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In 1920, the NYS Dairyman’s League, the NYS Farm Bureau Association, and the NYS Grange joined to form the Grange League Federation (GLF). The Federation had hundreds of farmer members in Rensselaer County. In 1925, about a dozen men in the Schaghticoke area got together and incorporated the Hoosac Valley Farmer’s Exchange (HVFE), establishing a store and mill on the site of the Empire Mill and Coal Company, at the south end of Main Street in the Village of Schaghticoke.

The prime mover behind the store was Dr. George Little, who was both the local doctor and farmer, raising prize dairy cattle. Empire had been in business since 1896. Before that, the site was a paper mill and a plaster mill. The mills had been powered by the falls of the Hoosic River until 1907, when General Electric Company built a hydroelectric dam and power plant and converted Empire plus the Cable Flax and Woolen mills to electric power. The store was conveniently located next to the railroad tracks, allowing easy shipment of grain and milk.


The new store sold Grange Lead Federation products. Though GLF specialized in milling grain in Buffalo and then transporting bagged feed, HVFE continue to grind corn for farmers, adding a cob crusher at the start. This made the business different from any of its competitors and attractive to more customers.


HVFE added a frozen food locker in 1944. The accompanying ad in the gallery below is from 1960. Instead of having a home freezer, people could rent one of about 400 lockers. HVFE also provided butcher services, primarily for beef, but also for pork, venison, and the occasional bear. Nelson Betts was the first butcher. Part of the cooling for the freezer plant came from water cycled in from the Hoosic River. Woods Turkey Farm in Melrose rented many of the lockers. The plant closed in 1967, when NYS regulations demanded many expensive changes with a short timeline for implementation.

In 1950, HVFE built a new concrete block store, across the street from the mill and adjacent to
the food locker. The photo below is a modern view of that store.

Agway was formed in 1964 from a merger of GLF and the Eastern States Farmers Exchange.
Just two years later, John Halford arrived as the manager. He had trained in a couple of area
Agway stores. In 1973, Agway encouraged its managers to buy the stores and become
independent operators. John did this, financing the purchase through the new Union National
Bank in Schaghticoke. Agway itself filed for bankruptcy in 2002.

In 2021, John Halford sold the business to Maureen and Eric Mayer of Copses Farm in Schaghticoke. He had built a new store a couple of years earlier, but never opened it. The Mayer Family completed and opened the new store, on Madigan Road in the town of Schaghticoke, in April 2022.

A collection of day books and receipts was found during the move to Madigan Road. These books and receipts allowed insight into the customers, employees, products, and activities of the
HVFE over the years. The earliest cash book begins with an inventory of Empire Mill and Coal
when HVFE took over in 1925. It included calf meal, seed (timothy, alfalfa, red clover), 2
platform scales, cans of fly spray, motor oil, Eddy plow shares, tractor magnetos, bales of binder
twine, several wagons, a potato digger, steel posts, 48 bags of oyster shells, 82 bags of salt,
gallons of roof paint, and office furniture, including a typewriter and a mimeograph. During
1927, charge and cash sales ranged from $2,500 to $5000 per month each. The employees were
all local folks The bills paid by HVFE to vendors show the scope of its business. Most vendors
were local, but a few specialty items came from other states. The store also purchased
advertising in the premium book of the Rensselaer County Fair — the Schaghticoke Fair — and
a yearly membership in the Farm Bureau. Some of the receipts are in the gallery below.

HVFE is just one of the businesses in Rensselaer County connected to agriculture- both in the
past and the present.  Detailed examination of the collection adds to the story of Cultivating
Community: Agriculture in Rensselaer County, on display at the Hart Cluett Museum though
2022.

Story from: Hart Cluett Museum. County Historian Kathy Sheehan and Schaghticoke Town Historian Chris Kelly retrieved some of the records, which date from about 1925 to 1965, for its Dean P. Taylor Archive.