We are excited to introduce a new segment to our newsletter: Paragraphs from the Field. As the owner of Van Noble Farm, I have been inspired by many other small farmers who offer high quality news, videos, and stories about the day to day operations of running a small farm. So much goes on behind the scenes and we want to share more about raising animals on pasture, producing our line of retail meats, and our farm-to-table catering. Our newsletter has always been a way to keep up with product offerings and special events, and moving forward we will also dive deeper into the world of small farming and what it means to develop and produce truly farm-to-table products. My goal is to provide you with honest insights into the joys and realities of sustaining a small farm and a chance to understand the decisions small farmers are constantly faced with.
To kick-off this series, I’ll share the background of Van Noble Farm and what brought us to today’s operation: a working farm supporting a full service catering operation and small on-site butcher shop. In 2011, I started working for the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming as the Incubator Program Manager, but ultimately I wanted to work more closely with the land and livestock. Shortly after starting at Groundswell I began working as Assistant Farm Manager at The Piggery Farm in Trumansburg. The Piggery offered both some basic experience in animal husbandry and a launch point for my own farm. Van Noble Farm was truly born out of a simple contract to raise finished pigs for The Piggery’s butcher shop in downtown Ithaca. Owners Brad Marshall and Heather Sanford supported me greatly with mentoring as well as my first breeding stock when I started the farm in 2012. For five years I bred and raised pigs for The Piggery until the contract ended in 2017 when new owners took over the downtown butcher shop.
We had one year to pivot from a wholesale model to a direct to consumer retail business. At the time there were no other viable options for wholesale marketing and the only way to sustain the farm was to reduce production and adjust to the demand of a local customer base. The next step was to develop our casual pop-up pig roasts into offerings for weddings and special events. Over the years we’ve developed into a full service farm-to-table catering company and in 2018 we built a commercial kitchen on-site to support this venture. In the following year we began using our kitchen for butchering and this opened up the door to more creativity with our products and a full retail line. The butchering, curing, and smoking of pork has a long history within many cultures, and by opening up our own shop we had the opportunity to explore this delicious history and offer more than just pig roasts. Our team is excited about continuing to develop our line of small-batch, smoked and cured meats, with a focus on highlighting the diversity of quality produce available in the Finger Lakes. Today, we have a wide variety of different types of bacon, sausages, fresh cuts and barbecue available at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market and through our monthly Meat CSA.