When it comes to family owned businesses, Pennsylvania’s farm families are stewards of more than 7.3 million acres of farmland in an industry that generates more than a half-million jobs and contributes nearly $133 billion to the state’s economy. Here, Kelly and Jerry Port, owners of Port Farms in Waterford, Pennsylvania, discuss the 125-year-old, family owned farm, its longevity and how its operations continue to evolve today.
Founded in 1897, Port Farms is multi- generational family owned farm. Tell us how it got its start.
We are the fourth generation to care for this farm. My husband’s great grandparents, Eston and Eva, purchased the property in 1897 where they began raising dairy cows and growing crops. Back then they would store the potatoes in the basement of the farmhouse, that still stands today, and store the milk in holes underground to keep it cool.
Each caretaker of the farm has sold crops for a living, changing from generation to generation. My husband, Jerry, started farming with his father in the late ‘80s and they grew soybeans, wheat, corn and oats. From the late ‘80s until late ‘90s, Jerry operated a soybean roasting business which provided feed for dairy cows and serviced farmers in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland and Michigan.
You and your husband, Jerry, took over operations of the farm in 2002. Tell us about your approach to agri-business and educational opportunities in advancing the farm for a new era.
As the dairy market slowed down, we needed to change direction from roasting soybeans and decided to grow Christmas trees. While at a Learning Seminar at Penn State, we met some other farmers who suggested we grow pumpkins in conjunction with the trees to make customers aware of the trees that were to come in seven to nine years. The educational side came when talking with my son’s second grade class about where food comes from, and I was surprised how little kids knew about the subject.
Taking all that into consideration, we decided to open our farm to the public and start school tours and from there it just grew!
Today, Port Farms is one of the most beloved farms, tourist destinations and event venues in northwest Pennsylvania. Tell us about the programs and services that you offer.
Port Farms has developed into so much more than we ever dreamed it would be. The farm is starting to become a year- round facility meant for making family traditions with activities for both children and adults, as well as hosting weddings, flower festivals and music events. We just want everyone to enjoy the outdoors and create lasting memories with their friends and family.
Running an operation of this size is no small feat. Tell us more about your operations and your workforce.
At this point, we have a full-time team of five people and hire as many as 65 during our busy seasons. We have folks who have worked with us for the last 16 years. In the spring, things start to get interesting — we start planting: Christmas trees, the corn maze, etc., and we begin hosting weddings and building projects outside. During the summer, we are trimming our trees and finishing up the projects for the flower and fall festivals. From August until December, time flies by and we’re enjoying the company of our many guests. Throughout the winter months, we begin planning for the next year and start all over again.
What’s next for Port Farms as you look ahead?
Our daughter, the fifth generation, joined our business this past year. We are working on quite a few new projects such as being open in the evenings, more entertainment on the farm and opening a brewery. With this being our 125th year of Port Farms and 20th year of the Fall Festival, we hope to have the best year yet — so make sure to watch for all the fun upcoming events!
What’s the best way for our members to learn more about Port Farms?
You can subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to know about our events, sales and other exciting happenings on the farm at www.portfarms.com or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.