Behind the Mask: Organic GRASS-FED farmers of Liberty Farms

For the longest time we’ve wanted to have a meat vendor at TVM. This season we are extremely excited to introduce one of our newest vendors, Mark and Beverly Cheffo of Liberty Farms.

Some of you may recognize Beverly Sund-Cheffo, who grew up in Stony Brook Shores and went to Ward Melville High School.  Bev went on to become a special education teacher in the Smithtown School District, so for Beverly, connecting with and educating the consumer is just like being back in school.  It's always good to know where your food comes from and Beverly loves helping people learn about food systems and healthy farming.

Tell us a little bit about Liberty Farms?

Mark:  Liberty Farms is a family owned farm in Ghent New York, just outside of the Hudson Valley, we sit on 600-acres.  Liberty Farms provides USDA Certified Organic by NOFA (Northeastern Organic Farming Association) beef, pork, lamb, chicken and eggs.  Liberty Farm is also Animal Welfare Approved.

Organic farming, that’s interesting.  Tell me, what actually is Organic farming?

Mark:  Organic farming is a whole system (holistic) way of producing food. The word 'organic' is a legal term. In the US, all organic farmers, growers and processors must register with one of the organic certification bodies which certifies that they’ve met the strict requirements. 

To help explain Organic and grass fed, my next question was:  “What is the most important thing for us to know about organic grass-fed beef?  Here’s what Mark had to say…

Mark:  Organic Grass fed beef means the cows are pastured on organic land and eat oly certified organic grass.  No hormones, chemicals, pesticides or GMO grains.  

It takes longer to get the animals ready for market and we have to pay more for processing:

For many of our animals, such as chickens, we raise hertitage breed.   They take weeks longer to grow as opposed to factory farms.

“Grass-fed” cattle require more land per animal to roam; and the Animal Welfare requirements are very strict and insure humane treatment at all times.

Our pastures give the animals plenty of room to roam. They eat a natural diet of mixed grasses and fresh water from that land. They are rotated to different pastures and lands to assure proper regeneration of the soil.  Nutrient management is a key part of promoting healthy soil. 

Complying with the paperwork associated with a USDA processing is another big expense of Organic farming.

“Grass-fed” alone doesn’t address animal welfare. Some kinds of livestock handling can be painful and stressful for the animal, even though it’s still “grass-fed.”  That’s why we are also Animal Welfare Certified, it’s good for everyone even the animals.

Do you use any antibodies, hormones, chemicals?

Mark:  On our farm, we don’t use any chemical insecticides, herbisides or pesticides.   Chemicals aren’t allowed under the “organic” label.

--Antibody Free --Hormone Free --Chemical Free

What should our shoppers know about your Grass-Fed Organic meats?

Mark:  Two things:

1.  Knowing what’s in your food and what’s NOT in your food is important.

2.  We are under strict humane and space requirements.  

Mark:  How an animal is treated affects their wellness and connects with our wellness, and it’s not just about food; it’s also about our psyche. If they aren’t doing well, we aren’t doing well – stress makes a cow sick just like it makes a human sick.

Can you give us a little insight as to how you chose to raise your livestock and poultry, and the differences between your breeds?

Mark:  We raise mainly Red Angus cattle, with a new addition of a number of Herefords and we have heirloom chickens. They’re crucial to our regenerative soil efforts, as they're rotated through pastures, fertilizing as they go. They also provide fertilization for our farm's hay, which, in turn, becomes their winter feed. 

Wow, what goes around comes around.  Mark, tell me this: Why do you and and Beverly farm?

Mark:  The answer is simple:  “I know it sounds corny but, it’s a Labor of Love.  We want our community to enjoy good health, with local and sustainable foods.”  We're proud of our low-waste practices, from feeding "ugly" veggies and eggs to our pigs, and our own certified organic mulch and composting that fertilizes our hay fields and gardens. 

One final question:  Tell me, what products are you planning to bring to TVM outdoor market this season?

Mark:  Pasture raised organic heirloom poultryRed Angus beefporklamb, certified organic eggs, and Liberty Farms Salsa.

Liberty Farms takes pride on taking great care of all our animals and their healthy community; Liberty Farms accepts FNMP.

We also offer bones for pet treats.

Be sure to stop by and meet the Liberty Farms team when our outdoor market opens on Friday, May 14. Until then shop our online market for Friday pick-ups!