NY Ag Society honors 3 local agricultural businesses
Press Release, NYS Ag Society
SYRACUSE – The New York State Agricultural Society shared photos from last week’s annual meeting and awards program where two farms in Albion were honored for generations of work growing food.
The Century Farm Program began in 1937 and honors NY farms in continuous operation on the same land by the same family for 100 years or more. In 2000, the Bicentennial Farm Awards were initiated. Located in Albion, Kast Farms and LaMont Farms have both been acknowledged for their longevity and success.
In addition, a business based in Oakfield was named a Business of the Year.
LaMont Farms – Bicentennial Farm Honors
Josias LaMont, the first generation of LaMonts to be born in the US, moved his young family to Orleans County in 1815. He purchased a 140-acre farm in the Town of Gaines from the Holland Land Company.
With the advent of the Erie Canal, the farm grew and transitioned to a second generation. Major LaMont grew dry beans and wheat like his father, and built a house that still stands on the property today.
Third and fourth generations of the LaMont family expanded acreage and diversified the business to include beans, grains, livestock, apples, peaches, pears and vegetable crops.
In 1938, George F. LaMont convinced his son Thomas to return to the farm, leaving his position as a land economics professor at Cornell University. Working together, father and son expanded to almost 500 acres with the same diverse mix of livestock, fruits, and vegetables.
The sixth generation entered the farm in 1959, including George F. and Roger LaMont. Under their management, they built the first controlled-atmosphere storage in Orleans County, and over the next three decades saw continued expansion to a peak of approximately 3,000 acres, and a Massey Ferguson dealership. In 1982 they helped form Lake Ridge Fruit Company in Gaines to access markets beyond the scope or reach of any individual farm.
In the past 10 years, the LaMonts have down-sized the operation, and George is now retired. Roger continues to own 531 acres, including the original 140 acres purchased by Josias in 1815. He also operates a fruit brokerage company, which markets fruit from local growers to wholesalers and packers in the Northeast.
Kast Farms, Inc. – Century Farm Honors
First purchased in 1884 by Adelbert Chapman, great grandfather of present owner David Kast, Kast Farms has grown from 140 acres to a 4,200 acre business of fruit, vegetable, and grain crops.
The land is currently 50 percent owned and 50 percent leased, with 2,700 acres in field corn and small grains, and 1,000 acres of processing vegetables. An additional 450 acres is in fruit, primarily apples.
The original farm was located in a desirable area, seven miles from Lake Ontario and less than two miles from the Erie Canal. This was an ideal location to grow fruit and variety of crops due to the microclimate, soil types and proximity to the Erie Canal, an excellent transportation route at the time.
In 1915 John T. Kast married into the Chapman family, and purchased the farm from his mother-in-law. With sons Stanley and Merwin, they worked the farm for more than sixty years. Stanley Kast took over the operation in the 1950s, and in 1989, David and wife Kathy took over full operation.
The fifth generation of the Kast family – John and Brett – have returned to the operation after pursuing careers off the farm.
David Kast partnered with eight local farms, including LaMont Farms, to form Lake Ridge Fruit Company, LLC, an apple packing and storage facility located in the Town of Gaines. He served as president for over 20 years. The company has since grown into one of the largest apple packing and storage operations in the Northeast.
Farm Fresh First – Business of the Year
First presented in 2001, the Business of the Year Award was presented to Farm Fresh First. Farm Fresh First, LLC is an agricultural raw products supply and services company specializing in fruits, vegetables and popcorn for the processing industry.
Farm Fresh First, LLC was formed in January 2007 to supply vegetable production and agricultural services for the vegetable processing facilities that had recently been purchased by Allen Canning Company from Arkansas. The ownership of the company is comprised of 15 growers plus three management personnel. Annual sales exceed $50 million.
Farm Fresh First, LLC works with growers in several states, however the New York State volume is the highest. Their staff of experienced agricultural managers works very closely with customers to match their needs on a daily basis to the acreage that is produced specifically for the customer.
Farm Fresh First has expanded significantly in its first eight years of operation. The initial vegetable operation has experienced modest increases in total NY acreage.
Farm Fresh has also been instrumental in re-introducing the production of lima beans, spinach, collards and turnips for processing in Western NY. Today Farm Fresh First has over 30,000 acres of vegetables under contract in New York.
The most significant area of growth has been in the processing fruit supply business. Farm Fresh First is the largest marketer of tart cherries and processing peaches in New York, and a significant marketer of apples for processing in the state, marketing fruit for over 100 individual growers. Farm Fresh also participates in the fresh apple market through an investment in Pomona Packing, Wolcott, NY.
In addition to New York operations, Farm Fresh markets popcorn from growers in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. To meet customer needs that cannot be supplied from New York production, Farm Fresh markets fruit from North Carolina, Virginia and Michigan.
Consumers see products that originate from Farm Fresh First in frozen bags of peas, microwave popcorn, fresh sliced apples served in fast food outlets, peaches in peach yogurt, cherries used to make Cheribundi cherry juice, apples in applesauce served in local schools and apples used to make hard cider.