Last month, the Brackenridge family hosted an Open House to showcase a new warehouse and showroom built on their farm on Brackenridge Drive south of Millbrook. The 8400 square foot building is a testament to the success of this family business operating as Squirrel Creek Farm Services which serves the maple syrup and crop producing community.
The farm property has been in the family since 1966 and by the mid-1970, Dave Brackenridge began to farm it. In 1980 the family built an equipment shed and incorporated the farm business as Squirrel Creek Farm Ltd. Before the end of that year, they purchased the seed business, and piece by piece, the equipment in the shed was moved out to make room for seed.
In 2004, Squirrel Creek bought into the maple syrup business. The syrup and crop production seasons dovetail nicely: as syrup season wraps up, it’s time to start seed deliveries. Steve has been running the business for the past fourteen years and his is a hands-on approach. Whether the customer is a new, recreational maple syrup producer or an established one, Steve develops customized plans with equipment, material and installation quotes that are scalable based on the potential of the bush and the interests of the operator. The syrup business now consumes almost half of Steve’s time. To meet the needs of their customers, Squirrel Creek offers a full-stop shop for all syrup equipment and supplies from tapping and tubing to filtration, evaporators, Reverse Osmosis and bottling supplies. They also have packing for honey. They also repair syrup equipment on site or in the field.
They may have invested in this spanking new building, Steve Brackenridge spends a good deal of his time in the field, consulting for syrup and seed customers.
As long-time dealers of Mapleseed and Pioneer Hi-Bred, Squirrel Creek sells a variety of seeds and fertilizers and keep current on new products and technology that can help improve crop quality and yield. Onsite visits, technology in tractors and cell phone apps give Steve detailed information on the seed and fertilizer type, quantity and application rates to help farmers manage input costs and boost yields in every part of their fields.
Among the newer crop enhancing tools are agricultural biologicals that are derived from living organisms and natural or organic matter that is used for crop production or protection. They include plant extracts, beneficial insects or enzymes that can help protect against pests and disease and complement synthetic crop protection products and are seen as the next step in supporting sustainable agriculture.
Being a farmer ensures Steve’s advice has credibility: as the saying goes, he knows a thing or two because he’s seen a thing or two. This year, the family has “only” 650 acres of crops in the field, prompting Steve to question whether they are still really in farming. He suggests that farmers these days manage 1500 to 2000 acres of crops, and he can do the math to demonstrate why that is the minimum scale to generate even a basic income, without considering the cost of equipment.
The new building features a series of aerial photographs demonstrating the evolution of the farm business over the years. It’s a visual confirmation of the success of this dedicated farm family. Steve has embraced modern innovation and technology and combined it with old-fashioned values like integrity, thoroughness and customer service to build a business that serves a broad, informed and appreciative market. He understands that when Squirrel Creek customers do better, so do they. His goal is to be sure that at the end of every interaction, customers are glad that they came.
Steve admits that this will be the last major capital investment decision he makes for the family business. The next one will be taken by his son Chris, who is next in line to take over the business. When the time comes, Chris will have the luxury of starting to lead on the foundation of a strong family legacy. KG