By MAUREEN PICHÉ
CRARY MILLS – What was once a defunct dairy farm on the Post Road has been given new purpose by a horse-loving family and is now one of the premier equestrian facilities north of Syracuse.
Honey Dew Acres, LLC founders Peggy McAdam Cambridge, Mark Cambridge and daughters have, in six years, grown their enterprise from a small three-acre farm in Canton to a sprawling 200-acre, multi-building compound that offers boarding, riding lessons, an indoor arena and a tack shop.
Peggy was singled out for these accomplishments by Clarkson University at its first Entrepreneur Recognition Dinner last year, where she was named Entrepreneur of the Year.
“Looking back at the 638 entrepreneurs we’ve worked with over the years, one always rises to the top,” said Marc Compeau, director of Clarkson’s Reh Center for Entrepreneurship, whose agency has assisted McAdam in creating and revising the business plan. “She’s got a wonderful work ethic.”
“We’re persistent in pursuing our goals,” is how McAdam puts it. “We’ve made enough improvements in the farm over the past five years to double the resale.”
One big goal crossed off the list: What she refers to as the “Dream Arena.”
She applied for and received a $20,000 loan from the St. Lawrence Local Development Corporation Microenterprise Revolving Loan Fund to build a 72 by 172 ft. indoor horse riding arena and boarding stables to provide a second, much larger year-round riding facility. It was completed last year.
The stables are badly needed. The farm is at capacity right now with 60 horses and ponies, 20 boarded.
McAdam didn’t stop there. She applied for and received a $19,845 grant from the county LDC and built the Red Shed Tack Shop to provide her customers with all the equipment they need.
All around the farm, things have been dramatically altered. Barns have been remodeled, electrical and water lines have been installed and the paddocks have been fenced. Improvements were made to stalls and the tacking area to increase safety and make riders and animals feel more comfortable.
“The LDC loan and grant were the result of us knowing how to put our business down in a format that made sense to lenders,” she said, with gratitude to the entrepreneurship program.
Honey Dew Acres is definitely a family affair. Mark may work a full-time job during the day, but he is the go-to guy for all things maintenance when on the farm. Daughter Emily Cambridge Carrier is Honey Dew’s head instructor, affiliated with the American Riding Instructors Association. And daughter Tania Cambridge serves as barn and tack shop manager.
The only other staff member is the barn boy, and there are several volunteer helpers--young riders who love to hang around the stables. McAdam fondly refers to them as “barn rats.”
The whole enterprise began because of the family’s love of horses. McAdam grew up in the village of Gouverneur, but spent as much time as possible out in the country taking care of the animals. She eventually went to college in Texas to become a farrier.
She passed that love on to her two daughters, who took up riding when young. She said they eventually developed skill levels that took them beyond just riding. “What else do you do? Give lessons,” she said.
They started giving lessons on their small Canton farm, and the fire was ignited. They now have 60 to 65 students a week on yearly average, fluctuating according to the season. Peggy and Emily are now both certified by the American Riding Instructors Association, and the facility is a United States Pony Club Riding Center.
The farm hosts five shows a year, and the students travel to rallies and other events throughout the year. McAdam has horses suitable for both training and competing.
The growth of the business means McAdam and the family have to be constantly dedicated to all aspects of the farm, including growing and harvesting 10,000 bales of hay a year to feed the horses grazing across 16 paddocks, making sure they’re watered, and that they get supplements and other food as needed, not to mention checking on their general health and grooming. She also tends to the five outdoor rings, the main stables, and the other indoor riding area.
“This work is so hard, you have to love it. It’s a 5-to-9 job,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many people don’t work out, it’s just a lot of work.”
Compeau agrees with that assessment. He said the success of the business has to do with slow and steady progress, hard work and not just doing it for the money, but because you want to provide the best for the customer.
“I’ve seen lots of businesses grow as fast or faster than this place has, but not as successfully,” he said. “Peggy’s been very careful to manage that growth.”