Native Offerings Farm isn’t only a business; it is a place. When we moved here in 2002, this farm was a dairy farm that had been in the Clark family for five generations. The farm is situated in a long valley in Cattaraugus County that was once full of dairy farms, now there are only a few and we are the only large scale producer of vegetables here. We are 9 miles to the northwest of the town of Ellicottville and the majority of our farm lies in the town of Otto. We have 180 acres of slightly rolling land. Some of it is good pasture and hay land but the reason we bought it was because it has about 15 acres of soil that is sandy loam; great for vegetable production. It also has a year round flowing, class 1 trout fishing stream running through it from which we are allowed to irrigate. The barns and house were in relatively good shape and we could move in and farm right away. That was important because our CSA was up and running at that point.
We started Buffalo Organics CSA in East Aurora on the Roelofs’ Arden Farm after vegetable farming with a friend in Trumansburg. That was in 1997, the year we were married. The house on this farm was built in the 1800’s and we used the cool, stone basement for storing vegetables our first year here. The farm wasn’t on the market in 2002 and actually could have been used as a site for a school but was voted down by the area residents. It wasn’t long after we bought the place that neighbors came up to us and explained that they were so happy that the land remained in farming. That was a good sign! We knew we had made the right choice in moving here! We originally thought we’d settle in Erie county but when we were searching all of Erie county for tillable, fertile farm land we came up against hurdles that most aspiring farmers will run into. The most pressing was that good farmland is also good for development. Which meant that we were priced out of buying that land.
Moving to this land presented some concerns, one of which is that we are in zone 5, even some areas here are zone 4. We have a two-week variance in temperature as compared to Buffalo and Eden, which is zone 6. Meaning, we can get a frost two weeks earlier than Buffalo in the fall and two weeks later in the spring.
So why farm here? Our first visit to the farm was telling. Stewart took his shovel to the cornfield behind the house and dug. It was then that a light went on for him; he had carefully and diligently found a place that could make the business of farming work. It had good tillable ground, fresh water and barns. I fell in love with the house, barns and surrounding hills. We thought it might be hard to truck our products so far into the city, which was our main market outlet. But the CSA keeps us intimately connected with our customers and many of them adjusted to the move to this beautiful place with us. Now, we focus on improving the land that we farm on and keeping or customers happy. We’ve planted over 4000 trees, fixed water drainage, and limed the soils and continually work with a soil lab to remineralize the ground that we work. We are slowly restoring the gamble roofed dairy barn that if neglected anymore would become like so many other barns, a casualty of modern life. We have become part of the rural fabric of this little piece of countryside and are happy to live and farm here.