The New Face of Farming
Times change, and so do farms. In the information age, GPS and the Internet are keeping Delaware’s family operations on the cutting edge. Some good ol’ fashioned ice cream doesn’t hurt.
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“When you have farmers who grow things they love and with pride, it always tastes better,” he says. “It’s always a perfect ingredient, and it stands great on its own. It’s strong mantras for a modern chef.”
In addition to enhancing efficiency, technology—albeit of a different sort—is also a new marketing tool. Fifer and Hastings both have Websites and reach out to customers through Twitter. Fifer also uses Facebook. And Hastings has launched a new program with his watermelons. Buy one specially labeled with a coded sticker at a grocery store in the Northeast, enter the code at his Website, then find out the exact date, time and place in the field where the watermelon was harvested.
Kelli Steele, marketing coordinator for the state Department of Agriculture, sees information technology as increasingly important. “I talk to a lot of these farmers and they don’t even want to touch a computer. They don’t own one,” she says. The new generation is “changing the face of farming.”
Hopkins Dairy and Creamery outside of Lewes is a well-established farm, though in recent years it has become known as a destination for its outstanding homemade ice cream. Visitors sit at picnic tables and enjoy their cones while participating in a genuine agricultural experience, unaware that, 10 years ago, the Hopkins family considered selling the property. With development closing in, the family considered moving out west.
Burli Hopkins says the family quickly realized, “People aren’t going anywhere. They’re here. We’re here. We can either learn to live together or leave. My father, grandfather and I sat down 10 years ago and decided we’re staying and farming, and we decided to open the farm to the public and try to be open and friendly.”
The new approach allowed the Hopkins to take advantage of the growing interest in agritourism. This is the third season for Hopkins Farm Creamery.
Hopkins is following the trend of using Facebook to promote his business and is in the process of developing a Website as well, but he attributes the business’ success to a few signs along U.S. 9 and word of mouth about his product.
Creamery visitors might be surprised to learn that the 550 cows on the farm produce 12 million pounds of milk a year, most of which is bottled in New Jersey and marketed as hormone-free milk in stores. “We would flood Lewes Dairy with the amount of milk we produce,” Hopkins jokes.
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