The benefits, to us and our environment, of grass-fed beef are becoming more widely known after authors like Michael Pollan and films like Food Inc. have gone mainstream. I sat down with a local grass farmer to find out more about her farm. Lauri and Mike set-up at the Hampden Farmer’s Market and offer grass-fed beef as well as baked goods and fruit when it is in season.
(Eat Real) What is the name of your farm?
(Boyd Brook) Boyd Brook Farming Inc.
(Eat Real) How many employees do you have?
(Boyd Brook) Two, myself (Lauri) as the laborer and Mike Manner
(Eat Real) What is your main product?
(Boyd Brook) Our main product is grass fed beef. We raise Herefords and currently have about 50 head. Mike has been raising beef since 1990. He has tried other breeds but find the Hereford breed is the best. The meat is outstanding and the temperament of the Hereford is awesome. They are easier to handle and fence train. We do a lot of rotational grazing and having animals that are laid back and easy to handle is essential.
(Eat Real) What are your secondary products?
(Boyd Brook) Our secondary product is hay. We put up hay to sell to customers as well. I also do baked goods for the markets. We have a small orchard that we grow Cortland, Macintosh and a few other apples, as well as a strawberry patch and a small vegetable garden that we grow for ourselves.
(Eat Real) Other than the Hampden Farmer’s Market, what are your other marketing avenues?
(Boyd Brook) We currently attend 2 other markets besides Hampden, Brewer and Blue Hill. We limit ourselves to just these 3 markets so we have enough product to supply them. We also have a retail license to sell from our home so we need to make sure we can support them all.
(Eat Real) Why did you decide to get into the business?
(Boyd Brook) It’s in our blood you might say. Mike and I come from farming families. His father raised sheep and Belgian horses as well as having a few beef and dairy cows. I come from the dairy side. My father was a herdsman on a dairy farm before driving a milk truck well into his 70’s.
(Eat Real) In what ways does your business/farm support other local/small businesses?
(Boyd Brook) We try to support other local businesses as much as possible. I buy eggs from other vendors for the baked goods. We buy parts and supplies for the farm from local dealers. Although,it is getting more difficult because a lot of the big farmers have gone out of business so suppliers are carrying less inventory and have to ship parts out of state if we have a breakdown. It costs more and takes longer to get the part.
(Eat Real) What is your greatest challenge in the running of your business?
(Boyd Brook) We have a lot of challenges. Weather is #1. Last winter was hard on the animals and us! The cold and snow took it’s toll. This year with the cold spring and lack of quality rain the hay fields are down about 30-40%. Predators are a small concern. Once the calves are a week old the coyotes leave them alone. People seem to be a big challenge lately. In the winter snowmobiles go across our hay fields. You wouldn’t think it was an issue, but what happens is it forces the frost deeper in the fields causing the grass to grow slower effecting production. It effects the north because of the shorter season. In the summer four-wheelers go through our fences (with the animals in the pastures!) Then they don’t tell us the fence is down. It makes so much more work because we have to constantly patrol fence lines for broken sections!
(Eat Real) What is your greatest joy in the running of your business?
(Boyd Brook) Bringing excellent product to customers who didn’t know what they were missing. Not only in flavor but in quality and health. The positive feed back I get when someone tries the meat for the first time makes it all worth while!
(Eat Real) What do you feel are the biggest challenges to the local food movement?
(Boyd Brook) The biggest challenge in the food movement is honesty. Other farmers that I have spoken with, as well as us, pride ourselves in producing the best quality product the honest way. But not everyone does. It’s a small world in the farming business. Everyone knows everyone or knows someone who knows everyone.
(Eat Real) Are you from Maine originally? If not, what drew you to the state? If yes, what made you stay and open your business here?
(Boyd Brook) Mike is originally from Connecticut but moved to Maine as a child. I was born here. We have both lived in other states but we are Mainers true and true. This is home!
(Eat Real) What do you feel other businesses could do to support advances in the local food movement, especially as it relates to your product(s)?
(Boyd Brook) Promote farmers markets!
(Eat Real) What do you feel legislators/regulators could do to support advances in the local food movement?
(Boyd Brook) I don’t think we need any more regulators. Customers keep us pretty well regulated. If you don’t produce good quality food you won’t have customers. Without customers there is no business.
If you are interested in learning more about Boyd Brook Farm or discovering the many benefits of purchasing and eating grass-fed beef you can find Lauri at the Hampden Farmer’s Market every Friday afternoon from 2-6 in the parking lot of the Hampden Town Office. On holidays she wears a funny hat and has balloon animals for the kids! Stop by to say hello. Local Food. Eat well – be well.