Note: This week in Meet Your Farmers we meet KayCee Wimbish and Owen O'Connor two young (and awesome) farmers who are part of a blossoming organic industry in the Hudson Valley.
Name: KayCee Wimbish and Owen O'Connor Farm: Awesome Farm in Tivoli, New York.
How many acres? We currently lease 75 acres, but only use 30 intensively. The other 45 are for cutting hay and back-up grazing. We're looking for a new home base right now, so those numbers could change soon.
Your crew: We hired folks to help us slaughter chickens this year. Dana Gentile and our our friends Jeff Bonhag and Tracey Potter-Fins logged a lot of volunteer hours.
What you grow: Grass and animals. We've done sheep and chickens (laying chickens and meat chickens). From here on out we are concentrating on sheep and cattle.
Hours: We try to keep summer work contained between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. We also try to take the weekends off except for "chores" (getting food and water to the animals). Chicken slaughters and deliveries sometimes fall on the weekends too.
Your customers: Geographically, our customers are split between locals near Tivoli that pick up directly from the farm and Brooklyn customers who we deliver to. We've been working with the Brooklyn Kitchen (a kitchen supply store and butcher shop) to get meat to New York City. In addition to direct sales to families, we've also sold our meat through a local farmstand run by Talea and Doug Fincke of Montgomery Place Orchards.
How you got into farming: KayCee was teaching elementary school and started working on farms during her summers off. Eventually she decided to cut back on teaching to work full-time on a vegetable farm, Hearty Roots Community Farm. That's where she met Owen and they decided to start an animal farm together. Owen got into farming to learn how to grow his own food, but then became obsessed with the potential for positive, land-based businesses.
Where did you learn to farm? School of hard knocks? We kind of just jumped right into animal farming. We've done a lot of reading and tried talking to other farmers as much as possible. But a lot of our learning has happened at the farm from both our successes and failures.
Your farming philosophy: We are committed to raising 100% grass-fed lamb and beef. We do not apply any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on our pastures. This focus on keeping healthy permanent pastures means nutrients get recycled rather than pollute waterways. Also, soil erosion is reduced. We're working towards an agriculture that builds topsoil instead of depletes it.
Why do you farm? Farming keeps us outdoors and moving, which feels good. It gives us the autonomy of running our own business. We feel like our work contributes to the community, uses the land in a responsible way, and gives people a product they really enjoy.
The best thing about farming? Watching animals eat fresh grass.
The worst thing? Gosh, the worst thing? Maybe coming to check on your flock of 150 sheep, finding them all missing, and wondering how many miles they have traveled by now.
Most important lesson you've ever learned? Set up a really good water system before any animals arrive on your farm.
What's the most important piece of advice you'd bestow on would-be farmers? We're concentrating on doing sheep and cattle in the future partially because it simplifies our management system. We would suggest that new animal farmers pick one or two enterprises and do them well, rather than attempting many different ones.
The future for good food? We're excited to see responsible agriculture becoming something that more people are demanding. Grass-fed meat and organic vegetables aren't fringe products anymore, and they are becoming more and more available to a growing group of customers.
We're excited to be part of a blossoming organic industry in the Hudson Valley. In addition to putting good food on plates, we are proud to be to provide satisfying livelihoods to people and use the land with a spirit of stewardship.
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