A specialty food company in Brattleboro is being recognized by the Small Business Administration.
Sidehill Farm, owned by Kelt and Kristina Naylor, is named the SBA’s 2014 Vermont Family-Owned Business of the Year. Sidehill Farm produces and sells a variety of jam, fruit butter and drizzle, which is a combination of maple syrup and fruit. The annual award honors a family-owned and operated business which has been passed from one generation to the next and is successful in sales, profits and increasing jobs.
Kelt’s parents, Ben and Dot Naylor, started the company in 1976 on their farm in Calais, Vt. and ran Sidehill Farm from their home for the next 24 years. The company was passed to Kelt and his wife Kristina in in 2000 when the two left their home in Boston to take over the family business. To be more centrally located in New England and expand the company, Sidehill Farm’s operations moved from Calais to the Cotton Mill in Brattleboro.
According to Kristina, better tasting products have built a loyal long-term customer base that understand and taste the difference.
“We slowly moved from selling at farm stands and local markets in Vermont to specialty food retailers throughout the Northeast,” said Kristina.
What makes their products stand out is they do not contain any artificial ingredients or pectin, a thickening substance used often in jam.
“The jam is essentially made the same way my parents made it. We boil down the fruit, add sugar and then hand stir it,” said Kelt.
Sidehill Farm purchases the majority of its fruit from local farms and vendors. In 2013, the Naylors rolled out several new products, so they needed to purchase an additional 20,000 lbs. of local fruit.
“Not only has Sidehill Farm strengthened their business, they have increased revenues and markets for local farmers and strengthened the Vermont brand. Kelt and Kristina are the epitome of the Vermont entrepreneur. They are smart, creative and very hardworking.” said Debra Boudrieau, Vermont Small Business Development Center area business advisor in Brattleboro. Boudrieau nominated Sidehill Farm for Vermont Family-Owned Business of the Year.
The first nine years the younger Naylors were running the business, they experienced steady growth, but since 2012 the company has expanded to the point where they have been able to hire more employees and increase salaries.
“Our timing was good. We took over right as the local food movement in Vermont started to take off. As the local food movement grew in Vermont, so did we. We grew almost every year. In fact, the only year we did not grow was the year we were hit by Irene,” said Kelt, referring to Tropical Storm Irene, which caused statewide devastation in 2011.
Sidehill Farm has grown so much, the Naylors recently moved from a 4,000 sq. ft. facility to a 10,000 sq. ft. facility up the road in northern Brattleboro.
“We had completely outgrown our space,” said Kelt. “We couldn’t have produced more even if we wanted to, so we made the decisions that if we want to grow, we have to move to a larger facility.”
With a loyal customer base, new facility and Vermont-made products, the Naylors plan to maintain their momentum and grow their family-owned business for another 40 years.