Williams Farm gets out of corn business: Land rented to potato farmer

The Recorder, Thursday, July 5, 2013. By Kathleen McKiernan

DEERFIELD — Along Mill Village Road, the picturesque, tall corn stalks have turned into lush, white budding potato crops.

Williams Farm, a popular sweet corn producer in the Pioneer Valley has stopped farming the crop and is renting its 250 acres to Savage Farms, a 103-year-old potato and sod farm based in West Deerfield.

Kenneth “Sandy” Williams III confirmed that Savage Farms was renting his land for potato crops this year, but he did not want to comment further. Jay Savage, of Savage Farms, also declined comment.

“Everyone in the valley was surprised,” said Nicole Ciesluk of Ciesluk Farm. “It’s always sad to see a farm go out.”

Since 1945, Williams Farm has been the go-to source for high-quality corn. Williams and his son, Kenneth “Chip” Williams IV, grew crops on 300 acres in the Deerfield River Valley.

The farm produced 250 acres of sweet corn, 15 acres of pickling cucumbers, 10 acres of winter squash, 20 acres of pumpkins and 5 acres of asparagus.

Though Williams Farm will discontinue its corn and crop growing business, it will continue its maple syrup production out of Williams Farm Sugarhouse, a breakfast restaurant on Route 5 and 10 in Deerfield open in the springtime.

This season is another setback for the family farm. In August 2011, Tropical Storm Irene sent flooding water from the Deerfield River over its banks and submerging 90 acres of the 250-acre sweet corn fields in sand and silt and sent 5 inches of water into the sugarhouse.

Damage to the land amounted to $400,000.

Williams Farm was long the local producer for big marketplaces like the New England Produce Market, Stop & Shop and Big Y in Greenfield. The farm’s absence has opened up markets for other area corn producers, especially Ciesluk Farm.

Foster’s Super Market will rely on Ciesluk Farm for its corn.

“It’s very sad. We’ve had Williams corn since as long as I can remember, since the early 1980s,” said Jason Deane, co-owner of Foster’s.

In the past, Deane said the market would sell Ciesluk corn early in the season and then switch to Williams based on the farms’ productions. Foster’s would order 20 to 25 bushels of corn a day from Williams.

Nicole Ciesluk said her family’s 120-acre corn farm will continue to produce as much as it always has. It won’t be expanding to fill William’s gap due to the high cost of land and equipment.

She hopes her farm can meet the new demand created by Williams’ absence.

“We don’t know if we’ll be able to meet all of the demand, but we will try our best,” Ciesluk said.

Ciesluk believes there’s enough corn in the valley to meet the demand. In the past, the corn market was flooded, driving down the price for all farmers.

The corn season this year is unpredictable because of the weather.

The cold May slowed production, while the recent rain and heat could quicken corn production. If there’s too much corn at once, it can flood the market and drown prices for farmers, Ciesluk said.

Ciesluks will pick its first crop this season today.