Thursday, June 20, 2013

These Days… At Mountain Brook Farm

We've started including beef in the list of things you can get through our CSA...but we're not the farmers growing it! Our good friends over at Mountain Brook have a great operation, and we thought it might be nice for all you readers to hear about another small young farmer worked operation, and get more information about their incredible products. We eat the beef they grow regularly, and it's delicious- flavorful and grown with care. So if you want to order some, shoot us an email and we'll give the you next steps. The first delivery we are making is June 29th (orders must be in ahead of time)- just in time for 4th of July burgers or steak!!
Without further ado....Hilary!
Over the past several months, Sara and I (Hilary) of Mountain Brook Farm have had the pleasure of collaborating with Ejay and Kim on a variety of projects, and we’re thrilled to now be making foods from Mountain Brook available to the CSA shareholders at R’Eisen Shine. With the first beef delivery coming up on June 29th, we wanted to take this chance to tell you a little bit about ourselves and the farm.
We’re located in Hillsdale, NY, about 25 minutes north of R’Eisen Shine. The farm is 330 beautiful acres of fairly rugged land with steep hills and lots of woods. We raise 100% Angus cattle, heritage breed laying hens, and turkeys for the holidays. We’re also working on our first half-acre of mixed vegetables, and I seem to find myself dabbling in mushrooms and honeybees as well. We have two beehives and we’re just getting ready to fruit our first Shiitake mushroom logs – a project that we began last spring. It’s amazing when a project that feels long-term comes to fruition!
Mountain Brook was a fairly dormant farm until about 18 months ago when I was given the opportunity to take over management and start diversifying the farm beyond the solo cattle herd. It’s actually a pretty amazing story… Paul, the owner of the land and a neighbor at the time, is 84 years old. For most of the thirty years that he’s owned the place, he’s farmed it fairly conventionally (as has become the modern convention anyway – corn, soybeans, etc.). In fact, he was so down on organics that I stopped talking to him about agriculture altogether. Organic food was too expensive! Totally worthless! etc. etc. (hard to swallow for someone who believes so deeply in the power of “good, clean, fair food”, as the folks at SlowFood like to call it).
Then, last year (the day before Thanksgiving 2012), I decided to stop in and say hello. And, low and behold, I walk in the door and Paul says (in a loud, bellowing voice since he’s a little hard of hearing), “Hilary! You won’t believe it! I’m four chapters into this book, and we’re switching to organic! It all makes perfect sense!” And, the next words out of his mouth: “… And I have no idea how to do it! Do you know of anyone who can help me?”
* Can you guess the book? Joel Salatin’s The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer *
And, I responded, “Well, Paul, as a matter of fact, what about me?” I’d been on the periphery of agriculture, working at a nearby nonprofit for the past four years, and was ready to get my hands dirty… I just hadn’t found the right situation yet. And, so, in that moment, we began our shared effort to convert Mountain Brook into a diversified organic (or shall we say, organically-inspired) farm.
Although we aren’t seeking organic certification, we do farm according to the original principles of organic agriculture. Our goal is to create a harmonious system that mirrors nature as closely as possible. We focus on the health of all the characters on the farm – the soil, water, air, domestic animals, wild animals, and farmers too! We put tremendous effort into raising all our poultry on pasture, while keeping them safe from local predators. And the cows? They are adapting well to the new rotational grazing system. I can hardly walk across the field without them running up to me, wondering if I’m heading for even fresher grass. It’s also a great time to be on the farm with fifteen calves born within the
past two months, and two born just this past Saturday!
We don’t apply any synthetic anything to the land, and we emphasize open-pollinated and heirloom varieties in the vegetables that we grow. We actively seek to reduce off-farm inputs and strive to create beautiful, healthy spaces in all the nooks and crannies of the farm.
It’s an adventure and a journey, but one that I am pleased to be on! And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my partner Sara – the woman who helps hold me together. She’s a baker and a trained chef and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Women’s Studies at SUNY Albany. While not a farmer per se, she helps at the most critical moments – offering to do the 5:30am morning chores just as I’m reaching total exhaustion, accompanying me on the evening rounds, and making sure I’m well-fed, well-hydrated, and clean enough to get into bed each night.
So, from us to you, we hope you enjoy any of the foods from Mountain Brook Farm that you may try! And please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions, etc. You may also want to check out our website ( or visit our facebook page ( for more info and photos. Thanks again for your support of local agriculture, and happy eating!

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