Local Hero Profile: Coward Farms
By Aja Lippincott, Program Associate
Published in CISA’s November Enews – Sign Up Here!
In case you were wondering, the turnaround time on growing a Christmas tree is between seven and ten years. If you’re going to make a business out of this, you’d better have a realistic plan in place for bringing in an income while waiting for those trees to grow, as well as an eye for ways to diversify your business. This is a fact that John and Teresa Coward from Coward Farms in Southwick are all too familiar with.
At Coward Farms, you can expect to find all of your holiday essentials: pre-cut and cut-your-own Christmas trees, kissing balls, wreaths, pumpkins, gourds, mums, and other country primitive gifts. The story of the farm has been one of slow expansion; the first trees were planted after the land was purchased in 1985, and for the next seven years the Cowards sold pumpkins while they both worked full-time jobs and waited for their trees to be ready to cut. Today, on the 50+ acres that make up the farm in Southwick, you will find a tree field, pumpkin patch, a brand new greenhouse , and a barn where the gifts are sold. Coward Farms operates on a 3 season cycle, with summer time being reserved mostly for mowing, trimming trees, and doing much of the farm work that allows the business to thrive during the rest of the year. The new greenhouse means they are able to offer spring bedding plants, vegetables, and annual and perennial flowers.
According to Teresa, the key to success in farming is diversification. Having a range of products means that when the weather doesn’t cooperate, you still have something to offer. On weekends in October, children can enjoy a fun-filled train ride weaving through the pumpkin patch and tree field or play in the kiddie corn maze. “People like to be entertained and get a whole experience out of their time on a farm. You need to do business in a way that keeps up with the times,” Teresa observes. Having these family friendly activities attracts more people to the farm which only increases exposure and sales over the long term.
While Coward Farms has a good following of customers, Teresa admits that one of the challenges they face is changing fashions, especially with the plants they sell in the spring. This is another reason why offering a diverse range of products is so important. “My philosophy is if I don’t have it I will send people to another farm that does.” Teresa’s values supporting her community and the other local farms serve her business well. While diversity and gradual expansion on a farm is important, Teresa says that not overextending oneself is even more important in keeping a business like this manageable. While the farm is currently closed in preparation for the holiday season, it will reopen again on November 21st. Stop in for pre-cut and cut your-own-trees, pick up some holiday gifts or beat the winter blues by attending a class on planting your own hypertufa containers. For more information on upcoming classes offered visit Coward Farms on Facebook!