At the end of June in 2013, my husband Bob and I drove the winding Route 20 south to visit with Tim and Rachel Grant, owners of Stand Fast Farms in Forestville, NY. We met at the florist and greenhouse that Rachel worked at and started at the first of three locations.
The drive into the first field was a stunner! The 180 degree view from the dirt and gravel road revealed a gently sloping hill down into a tree and scrub line, where large wrapped bales of hay stood sentry. The bowl of the sky that day was clouded over with only the occasional patch of stunning blue showing through. During our tour, Tim and his son, Micah, shared the history and inspiration for Stand Fast Farms.
Tim read “Salad Bar Beef” by Joel Salatin in 2004 and knew instantly that he wanted to farm in a way that works with nature, by understanding and optimizing natural processes, and would do whatever he could to make it happen. From June 2005 to November 2006, Tim interned at Alderspring Ranch in May, ID for the Elzinga family. While there he learned first hand the practices he had read in Joel’s book.
In November 2006, when he returned to New York, he purchased twenty Black Angus cow-calf pairs from Ernie Maslach of Fredonia, NY. During this time, he met Rachel and their first date included going out to handle cows. She was smitten; they married the following November.
By January 2008, Stand Fast was doing well enough to start butchering and the beef is first sold to friends and family, and by that Summer, food co-ops begin to carry their beef.
Buffalo’s Lexington Co-op and Rochester’s Abundance use their beef in their in-house prepared foods. They also began to sell beef at the Westfield Farmer’s Market in Moore Park just off of Route 5 in Chautauqua County.
Micah was born February 2009. He beamed when I told him we share a birthday. He was so excited to share his cows with new people.
They purchased the Van Buren Road Farm in December of 2011. By May of 2013, the Grants had created a formal partnership with Cross-Fit Buffalo to provide beef shares on a monthly basis.
They have also sold beef to Bistro Europa – now known as The Black Sheep and other Buffalo restaurants. They love the people behind these establishments and are particularly fond of their creative dishing.
Their butchers are the Steven’s Brothers, located in Panama, NY. They have used Steven’s Bros. since 2008. After trying two other shops they decided to use Steven’s Bros exclusively and have been very satisfied with the quality of the work they do. The shop has five employees and kill less than 20 beef per week. They are not like the large slaughterhouses that have been exposed for terrible practices in handling of animals and meat. All of the employees at Steven’s Bros. are skilled and are held to a standard of excellence that is not possible in larger facilities.
Rachel Grant, “I felt at a loss to tell you what my part of all this is because I don’t have a very active roll right now. But here’s what I think it comes down to. I know I mentioned that I did NOT grow up in a farming family, so there was a big adjustment on both sides when we got married. I do try to help when I can, and Tim is always so patient in teaching this “city” girl how to do things on the farm (although I’m sure he’s sometimes cringing inside). The majority of what I do is in making sure he has good food and a peaceful place to come home to.
His job can be physically and mentally draining at times and if I can’t take on the manual labor, I at least want to help him refuel, so to speak. Farming was never even on my radar…in fact, I am quoted as saying “I would never marry a farmer”. Never say never right? I looked at this as helping him achieve his dream, and over the last 5 years, it has become, and will continue to become, my dream as well. I know in the future my role will become greater, and there will come a day when I just can’t believe there was ever a time when I wasn’t farming.
Living on the farm will help that day come. I’ll take on more day to day chores. But for now, I’m working part time in a flower shop/greenhouse so Tim can focus his energies on the business, and I think that’s the best way I help.”
The Homestead Farm is an old dairy farm built by Asa Ellis, where three bulls and ten calves so far are housed.
At the time of the interview the house and the out buildings were being cleared and renovations were just beginning on the rustic barn and house. They are finishing interior work and it’s just gorgeous!
“We bought an abandoned dairy farm in December 2011. Our family’s heart longs to live on our land and complete the transformation of an abandoned farm into a thriving grass fed beef ranch.”
Ginny Carlberg of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County coordinates with the Grant family to recycle all of the farm’s plastic baling, saving space, time, and the environment.
Tim feed us the most amazing burgers at his home and while we chatted about food systems and what being a SOLEarian meant, he shared this: A Farmer must be many things at once but that at the heart of it all, “business success begins with balancing your checkbook”, with prioritization being essential. Doing what needs be done NOW and not compromising one’s values. When he gives his word, he does what he says. To be a responsible and trustworthy person while being a “steward of nature”.
Bob and I were intensely impressed by this family’s commitment to be true to their word and to their work, even when the path was harder. If you ever have the opportunity to meet them and to eat their food, do so. They are truly extraordinary human beings.