Welcome to part one of our three-part series on Farm Stand—the riders’ sanctuary tucked away at the water’s edge of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida.
First, we’d like to introduce you to Farm Stand; then we will bring you behind the scenes to meet the individuals, brand partners, and beautiful products that make Farm Stand a hub of joyful collaboration; and finally, we will publish a sneak peek of Farm Stand’s creative and exciting new ventures for the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival! Read on and stay tuned.
Meet Krista Weisman and Kristy Strait, the Backbone of Farm Stand’s Operation
EQuine AMerica: What is Farm Stand?
Krista Weisman: I think Farm Stand is a place where there’s fun at the horse show, but it’s also really grounded in a sense of community. We want to be the place—the destination—that people come to eat healthy food, browse interesting little shops, and just hang out. It’s a place where you can relax, have fun with your friends, and get to know people outside of the horse show.
Kristy Strait: It’s a little oasis. That’s how I think of it. We’re right along the water. So, there’s this coolness to it. You’re in the dirt and the dust all day showing so it’s really nice to be near the water, even though you’re not taking dips in it because we have alligators, so you don’t want to do that…
Where is Farm Stand?
You’re familiar with the PBIEC show grounds, right? Farm Stand is over by the Grand Hunter Ring by the main entrance.
Where did the idea for Farm Stand come from?
Our founder, Becky Gochman, really saw a void in the horse show world, especially at WEF (Winter Equestrian Festival) where she was coming to the horse show every day and she was having to go back home to eat lunch.
With two teenage children competing almost every day at the horse show, she realized there was just this void of healthy eating, so she gathered a team to create a space for gluten-free options, vegan options, vegetarian options, and just a sense of health. Then, as we layered the fun activities into that, there was always some joy, whether it was a yoga class or a ping pong table or whatever it may be to help riders take some down-time from the competition.
It’s been a really fun, joyous project. We use a lot of color in the venue, we bring in our flowers that we grow, we set up the ping pong table, and even host little spontaneous impromptu events. We had one rider/trainer, Andrew Lustig, come plug in his keyboard and play classical piano for everyone! There was a moment where we all were looking at each other like, where are we? Simply magic!Kristy Strait
I think ping pong table games are a good example of something that can take your mind off of the show if you had a bad round or you just need to get out of a funk, or whatever that may be. We want it to be a place where people can hang out and really enjoy being at the horse show all day, because as we know, the days are very much hurry up, hurry up, and wait. We want to make the waiting times a little bit more enjoyable and definitely healthier than the average burger and fries or grab a bag of chips kind of place. It sounds like it’s designed to be, or at least became, a sanctuary. That’s a good word for it.
I think Krista said it really well. The horse show is such a fast-paced environment and I think people walk into our space and they slow down. We’re just a place where you can take a break and escape or recharge. I think that’s what we always saw it as. We try to keep it really clean—clean eating in a clean space that’s community-oriented.
Honestly, it seems obvious. It’s something every three-month-long sporting event should have. People have to spend so much of their time at the show, and they are athletes that obviously really need to focus on nutrition and clean eating and energy. It just naturally made sense.
Do you notice whether you have more hunter or more jumper customers? Or is your customer clientele pretty much equal?
I think because of where Farm Stand is located, it’s mostly hunter people. We saw more jumpers making their way over this year, including some big names in the community, which is nice because it seems everyone feels comfortable here. But we definitely see more hunter riders. I personally only do the hunters and I recognize most of the people as hunter riders, but I think that’s the thing that we want to expand upon.
One of the things we always hear at the jumper rings is, “Do I really want to drive all the way across the showgrounds?” And we really want to entice people to come see us. I’m looking at the picture of your beautiful jump. I know; it’s so cute in the jumper ring. Hopefully, that will help attract jumper riders to make their way to you. We’re hoping!
So, Kristy, you’ve been with Farm Stand since the very beginning? Yes. How did Becky Gochman put this wonderful project together?
Well actually, when I came down to help out, a lot of the stage was set. I was very impressed by what they’d pulled together. Becky and a few people assisting her reached out to wellness practitioners and gluten-free, health-focused restaurants around town and pulled together an amazing group of business owners who all shared the Farm Stand’s values, and together they mapped out the space.
Everybody just took a chance on it and that’s really cool because we went into this not knowing if it was a little too off the beaten path, location-wise. We were pretty sure it would resonate with the horse show audience, but you never know when you’re starting something new. Meraki Juice Kitchen and Pumphouse Coffee Roasters have been with us from day one. We’re really grateful to all of our partners for trying it and sticking it out and believing in it.
I specifically came down to help a friend to whom Becky had offered space for a pop-up of her former brick and mortar boutique in Greenpoint (Brooklyn), New York where she’d carried all sustainable brands. She only ended up staying for one season, and so Becky and I thought, ‘Well hey, it was well-received and it’s fun to have shopping here, so let’s just do it ourselves and keep going.’
We also started to host other women-owned small businesses in the space. Supporting small businesses is really important to Becky. I think that’s also given the space such a texture and spontaneity. Having these different vendors come through each week to show their products alongside us keeps it moving and changing and organic.
We have our tried-and-true products that people come to us for every day, but we’re also layering in new things for people who maybe are looking for something interesting and fresh.Krista Weisman
Everything we’ve done has happened very organically as we’re feeling it out and learning by doing. Definitely, a lot of the projects I’ve been on in my life developed very much that way, so I felt right at home with being a part of a startup that was navigating this sort of experiential outdoor communal space. That’s some of what I’ve done in my past, and it just flowed, and I ended up staying on to help Becky roll the project out over each season. How many seasons has it been? This was our fourth.
So, you’ve pretty much hit your stride at this point?
Yeah. I mean, again, we’ve experimented a lot. I think some things worked and some things maybe didn’t, but the anchor is definitely the stellar food: Pump House, with their craft coffees, and Meraki, with their cold-pressed juices, great salads, and amazing vegan and gluten-free food made to order. And then we’ve created a pretty serious cult following for our own food truck—it’s this little green Citroën from 1975 that was completely restored and outfitted with a kitchen. It’s like our little Farm Stand mascot! Nothing makes me happier than seeing that thing roll down the street.
Krista, when did you join?
I started this past year. I mostly focused on the boutique this year and now, going forward, it’ll be Kristy and I overseeing the whole project. I guess as the outsider of the group, what’s interesting to me when I hear Kristy talk about it is all the love and passion that goes into it. The customers who come every single day, multiple times a day—they see it.
In the morning, they’re there for coffee and you see them coming back multiple times a day, which I think is unique. I love to observe people mixing and matching. They go and get their fresh-pressed juice from Meraki and then they get their sauteed veggies from our truck. It feels like such a sophisticated and new food court. I think that’s what we love about it.
As a rider, I love that I know I can get almost anything I need at Farm Stand to support myself in a healthy way. I don’t want to eat a burger and french fries and then go show. We take riding so seriously and need to support our bodies to be healthy and strong to do so, and I think that is in essence what Farm Stand wants to do for everyone who comes there.
The demand was there, and we kept getting such great feedback. We started working with local farms to get food that you wouldn’t expect to find at a horse show that is so nurturing. That’s what you want to put in your body every day.
I can personally attest to that. I’m gluten and dairy-free and it’s often impossible to find food that I can eat at a horse show! I was very excited when I found Farm Stand and discovered your food was so good. I felt like I’d found a place that understood my healthy wants and needs, plus the added fun of exploring unique little shops. I think “sanctuary” is a great way to put it. “Oasis” is a great way to put it. You guys have built something special.
It’s all from a hardworking team that Becky had already been working with: Tess, Mary, Percy… There’s just this great group of people that we’ll have to introduce at some point, who put a lot of passion and love into the cooking. A lot of it has been done just from scratch and from the heart—just intuition and love—it’s pretty special to get home-cooked chicken soup at the show.
I’ve heard you have an amazing garden. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yes, it’s a big part of the magic. We started it in year one. The idea was to design a garden at the barn. It’s something Becky wanted, and we thought to grow our own of whatever we could. We grow carrots, ginger, turmeric, greens, herbs, squash, okra, bananas, and the list goes on—and a whole lot of flowers, which ended up going into our Farm Stand bath and body line. Heidi from Edible Garden is amazing and manages it for us. She could speak more to the specifics. You just have to come take a stroll through! [We will talk to Heidi in our next installment to this story]
Gardens are just beautiful; they’re abundant and about joy. I think it’s really special to share our garden with the community. When I found out that flowers actually want to be cut—that they grow more when you cut them—I was so excited by this idea! There is beautiful symbology there about the abundance of nature that we want to share with everybody.
Now we have all these flowers growing when the horse show is off-season. We have crazy amounts of roses. The output of our roses is nuts, so last summer we started drying them and adding them to soaps and beauty products so we could share them in various ways. So yeah, the garden’s definitely at the heart of Farm Stand.
What else do you do during the horse show’s off-season?
The off-season is nice because everybody does clear out and there’s a different pace here. The show season is just jam-packed. I don’t know how anybody sleeps. It’s just go, go, go! The off-season is a neat little period of time because we have that space to play with what our product lines will look like. We try a lot of things, so it’s fun.
We have a really creative team. Mary is incredible at sewing and so creative. Tess is so creative. I have a design background with textiles and various things. We’ve sewn masks and linen dresses, some of which we’re now giving to shelters. We like upcycling things. We’ve made shopping bags out of old fabrics we didn’t use and created the soaps, the salts, the scrubs, and other elements of our Farm Stand bath and body line. We’ve toyed with the idea of bottling our ginger tea. We worked with Percy, who’s been with us over the last four years helping with the kitchen and various things; he handmade these beautiful brooms from bamboo that I’m so excited to share next season.
Krista and I will be planning, working on our website, and doing a few little pop-ups. We did a pop-up at the Hampton Classic one year, and we’ve decided to do that again. Other than that, we’re still figuring out what the summer looks like, but we know we’ll keep ourselves busy!
How involved is Becky now that’s she’s formed such a great team?
She’s very involved. She’s one of our top salespeople, I would say, at the shop! She loves to come over and play and talk to people. She loves beauty products, so she loves to talk about all the properties of the beauty products and how they relate to riding and skincare and wellness. We have a weekly meeting with her, too. She sees all of the purchases. She’s a very, very busy person, but she definitely makes time for Kristy and me, and there wouldn’t be a Farm Stand without the passion of Becky Gochman. She continues to fund it, but also manages and promotes it with us. She is Farm Stand! There is no question about it.
The reason I ask is because it sounds like Farm Stand isn’t just a company, but a very tight-knit group of people.
We have our own little community in and of ourselves and it’s like family, for sure. I mean, just going through seasons together… It is intense to gear this project up. We basically build our little town and then we show up every day and it’s an event every single day. Sometimes I feel like we’re hosting a party for three months straight!