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NY garden center growing for nearly a century

The Hafner family has farmed in central New York since 1922, at first in produce and now in the nursery and greenhouse business. The family’s longevity in farming stems from what farm owner Chuck Hafner describes as just doing the basics.

“We go by the philosophy that if you provide the right value, and value can be measured by more than price, like service and quality of the product, and you do your basics correctly as far as in-store experience, your business is going to be successful,” Hafner said. “We stick to the basics.”

Now employing 110 workers seasonally and 22 during the winter, the Syracuse-based operation began when George Hafner, Chuck’s father, immigrated to America with his brother Jake. This first generation formed Hafner Brothers, a fruit and vegetable farm.

They sold produce at the Central New York Regional Market — which is still in business today — and their own farm stand, and wholesaled to local stores. Through the years, the family began to increase the garden center part of its business. Tending Christmas trees proved much less intense than growing crops like sweet corn and strawberries.

“With Christmas trees, you have harvest and planting, and whether you prune Aug. 30 or July 30, it doesn’t matter,” Hafner said.

Like any farming operation, Chuck Hafner’s has faced numerous challenges during the pandemic, but the company has also seen a few opportunities. Since more families were staying at home with time on their hands, they turned to landscaping and gardening.

“The garden center industry had a banner year,” Hafner said. “It was up 15% and we didn’t open for Easter.” Normally, Hafner’s opens by mid-March, so a bump in business despite losing the early spring sales is impressive.

“Vegetable gardening is in high demand,” Hafner added. “More people are growing their own vegetables. You have large savings monetarily by growing your own. You know where they’re grown and how. It’s a great family activity with young kids. It cuts on packaging and transportation of the food, so it’s good for the environment.” New gardeners benefit from customer service.

Read the complete article at www.lancasterfarming.com.


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