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Shop Talk

November 20, 2011

Shop Talk: The Farmer's Wife

The Farmer's Wife Fine Baking and Catering County Highway 18, Bloomville Owner: Barb Hanselmann Established: 1997 Employees: None (self/family)

Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Barb Hanselmann, "The Farmer's Wife," of Bloomville.

How long have you lived in the area?

My whole life. I grew up on a farm on one side of Delaware County, married my farmer and moved to the other side of Delaware County.

Tell me about your business:

I love to bake and cook, so my business is baking and cooking delicious foods for others to enjoy. I love to see people enjoy great food and each others company. My mom had a great knack for it (she still does), and I inherited that from her! My most popular items are fruit pies, cinnamon rolls, apple pie bars and fresh dinner rolls. These are things that people place orders for or purchase at festivals and farm markets that I sell at.

I do catering for community events, family gatherings, weddings and graduation parties also with a great selection of homemade foods including main course hot dishes, vegetables, salads, bread and desserts that everyone loves.

Describe a typical day in your business:

It depends on the day, and the time of year. We have a dairy farm, so that is always first and foremost. We also grow vegetables, so that adds some interest to what happens at our place. On the "The Farmer's Wife" end of things, some days are a crazy whirlwind of flour and fruit and rows upon rows of pies. Other days might be just a small order for someone. More and more customers are emailing their orders to me and that makes it really easy for me to plan ahead.

How did you get started in this line of work?

As I said, we have a dairy farm, and as is the common thread in that business, there are times of drastic lows in milk prices. 1997 was one of those times. I didn't have money for living expenses, and I needed to find a way to bring an added income while I could still do my job as a partner in our farm, and a mother to our seven children. I have always loved baking, and so I figured I would see if there was a demand. I went to Hobart, bought a box of apples, came home and baked six pies. I made a cardboard sign saying "Hot Apple Pie" just about the time my older kids were getting off the bus, they stood out in front of our farm with the sign. An hour-and-a-half later the pies were gone, and that is how it began. My business has evolved from that humble start so many years ago.

Where do you see this business in five years?

I am not sure, except that it will rest on the same principles it always has -- preparing homemade food with only the finest ingredients, and a little bit of love.

What have you learned from your work?

That it is hugely rewarding to see people relive a memory when they eat food that I have prepared.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

I have a customer that shared that the first time he ate my strawberry-rhubarb pie it took him back 40 years when his Grandma baked one "just like that," and it made her memory come alive for him. He still is a regular customer, and her memory lives on.

Those moments when customers share those types of things make me melt, and I hold those very dear. It also makes me certain that it was worth it to only get an hour or two of sleep the night before!

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

Juggling everything. But I pride myself on being a multi-tasker, and I live with a family of people who are really good at helping me pull off the too many events and projects that I love to obligate myself to. It is crazy, but it is all good!

The most enjoyable?

Seeing people enjoy the foods and baked goods that I prepare, which sometimes helps them relive a wonderful memory.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

We live in the most beautiful place in the world, so no matter what, on my worst days, I can always appreciate where I live! In the area of food, there are regulations to live by. We are not hugely populous, and that creates challenges, but we do live in an area where people care more and more about where their food comes from. I like that, not just because I bake and cook, but because I also produce milk and vegetables at my farm. Eat and buy local when you can!

How do you define success for your business?

I continue to meet more people who heard about my "wonderful foods." My business continues to be profitable. I still am a farmer, as well as a baker. I feel blessed.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I am a scratch cook, and I stick by the rules I set for myself when I started -- fresh ingredients, great tried-and-true recipes, and if I am not proud of it, it stays in my house and we eat it! And of course, there is always the love tucked in there.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

Only try a business if you are passionate about it. I am passionate about food, and so I am willing to give of myself when I prepare and bake for other people. Our family is passionate about being farmers, so we give of ourselves in that operation. If you aren't passionate, you aren't going to distinguish yourself, you will just be another one out there. And be realistic in your business plan. Enjoy life!

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or email news@thedailystar.com.

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