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Hager's Farm Market Keeps it Local in Shelburne, Massachusetts
Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz.
created on 5/22/2018.
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Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
Driving up the hill on Route 2 West from the busy rotary in
Greenfield, Mass., with its chain restaurants and services reveals a
completely different world within just a five-minute drive.
The rural scenes displace signs of city and suburban life with
rolling hills, impressive hilltop vista views, vast farmland, splendid solitude and a sweeter smell in the
air. The foothills of the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts could
well begin right here where a pleasant-looking local farm stand happens to grace the
unspoiled land on the westbound side of the road.
Field and orchard at Hager's Farm market in Shelburne, Mass.
Hager's Farm Market on the Mohawk Trail in Shelburne, Mass., might look like many other family-owned farm farm
stands in the region
with its plain-looking, slightly weathered wooden exterior, some plants for sale
outside and tempting ice cream sign, but the inside reveals a truly
remarkable store and restaurant and a family's small business vision that has kept its
farm from ever going
out to pasture.
Albert "Chip" Hager -- a third generation dairy farmer from neighboring
Colrain -- and his wife Sherry (a local public
school nurse and maker of jams and jellies at Hager's),
along with daughter and son-in-law, Kim and Aaron Stevens, created the
store about nine years ago at Sherry's family farm (Mohawk Orchards).
The Hagers initially envisioned a simple, small family business to sell
farm raised beef (from the family farm in Colrain), apples, and maples
products (including maple cream fried dough), but soon found that the
"build it and they will come" approach yielded a blossoming crop of
going far beyond expectations.
"We started off with a few things like meat and syrup, and then things
really took off," said Kim. "It was hard keeping up with making pies and
some baked goods, so we hired more people to meet the needs."
From farmers, field and farm stand to bakers, cooks, cashiers and
day-to-day management oversight, the staff consists of nearly 25
but never feels like a big business. The atmosphere remains laid-back,
friendly, customer-service oriented and the food served with a
straight-from-a-home-kitchen vibe and taste. The locals have caught on,
as travelers in this beautiful part of Massachusetts who come to see
New England travel attractions like
The Bridge of Flowers and Glacial Potholes in Shelburne Falls, the fall foliage and ski seasons, and summers with local
swimming, hiking, fishing, culture and scenic drive opportunities.
"People might not be aware of this, but there are about 20,000 cars that
come by here a day -- it's nice that some of them stop by here," said
Chip with a smile. "I think offering a lot of things and doing it all
well has really helped."
Chip Hager and Aaron and Kim Stevens at Hager's Farm Market in
Adds Kim: "The ski season keeps people coming back, the summer rafting
in Charlmont, the Harrison Anglers (fishing charters in Northfield,
Mass.), and the expansion of Berkshire East Mountain Resort as a
four season resort have been bringing more visitors to the area.
The more you have in an area, the more year-round businesses can
become. That is what we are experiencing here."
The Hager business, though, ultimately relies on a family with a strong will to
succeed, as well as the mood of Mother Nature.
"You've got to have cash flow to survive," sad Chip,
a Colrain native who attended the U/Mass Stockbridge School of
Agriculture. "Income is based on what day it is
and what Mother Nature is doing. We expanded what we offered in case
one or more things aren't going well due to the weather."
Proving further that this isn't your basic garden variety farm, the
next generation helps augment and progress Chip and Sherry's vast
farming background, as well as those family members from previous
generations who worked hard to achieve the American Dream. Kim
graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca,
N.Y. -- with one of the best agricultural schools in the world -- while
attended the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., for its
esteemed agricultural program. His family owns a farm in Vermont. They
met at a meeting in Burlington, Vt. and have been married 10
years. Their children, Clara, five, and Grace, seven, have paved
the way for the next generation of farm help in the family by tending
to 100 chicks with "Clara's Cluckers" eggs on sale at Hager's Farm
The rural farm stand came to life through a commitment to
products made within 50 miles -- and many created right at the
farm. The six acres of orchards offer a wonderful pick-your-own apple
in the fall with 3,000 bushels picked last year. Hager
staff generated 2,000 gallons of maple syrup from 12,000 taps in that
year with myriad
products available year-round in one of the most impressive displays
Maple products section at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
Four-thousand new asparagus plants and 400 blueberry bushes and an
existing foundation of apples, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines and
cherries indeed create a fruitful mix at Hager's Farm Market. Soon, Hager's will add an enclosed dining room
overlooking the farmland that should be ready by this summer, as well
as a modern greenhouse soon to be built to help further
cultivate several varieties of vegetables from Hager's Farm Market three-acre field.
"We eat our own food," said Aaron. "We want the customers to experience
the same thing."
Reflecting its growth in the fields and in the market, Hager's recently
earned a 2018 Haas Entrepreneurship Award from the Franklin Country
Community Development Corp. in Greenfield, based on building a business from the
ground up and for philanthropic service to the community. Hager's holds
the annual Pumpkin Squash Event (for a donation, pumpkins are dropped from high
above) to raise money for the 4-H, a global network of
youth organizations whose mission is "engaging youth to reach their
fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development." Last
year. Hager's Farm set its own record for the most pumpkins entered while
raising more than $2.6K for local 4-H clubs.
Hager's Farm Market jam packs local products from side-to-side and
front-to-back, offering more than many farm stand stores twice its
size. Visitors often start out at the bakery and breakfast and lunch
then sit down at one of the tables for a leisurely bite. Bakers like
Amber Henry constantly
bring just-made sweets out to the display case where customers'
naturally built-in honing devices help gravitate them toward the baked
Amber Henry brings out fresh baked goods at Hager's Farm Market.
The scene reads like a Hall of Fame shrine for baked goods with apple
cider doughnuts, apple dumplings, apple fritters, scones, sticky buns,
turnovers, muffins, cinnamon rolls, pies, lemon squares and cupcakes.
One of the most delicious and popular items: the pumpkin whoopie pies
with cream cheese filling.
Pumpkin whoopie pies from Hager's Farm Market.
While the pumpkin whoopie pies might make more people say "Whoopie" the
most, other sweets certainly give the gourd-based pies stiff
Pies, pies, pies at Hager's.
Fudge oat bars from Hager's Farm Market.
The homemade breads rise to the occasion, too, with a display area that
gets picked over very quickly. The breads have an incredible fresh
taste with the cinnamon raisin perhaps leading the back as the most
flavorful. If you don't see it on display, just ask and the
bakers might just have one ready coming out of the oven!
Homemade bread section at Hager's.
While Hager's Farm Market makes virtually every baked good available at the market,
the ones that are created from another local business keep up the high
standards. Case-in-point: Mo's Fudge Factor from Shelburne Falls (about
five minutes away, makes some of the best fudge in New England.
Homemade fudge from Mo's Fudge Factor.
The breakfast and lunch area starts at the cashier's area right next to
the bakery with crowds coming in at any given moment. Amazing, the
small staff at Hager's generates the orders quickly and with precision
to accommodate crowds even arriving on a full bus.
Keeping consistent with the commitment to locally-sourced items,
Hager's Farm Market offers breakfast
and lunch made almost entirely
from locally sourced foods. They feature a nice
variety of basic but delicious sandwiches on homemade breads, egg sandwiches, waffles,
pancakes, French Toast, omelets, grass fed burgers, natural hot dogs,
club sandwiches, fresh salads, homemade soups and chili. The
Hager family also offers hot lunch stations with items like American
chop suey, mac and cheese, and "beanies and weenies (beans and hot dogs)!" For
dessert, the maple ice cream is an essential selection, but then again,
it's hard to choose between that and all the baked goods.
Grass fed burger with bacon and cheese from Hager's Farm Market.
Hager's Market also serves Pierce Brothers hot or iced coffee (from
Greenfield) and espresso drinks, hot and iced teas, as well as plain or
chocolate milk, juices, hot chocolate, soft drinks (Harmony
Springs Soda, out of Ludlow, Mass., makes a great brand),
and bottled water.
Harmony Springs soda.
Every step of the way reveals something local including Smith's
Farmstead Cheese (Winchendon, Mass.), (Shelburne Falls, Mass.), Barts
Ice Cream (Greenfield), apple cider from Pine Hill Orchards (Colrain),
Eli and Olivia Pure Natural Honey (Greenfield), various local wines, Hager meats and veggies, and
popcorn sourced from a 20-acre field from the Hager farm in Colrain. Let's
take a quick tour to build up an appetite...
Pioneer Valley Popcorn.
Smith's Farmstead Cheese is sold at Hager's Farm Market.
Hager's Farm Market sells a nice variety of locally-made wines.
Apple cider from Pine Hill Orchards.
Fresh vegetables from Hager's Farm.
Hager's Farm Market might offer
the best, highest quality selection of local products we've
experienced, to date, in
Massachusetts. Add fair pricing, an unpretentious, hard-working and
friendly staff, and a beautiful setting, and Hager's Farm Market becomes one of
those "instant memories" places where visitors plan to return as soon
as possible and locals benefit from a wonderful small business any day
of the week.
"We enjoy what each day brings," said Chip. "It's nice to be making
Hager's Farm Market is
located at 1232 Mohawk Trail, Route 2, Shelburne, MA 02738. Tel. 413-625-6323.
Web site: http://www.hagersfarmmarket.com. Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/hagersfarmmarket. Twitter page: http://www.twitter.comHagersFarm
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