Current Member John Kelder of Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson
Compiled by Jodi La Marco
Known for its mini-golf course, delicious home-grown vegetables, and giant gnome, Kelder’s Farm in Kerhonkson is an institution in the Hudson Valley. We spoke with John Kelder to find out how things have changed during the farm’s 200-year history.
How long has Kelder’s Farm been operating?
I’m a twelfth-generation Kelder. Basically, the farm was started to feed our family, and it grew as times changed. My great-grandfather raised chickens. Then the chicken market kind of crashed and he had to change things. It then became a dairy farm. When my parents came home from college in 1987, they decided that there was an opportunity to sell directly to the consumer and provide a fun experience for people. They continued the dairy, but they were also hosting school groups and making it more of a hands-on experience for visitors. Our original dairy is two miles away from where our stand is now. My grandfather had dairy cows there, and we turned it into a stand. That’s basically where we run everything out of now.
When did the gnome arrive?
I believe the gnome came around 2005 along with the mini-golf. My parents started with milk cows and strawberries. Then we started growing some vegetables. Then came mini-golf and the gnome.
What makes your business unique from competitors?
When you come to the farm, it’s not like going to the supermarket. People often come to have a family outing, and to have a fun day. People come to show their kids where their food is coming from. It’s probably easier to go to the grocery store, but we want the kids to be kicking and screaming to go to Kelder’s. We also grow as though we were growing for our own family. That’s always been how we do things.
What made you want to continue your family’s tradition of farming?
I graduated from Cornell University in 2014, and I worked away from the farm for a couple of years. I decided that there’s not many people who get the opportunity to work in a family business, let alone one that’s been around for 200 years. I also love farming, so that’s another reason I wanted to come home to work with my parents and the rest of my family.
How would you like to see Kelder’s Farm grow?
Right now, we do a lot of school groups. We pick blueberries and vegetables, and we do apples and pumpkins in the fall. I think we’re going to just continue doing what we’re good at. We’re perfecting our craft.
How does your business fit into the larger movement to revitalize the Hudson Valley?
We host festivals here that bring more people to the area. We try to bring people up to the Hudson Valley from New York City and all over the area and make them recognize that this is a great place to be.
What measures do you and your business take to support the local economy?
Most of our employees are local people, so we try to support the valley that way. We’re also a local business, so we’re always trying to give back to the community. We donate extra produce when we can.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
My favorite part is interacting with people who may have never been on a farm and helping them to understand where their food comes from. I like working with the customers, and it’s also fun working with my family on a daily basis.
How have you been using Currents in your business? And/or how do you plan to use them?
We accept Currents. We have flyers up encouraging people to use them. We try to inform people so they’ll use them even more. We recently purchased advertising for the farm with Currents, and sold some produce for a Solarize Rondout Valley event.
One of our favorite stories about the Hudson Valley Currentrelates to Kelder’s Farm. A restaurant about two miles from the farm, Hot Shotz Pub & Grill, signed up for the Current and noticed that Kelder’s is a member. The owner decided to buy produce from Kelder’s for a big BBQ event she was having. After about a decade of purchasing produce from a large, national food distributor, Hot Shotz used local produce for the first time. The Current inspired two business owners to start working together on a local level, keeping money in our local economy. Another benefit of using the Current is the reduced need for long distance trucking for deliveries since all Current members are in our local communities.