Adams County, PA – Chris Swartz has learned that keeping up with changes in your markets and being quick to respond is essential for her 13-year old diversified, small farm business to survive. It has to be when the competition is constantly changing.
Chris grows strawberries, raspberries, high tunnel tomatoes and zucchini, pumpkins, fall ornamentals, and sweet corn. They sell wholesale, retail, and pick-your-own.
“When it comes to risk management, the most important thing to us is maintaining a personal relationship with our buyers, wholesale and retail,” Swartz said. “Some of our pick-your-own customers have been coming every year since the beginning, and we enjoy the relationships that have developed.”
Chris and her husband Larry started Swartz’s Pumpkin Patch 13 years ago.
Now they rely on trickle irrigation to help them manage dry weather risks, and AGR-Lite crop insurance to help manage their financial risks.
“We had NAP through FSA (USDA’s Farm Service Agency), but the payments increased and it just didn’t make sense for us. Now we have AGR-Lite, a whole-farm insurance that covers all our crops and is fairly simple to manage record keeping wise, and it makes us eligible for the SURE program.”
When a large buyer failed to buy all of their raspberries, as promised, Chris responded by spreading out her sales among several, smaller buyers.
“You have to watch your markets, be ready to change. The Buy Local, Buy Fresh programs have helped us. We just need to be ready to change fast.”