Atkins Farms Country Market
When the brisk fall air rolls into northern New England, Atkins Farms Country Market rolls up its sleeves and gets to work during one of its busiest times of year. For more than half a century, the apple orchard and country food market nestled in Amherst, Massachusetts, has been delivering fresh produce and locally crafted products, including its world famous Atkins’ cider doughnuts.
The company’s roots trace back more than a century , to when founder Howard Atkins’ grandfather came to South Amherst and planted the first McIntosh apple trees. Decades later in 1962, Howard built the farm’s first retail storefront to market his crop.
“The Atkins family grew apples, peaches and pears,” recounts Pauline Lannon, now president of Atkins Farms. “Howard built the first seasonal store to sell his fruit and over the years we’ve steadily and products, including locally grown produce, honey and maple syrup. We’ve probably added 1,000 or more products since our beginnings. We import some items, but we really focus on using local products — from cheese made from a local farm to canned or prepackaged items.”
Keeping it close to home
Today, the farm and market prides itself in being the one-stop shopping center for all things seasonal, local and fresh in the Amherst area. Atkins has grown from Howard’s original single-story building to a 50,000-square-foot facility complete with a recent 4,900-square-foot retail expansion and a brand-new store opening in North Amherst in September 2015. Atkins also maintains two orchards: one in Amherst and one in Belchertown, Massachusetts.
Atkins has made its name primarily in fresh produce, but today the store is truly a one-stop shop for a range of grocery needs. “We offer a full bakery and deli counter, local maple and honey products, candy, flowers and gift shop items, a wide beer and wine selection and even a sushi counter,” says Lannon.
Unlike larger competition, Atkins takes great pride in making as much as possible in-house. “We make nearly all of our bakery and prepared deli items on-site, incorporating the fresh produce we have readily available,” says Lannon. “We’re famous for our apple cider doughnuts — which we’ve been making since the 1970s — as well as pies, breads, cakes, fruit butters and applesauce.”
A grand opening
With 160 employees, more products and a growing customer base, Atkins has begun to seriously spread its wings. Groundbreaking on Atkin’s newest location in North Amherst began in fall 2014 and the grand opening is set for Sept. 12, 2015.
A former cow barn and dairy at 113 Cowls Road belonging to the original Cowls family has been totally renovated and repurposed by Cinda Jones of WD Cowls Inc. into a 4,200-square-foot retail store over the last year. The building includes chestnut beams that were once used to support the barn roof and the space has a rustic, yet modern feel with lots of soft, natural light.
The new market will offer much of the same selection as the South Amherst store. “The front of the store will display a good variety of produce,” says Matt O’Brien, market manager. The store will also sell specialty Pierce Bros. coffee, bulk trail mix, Atkins' own fudge, specialty foods as well as a wide variety of maple syrup and honey.
Atkins’ new store will also offer prepared foods such as sandwiches and salads using local meats and cheeses. “Pastries, cakes, pies, doughnuts and breads made in the South Amherst store, along with our famous cider doughnuts will also be sold,” adds O’Brien.
“We also will sell sushi, packaged meats, kielbasa, five different kinds of eggs and dairy products from nearby Mapleline Farms in Hadley, Massachusetts, and a selection of specialty sodas,” says Lannon.
The store will be complete with a convenience items such as paper towels, soaps and pet food. “The idea is if someone is stopping in for dinner on their way home, they can come to us and not have to stop somewhere else for a certain item,” says Lannon. “We plan to cross-train our employees in North Amherst to work in all departments at the store.”
An eye on efficiency
For Atkins, business is about drawing connections — to employees, customers, the community and the environment. In recent years at the South Amherst store, the company has made great strides in terms of recycling, composting and utilizing renewable energy — something Lannon assures will carry over to the new North Amherst store.
In 2012, Atkins implemented a 46-kilowatt photovoltaic solar system, installed by Waterline Alternative Energies out of Seabrook, New Hampshire. “This system generates clean, renewable electrical power to help offset some of our energy costs,” says Lannon.
In addition to solar power, Atkins has converted more than 400 store lights from old halogen bulbs to LED bulbs that consume only 13 to 18 watts. “We’ve also switched over to low wattage fluorescent on the main floor, as well as produce, meat and deli coolers and the dock and hallways,” says Lannon. “We also have motion sensor lights in our warehouse that shut down when the area is not in use. The parking lot lights were converted to LED and are on timers.”
Wherever possible, Atkins implements green practices. “The heat generated from our refrigeration system is recycled and used to heat our hot water,” continues Lannon. “We also recently purchased a cardboard baler to reduce waste and we have installed a translucent voltage surge suppression system. At the end of the day, I feel a lot better knowing that we’re doing what we can to be more energy efficient.”
With an eye on efficiency, Atkins is looking to build the same practices and procedures into the new store. The goal is to continue the 53-year tradition Atkins Farms Country Market has established by continuing to provide the finest local produce and products to a loyal following of folks covering a large part of the Amherst area.