Emu-tional Decision: Songline to Close Emu Farm Operation
By Aviva Luttrell, Recorder Staff
Tuesday, June 2, 2015 (Published in print: Wednesday, June 3, 2015)
GILL — Songline Emu Farm announced it will close its farming operation this summer to focus on expanding its line of emu oil products and increasing online sales.
The farm, now in its 20th year of business, is making the change with the goal of stepping into the role of middleman for New England emu farmers — purchasing their fat, handling formulations and marketing products online. In order to fully focus on their new enterprise, partners Stan and Geri Johnson and Dee Dee Mares said they made the difficult decision to retire from the farming side of the business.
“Farming is hard work,” said Geri Johnson, adding that both she and Stan are beyond retirement age and work full time as a realtor and truck driver, respectively.
“It’s just getting too tough for an old-timer like me,” Stan said.
Mares said Songline has already begun to scale back its operation and has contracts with other farms to take chicks from its last hatch.
“Already, a lot of our birds are off the farm,” Geri said.
Songline’s farm store on Route 2, which is actually the company’s order processing and shipping offices, will be relocating in June and will no longer have open hours for local customers. However, Mares said orders can be shipped inexpensively and the company’s website and phone number will remain the same.
“Nobody likes change and there’s a little dismay that we’re not going to be here,” Geri said. “There’s a little bit of sadness.”
“All of a sudden you realize how many people are depending on you locally,” Stan added.
However, Mares said an increased effort will be made to have Songline products, which are carried at Greenfield Farmers Exchange, Greenfield’s Market and River Valley Market, made available in more local stores. She added the “vast majority” of the farm’s sales are online.
Although the farm initially sold oil from their own birds, in recent years it’s been purchased from other farms that meet their standards.
“We found the best of the best,” Mares said. ”Our oil is really top grade.”
This year, Stan said the company focused on breeding birds with more fat, increased body weight and better temperament. In the future, Mares said Songline plans to use oil from farms with their birds’ bloodline.
The farm created its own line of formulation for the products it sells, including soap, shampoo and pain relief cream, and also formulated its own emu food. Mares said the change will give Songline the opportunity to formulate more products, such as bath gels, and expand its existing pet line. She also hopes to work with Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton to set up clinical trials.
“This oil is helping people that aren’t getting help in mainstream (medicine),” she said. “Songline emu oil products aren’t going away.”
Geri said, ideally, she’d like to find a local emu farm to mentor.
“What we would love to see is another farm in the area do this with a goal toward agrotourism, because people like to see birds,” Mares added.
The partners do plan to keep one emu, Gomer, whom who they’ve had for 20 years, along with a partner for him. And although she said she’ll miss the local interaction, Mares said, “I’m ready to take on the new venture.”
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