Farm's future in focus

Submitted photoDavid Coulter announced he will be selling Coulter Farms after this season of U-Pick. Depicted above is some happy people who spent the day picking strawberries.

People come to Coulter Farms to pick their own basket's worth of strawberries while taking in the sights, sounds and smells of rural Niagara County. Stationed right in Cambria, the farm has been owned by the Coulter family for four generations, since 1889. 

However, the current owner, David Coulter, announced he is actively looking for a buyer of the land, and this summer will be the last for his family's ownership of the farm.

“My great grandfather, named Willis Coulter, bought the farm in 1889. My grandfather was born and died in the same house, and my dad was born there and he died 100 feet away in the house next door,” he said.

The farm was passed to Alvin and Jenny Hall Coulter, David’s grandparents, and they had two boys, Jim and Roger. The brothers were involved with the farm, but they lived very different lives. The farm was “semi-dormant” for 10 years.

"At that time we were doing some no-till farming and experimenting with some stuff," Coulter said. 

All that changed when Jim Coulter retired and came back to the farm, opening up the current operation the farm has become known for.

"We were fairly early, there were some other U-picks around that my dad talked to," David Coulter said. "It started as a family thing and kept getting bigger. At one point we had 10 acres of strawberries at the max, we probably have about half that now."

"I worked at Eastman Kodak in Rochester for 35 years and in 2009 both my parents were having some trouble and it was a good time for me to take an early retirement and come back," he continued. "Before I could do that, my dad passed away on Easter Day."

David continued farming with his second cousin, Jeff Hall, till 2017, but at that point decided to shrink the amount of acres they worked on as Hall had become "burnt out."

"We did less wholesale, less U-pick, but we still tried to keep the U-pick because people enjoyed coming down," Coulter said. "We just found we didn't have the personnel to keep going. I think it's a story that many farms reach. That point where we need a new generation, but we don't have it."

Coulter said he's fielded a few interested parties for the land. A family from California, some inquiries from people in New York, a man who wanted to start a place where veterans could learn to farm.

"I've had a lot of people come to me with projects, but nobody really to take over the farm," he said. "Part of me would like to see it farmed. If I break it into pieces, no one piece would be big enough to make it a viable farm. ... We have all these pieces that somebody could use for various things, or we could try to find somebody who would want to continue to farm or co-op."

Coulter isn't planning to sell all the land. He said, he may keep 70 acres of wooded ash where he'd make some hiking trails. This wooded area is part of the easement of land Coulter gave to Western New York Land Conservancy, which means no one can develop on that property except for agricultural, forestry or recreational purposes.

"In the meantime, the COVID came by, but we have strawberries, we have cherries. People need to eat. We'll give it one more try," Coulter said. "See if we can keep it going till we find the right person to take it over."

Recommended for you