A new year often brings exploration of new opportunities for farmers and their families. Despite the countless challenges that can accompany six generations of family farming, Patterson Fruit Farm in Chesterland, Ohio continues to be a model for creating and seeking opportunity in agriculture. The operation has seen success with its core business – apples and fruit – while expanding into agritourism, enhancing the experience of customers who visit the farm and contributing to awareness of farming.
Patterson Fruit Farm began drawing visitors to its farm in the mid-1950s, and soon saw the opportunity to connect people with where their food comes from through school trips and family outings. They then decided to throw out hay bales for visiting students to climb on, just like the Patterson kids had done when they were young. Next came rides, play areas, a corn maze, and eventually a Family Fun Fest that attracts 40,000 to 50,000 people a year. Those visitors also line up to buy the donuts, pies, fritters and other popular baked goods the farm sells year-round.
When owner Bill Patterson saw the opportunity to build on that success, Farm Credit Mid-America was there to help finance his 10-year plan for growth. Now with a new playground to draw visitors and a 2,500-square-foot expansion to increase baking output, Patterson Fruit Farm saw the payoff with increased sales of donuts, pies and apple fritters.
“As I think about the opportunities,” Patterson says, “certainly there's no doubt about it that I've gotten back far more than anything I've ever given to the Farm Credit system.”