For 80 years, this traditional farm store consistently provided fruits and vegetables to its community. As the pandemic pushed people to shop smaller, more open formats, Ferjulian’s became even more essential.
Originally printed in the December 2021 issue of Produce Business.
The Ferjulian Farm legacy began in 1941 when Manouel Ferjulian (senior), an Armenian immigrant living in Cambridge, purchased a 65-acre orchard atop Gospel Hill in Hudson, MA.
“My grandfather, Manouel (junior), was always passionate about produce,” says Natalie Ferjulian Forsythe, fourth generation farmer. “My dad, Eric, recalls delivering apples to other farms and afterward my grandfather would go into the farm store and buy a big box of produce to bring home.”
In 1972, Manouel Ferjulian (junior) built his own farm stand and began going to the produce market to fill the gaps with what they couldn’t grow. “The Stand, as we still call it, quickly became a stopping point for many people since we’re located on heavily trafficked Main Street in Hudson and within two miles of three neighboring towns,” says Ferjulian Forsythe.
Pumping Out Produce
The physical building of the farm stand measures 30 feet by 30 feet, but the pandemic induced an unforeseen additional space opportunity.
“For many years, we pumped a lot of produce out of our small space,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “The silver lining of the 2020 pandemic is that it forced us to put up a 20-by-40 tent to allow for social distancing. With traffic flowing in one direction and more display space, we quickly realized that my dad needed to completely fill his truck each morning at the produce market. During our busy season, he had to go four or sometimes five times per week to keep up with the produce demand.”
The store’s emphasis is produce — large displays, top quality, flavor, freshness and price. “We don’t get bogged down selling other tchotchkes,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “So aside from some locally made candles, honey, olive oil and jam, everything we sell in our farm stand and under the tent is produce. That really allows us to focus on the quality of produce on our shelves.”
Quality and taste are the main criteria for product. “My dad actually tastes what he buys at the produce market,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “If he can’t get his hands on strawberries with flavor, we don’t have strawberries. Our hope is that our mentality leads our customers to trust that what they buy at Ferjulian’s Farm is top notch.”
The store sells around 80 items. “We have tried everything it seems, but we stick to what moves,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “Rutabaga is not a big item, so we’d rather use the space for something with a high turnover.”
Big, Beautiful Merchandising
The store highlights the natural attraction of produce through eye-catching displays. “We love a large display,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “This summer, I overheard customers at the corn table say, ‘I’m afraid if I pull the wrong ear out the whole pile will bury me’.”
The family and employees take great care in presenting items on display. “Nothing makes my heart sing more than when the entire tomato table is brimming with polished fruit,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “Yes, we hand wash and dry our tomatoes.”
The store layout stays fairly similar throughout the year so customers easily know where everything is located. “We do have an area where we put the current hot item and it’s typically the biggest display,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “For example, in fall we use apple bins stacked high with squash to create an appealing display.”
Produce in the store is displayed in a farm-market fashion, using wooden crates or baskets to keep the farm feel. The store also highlights the product grown by its own farm through signage noting: Grown Here.
Seeking The Best
The store’s sourcing mix is 50% homegrown and 50% purchased from wholesalers. “We grow what we can, and source when we can’t,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “For example, we grow a lot of our own peaches and sell them during July, August and September. When they finish by early fall, we start buying peaches again.”
Ferjulian Forsythe explains the store doesn’t have an issue with buying an item it can’t grow well or in sufficient quantity.
“Carrots are a great example,” she says. “Everyone wants our own carrots. Well, we grew our own carrots and then did a blind taste test with our carrots and carrots from California my dad had purchased from the market. Everyone picked the California carrot as the better carrot. Summers in Massachusetts are too hot to grow top quality carrots, so, we have no problem buying them. And we move a lot of carrots.”
Lettuce — specifically, a mesclun mix — is another important market-sourced item. “We sell a lot of it and could never keep up with the demand of growing/harvesting mesclun,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “We buy beautiful mesclun that’s on its way to someone’s home within an hour or two of my dad picking it up in Boston. It’s fresh.”
Product quality and freshness are built on the back of the relationships Ferjulian’s developed with its wholesalers. “We’ve been buying for years, and they know what kind of product we want,” says Ferjulian Forsythe. “We trust them.”
7 Lewis Street, Hudson, MA 01749
Hours: Daily (April 20 – Nov. 21); Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday: Noon to 6 p.m.