Written by: Ellie Wilson, MS, RDN
Farmers – Lloyd Zimmerman and Family
Lloyd Zimmerman did not grow up farming – he was a NYC kid, child of two college professors, but he became interested in agriculture because his family had a summer home in the country. At 21, he graduated with a degree in agricultural economics, and purchased an old farm in Coeyman’s Hollow with the help of his parents. He farmed part-time, while working for New York State, eventually working in the Governor’s office on agriculture and civil defense. In 1964, the farm started making money and he “retired” from state service. He and his wife raised lamb, initially, and one of his first customers was Central Markets. After Vietnam, market pressures moved him into vegetables, and he hasn’t looked back.
His favorite part of farming is watching crops grow, and working with the broad group of people in the produce business. While he did not grow up farming, his children did, and two daughters, Chellie Apa and Lisa Buhrmaster, now run major aspects of the operation. They employ on average about 55 people – this is a diverse and dynamic business. At this time of year, his day starts at 4:30 AM, but has started as early as 2:30, which some of their team starts still because they are packing trucks. That work is essential to bringing in those fresh items – time between field and fork is important.
Lloyd chooses his seeds based on science and savvy – sweet corn and tomatoes should have a good, sweet taste, so they start there, and then look at some of the scientific specifications of a product, like the measurement of sweetness, called degrees Brix. They work with the seed salesman to locate varieties of new items that have a good reputation and production.
There are very strict standards and procedures in place around harvest and packing – cleanliness is king, and Black Horse Farm is GAP certified. GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices, and it is a system of practices and record keeping that helps farmers ensure food safety is being managed. Price Chopper only works with farms that are GAP certified, as part of our commitment to ensuring our customers can be confident that they really are getting the best quality fruits and vegetables from us. Attention to refrigeration, hand washing and other aspects of safe food production are part and parcel of their work. They also sort their produce with those less fortunate in mind, and work with local food pantries to supply good food that is not premium grade.
There are some game changers on the horizon – Lloyd sees two that he thinks will impact farming in enormous ways. The first is the use of drones – he has been wishing for these for over 20 years, and is excited that they are coming to farming. The other is the advanced education farmers are starting to benefit from, as children return to their family farms with degrees in agronomy, veterinary science and business.
I really enjoyed speaking with Lloyd – his gravelly voice ebbed and flowed as we spoke, full of passion and humor and knowledge. With helping people eat more fruits and vegetables so central to my role, I asked what he thought would help people do a better job, and he thought helping people understand what local produce is and who the farmers are is a great start. We completely bonded over favorites – tomatoes, on a delicious BLT sandwich with a malted milk (I make mine with the Price Chopper pre-cooked bacon – slices are nice and thin, great for sandwiches). So, please take my advice – take advantage of the season and enjoy the bounty Price Chopper brings you from farmers like Lloyd Zimmerman – sweet summer!