by Courtney Llewellyn
Like many locations in Upstate New York, Casler Flower Farm is near a lot of places but not necessarily tied to one. It is just outside the hamlet of Cedarville, kind of close to Cassville, and its mailing address is linked to West Winfield. That ambiguity works for them, though, as it draws in people from a vast surrounding area.
“It’s an easy location for a lot of people, straight off Route 8, one turn off Route 51,” said Tracey Casler, the driving force behind the three-season business established in 2003.
Casler said she realized early on that her passion was plants. She and her sister completed 4-H projects, growing pumpkins and mums. “When we moved out, our parents kind of took the reins, and their one greenhouse turned into four,” she said.
Casler earned a BS in horticulture from SUNY Cobleskill before settling near West Winfield. Her husband is a farmer; she is the grower.
“We started by selling cut flowers out of a small farm stand my dad built,” she explained. The business sold at farmers markets and for special events and weddings, “to get our name out there,” she said. Then the goal was to get the customers to come to them. “By 2005 we were running a gift shop out of half of our garage. We built our first greenhouse here in 2009, and a brand new gift shop and second greenhouse in 2014.”
When her parents retired about five years ago, they relocated to southern Herkimer County in New York, near Casler. They now help with the business all the time. She and her parents, Dick and Kathy Smith, are all originally from North Haven, CT. Casler Flower Farm is the epitome of a family-run business; along with her parents, Casler’s husband Phil, son Jack, and daughter Alyson, are all involved as well.
The customers definitely come to them now. “Our biggest problem is not enough greenhouse space,” Casler lamented. “My dad is constantly joking about space. It’s a joke, but it’s not funny. I have to have it all. If I have something pink, then I also need it in purple.”
The three seasons Casler Flower Farm works are not spring, summer and autumn, but rather flowers, harvest and holiday. “In spring, I grow everything myself (except perennials and pansies),” Casler said. “It was amazing this year. We had everything sold out by June 10. In the fall, I need a little break, so I bring in some product due to time constraints and space issues. I try to make everything as local as possible.”
Autumn is also when the primitives shop that is part of the business becomes a larger sales focus. According to Casler, “Spring is 95% plants; in fall, it’s more about decorations for the home; Christmas is all about gifts. In total, I’d say 75% of our sales are agricultural products.”
Right now, they’re working on selling the rest of their pumpkins and mums, but everything will switch over at the end of October for the holiday season. The shop is already brimming with local goods and decorations ready to be distributed as gifts.
“We give customers tons of options for wreaths – they’re about 80% custom,” she said. People come in and create exactly what they want, no matter the color, style or level of complication. “I try to pay attention to the market for trends,” Casler added. “This year, we’ll be seeing a lot of gray plaids and buffalo plaids for Christmas. Everything is gray this year.” She scrolled through saved images on her phone. “A big hurdle is buying things that aren’t your taste,” she added, laughing.
To bring customers in for the post-Halloween season, Casler Flower Farm hosts an annual Christmas Open House, featuring New York State-grown trees along with hot cider, cookies, brownies and poinsettias. “It’s a warm, fuzzy, happy, friendly event – a warm welcome to the season,” she said.
Ultimately, the focus at the farm is on quality at a decent price, according to Casler. They rely on word of mouth and Facebook to draw people in. (Facebook is “great free advertising,” Casler noted. “We see new faces from that all the time.”) She also has a mailing list and makes sure to send out postcards a few times a year to her loyal base.
“We try to be a unique, niche market. We get people from all over by being a little different,” she said. “We really do focus on customer service and education. I meet up with fellow growers regularly to hash out different varieties to try.”
And while their siting on a map may not truly describe their location, their business objective is crystal clear: “Our goal is to keep moving forward while maintaining quality and customer satisfaction,” Casler said.