Alstede Farms

Kurt Alstede

Kurt Alstede began farming in 1982 following his graduation from Delaware Valley College in Doylestown , Pa. Today, he farms 500-acres of fruits, vegetables, and flowers for his retail farmstand in suburban Morris County , as well as grows hay and grain. Over the years he has continued to diversify his operation and offers pick-your-own and other agri-tourism options such as farm animals, hayrides, and pumpkin picking.

 When it comes to managing the legal risks of the agricultural industry, he feels strongly that, “my job as general manager is to know the rules. It allows me to make solid management decisions and to prevent unnecessary fines and delays and anything else associated with a rules infraction.”

 He got into production agriculture with no family farm to his name so he has built his entire business from scratch. As his business expanded he described how he became more aware of municipal rules such as zoning requirements and the need for building permits, for example.

 He says, “It is overwhelming the amount of rules that a farmer must deal with. The spectrum is huge from zoning and transportation to impervious cover and labor.” Fortunately, he says, “many agencies will work to educate people and if an infraction occurs they will tell you how to correct it so it doesn’t occur again.”

 Because his business is built upon retail activities and contact with the public, he is conscientious of safety and approaches it with the utmost responsibility. He estimates that some 100,000 visitors come to his farm each year to enjoy the fresh produce, the animals, and the family atmosphere. He carries $6 million in liability insurance to ensure that safety and has every activity covered in the policy from hayrides to feeding the fenced in animals.

 “Time and responsible business conduct are tremendous assets.” He can recall a time when there was a magnifying glass being held over every product sold at his retail market and he was embroiled in right-to-farm issues. Today, after more than 20 years in business he has a solid track record, which he suggests “gives you a platform of credibility.”  

 “Overall, there’s a difference between being well informed regarding rules and regulations that impact your business and being cavalier and doing as you please, hoping no one will notice,” he commented.

 He also believes that government officials may tend to be conservative in their decision-making so it’s important to know the people involved. He said, “As a specialist in agriculture, if it’s difficult for me to know all of the rules – it’s even harder for government officials to understand and interpret the rules. Agriculture falls into some gray areas when it comes to legal issues.”

 What’s more, “Our livelihoods depend on some of these decisions,” he said. “It’s simply imperative that you know the rules, interpret them, and make business decisions accordingly. If you are sensitive to the intent of the rules and your business actions and performance match, then you shouldn’t have too many difficulties,” said Alstede.