Bill Wickham began growing his own pumpkins at the age of 8 while growing up on his family’s vegetable farm in Flint, NY. While attending Cornell University in Ithaca and obtaining a degree in agriculture, Bill met his wife Debbie. Since meeting, Bill and Debbie have shared a passion for growing fruits and vegetables for the local community, most notably – pumpkins. This passion has been passed on to their three children, Kevin, Paige and Dale Wickham and their daughter in law, Carolyn. Although not all of the children live locally, it is not uncommon to find the entire Wickham family helping out at the farm on the busy October weekends.
Wickham Farms as you know it today had humble beginnings. We began selling our first pick your own pumpkins to the Penfield public in the fall of 1988 out of a red road side stand on the honor system. As the farm slowly gained popularity, we added a small corn maze and begin to sell pumpkins from a tent instead of the covered wagon. We also began to host the local school children for educational field trips on the farm each fall. Finally, in 2004 we built the red barn to give the farm a heated store area to sell product from. From there we have vastly expanded our farm and fun attractions. Today, you can see most of the farm’s expansion across the street on Sweets Corners Road where our pick your apple orchard is and all of the Wickham Farms CSA produce is grown. Through all of this expansion, the Wickham family has stuck to its roots and focused on keeping the farm as a local, family owned business.
When it comes to meals on the farm our goal is to provide fresh great quality food for our guests. Meals are prepared and served out of our Food Barn which houses our Fresh Grill, Pizza Porch, and Shakes & Cakes giving us flexibility to scale up and down based on our attendance. We will cover what food we serve, menu development, our system for preparation, flow for food & customers, and how we manage inventory and ordering. We will also cover the evolution of food & beverage on the farm, and why we do what we do.
Expanding Our Season
We have expanded our season from just a roadside pumpkin patch to where our business is today. In this session we will walk through why we have extended the season with lavender, sunflowers, and apples and the upside and downside of these changes.
One of our marketing goals is to fill our guests stay with plenty of "Instagramable" moments. We do this through our fresh food, and with our photo props. We will walk you through how we do what we do with our visual team and how we change things up throughout the seasons so our guests always have a fresh experience.
Homemade High Volume Food & Beverage
We focus on 4 high margin food items that we make homemade on the farm for our guests to enjoy; 1. donuts 2. Kettle Corn, 2. Fudge 3. The Shake Up. We will cover the 4 items in detail, why we focus on these items, how we scale production, flow for our customers, and how we manage inventory and ordering. We will also cover the evolution of how we started with these items and how we have gotten to where we are today.
Employee Engagement & Harnessing Talent
We will share information about bringing on an incredible staff, building on their strengths and areas of expertise and how we keep them engaged and returning year after year!
Nuts & Bolts of Rebuilding
In 2019 we closed & sold the location where our farm began. After 30+ years we had outgrown that site. During this session we will take you through the journey of our relocation and build out at a much larger venue. From navigating various government approvals and oversights, planning the layout and attractions, budgeting, timelines, and execution right down to the scramble in the home stretch. Between September of 2018 and August of 2019 we took a property with that didn't even have electric service to a facility with three newly constructed buildings (totaling nearly 14,000 square feet). We developed a site with multiple agritainment attractions, parking, and significant infrastructure to allow for future development. You will learn what we did right as well as the mistakes we made.
All Things CSA
Agriculture remains an important part of our family's roots. Eleven years ago we transformed a 120 acres of vineyard, (our current location) and started a 100 member CSA in 89 days. Today growing food for more than 400 families each week connects us to our community, but it has been challenging to get to get to "critical mass". We will walk you thru how we plan, market, and deliver fresh fruit and vegetables to our members and what makes them come back each year.
Each year we onboard over 150 seasonal staff. In this session we will walk you through how we recruit & hire, our onboarding process, including orientation, training, scheduling and our soft opening.
Dale & Bill Wickham will provide insight on how various enterprises contribute to the farm's overall financial picture. Info on per caps, pricing, target margins as well as sales growth and goals will be covered. This session will also dive into how the team prioritizes capital investments from a financial and experiential perspective.