A New Generation Takes the Reins at Zacherl’s Farm Market
(Pictured: Bud Zacherl and Craig Lewis)
Zacherl’s Farm Market, located along State Route 66, has been a fixture in the community since 1965 when it was first opened by Dave Zacherl, a fourth-generation farmer whose family immigrated from Germany in 1848.
Dave took over his family’s farm at the age of 19 after his father passed away. He transformed it into a major agri-business, specializing in the cultivation and growth of potatoes, cabbage, and grain.
Dave’s son, Stephen Zacherl, and nephew, Verne Lewis, later became part-owners of the farm and business. His grandson, Bud Zacherl, and grand-nephew, Craig Lewis, who both grew up nearby, began working on the farm at an early age.
“We all started working when we were eight or nine, picking mostly, and planting cabbage,” Bud Zacherl told exploreClarion.com. “We hated it. But, later on in life, we helped on the weekends and enjoyed helping the customers and selling the fresh produce.”
According to Bud, he and Craig thought they’d end up taking over the farm when they retired, but circumstances changed their plan.
“Craig’s dad passed away and my dad retired, and so we decided to purchase the farm,” he explained.
“We decided to just go for it instead of letting everything go. Land – if you let it go – you won’t get it back.”
Bud and Craig officially took over ownership of the farm at the first of the year, and less than three months later, Dave passed away.
Bud said they always paid attention to how things worked on the farm and at the market, so when the time came, they were able to step up and keep things going.
“We tried to grow everything he did for the past 50 years,” Bud noted.
“Basically, we’re all about selling fresh produce. We grow 95 percent of our own fresh produce.”
Currently, their largest crops are sweet corn, tomatoes, and pumpkins; however, they also grow and sell broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, squash, gourds, and more.
They are also expanding their crop of potatoes.
“My grandpa was real big into that. They did about 60 to 80 acres, but it was down to about two acres. So, we started growing eight acres, and we’re going to try to sell those. There’s no real money in it. It’s just tradition,” Bud added.
They also grow about 100 acres of oats as a rotational crop.
“It’s certified seed, so the company pays us to grow it, and it’s good for the soil to rotate the crops.”
Like the oats, all of the other crops at Zacherl’s are started directly from seeds in their greenhouses before being transplanted to the fields.
“People think of this as a summer market, but Bud starts planting stuff in January,” Craig noted.
Along with the traditional crops, and the rotational crop, Bud and Craig are also brainstorming ways they might consider expanding in the future.
“We have some Black Angus cattle. We don’t sell any beef at the market right now, but maybe, if we are good at farming, we’ll get a bigger market and expand.”
They’ve already begun making a few improvements, fixing and updating some of the infrastructure and water lines in their greenhouses.
Their first season has started off strong.
“The water didn’t hurt us,” Bud explained.
“We have raised planter beds, and we irrigate, so we can control our water. Even though it’s raining a lot, we still have to pump water to them.”
There are plenty of corn, zucchini, squash, and other early vegetables already changing hands, making the market a bustling place.
Looking ahead to the end of summer, as Labor Day approaches, the farm will have pick-your-own tomatoes days. The dates will be announced on their Facebook page later in the summer.
With a staff of about a dozen part-time employees, the owners want to get a full year under their belts before they consider hiring any full-time help.
In the meantime, in anticipation of a good year, the market has “a lot of produce ready for hungry shoppers.”
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