Back Achers Farm
I am so thrilled to share a little about Back Achers Farm in Bradford County. When I first started learning about the local farms around me, I perused the the freezers at Little Leaf Natural Products in Montrose and found some grass-fed ground beef from Back Achers. I’d been wanting to start to get healthy, locally produced beef, and here it was. After that, I began connecting with Breanna Bullock of Back Achers and asking her many annoying questions that a newbie to local meat purchasing would ask. She graciously filled me in and always answered my questions, happy to share her passion for quality food with me. And when the time came to start the magazine, Breanna connected me with many of your local farms, always pointing me in the right direction. The Bullock family and Back Achers Farm has been one of our biggest supporters and cheerleaders with the magazine, willing to share copies at their markets and pass it around to others. It’s only fitting that to polish off our 2022 year, we take the opportunity to share with you a family farm that has meant so much to us. This local farm is ALL about family, and they tackle their many projects together as a tight knit team. As I spoke with Breanna for this interview, the right question to ask her was not so much, “what are you doing,” but “what AREN’T you doing?” They wear many hats at Back Achers, and we want to share them with you!
Sue and Alan Bullock started Back Achers farm in 1997. And they started out by raising sheep and processing maple sap into syrup. In 2000, they added cattle and chickens to sell eggs. The year after that, they added meat chickens and turkeys and a processing facility so they could process all their own poultry. After Alan passed away in 2007, Sue needed to keep things going on the farm so she added a CSA program. A year after that, Aaron came home after college and they’ve been a family partnership ever since.
Back Achers offers SO much too! When you walk up to the farm store, you might be deceived into thinking it’s a small farm, with several beautiful greenhouses and a sugar shack, but not much more. But Back Achers sprawls up the hills and around the corner out of sight, providing healthy habitat for a huge variety of animals. Back Achers offers pasture-raised pork, chicken, turkeys, 100% grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured eggs, maple syrup and seasonal vegetables. In their greenhouses they grow year-round, so they constantly send vegetables to market. In winter months, when you visit them at the store or their farmer’s markets, you’ll find a variety of lettuces, maple syrup, meat and eggs.
One of the biggest questions on my mind for the Bullock family, was, “how do you keep all of these plates spinning at the same time?” They laughed, because it was a question that hit close to home. “We each have our own department. Sue and Tucker take care of the greenhouses, so they’re constantly harvesting, constantly clearing beds and constantly planting. It’s a continual rotational process. Aaron takes care of all the animals, providing them with everything that they need. Sam takes care of the maintenance and mechanical work so we don’t have to call anyone in for that.” And Breanna fills in the gaps. She deals with customers, helps run the CSA, bottles the maple syrup. “It’s all going on at the same time, but handled by different people. We divide and conquer, but we all love working together.” They employ seasonally, but it’s usually the same people, and their helpers have been with them for many years.
Back Achers reaches their customers in many ways, but two of the most effective strategies for them have been their CSAs and markets. The Bullocks explained the CSA, “We have people sign up over the winter and in the spring and every week for 19 weeks they receive a box of fresh veggies. They pay up-front because it’s as if they’re buying a share in the farm. That up-front cost is a partnership with us so we can afford the cost of everything that goes into growing the crops for them.” You can expect to find salad, mixed greens, salad turnips, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, and many other varieties of items in your CSA throughout the 19 weeks. They will send out an email with what people can expect in their boxes before they get delivered. They offer a meat CSA in a separate program as well. And several times during the season, they even invite their subscribers to the farm to help with harvests and offer them a selection from what they harvest. The Bullocks love to include recipes in the boxes as well, centered around a unique ingredient that people may have never tried before. This becomes an exciting opportunity to continually educate individuals how to cook with different foods and be excited about what’s on the plate!
We launched into a discussion at this point about the selection at grocery stores being sometimes a negative rather than a positive. When you’re faced with endless options, you’re overwhelmed. But when you’re provided a selection of home-grown seasonal produce, you’re forced to be creative and learn. The Bullocks shared, “A couple people told us this year that the CSA has encouraged them to cook more and discover a love for it. An individual also shared with us that she’s sad her CSA has ended for the season because she eats healthier during these weeks.”
Back Achers also participates in several markets. You can find them every Saturday at the Broome County Regional Farmer’s Market in Binghamton with their fresh produce, syrup, meats and other products year-round. Or you can find them on Thursdays during the spring, summer and fall at Hillside Park in Clarks Summit.
And don’t think that because it’s winter, Back Achers takes a season off. “It’s year-round,” they explained. “It never stops. The winter doesn’t change much as far as the heated greenhouses go. Whenever a crop is harvested, it’s pulled up, the beds are cleared, and another one is started.”
They’re also busy with their maple season in the winter. “There is a lot of wood splitting happening now! Aaron and Sam will go out and tap trees.” And you can see the lines spider-webbing throughout the woods on your way to Back Achers. They run about 1200 taps a season and though they only bottle about 10-20 gallons at a time, they store the rest in containers and end up with about 200 gallons per season.
In everything that they do, Back Achers seeks to streamline their processes, to create a greater sense of efficiency in each aspect of the farm to be able to provide the highest quality of food and goods for their customers. I asked the Bullock family what they would say to our readers to teach them how to support local farms. The answer was perfect. “Shop local, whether it’s with us or with your neighbor or a farmer’s market. All kinds of people are doing great things out there. We support our community farms too, so if we don’t carry something, we have a network of family farms that are going to have what you need. So, if you want to get something locally, we want to help make that happen, even if it’s not from us."
But one of the biggest ways you can support Back Achers and other family farms, is through word of mouth. Millions of dollars have been poured into PR campaigns and marketing strategies in the corporate world, and what people find is that word of mouth is still one of the most powerful elements of marketing. And the same is true in the world of local farms. So check out Back Achers farm and learn all there is to talk about. Follow them on instagram or Facebook, and check out their website: backachers-farm.weebly.com.
Photo Courtesy of Abigail Shaeffer