The winners of the Next Great Idea competition were crowned Nov. 16 during a luncheon at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center, Oswego. 6 Acres Farm Brewery finished first and received the top prize: $50,000. North 40 Clover received $25,000 and Moth + Flame Basecamp got $15,000.
In addition, the cash prizes can potentially be leveraged to borrow up to 10 times their value in partnership with local banks, the Oswego County Industrial Development Agency, the cities of Oswego and Fulton community development offices, the U.S. Small Business Administration, New York Business Development Corporation and other economic development agencies.
The following is a glimpse of the three winners.
By Steve Yablonski
6 acres farm brewery
Established in 2019, 6 Acres Farm Brewery was founded by Jenna Behling, Eric Behling and Lori Behling along with Denyel Busch.
“It is named after the six acres of land that our farm originated on. It is the first niche craft brewing company of its kind to develop fruit infused beers with locally grown fruit and proprietary methods to create naturally full-flavored fruit ale beverages,” said Jenna Behling.
The two brewers, Busch (head brewer) and Jenna Behling (assistant brewer) are “a dynamic duo” that started like most, home brewing.
“Denyel and I started off by home brewing while experimenting with different flavors and varieties about four or five years ago,” Behling said.
They both started out making small one-gallon batches on the kitchen stove to experiment with different techniques, styles and flavors. They then climbed the ladder on making larger scale batches. For both of the brewers this whole process has been “years of trial and error along with a learning curve.”
The brewery is somewhat through Behling Orchards, yet separate as they are doing business as 6 Acres Farm Brewery, she said.
Behling Orchards started around 1947 and has since been passed down through five generations.
Behling and Busch have plans of making a few hard ciders along with a hard seltzer line to entice other customers who might not be interested in beer, they said.
“Currently, we sell kegs to local restaurants and businesses within an hour radius of Mexico,” Behling said. “In the tasting room, we would like to open a small-scale restaurant focusing on using locally grown ingredients in our recipes. As you can see, we’re really big on from farm to pint or table by utilizing local farm-grown sources.”
The tasting room would be family oriented and dog friendly in hopes of having something for the whole family to enjoy, she said.
It would have a kids’ area for entertainment at the venue. Live music would be enjoyed along with special events with inclusion for all, at any age. The tasting room will also have a private event room that would be perfect for a family get together, birthday parties, anniversaries, meetings and more, according to Behling.
“The tasting room will be located in Mexico or New Haven; hopefully on orchard property. We have a few options that we’re currently looking at, but nothing definitive,” Behling said.
Once the tasting room is built, “we will need to hire servers, bartenders, live performers, kitchen staff, etc. to join our team!” she added.
Her family wanted a way to expand its existing business, Behling Orchards, opening more possibilities and having its customers experience their beautiful farm in a new way, she said.
Craft beer seemed to make this possible after countless hours of home brewing and fine-tuning recipes.
“We were inspired by the bountiful fruit grown on our farm to infuse our own fresh produce, making our beer stand out, as we don’t use any flavoring additives or syrups,” she said. “We pride 6 Acres Farm Brewery on using as many local ingredients as we can, from our hops and grain all the way to our maple syrup.”
They are a member of the New York State Brewers Association and have hopes of competing next year in the New York State Craft Beer Competition, she added.
Her personal background in relation to brewing, Behling said, is graduating from the University at Albany with a Bachelor of Science degree, working on the family farm for over 10 years and home brewing.
“I was an employee of Mexico Academy and Central Schools for the last five years and currently coach two sports within the district,” she said. “My hobby of home brewing small one-gallon batches sparked my interest in brewing on a larger scale for people to enjoy our creations. As of right now, we have 13 different varieties of craft beer that we are extremely proud of. We will continue to experiment with more flavors and styles.”
“6 Acres Farm Brewery has been an exciting new adventure for myself, Denyel, Eric Behling and Lori Behling as we have been selling at Behling Orchards in the fall. We’ve been receiving great feedback from customers and other businesses, which solidified our decision to open a tasting room in the near future,” she continued.
Once the tasting room is built, they will be able to hire employees for various jobs and plan to bring more tourism to Oswego County, she said.
The business would utilize the NGI funds to scale up production, acquire canning equipment for distribution and develop a tasting room on-site.
“We were inspired by the bountiful fruit grown on our farm to infuse our own fresh produce, making our beer stand out.”
The founders said they see a great opportunity to capitalize on growing the fledgling wine and craft beverage industry in Oswego County with this business and their ambitious plans.
“We also would like to start canning our beer to be available for purchase along with our current growlers,” she said. “As the brewery grows, we have every intention of expanding our production levels to keep up with demand. We hope that our community will enjoy our beer as much as we do!”
Follow on Instagram @ 6acresfarmbrewery
North 40 Clover: Onsite Hydraulic Hose Fabrication & Repair
James Macklen from Lacona began North 40 Clover: Onsite Hydraulic Hose Fabrication & Repair to fix a problem. He found he could help others, too.
When he was in high school, he took heavy equipment operation and repair at BOCES. He attended Cobleskill and furthered his education in equipment repair and hydraulics. Currently, he’s also a certified John Deere mechanic.
Macklen started the business during 2019. People are now able to be helped where they are. The mobile fabricating service allows him to pretty much, depending on the field, drive right to where the equipment is. In most cases down time is reduced and operators can be up in running quickly, he said.
One day, he went to (a store) to get a hydraulic hose made for his tractor.
“They told me it would have to be ordered because it was nothing they stock, it’d probably take two days,” he said. “When I asked why they ordered hoses instead of making them, they said it wasn’t their policy.”
On the way home he thought about all the equipment he owned and how many times he would be waiting in good weather and that the store’s policy was dumb.
“I contacted Lawson Products, ordered a hose machine, hose and fittings. Then it occurred to me other people had the same plight and that I could probably pick up enough business to pay for the set up,” he said. “I purchased a van and devised a plan for hose repair and storage.”
There was quite a substantial start-up cost. He has invested $50,000 in van, trailer, two hydraulic hose machines, generator, hydraulic hoses and fittings.
It didn’t take long to get customers on board, he said.
He wanted to get his feet under him slowly. So, he didn’t advertise, never has. He wanted to test the waters and work out any bugs. But after his first customer, just by word of mouth, his business exploded.
“It only took that one frustrated operator who was broke down on a sunny day to get things started. When he called me to complain, I told him it was his lucky day. I could be at his location shortly and make him a hose,” Macklen said.
From that, it quickly spread by word of mouth.
“What began as a speculative business enterprise, exploded into my life’s work,” he said. “As demand increased, I purchased an 18’ tow-behind trailer and devised another floor plan to expand inventory and storage. Then, because I’m a certified John Deere mechanic, many farmers asked if I would also do equipment repair.”
He has a contract with Burrville Power Sports to make third function kits for the compact tractors they sell. Third function kits are required to operate implements like brush hogs, snowblowers and bucket loaders.
These kits don’t come with the tractor. It’s an option the dealer has to provide.
At this time, he has no employees. But he is willing to train people.
“These hoses are under high pressure and you need to be careful with putting the fittings on them. It’s not hard, but it’s serious business,” he said.
When it was beginning to get super busy, he thought of a plan to ease his workload, which in turn increased his client base. Everyone knows he is a one-man operation, so he tells clients “if we all work together we can all benefit.”
If someone calls and he is on another job, he tells them, if they are in a hurry and can remove the hose and bring it to him, he’ll make one for them. There are some clients who can do that and it works well.
He has begun teaching clients if they do preventive maintenance, emergencies are reduced.
There will always be room for improvements; that’s how this whole business got started, he noted. “I’m not afraid to step off the beaten path.”
Macklen thinks of himself as a catalyst. He likes to think outside the box because in many cases, that’s where the future ideas are. He started the mobile service partly because he has no repair shop.
He also does tractor and implement repair. When farmers have broken-down equipment that needs repair, they can explain their problem to him and if it’s something easy, he tells them how to do it. Some of them can. If they can’t, he schedules a time to fix the problem.
He plans to go to CiTi this winter, explain his business and maybe find students willing to be interns.
Rural Hill Sand and Gravel, Bashford Lumber, Sturtz Excavating, C R Murphy Landscaping and more have contacted him to do repair work.
The business will use the NGI prize to expand its mobile hydraulic repair and fabrication business that services many industries including manufacturing, mining, road plowing, agriculture and logging operations around Oswego County and the North Country.
This mobile service is especially needed in rural areas where extended downtime can be catastrophic to business, Macklen said.
He’s the organist at the Orwell Union Church. He also plays the piano, accordion and trumpet.
Moth + Flame Basecamp
Amanda McLoughlin and Paula Barreto love traveling and being outdoors. Escaping the city to be immersed in nature has always been medicine for them.
Friends talked about liking camping, yet wanting a comfortable bed. Others said they didn’t mind camping but didn’t have time to pack after working all week. Some were curious about getting an RV; the storage, maintenance and gas were turnoffs.
The inspiration for Moth + Flame Basecamp came from those stories as well as the tree houses, yurts and tiny home accommodations found throughout Oregon and Washington. A vintage RV spot on the Washington Coast caught their eye and imagination.
The duo plans to open a basecamp featuring vintage RVs where visitors can relax while they explore various sites around the surrounding area.
“As you crossed onto the land, you left the contemporary behind. It felt like a time capsule. Period pieces from the ‘50s through ‘70s were organized tightly throughout the compound. People enjoying their stays were as eclectic as the vintage RVs and friendly enough to share their stories. The answers were simple, it was easy and unique,” Barreto said, recalling the Washington Coast experience.
They fell in love with the idea; wanted to bring it home.
“Basecamps are traditionally places to set up and sleep so you can continue your adventures. Moth + Flame would be that and much more,” McLoughlin said. “Offering a hassle-free camping experience within beautifully renovated vintage RVs that come with a comfortable bed and other essentials is the backbone of the idea.”
Through collective referrals to other local businesses, a core mission of Moth + Flame would contribute to bolstering fellow entrepreneurs and the county’s economy, she added.
Moth + Flame would be CNY’s first Vintage RV, Airstream and eclectic structure glampground.
They are now looking for land to place the RVs and rent them out like a cabin or tent at a traditional campground.
Glamping, combining “glamorous” and “camping,” brings together nature and modern luxury to create an outdoor experience not previously provided to leisure travelers.
“The goal is to acquire at least five vintage RVs and Airstreams to start; one of which was purchased over the summer, a 1968 Shasta,” said McLoughlin. “The money from the contest will supplement the purchase of the remaining accommodations.”
“We want to think of ourselves more as socioprenuers, use Moth + Flame Basecamp as a platform to bring several community-driven opportunities to Oswego.” Barreto said.
They met at St. Mary’s School (Oswego) in the 1990s. Their adventure began in 2008, after Amanda finished grad school and Barreto wrapped up five years of naval service ending with several tours in Iraq. They packed up, headed to Portland and spent 13 years there.
In 2020, they decided to return to be closer to family. They thought about what they’d do next. McLoughlin worked in the education field, starting as a special education teacher; spent the last 10 years doing nonprofit work in health, prevention, equity and inclusion. Barreto spent the last six years at a landscape architecture and urban planning firm. Community parks, campuses, streetscapes, trails, plazas and many other projects benefited from her work.
Before they moved, Barreto’s mom mentioned the NGI contest. They brainstormed based on their passions. McLoughlin wanted to stay in the education field. Each September, she and 10 chaperones took 50 teenagers camping; spending three days discussing social justice, identity and how they could make a difference in their schools. They didn’t have cell reception, ate together, made a fire each night and in between workshops, walked the trails. The youth mentioned how calm they felt; their anxiety seemed to go away. McLoughlin would love to work with youth or offer families a chance to reconnect to each other and disconnect from the high-paced lives they live. Barreto loves what she currently does and appreciates working with diverse populations and perspectives. After a whirlwind of ideas, they narrowed it down to an idea that aligned with their passion for the outdoors, their want to offer an activity that promotes relaxation, physical and mental health and something artsy and eclectic to bring to the county they once again call home.
“What we love most about this area are the people. Local business owners are weathering this pandemic in resilient ways; families are trying their best with the resources they have to support their kids. Our youth are overwhelmed and anxious, but they still keep showing up,” said McLoughlin. “For our family, camping is the way for us to recharge and reset. When our kids take walks, ride their bikes, stare at the fire or help prepare a meal, they’re content and act like themselves again. I’ve always known that being in nature is therapeutic. When you see the magic with your family, it seals the deal.”
They’re looking for land to buy or lease with several acres and established mature trees. They have a few leads.
“The notion that starting a business is a risk or that starting a business takes serious finances isn’t lost upon us,” Barreto said. “The NGI top prize would give us the money needed to purchase the vintage RVs for our initial fleet. If successful, we hope that people will come to Moth + Flame to escape some stress, bond with their family and leave with a memorable experience.” ●
Featured Image: Smashing Apples Amber Ale, brewed by first prize winners 6 Acres Farm Brewery.