Outside Experience Helps at Family Farm

6/29/2013 7:00 AM
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant New York Correspondent

Kendra Burnap’s story sounds like a typical farm-kid-returns-home story. However, beneath the surface, her story reveals an important principle more up-and-coming family farm managers and owners should understand: experience counts. Instead of returning to the farm right after finishing school, Burnap gained experience first, which has helped her keep the family business sailing now that she’s at the helm.

Burnap grew up in the business. Her parents, Janice and Ed Burnap, founded the 280-acre farm in 1970 along Lake Ontario in Sodus, N.Y. Kendra Burnap eventually earned a degree from Cornell in agricultural economics and worked at a few other agricultural jobs before returning to the farm 15 years ago.

“Since then, I’ve slowly been taking it over,” she said. “Four years ago, it became officially mine. I truly believe the experience after college working for other companies and finding my personal strengths has contributed more to my success in what I’m doing now.”

Since she knew her strengths, Burnap was also able to delegate areas where she’s not as adept, which means she is both more capable and happier doing the work she handles daily.

The farm employs 45 during the busy season among its various ventures. These include the Burnap’s Farm Market, Garden Cafe & Catering, event hosting, bakery, ice cream and other desserts, you-pick fruits from strawberry season to apple season, Play Land Train and play area, and special events.

Burnap likes offering several you-pick fruits so visitors get to learn where their produce comes from and better understand the experience of a grower, if only for an hour.

The farm grows strawberries, lettuce, sweet cherries, raspberries, sweet corn, cut flowers, tomatoes, peaches, plums, apples and pumpkins.

Burnap said that she dreams up new ideas for the business during winter, which is her down time.

“I do a lot of traveling and visit as many places as I can for ideas,” she said. “I work with what we can do out here and what can attract people.”

The farm’s location, a 30-minute drive from Rochester, N.Y., means that Burnap needs to make the farm a destination for city dwellers craving a rural outing.

“We want to make it a place where people will want to spend an hour or two,” Burnap said.

That’s one reason so many items are available as you-pick produce.

As for future expansion, Burnap is content with the business’s size.

“Acreage-wise, we’re at a wonderful amount for being able to handle things,” she said. “The farm market provides the community and tourist from afar with many things. Right now I’m on maintenance.”

She came to this epiphany last winter when she realized the farm’s income paid the bills and enabled her to care for her children adequately. Why get too big?

“I am a 43-year-old single woman with two kids,” she said. “I have the business to think about and I also take care of my kids myself. Being able to support the family is good. There’s only one of me and I know my limits. I am at that right now.”

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