Our Strategic Vision
We were gardeners who took extra zucchini to a local farmers market and made $40. With no previous experience in vegetable farming, it was Chris and Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht’s vision that led us to transform that garden into an 85 acre certified organic farm, growing hundreds of different crops and enriching the lives of thousands of people across the NY Metro Area every year.
For fifteen years we have invested in machinery, buildings, and tools to help the farm run efficiently and profitably, and to help ease the massive physical effort that farming requires from us. It is important to us to share our original strategic vision with our farm team members, in a way that we can all relate to it and act on it in our daily work.
Our strategic vision lets us all know how we fit into Garden of Eve’s story in meaningful ways. It is used for everyone who is part of our Farm Team as a guide for who we serve best, how we serve them best, and why it is truly worthwhile to work here.
Probably the most important part of this is the fact that all of us must clearly understand not just our work, but exactly how that impacts our customer’s lives. We have to know how our actions will improve the happiness and quality of life of our customers and their families. Not only do we need
to know it, we need to communicate it with our actions. Weʼre excited about this vision and we hope you will be too. Thanks for taking the time to read it, and we hope you find your place in it.
Chris and Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht
WHO WE SERVE BEST
People come to us because they see what they eat as a key to a happier, healthier life. Our customers come to us at different points along their journey from mass-market, fast-food diets to fresh, local, organic, home-cooked eating.
Our most evolved customers are just like Denise Hall, who lives about 15 miles west of the farm in Suffolk County, or Bari Franklin from Williamsburg Brooklyn. Both are working moms with full time jobs, homes and gardens to take care of. Neither woman wants chemicals in her family’s food, but she needs a way to get her organic produce that won’t take up much of her precious free time. Our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program meets this need. She’s always interested in exploring new vegetables and new recipes, cooks at home often, and loves making friends and contacts through farm activities. When they need plants for their gardens, they seek us out as one of very few sellers of organic herb and vegetable plants, and for the detailed and accurate advice we can give them from our own experience on the farm. On the farm, customers like Claire Baldwin, originally of Manhattan, come in to the Farm Market every few weeks for fresh vegetables, as well as fresh berries, our pastured eggs, and a few hard-to-find organic grocery items. She loves the look of the funny old barn and feels good about supporting a local farm family that she knows personally.
Our customers in the middle of their journey are like Mila Clasburgh, who lives about 40 miles from the farm in Western Suffolk County, or Kelly Leeler of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Each woman knows what organic is, but it always seems more expensive when she comparison shops at the supermarket. She has friends who got some kind of vegetable box last summer, and said they liked it. So she searches online for “farm share” and finds out that we deliver CSA shares to near her apartment. Patti is psyched that her hipster friends will think she’s cool since now she’s in a CSA, and Sue just hopes there won’t be too much eggplant, because she doesn’t know how to cook that. But she’s really looking forward to those vine-ripened tomatoes!
Customers just beginning their journey are like Jenny DiPaola of Massapequa, who first sees our sign while she is out on a “drive through the country” with her husband. She still doesn’t understand what organic means, though it sounds good when she reads about it in the paper. When she goes into the red barn with the “Farm Market” sign, she’s captivated by the authentic wooden posts and beams, hanging dried flowers, and healthful atmosphere. She looks around and enjoys seeing all the different things, then decides to buy a bag of organic apples, a few onions, and a fruit pie to take home as a souvenir. Driving back from the Orient Ferry on her way back from the Connecticut Casinos later that year, she is hungry and stops in for a roasted corn, deli sandwich, chips and a soda. She gives her corncob to the sheep in the petting zoo, and makes a mental note to bring her kids back in the fall to play on the farm and get mums and pumpkins.
HOW WE SERVE THEM BEST
Our best customers want these main things from us:
1) Freshness and good Taste / Beauty
2) Education in how to grow, eat, cook, and be healthy
3) Good feelings from knowing that they are making a positive difference in the world, by supporting a local organic farm family.
Freshness and Good Taste/Beauty
We provide an experience that is unmatched in everyday consumer culture. When the customer arrives at the Farm Market/Garden Center location, they are surrounded by beauty and tranquility, our flower gardens and raised bed vegetable gardens, they hear the sounds of farm animals such as chickens clucking, turkeys gobbling, sheep and goats baaing. They enter the store, and are greeted in a friendly way by sales staff, some of whom may know their name or recognize them from previous visits.
We say, “Let me know if there is anything you need” or “Let me know if I can help you.” They take a basket or cart from an easy-to-grab location, and look around at the variety of fresh produce and plants. They select some items and then ask the sales staff where they can find a certain item, which we do have in stock, fresh, and in the quantity they are seeking. They ask about how to grow something or cook something and the salesperson has a ready, in-depth answer for them that illuminates the issue and solves their problem. The salesperson elaborates on the interest the customer has mentioned by pointing out some of the rare, unusual things we are carrying that can’t be found in supermarkets or big-box stores. They are excited about these new ideas/opportunities to eat more healthfully and cook better, be healthier and feel better.
They pay for their purchases and get into their car thinking about how fun it was to visit the farm store. If they have kids with them, the kids are objecting to leaving and begging to come back again. At home they find that the items they have purchased are hardier/better-tasting than those they had purchased at other locations. They make a mental note to go to Garden of Eve next week to do their shopping.
how to grow, eat, cook, and be healthy
Grow. Eat. Enjoy!
By providing a visitor-friendly face to the farm which is open every day, we invite the public to stop in and find out more about what “organic” means, what organic food tastes like, and what its flavor and health advantages are. By providing a child-friendly play area and farm animals to watch and feed, we allow children to experience the joys of farm life. By providing organic vegetable, herb and flower plants for sale, as well as organic compost and natural garden care products, we empower our customers to grow their own food and to take a step towards self-sustainability. By giving a limited number of in-depth, small group tours, we teach families where their food comes from, why diversity is so important to the farm ecosystem, and about the contrasts between industrial agricultural and our small farm. Come to Garden of Eve for good food – buy it, learn to grow it and cook it!
from knowing that they are making a positive difference in the world, by supporting a local organic farm family. Customers who purchase organic and natural grocery items at our Farm Market are satisfied that they are contributing to our local economy rather than giving their money to a chain supermarket or big box store to be shipped off to stockholders who-knows-where. They trust us to point out to them the foods they need to be healthy.
A long-term relationship
Happy, invested CSA members lead to returning sign-ups year after year, and a larger percentage of long-term members who know what to expect and don’t complain – they know how to use the produce they are getting and appreciate the freshness, value, and taste compared to what they could be buying in a local supermarket. It allows us to spend less time marketing and changing our farm strategy and greater predictability.
Our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program
Our CSA program is known as one of the best in New York City. Our share regularly includes a wide diversity of vegetables, so that members are never forced to eat huge quantities of the same thing week after week, yet are introduced to new, tasty vegetables that they enjoy learning to cook. The portions provide a good value for the price paid, but don’t overwhelm members. Core group volunteers help the pickup run accurately and smoothly, so that all members get what they are due
At the farm, the Farm Team makes sure that everything they harvest is brought back to the processing barn quick enough to prevent any wilting or loss of quality. Vegetables are thoroughly washed so that they look appealing, packed into crates, and quickly put into the walk in cooler to maintain all those innate sugars at their highest level for members to enjoy.
Customers are well-educated about what truly local, seasonal, organic farming means in their community (i.e. not just farms in another geographic area, or farms that they see featured in the media or supermarket). Their first choice is our local, organic produce. They are our best marketing tool and are fighting to return each year and buy a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share before we sell out of shares. For example (this happened on another farm):”we are happy to report that we opened up our CSA signups yesterday, and today we are sold out except for 10 spots left.”
Our Farm Market
Customers are passionate about our business and refer us to their friends. They have fun shopping with us and feel like they are visting family. They are comfortable coming in with questions and problems that our staff can capably solve for them with advice, or products. They feel trusted and welcomed and recognized as people and human beings. They trust us and our products and advice.
Our Garden Center
Donna Simons, a Nassau County resident, came into the Garden Center one Saturday morning in May. A Garden Center Team Member said, “Let me know if I can help you with anything.” Donna said, “yes, actually I am looking for a cucumber plant.” The Garden of Eve staffperson asked her, “Do you have a garden? What else do you grow?” she answered. The staffperson asked her, “well, have you ever thought about growing an Italian Zucchini plant, it would do really well in your garden conditions, this is what you can do with it, etc.” She said, “Every time I come here I learn something new. That is why I love this place. You are always teaching me something. I always tell my friends to come here.”
Garden Center team members are knowledgeable about plants from their own first-hand experience as growers and gardeners. They share information eagerly that helps customers be successful and develop their inner green thumb!
Our Farmers Market Stands
Although these “pop-up” markets are just one day per week, our vegetable selection and display looks just as appealing and gorgeous as our farm. With gingham tablecloths, clean white tents, and staff wearing a distinctive Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market T-shirt, Our Farmers Market stands project the authentic farm atmosphere while allowing city dwellers their little slice of vegetable heaven. Greens, tomatoes, squash, and everything else are piled high, and staff quickly weigh purchases and check people out to keep the lines of customers moving.
To serve our customers in this way, our team has to be the best. Farmer Chris is on the tractor, planting and making sure the veggies can grow to their fullest potential so that they can be on our customers’ dinnerplates sometime this year. With such a well-trained, dedicated staff, he feels positive and secure about the harvest, and about the financial outcome at the end of the year. Eve is managing the kids, in the office handling the financial, marketing, and administrative side of the farm or at the Farm Market & Garden Center, meeting with staff and helping set weekly priorities. She pitches in with CSA deliveries and farmers market work when needed, and leads classes and farm tours.
Our staff is upbeat, happy, and strong, dressed for outdoor conditions, and knows whatʼs expected of them. They work quickly, independently deciding to restructuring a task when they need to in order to use their body or available tools more efficiently, and teaching newer staff how to do so as well. They are constantly on the lookout for pests, diseases, or other problems in the field, and if they encounter one they quickly let their manager know. Because they understand the importance of working and talking at the same time, no one has to stay late to finish the day’s tasks. They are extremely careful with machinery because they understand that it’s valuable and expensive to repair, as well as paying attention to their safety and the safety of other team members.
They return every year and enjoy the work they do and the casual, outdoor environment. They take initiative to solve problems and make good decisions using common sense, trying to save the farm money and reduce wasted products. They genuinely like to talk to customers, help customers, and want to educate people to eat/grow healthier and more successfully. They feel that the longer they stay with us, the more successful they will be and they see long-term possibilities with us. They care about the farm.
Staff translate the farmer’s extensive knowledge into effective day-to-day crop management. The entire team helps to build systems that work, so that together we are able to maintain the farm in a way that makes each season slightly easier than the last. We reward our employees for the great work they do, and they show us that they appreciate the financial stability that we provide by returning year after year. We all take ownership of our responsibilities and feel great about knowing that our efforts are rewarded.
Why We Do It
When Eve planted those seeds in flats of dirt on her living room floor, she honestly wondered if they would actually grow. But a few months later there she was with her then-boyfriend Chris at the Greenport Farmers Market in August 2001, with someone handing them a $5 bill for a few zucchini that would have rotted otherwise in our half-acre garden. “Wow!” they thought. “We can be farmers.”
Starting by spreading 2,000 pounds of lime by hand across a newly plowed one-acre hay field in April that first year, we knew we liked physical work, we liked to get dirty and sweaty, and we wanted to create a life for ourselves and our future family in which we could work in nature on a daily basis. Living in a rural area, there wasn’t much in the way of entertainment available, so we worked on the garden every weekend, all weekend. When we turned down trips to the beach or wineries, our family and friends came to “the garden” as curious volunteers, and by the end of the season we wound up with thousands of pounds of extra produce.
When Chris moved out to Eastern Long Island permanently in 2002, he decided to attempt the career change he had long considered and worked on the garden full time that summer, along with Eve attending 3 farmers markets in just their first real year as commercial growers. That summer we sunk $2,000 of our hard-earned cash into our first equipment purchase, a Troybilt rototiller. We never wondered if we could farm successfully – it was just a question of how, and with every week we spent in the school of trial and error we increased our knowledge and skills. We built a yurt and lived in it year round without electricity or running water.
By 2003 Chris was farming 3 acres and selling produce both on Long Island and at Manhattan Greenmarkets, but at the end of the season we could see that the net income from a farm that scale would never be enough to support a family, and we made plans to expand. That fall we applied to the organization Just Food, and were matched with a community group in Manhattan to start a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
In 2004 we moved our main field to the location it’s in now, where we took over a 10 acre parcel and bought our first tractor. We had to use that tractor for everything, including plowing, discing, cultivating, mowing, and everything in-between (years later we found out the tractor brand was known as one of the most difficult tractors to steer straight). We applied for organic certification and our first CSA started on the Upper West Side with 30 shares. We started our self-service farmstand under a nylon tent next to the road. Chris and Eve got married. On the farm. In the field.
In 2005 we traded our Manhattan farmers market for one in an up-and-coming neighborhood we’d never heard of, called Williamsburg Brooklyn. We took over a CSA program there and did 100 shares that year, expanding 3-fold. Our son Forest was born the first week of CSA deliveries, in June. We hired our first farm apprentice and one additional field worker. We moved the farmstand (now called the Farm Market) into an abandoned barn with holes in the walls and a dirt floor.
It had been a very, very tough four years for Chris, working 6-7 days a week, often 12 hours per day, from March through November, without any paycheck. Eve was still working full time as a planner, which helped by providing free health benefits during this difficult period. In 2006 we supplied 250 shares, and invested heavily in machinery, buildings, and tools to help the farm run efficiently and profitably. We finally saw a significant profit that year and knew that all our hard work would finally pay off.
Over each of the next few years we took on additional CSA locations in Brooklyn, which was easy to get to because it didn’t require crossing any bridges or tunnels. By 2007 we were doing 400 CSA shares. Chris and Eve’s daughter Shira was born the day before the first CSA delivery in June, and Eve left her day job. Over the next three years we were continually asked to start new CSA pickup locations, and increased our shares to 600, then 750, then 850 shares on more than 40 acres of farmland in 2010. In 2010 we also took over management of an existing garden center that was adjacent to our Farm Market. In the spring we held a ten-year anniversary party in Brooklyn with CSA members, some of whom have been with us since our first year with the program!
We take pride in the hard work that farming requires, and feel that we are blessed to spend our lives “making changes in the world by living them.” We and our team produce a product that makes people happy and healthy. It tastes good, is good for you, and good for the earth.
We started with nothing but our vision, and the physical energy and determination that made it a reality. We continue this bold, aggressive, confident approach, now tempered by years of experience to back it up. After nearly 20 seasons farming, we are able to consistently deliver a superior product to our customers, no matter what the vagaries of the growing season. We solve problems on the fly and constantly look for ways to improve, and teach those who work for us to do so as well. Nearly half our farm apprentices have gone on to have their own, successful organic farms. Each year our Farm Market and farmers market stalls grow and expand, along with our kids!
This is our story and this is Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market!