Retail Holds Key to Farm’s Future

7/13/2013 7:00 AM
By Ann Wilmer Maryland Correspondent

SALISBURY, Md. — On a recent overcast Tuesday morning, Ted Wycall worked with his employees, trying to cut butterhead lettuce he would sell later in the day at the Rehoboth Farmers Market.

His wife, Julia, was loading tomatoes and other fresh garden produce into the bed of a pickup truck for the trip, under the supervision of Mary Cadence Wycall, the couple’s 9-month-old daughter.

Retail has grown to be a very important part of Greenbranch Farm’s overall operation.

In the summer, Ted Wycall has four employees whose primary job is to facilitate retail sales. His workforce, two to three workers in the off-season, swells to almost 20 full- or part-time workers in the summer. Ted Wycall said the first harvest was around May 1 and that food production will continue until the end of the year. Planting for the next year’s crop begins with seeds at the first of the year.

Alex Basher, a seasonal employee who has migrated south from Millersville, Pa., said that while he was still in high school, he worked part time at a dairy farm near his home. He learned that it takes a lot of time and patience to grow food, but he enjoys it.

“Farming requires a special skill set,” Basher said. “And Ted has it.”

Among the food products Ted Wycall cultivates on just over 20 acres are several varieties of sweet peppers, hybrid, cherry and heirloom tomatoes, okra, watermelon, cantaloupe, green and wax beans, cucumbers, squash, several varieties of red and green lettuce, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, kale, onions, garlic, multiple varieties of white potatoes, sweet corn, bok choy, strawberries and herbs.

The farm recently brought in a crop of potatoes with the help of neighbors and customers who wanted to help out and in return received a 50-pound bag of potatoes.

The Wycalls start their plants in a propagation house and continue to grow some vegetables throughout the winter in two high tunnels.

Forty head of grass-fed beef cattle and 5,000 pastured chickens free-range on the neighboring farm the Wycalls purchased last year. Ted Wycall also has pig paddocks on 50 acres and takes 100 free-range pigs to market each year. Including the farmland he leases, Ted Wycall is farming 150 acres.

The Wycalls aim to produce as many varieties of food products as possible, and they continue to diversify. Ted Wycall said customers can find breakfast, lunch and dinner at his home market on Nutters Cross Road in Salisbury, Md. When customers ask for something they cannot find locally, Ted Wycall said he almost always adds it to his diverse collection of vegetable crops.

Deciding what to plant is guided by trial and error. Ted Wycall said that he makes it a point to plant vegetables that his customers will not find at the grocery store. He determines what and how much to grow based on customer demand and the amount of produce he sells.

The Wycalls almost always have an overage of tomatoes. When that happens, the Wycalls set up a temporary canning operation at the back of the retail store and put them in jars, which they then offer for sale in the shop.

“If I run out of something this year, I’ll add another row next year. I also add a row of vegetables every time we add a farmers market,” Ted Wycall said. He now takes produce to six farmers markets each week. He still wholesales some produce, primarily to other farm market operations looking to supplement their inventory with crops they don’t produce themselves.

“Not all claims of local’ are true,” he said, adding that while there is nothing wrong with fresh produce bought at auction, buying local supports the local economy. Ted Wycall said his customers appreciate this distinction and are looking to locally source their food supplies.

Ted Wycall also purchases some products for his home store, including cheese and butter from Chesapeake Bay Farm, additional cheese from Chapels Country Creamery, milk and yogurt from Nice Farms, free-range eggs from Twin Post Farm, as well as locally-produced blueberries.

The Wycalls also sell honey in season along with eight varieties of Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Coffee, whole bean or medium grind.

Shoppers will also find a variety of locally-made nut butters, granola, popping corn, pancake mixes and more. They usually have homemade baked goods such as muffins and cookies as well as hand-crafted items such as baby bibs, earrings and colorful tote bags.

The farm’s website and Facebook page has helped to increase retails sales. Word-of-mouth has also enabled the Wycalls to build a 220-member CSA, with many regular customers that visit the store and area farmers markets.

Greenbranch Farm is located on 5075 Nutters Cross Road near Salisbury, Md. You can reach the farm by telephone: 443-736-7779.

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