Having met at Cornell University, Jack and Dorothy (Klimajeski) Porter founded Porter Farms in 1956, when the focus was on raising livestock. Jack and Dorothy’s six children, Mike, Bess, Steve, twins Julie and Bea, and Emily soon joined the family and found themselves involved in the day-to-day operations. As the family grew, so did the farm, bringing it up to its present size of more than 500 acres, 100 of which are vegetable crops. Slowly, with the help of Jack’s sons Mike and Steve, the operation transitioned to growing organic produce; the farm’s first organic field was certified in 1990.
The shift to organic farming methods was largely a matter of philosophy - a commitment to grow and distribute wholesome, fresh and safe food in a socially and environmentally responsible fashion. Today, the whole family’s dedication to those ideals are seen in every bag of produce that leaves the farm. Mike continues to operate the farm while Emily and Katie (Steve's daughter) manage the promotion, marketing, and coordination of the farm's CSA program. All of Jack and Dorothy's grandchildren (Katie, Sarah, Zoe, Stephen, and Natalie) and great-grandchildren (Cora and Suzanna) are frequently found working and playing on the family farm.
Porter Farms’ commitment to sustainable agriculture is extensive. In addition to meeting the "certified organic" standards on all of its farmland by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Jack was instrumental in determining the criteria for certification of an organic field. Steve was a board member of the Organic Farming Research Foundation and served as project coordinator in Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education initiatives as well. The certification process, regulated by the Federal Department of Agriculture and conducted by independent groups (such as NOFA-NY), assures the land is free of synthetic pesticides and herbicides and is cultivated with "chemical-free" methods. It also means using natural ways of adding organic matter to the soil and encouraging beneficial micro-organisms as well as tried-and-true measures such as crop rotation, cover crops and minimum tillage.
Today, Porter Farms is a highly-diversified farm. In addition to the organic vegetables we market through our own CSA, we also sell wholesale onions and cabbage to Whole Foods for stores in Boston, New York City and Connecticut; Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative for stores in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore; Boston Organics; and Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, NY, who makes fermented cabbage products.
Our CSA began with 100 member families in 1996, and now includes over 600 member families from all across the Western New York region. In 2020, we will proudly celebrate 25 years of providing fresh, organic produce to our valued members. Though we have wholesale accounts, our CSA is, and will always remain, our top priority.
Though Dorothy, Jack and Steve are no longer with us, their steadfast devotion to the basic tenets of organic farming continues to inspire us.