We spoke with Allen Gandelman, co-owner of Main Street Farms, at his office in Homer, NY. Main Street has three different growing locations, and is also in the process of expanding into a new packing facility. More information about Main Street can be found at: https://mainstreetfarms.com/
“I WANTED TO START A FARM TO BE ABLE TO EDUCATE KIDS ABOUT WHERE THEIR FOOD COMES FROM.”
Why did you start farming?
I started farming because school food was really bad where I was a teacher. I wanted to start a farm to be able to educate kids about where their food comes from and to be able to grow food for the school cafeteria. Main Street provides food to a bunch of schools in the Southern Tier, and we do lots of education for kids.
Could you talk about starting Main Street?
It was hard. It was a learning experience because we started very small as a one acre market garden. Every year have been expanding; right now we have thirty acres in vegetables, and next year we will probably have fifty acres in vegetables. We also have a lot of greenhouses and high tunnels, and we just got a new warehouse facility down the road where all of our packing, washing, and distribution will be. We will also have a big commercial kitchen, which is really exciting.
“THE COMMUNITY SUPPORTS US.”
What role do you think the community plays at Main Street, and what role does Main Street play in the community?
The community supports us because they’re members of our CSA, and we support them by making sure we can provide them with affordable vegetables and educational opportunities to learn about food.
Ten percent of all of our shares go to low income families and they’re subsidized by a nonprofit in the Cortland community, which also does educational programming with those families.
Is there any technology that would make your life easier?
Really good monitoring systems. We have so many irrigation lines everywhere, and you don’t know that they’re leaking until you see it. In-line water flow sensors would be nice, and technology like that could prevent waste.
Have you seen any major technological advances made in small farming in the last decade?
New hand tools and cultivating tools, tractor tools, and tractor designs are slowly happening, but it’s all kind of expensive and untested. In terms of back-end software to run the farm and be integrated into a building or greenhouse, none of it is that user-friendly. I use four different systems: a software that runs our CSA, a software for wholesale, we use Google docs for the day-to-day, and we also use Quickbooks.
What do you think the future of small farming looks like?
“SMALL FARMS WILL GET BIGGER, TO A REASONABLE SIZE WHERE THEY CAN PRODUCE AFFORDABLE FOOD AND ACCESS BROADER MARKETS. THE OPTIMAL SIZE IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERY COMMUNITY”
Photographs by Sasson Rafailov