Germantown, New York
Local food/farms
31 January 2016 09:27AM
Mark Scherzer


Change is coming to Turkana Farms starting in March, and we’re excited to share news of our evolution with you.

A little over a year ago we thought it was time to do some long term planning. Being sustainable, to our mind, means not only farming in a way that is benign to the environment, so that the land’s productive potential is preserved, but also making sure that agricultural activity is able to continue into the future to take advantage of that productive potential. We recognize that we cannot take our own capacity to do farm labor perpetually for granted. I, the younger member of this November-December couple, am signing up for Medicare this week, while Peter will only say he is not 39 anymore. And it is becoming increasingly apparent that employing paid labor to do an increasing share of the work would be economically unsustainable over the long term. Therefore, we started thinking about some way to begin a gradual transition to preserve the entire farm’s operation while reserving to us the space we require to continue the farm activities like sheep herding, turkey raising, and vegetable gardening that we most love.

About a year ago, we joined the very well-run Farmer-Landowner Match Program, overseen by Marissa Codey of Columbia Land Conservancy. Landowners looking for people to farm their land can list descriptions of their properties and facilities and suggest how they want their land used, while farmers who don’t have land (or need more land to farm) can list their interests and qualifications. Each can peruse the listings of the other, and then can initiate contact with those who seem to be likely matches. A great system to bring back into productive use land that would otherwise stand idle.

The Farmer-Landowner Match Program works a bit like an on-line dating service in the style of match.com, but instead of romantic connections, it makes agricultural ones. And you don’t have to post any pictures of yourself or say how much you like long walks on the beach before retreating to a romantic dinner beside a cozy fire.

Over the course of the year, we spoke with, corresponded with, and interviewed close to a dozen potential farmers. Some of the folks we encountered were flakey sorts who were pursuing fantasies of a farm life with only the vaguest vision of what farming really entails. Others were highly knowledgeable and experienced farmers who had serious business plans, but their visions and ours were not always compatible. And sometimes there was great compatibility, but the candidates needed housing or more land that we could not supply.

We did become frustrated at not happening on an instant solution, but since we were not in a particular rush, we kept our listing open and went about our business. And then in November a match that seemed to be made in heaven finally appeared in the person of one Leanna Mulvihill.

Leanna established her own farm operation, Four Legs Farm (http://www.fourlegsfarm.com/) at Glynwood’s farm incubator facility in New Paltz, but was ready to graduate to a more independent base of operation. She raises pigs and sheep, with a couple of cows as guard animals, on pasture. She markets the meat by shares in a CSA operation as well as selling at farmer’s markets. She also provides farm education with tours for kids and adults. It was important to us that she is dedicated to sustainable farming, feeding non-GMO grains and eschewing routine use of antibiotics.

Like most other farmers, Leanna also has a day job. In her case, it seems a synergistic combination, as she works for the National Young Farmers Coalition in Hudson. Not only is she cheerful and friendly, she has impressed us as incredibly well organized and dedicated. She takes her business very seriously.

Leanna’s farming model is different from ours in a couple of respects. For one thing, she engages in rotational grazing, in contrast to our continuous grazing model. For another, she starts with feeder animals in the spring and slaughters them in the fall, instead of keeping a year round population of breeding animals. And she raises different sheep and pig breeds from the ones we’ve been raising. She will be taking over a couple of our older cows as ‘shepherds” for the sheep. Titan, our mellow bull, one of his young bull calves, our favorite cow Daisy and her very young bull calf, who was just born Wednesday, January 27, are being sold, hopefully to join another herd as a family. Our other young beeves will be harvested in February.

We’re dividing the acreage roughly in half, with us concentrating on the south acres and Leanna on the “north twenty.” We will continue to raise and sell our heritage turkeys, French guinea fowl, and other birds, and lamb from a much reduced Karakul sheep herd, as well as eggs, veggies and berries.

Some of you may remember the great pig debate between Peter and me, in which I gave him the ultimatum “Either the pigs go or I do”, and he replied in his usual ironic way “Give me some time to think about it.” This resolution, in which our Ossabaw pigs go and Leanna’s Old Spot hybrids arrive, is an amicable one. Our dear old boar Vernon will stay with us in retirement, while our other boar, Nils Boar, and some of the gilts will go to other farms as breeders, we hope, contributing to the perpetuation of the Ossabaw breed. The rest will go to market. And I stick around.

Change is never entirely easy, but we think this one will be easier than most. We will certainly miss our people-friendly British White cattle and our rambunctious samba dancing Ossabaws. But there comes a time when the next generation of farmers must be given a go, and we think this arrangement allows for that opportunity, while enabling our existing farm to become sustainable in more ways than just the environmental one.

We hope all of you will enjoy meeting Leanna. We hope that you’ll continue visiting us for the products you most identify us with, but that you’ll also help to make her compatible agricultural vision a successful reality.

FARM PICKUPS: Let us know when you’d like your order and it will be on the side screened porch in a bag for you: 518 637 3815, [email protected] you can leave your check or cash in the pineapple. Regular pickup times Saturday and Sunday are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. The farm is at 110 Lasher Avenue in Germantown.

THINK BEEF: At the end of February we are sending three beeves to market. This will be one of your last opportunities for tender, grassfed Turkana Farms beef, as Leanna takes over the acreage now devoted to cows. You might want to consider getting a group together to purchase a side of beef at $5/lb hanging weight, and dividing up the wide range of cuts you can do from half a cow. Or you may at least want to reserve a sample pack of 20 lbs. for $200. Get in touch with any questions or for reservations. As with lamb, if you lack freezer space we can store some for you.

EGGS: The daily increases in hours of sunshine continue to boost egg production. We’re still not back in full swing, but have more each week. $5/dozen

GOOSE now frozen, if you missed one for Christmas. Processed Monday Dec. 21. We have a 9 lb bird, a couple of 8 lb. birds, and about 10 in the 6 to 7 lb. range. $10/LB. Prior years’ geese $6/lb. Goose is a great start for cassoulet, and our chorizo sausage (see pork below) works beautifully as a second ingredient. We have pigs feet to add for the consistency, too. We use all three ingredients with the beans in our cassoulet.

TURKEY; We have one small turkey remaining, just under 7 lbs, as a result of a cancelled order at Thanksgiving. $11/lB.


DUCKS: Smaller ducks are about 3 1/2 lbs, larger ones mostly between 7 and 8 lbs. $7/lb.

FRENCH GUINEA FOWL: Recently processed, range between 3.5 and 4.5 lbs. These are specially bred by the French to be meatier than classic guinea fowl, and this group turned out quite meaty, about 4 lbs each, $7/lb

FREEDOM RANGER CHICKENS went to market in October. The birds were bred by the French to be slow growing, good foragers, and to have complex flavor. They are large (high 5 lbs. and up as large as 7 or 8 lbs) and flavorful. Whole or half birds are $6/lb,

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES: We actually haven’t dug them yet, but are willing to do so for folks who have a hankering for them. Expect we’ll have small quantitities, at $8/lb.

VEGETABLES TAKING A REST: We finally have real winter weather, and that means the collards and brussels sprouts are beginning to be affected, not pickable quality anymore. And as the ground freezes around the leeks the tops die back as well. They’ll be back in the spring, only another 6 weeks or so.
BEEF: We have ample beef still from last year’s group. Twenty pound sample packs can be ordered at $200 per pack. Also by the cut:

Ground beef, $7.50 for a 1.5 lb. tube, and now some 1 lb. tubes and packages at $5. (All from one cow…. ours!)

Sirloin or rib steaks, $14/lb.
Stir fry or stew beef, $5/lb, Chuck roast, $5/lb
Top or bottom round roast, $8/lb,
Sirloin tip roast, $12/lb

PORK, SAMPLE PACKS, 20 lbs for $200, smoked bacon, $10/lb, pork chops, $12/lb., butt roasts $10/lb, spare ribs $7/lb, smoked hocks, $6/lb., breakfast sausage, $10/lb., chorizo and hot italian sausage, $9/lb.

Peacock feathers: $1 each, a dozen for $10.

SPECIAL TURKANA ODYSSEY NOTE: 2016 TRIPS IN FORMATION. Peter’s small group tours to Turkey, including a week long Blue Cruise on a small wooden yacht on the Mediterranean’s Lycian Coast, are a once in a lifetime experience (except for those of us who are lucky enough to repeat them year after year). His website is http://www.tribal-kilims.com in the section Organized Tours. Trips can be customized, but for first timers wanting to sample the best of what Turkey has to offer the ideal choice is An Insider’s View of Turkey in four Acts. Act I Ephesus Region, Act II the Lycian Mediterranean coast by yacht, Act III Cappadocia, and Act IV, Istanbul. Trips are in formation for 2016. If you’d like more information, call Peter at 518-537-3815. Truly memorable trips.

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