LATHAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Forts Ferry Farm has closed its farm stand at 185 Forts Ferry Road in Latham. Owners John Barker and Emma Hearst made the announcement in a Facebook post on January 24.

The farm will also be closed to the public for the foreseeable future, said the owners, except for pick-ups and occasional events. However, they do have a new location for the farm stand in the works, said the Facebook post, with more information to come in the next few months.

As for the reason of the closure, the owners said the Town of Colonie has to do with it. “We have found that operating a small business, let alone a small farm, in the Town of Colonie is nearly impossible to navigate, being confronted with bureaucratic red tape at every stage of our growth,” said Barker and Hearst.

The owners said they have racked up unreasonably high legal and professional service costs due to these challenges. “Our goal has always been to act as a catalyst of change in this community and not let the history and integrity of this property be erased by yet another commercial development,” said the owners.

Veronika DeGiovine, Senior Associate Attorney for the Town of Colonie, said the town follows New York State building code and every business needs to comply with it.

The town welcomes every type of business, said DeGiovine. “We treat small businesses in the same way we treat large businesses or any sized business for that matter,” she said.

The farm stand itself was not compliant with state code, said DeGiovine, and the representatives of Forts Ferry Farm were first told about that in 2018. It’s a concern of public safety, she said.

“We want to encourage what they’re doing, however, it has to be compliant with the state building code,” said DeGiovine.

Co-owner of the farm, James Barker, tells NEWS10, “After operating our farmstand for seven years, the Town of Colonie has decided that it is no longer what they consider to be a farmstand, so we have removed it from our operation.  We have taken full accountability for this decision and acted swiftly.  

Our decision to halt all further progress on developing our public programming stems from years of frustration with town bureaucracy.  The Town of Colonie has a thorny reputation with small businesses.  They have attempted to regulate every facet of our public-facing operation, charging exorbitant fees, and requiring approval for things like free public farm tours, agricultural education, wellness classes, free family events, and so much more. In a town where the word “Farm” refers to a large shopping mall (Latham Farms), it seems that local officials have lost sight of, and devalued the area’s rich agricultural history.

Despite our best intentions to be a catalyst for change in this town and develop this property into a hub for the community, the reality is, it’s just too challenging to justify the expenses we face.  However, we remain hopeful that we can encourage reform in the local government that encourages small farms and businesses to flourish in the future.”

Forts Ferry Farm opened in 2015. During the warmer months, the farm offered fresh produce, homemade foods, and events. Even though the farm has closed to the public, you can still find their products:

• On the Forts Ferry Farm website, which is stocked with housemade granola, hot sauces, merchandise, and more. Nationwide shipping and pick-up are available.

• On the For Fun Foods website, which is an online “pop-up” shop by Fort Ferry Farms. Products include pizza, soup, and take-and-bake meals. Only available for pick-up.

• At the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fresh produce is available.

• At South End Grocery in Albany. Fresh produce is available.

“Small businesses simply don’t exist without the support of the community, policymakers, and governments,” said Barker and Hearst. “We’ve witnessed tremendous encouragement for this little business over the years and are eternally grateful for your continued support.”