many YF&R members stated that they hope to be able to grow their businesses into a business like the Cooks.
For more information on Cider Hill, please visit http://www.ciderhill.com/ or follow along on their Facebook and Instagram pages.