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Hager's Farm Market Keeps it Local in Shelburne, Massachusetts

Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 5/22/2018.

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Hager's Farm Market, Sheburne, Mass.
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 very well begin right here where a pleasant-looking local farm stand happens to grace the unspoiled land on the westbound side of the road.

Farmland at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
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 customers 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 well 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, daughter Kim Stevens, and son-in-law Aaron Stevens at Hager's Farm market in Shelburne, Mass.
Chip Hager and Aaron and Kim Stevens at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.

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 Aaron 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 Market.

The rural farm stand came to life through a commitment to local products made within 50 miles -- and many created right at the farm.  The six acres of orchards offer a wonderful pick-your-own apple destination 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 seen in Massachusetts.

Maple products line the wall at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
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 area, and 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 goods.

Amber Henry brings out some freshly-made baked goods at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
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 with cream cheese filling from Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass,
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 competition...

Homemade pies from Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Massachusetts
Pies, pies, pies at Hager's.

Fudge oat bars from Hager's Farm Market in Shelbunre, Mass.
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 breads at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
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.

Mo's Fudge Factor is for sale at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
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 from Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
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.

Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass., sells Harmony Springs Soda
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...

Hager's Farm Market's own popcorn straight from the farm fields in Shelburne, Massachusetts.
Pioneer Valley Popcorn.

Smith's Cheese at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
Smith's Farmstead Cheese is sold at Hager's Farm Market.

Local wines sold at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
Hager's Farm Market sells a nice variety of locally-made wines.

Cider from Pine Hill Orchards sold at Hager's Farm Market in Shelburne, Mass.
Apple cider from Pine Hill Orchards.

Hager's Farm Market produce, Shelburne, Mass.
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 progress."

Hager's Farm Market is located at 1232 Mohawk Trail, Route 2, Shelburne, MA 02738. Tel. 413-625-6323. Web site: Facebook fan page: Twitter page: http://www.twitter.comHagersFarm.

Family fun: shopping local, buying local at Hager's Farm Market on the Mohawk Trail in Shelburne, Massachusetts. This modest, family-run market and apple orchard sells fresh produce, breads, cheeses, farm raised beef including grass fed burgers, maple and honey products and maple ice cream,

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