Ian Ater, the owner of Fledging Crow Vegetables in Keeseville, walked through a high tunnel at his farm on Tuesday. He stopped, plucked a bunch of fresh arugula from the ground, stuffed the leaves in his mouth, and smiled. "I love arugula," he said.
Ater is a self-proclaimed "glass half full kind of guy," and he's savoring some newfound moments of peace these days. This time of spring is typically a busy one for Ater — his high tunnels would be bursting with greens, and his production team would be working nonstop as the growing season ramps up. But after 15 years of growing vegetables for local communities and being a North Country farmers market mainstay, Fledging Crow Vegetables has declared bankruptcy, stopped large-scale production, and will no longer sell produce to the public. After starting the bankruptcy process this past October, he said the process was finalized over the last week.
Over the years, the farm grew dozens of varieties of vegetables on its 42 acres and maintained a presence at farmers' markets in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as in the Adirondacks. The farm offered wholesale products and dozens of CSA shares each year, and the farm's growing practices were certified organic by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York.
Even though farmers' market traffic in Keene and Saranac Lake, where Fledging Crow was a regular vendor, was booming with the influx of new homeowners and tourists, Ater's losses in the city meant his overall business started to suffer. While most local farmers markets only run from around June to October, markets in the city operate throughout the winter, providing essential income to the farm — Ater said selling at city markets was what allowed him, and many other local farms, to sell produce locally. By January 2022, Fledging Crow's profit from city markets dropped by "well over" 35 to 40%, according to Ater. Meanwhile, the cost of production at the farm had nearly doubled as inflation set in, a byproduct of the pandemic and the Russian attack on Ukraine. As prices for everything from fuel to compost skyrocketed, Ater tried to subsidize the farm's operations with loans in hopes that the downward trend in city market sales would turn around.
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