McCray's Farm is located just a few miles north of the city of Springfield, Massachusetts in the fairly suburban town of South Hadley. With ingenuity and a talent for recognizing business opportunities, the McCray's have transformed their operation from a modest dairy farm to one of the town's largest attractions. Steve and Linda McCray, who run the farm with the help of their four children, learned early that they needed to diversify in order to stay a small, family farm.
In 1955, Steve's father Donald purchased the 230 acre McCray Farm, along with 40 Holsteins. Business boomed, and over the course of the next 25 years, he tripled the size of his herd. When Steve finished college in 1980, he came back to the farm with the intentions of taking over for his father one day. "In the early 1980s, dairy farming was a great business, but as the decade progressed, it became increasingly harder to make ends meet with the falling milk prices," says Steve. "That's when my father and I decided we needed to expand in order to survive."
In 1987, the family opened an ice cream stand. It became such a popular stop that the McCrays decided to enlarge the store just two years later, adding a bakery and a grill. "We always prided ourselves on creating a good product at a fair price. We love operating a stand where the whole family can come and enjoy a night out that doesn't break the bank."
The early 90s saw the McCray's continue to grow. They added a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, which quickly became one of the most successful parts of the business. The family also opened a miniature golf course, bonfire pit area, and equestrian center, but according to Steve, "what truly saved our farm was the Haunted Hayrides we began offering in the fall." As a testament to the Haunted Hayrides popularity, the McCrays not only receive visitors from Springfield, but as far away as Boston, and even other states. Steve estimates McCray's farm now sees approximately 50,000 visitors per year.
One of the other big attractions at McCray's Farm is the petting farm, which was built in 1972 in memory of Steve's brother Allen, who was killed on the farm in a tragic accident. It features a thorough assortment of farm animals, including sheep, goats, calves, peacocks, hens, chickens, rabbits, pigs, ducks, and a pony.
While the farm continues to grow, it is still without a doubt a family operation. While Steve takes care of the majority of the farm work, Linda helps with the books and cake decorating. Their son Doug helps manage the Haunted Hayrides, their son Tim offers horse lessons at the equestrian center, and their daughter Christy works part-time as a manager of the stand.
The farm will see another new business emerge later this summer under the direction of their son Mike, who will begin bottling milk and ice cream mix. In addition to being part of the Agri-Mark family, the McCrays are also members of "Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture," an organization that champions small family farms by connecting farmers with their neighbors and communities to sustain local agriculture.
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