By Sue Henninger
When John Dedrick started his small fruit and vegetable stand in Dryden four decades ago, his great-nephew Kody Hatch hadn’t even been born yet! Over the years, Dedrick expanded his business into a thriving farm market known for its quality plants, fruits, and vegetables.
Dedrick was looking to retire right about the time Hatch graduated from college. A horticulture business management major, the younger man was ecstatic when Dedrick’s fell into his lap.
“This is what I wanted. It’s fun, challenging, and something different every day,” he said. “I’m 24 and a business owner!”
Hatch began his schooling at Tompkins Cortland Community College, then transferred to SUNY Morrisville. He was determined to complete his schooling with no debt.
“It would have been debilitating,” he said. “If I had student loans I wouldn’t be here.”
Instead, he woke before dawn each morning to work at his uncle’s dairy farm, then drove an hour each way to attend his college classes.
Since Hatch acquired the business several years ago, he has continued to expand the farm market. The first enhancements included a stately pergola to display the hanging baskets his customers are attracted to, and a natural foods component. In 2016, he added a bakery. Hatch has also extended the farm market’s season to year-round, allowing Dedrick’s to offer Christmas trees during the holidays and baked goods, bulk natural foods, and knick-knacks when produce and plants aren’t available.
Taking over a business is like starting a new one in many ways, Hatch observed. Though he benefitted immensely from gaining his great-uncle’s already-established base of customers and suppliers, he admitted that there was a drastic learning curve.
“I had learned a lot about plants and the ins and outs of the business end in college,” he explained. “But they couldn’t teach us lots of other things. We had to learn by experience.”
His family still grows the sweet corn Dedrick’s sells and Hatch bakes most of the muffins, breads, and cookies that are stacked attractively on the front counter. He works with other farmers in the region to get much of the produce the market offers. Some of his time each week is spent attending Finger Lakes produce auctions and he’s also had great success purchasing fruits and vegetables from the Mennonite community in the Penn Yan area. Many of the farmers he says his great-uncle has known and worked with “forever” continue to be a valuable resource.
Dedrick’s primarily hires family and friends during the busier seasons. A smaller employee base means that many responsibilities fall on Hatch and he can frequently be found repackaging, ordering, or repotting. The one thing he doesn’t excel at is equipment repairs. Luckily his father and uncle are more mechanically inclined!
Located on Route 13, between Ithaca and Cortland, the farm market is in an ideal spot to capitalize on a constant flow of traffic. Many of Hatch’s customers are drive-by’s, drawn in by the colorful plants. The farm market also attracts a lot of young families and retirees, along with loyal canners and jam makers. Hatch has streamlined his marketing by posting updates that can simultaneously link to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. He deliberately chose not to get a website until he can afford a quality one.
“You can tell when a website is done by Joe Schmoe,” he asserted. “Once we do get a good website, then I’ll add an online ordering option.”
Despite having done a lot with Dedrick’s in a relatively short time, Hatch continues to set specific goals for the farm market, beginning with building his savings up and expanding on what is already there.
“My dreams are as high as the sky and as low as just getting through tomorrow,” he said.
He has several suggestions for others thinking of venturing into an agriculture-related business.
“Keep your debt low. This will make things a lot easier. And don’t be afraid to fail. You’ve just got to try,” he advised. “Have patience. You always tend to be one year ahead of yourself. Slow down and try not to rush into things.”
However, it’s not easy to follow his own advice.
“I’m always busy,” he explained. “I like being busy. Once I tried to figure out what I’d do if I was a “normal” person and I have no idea! It throws me off to even take a day off.”
After some reflection he added, “If I had more time, I’d plant my own garden. Or travel.”
What would Hatch most like his present, and future, customers to understand about farm markets? The best farm-fresh produce is not available 24/7, he explained. It ripens naturally at certain times of the year so you have to be ready to take advantage of each growing season. Additionally, if you want high quality plants, fruits, and vegetables, you need to realize that they may not always be the cheapest ones. But your visit to Dedrick’s is guaranteed to be enjoyable, and Hatch will be able to tell you exactly where the produce and plants you purchase came from.
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