I have heard plenty of stories about the problems with factory farming. Factory farms are full of problems and have many disadvantages. I am interested in flipping the perspective to focus on the positive qualities of a family run farm. The first thing I noticed during my interview with Amanda Ort was her bubbly personality and the confident way she presents herself. I later learned how her good charisma is linked to her drive and work ethic. Amanda is the type of person who puts her all into her job. Her drive and commitment comes through in her work on the farm. Amanda values the farm’s success and this causes her to put all her energy into her work.
Here at Kutztown, I am involved with the Food Advisory Board where we talk about the food on campus. Since we talk about food issues occurring on campus every week I wanted to focus on a new food topic, away from Kutztown. I wanted to check out something I hadn’t looked into before. During one meeting I was talking to other board members about my blog when one suggested interviewing Amanda Ort. She knew Amanda from her hometown of Long Valley, New Jersey. I am so glad I considered her advice and interviewed Amanda. She is the perfect example of the type of person you want to be friends with because she is so outgoing and positive. Just by talking with Amanda she really cheered me up. She took away any nervousness I had, since this was my first time interviewing anyone. I hope I will be able to keep in touch with her.
Sitting down in the Bear’s Den I breathe in the strong smell of coffee and sweets; this has to be the farthest smell from the earthy farm aromas. I take a sip of my coffee. I here sat waiting to meet Amanda Ort, the Customer Service Representative of Ort. She walks into the room and waves. From my first impression I knew she was a hard working woman who knew exactly what a true day of work entailed. Right on time, with a big smile on her face, and greeted me with a genuine handshake. She sits down, folds her hands on her lap, and tilts her head slightly to the side.
Ort Farms is known for their large Pumpkin Picking Festivities in the fall. This is the time of the year that most of the community gets involved and learns all about the farm. Amanda explained the importance of everyone’s involvement she explained, “my entire family comes together to help during this time.” She expressed how this was her favorite part of the year. She continued to say “Some of my cousins drive the hayrides on the weekends, while others run the cash registers, or bake pies, donuts, and breads. My little cousins also do what we call pumpkin hauling, in which they sit behind the registers and offer to haul customer’s pumpkins to their cars when that customer cannot find a wagon. There is always a job for a family member, and always a family member looking to help out during what is usually our craziest times.” She giggles to herself. This type of event encourages the important bond between farmer and consumer. Amanda made it clear how talking with the customer is the most important aspect to. Amanda said, “If I can make a difference in one person’s day that makes me feel successful.” She genuinely smiles. Amanda enjoys this interaction because this is what makes her feel like she made a difference in someone’s day.
On the farm Amanda works with both reviewing customer feedback, and interacting with the customers directly. She is in charge of the Ort Farm Facebook page where the farm receives a majority of their feedback. Amanda talked about how “the Facebook page is a perfect way for the customers to voice their opinions. I read all of their comments and make changes on the farm to make them happy. It’s important for us to take the comments seriously.” She motions to her heart and nods her head. I nod back. “I take the comments personally and make sure we take the right steps to make improvements or continue with what customers like.” She counts the steps on her fingers. Amanda respects everyone’s opinion and strives to make the different requests possible. If this means she needs to put in extra work, she will, and does not complain a bit.
Amanda is 23 years old, so she has spent nearly 20 years on the farm. She explained to me some of her childhood memories growing up on the farm. I could tell by the expression on her face that talking about her family’s farm brought up happy memories. She said, “My summers have been spent on the farm ever since elementary school… it was our daily activity and entertainment.” She talks passionately with her hands. I asked, “What is one of your most fond memories of growing up on the farm?” She answered by saying, “always going out and seeing the animals, a lot of them my cousins and I thought of as our pets. We would run around and feed them corn all the time. I used to give tours to people who came to see the animals all the time telling them facts about the animals” she giggles. Ever since that age Amanda was interacting with those who visit the farm. She has always loved this socializing with her customers.
Amanda talked about going to the farm on days where she isn’t scheduled to work. When I asked Amanda about why she enjoys working on the farm she explained “Most people to go to their friends house to hangout and socialize with their friends. I go to the farm. It is my favorite place to be… the fresh air, the loft in the barn, the sound of the tractor engine, I just love it all.” She nods her head and smiles. The farm is Amanda’s happy place. She truly enjoys every aspect of the farm. It is almost like she is the hostess and the farm is her home. She loves sharing this place to customers and is very inviting when they visit.
When I asked Amanda about the founder of the farm she informed me that “Farming has been in my family’s blood for forever. My grandfather’s father was the one who started the business… It has been through about 5 generations” she raises her hands to express the long length of time. When I asked about the work ethic of her grandfather said, “My grandpa Harvey always was a hard worker and was always very focused… farming was what they enjoyed to do.” Amanda later explained how her grandfather is her role model. She look up to his work ethic and applies that to her work at Ort Farms. “The customer is always right,” Amanda added cheerfully. Clearly the passion and importance of quality reflects their value of the customer.
On the Ort Farms website it describes the business’ mission. It says, “Our promise to our customers is to deliver quality products and services in a way that is convenient and affordable. We pride ourselves on being a family owned business with a well-established reputation. We seek to satisfy our customers by exceeding their expectations of quality and service.”1 I asked Amanda “How does the business achieve this?” She answered by saying “We try to help our customers the best that we can. This includes going out and picking fresh vegetables for customers if they ask. Many times if customers ask we will pick unripened vegetables so that it can be sent to family who live out of the state. We also try to communicate with our customers the best that we can, always keeping in touch with them through emails and Facebook.“ This set the Ort farm apart from other farms. Amanda explained, “I think what sets us apart is the fact that we are so family oriented. Our business was started through the family and we make sure that it stays through the family. It is a tradition in my family that your first job is working at the farm, whether it be in the fields with my uncles or in the stand.” Amanda will do what the customer asks as long as it is possible. She always puts the extra effort in.
When a hobby turns into a job you know it will be a success. The Ort Family is passionate about farming and they thoroughly enjoy what they do. The only place I can think of that the customers get such a personal interaction with the farmer that grown their food would be a family run hometown farm, like Ort Farms. Being on the farm is where Amanda likes to be, that is home for her. Amanda’s friendly attitude and positive character shows the unique personable qualities that the employees have. Customer service is the most important aspect of a family run business. This type of relationship between farmer and consumer is important in order for the consumer to receive a high quality product and a pleasant experience.
Interview with Amanda Ort. Interview conducted by Haley Kershaw.
1 “Ort Farms – Long Valley, NJ – Agricultural Service, Farmers Market | Facebook.” Facebook. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. <https://www.facebook.com/OrtFarms?fref=ts>.