Butchie’s Organic Farm has been supplying our kitchen with eggs, chicken and vegetables since 2014. Scott, Stacey, and the kids have become part of our family. We are so grateful for the time and energy they put into providing us and their customers, quality wholesome, clean food.
We sat down with owner and farmer, Scott Goodman, to talk farming, food and life upstate.
NC: Hi Scott! Tell us a little about the farm and history of the land.
BOF: Butchie’s Organic Farm is located on 15 acres in Cochecton, NY (about 90 miles from New York City), along the Delaware River. Based on our layperson historical review, we believe the land was first farmed in the 1750s by Nathan Mitchell and his family. The Mitchell family were one of the first settlers in the area, along with the Skinner family. Since that time, as best as we can tell, the land has been consistently farmed (albeit with a few dormant years in between). More recently (15 years ago), Alice and Neil Fitzgerald of River Brook Farm established an organic farm. Stacey and I purchased the farm in 2003.
NC: What inspired you to start Butchie’s?
BOF: There are too many reasons, but the most important are: a way of life, creating a sustainable food source and minimizing my impact on the environment. Truth is, I’m a meat and potatoes guy. I remember reading about antibiotic use in livestock and thinking, “this can’t be good.” The more I knew and understood, it was clear to me that I didn’t want to eat this meat anymore. I knew it wasn’t healthy and it made me think about the potential impacts on the environment and on us, as people.
NC: It’s amazing what can happen when you have an “ah, ha” moment. Doesn’t matter what the impetus is, just that you found your way. And now, you’re making a difference for yourself, your family and the health of all who consume your food. It becomes a transformation and a journey.
NC: In your past life, you practiced law, so what was it like to move upstate and start a farm, of all things?
BOF: It was a natural fit for me. I was living in New York City and ‘chasing the dream,’ ‘living in the rat race’ and reached a point that I was ready for a change. As a child, I spent a good portion of time living and traveling in rural areas in the world. I spent a few years living in Central New York (Clinton), which at the time was predominantly farmland. So moving upstate was easy and felt like I was completing a symbolic circle of life – coming back and reconnecting to where I started. Starting the farm felt like a natural part of that process.
NC: Just like Natural Contents, we know Butchie’s is a family affair.
What’s it like farming with the fam?
BOF: Yes, the whole family is involved. The kids have their regular farm chores – egg collection, changing out the hay, cleaning coops. The four of us work together on bigger farm projects, which is one of my favorite times to spend with them. It teaches you how to interact with one another, it shows our individual strengths and weakness. I think it builds a stronger family and helps us grow – individually and as a unit.
NC: Couldn’t agree more. Running a family business with young kids is really special. Having them see the hustle that goes into making it all happen, teaching them about small business, getting their input – it’s pretty awesome.
NC: Let’s talk farming practices. There can be a lot of confusion for folks – pasture raised, organic, local, etc. What practices do you use and why?
BOF: Well, that’s a difficult question to answer (and maybe a topic for a dedicated post). Generally, the government has defined pasture raised, organic, free range, etc. We find, however, that some of those labels can be misleading. The most glaring is ‘free range’ chicken. By definition, it means that a chicken has some minimal amount of time (one hour) with access to the outside. For us, that does not pass the ‘smell test.’ At Butchie’s, we try to keep our practices as natural as can be. Our pigs have 24-hour access to pasture lands. Our chickens run around the farm from sunrise to sunset. We do not use any commercial organic fertilizer – our pigs and chickens do that sufficiently well. We try to minimize the amount of commercial organic feed that we give to the pigs and chickens. We prefer to feed them farm-grown vegetables and scraps, let them eat the grass that is naturally growing on the farm and encourage the chickens to eat as many insects as possible. When we do use commercial organic feed, it’s a custom blend that we’ve created; limiting the use of corn, soy and gluten grains. In the end, we try to minimize the artificial impact on our land and the impact our farming has on the whole environment.
NC: I think it’s hard for a lot of people to figure out what’s “good” and what’s “bad”. That’s why we encourage everyone to ask questions – and to look for answers like this one.
NC: You also grow some delicious veggies. What’s your favorite vegetable?
BOF: Spinach. I can eat spinach for breakfast (in an omelet), for lunch (in a sandwich or salad), and for dinner (in pasta, a salad, or just on the side with some pork or chicken).
NC: One of our favorite things about working with you is the full-circle loop that exists. We process the veggies for yummy food and then you take all the scraps (ends, seeds, skins, etc.) and feed it to the animals. How does this help you the farmer and do the animals eat it all?
BOF: It helps us achieve our general philosophy of trying to have minimal impact on the environment. The more scraps we get from you, the less commercial organic feed we have to use – less fossil fuel used to transport the feed (to and from the mill). And the animals eat all of it. It’s interesting to watch the chickens dance around the pigs while they are all trying to get at the scraps. Usually, the chicken and pigs have different tastes and do not compete for the same ones.
NC: What’s your biggest challenge as a small-scale farmer?
BOF: Our biggest challenge is convincing consumers to purchase from a small organic producer. The economic impact to the local economy is significantly greater when you purchase from a local farmer (than if you purchase from a large grocery store).
NC: I know, it’s hard. I think we need to speak up more and educate the young and old about food and farming. It takes a community to support the efforts of local agriculture.
NC: What’s your greatest reward?
BOF: Making a difference, like helping to create, “A Thanksgiving to Remember.” It was a great opportunity to give back to the community (along with our good friends at Natural Contents). We donated all the turkey and potatoes, along with eggs and other vegetables. I think anytime you are able to give back to your community or to those in need, it is always a great reward.
NC: Yes, it was one of the best and memorable moments of our NatCon journey. It was in the beginning of our business and while I knew we’d pull it off, cooking for 100+ people was a big time first. Thankfully, it all came together. I think what we collectively created (with all who were involved) hit me at the end of the night when we all sat down to eat. We were able to breathe and just bask in the sharing of good food. Pretty special.
NC: So, where do you see the farm in 3-5 years?
BOF: Our plans include farming 100% grass-fed and finished, certified organic beef. It’s always been part of the plan but we’re working on making it happen.
NC: Woo-hoo! Can’t wait.
NC: If you were to give advice to someone getting into farming, what would it be?
BOF: Know why you’re getting into it – determine that before you start. Then, have patience, a lot of patience.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us and thank you for farming organically – we need more farmers like you, willing to make a change for the greater good.
To learn more, visit Butchie’s Organic Farm – one of our favorite farm partners.
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