NICHOLVILLE Andy A. and Elisha M. Hurlbut, Canton, are the type of farmers that Pineland Farms Natural Meats wants as its suppliers.
The company, which took over the former Adirondack Heifer Management facility on Mosher Road near Nicholville, is looking for producers who raise beef humanely without antibiotics, hormones or animal by-products. It opened its doors Wednesday to answer questions from about 35 farmers from St. Lawrence, Lewis, Jefferson and Franklin counties interested in selling to Pineland or just intrigued by its operation.
Weve already been certified to sell to them, Mrs. Hurlbut said as she wandered through some of the farms barns. Were all natural. We grow our own corn and soybeans.
Mr. and Mrs. Hurlbut so far have not sold to Pineland but have raised their animals themselves to butchering size.
Were different because we finish off most of our animals, Mr. Hurlbut said.
But Pineland remains a possibility for them if they have a bad corn year or decide to sell early. Mrs. Hurlbut pointed to a cornfield next to one of the Pineland barns.
Its good to know that stuff is going to go into your animal and that meat is going to go on your table, she said.
The family of St. Lawrence County Legislator Mark H. Akins, R-Lisbon, sold to Pineland even before it came to the county.
Their interest in Pineland came after his daughter, Allison, and son, Ryan, raised a few beef cows but were heartbroken when they went to sale.
This is the next logical step to hand them over to people who have the same values, Mr. Akins said. Its been great for the kids.
Pineland pays a premium for animals raised the way it wants, but that method of production carries extra costs for the farmers as well, he said. However, if a farmer wants to raise his animals the Pineland way, he may not get the return on his investment through a regular sale, Mr. Akins said.
Here, its more of a partnership, he said.
A lot of beef farmers are curious about Pinelands criteria, said Cornell Cooperative Extension livestock educator Betsy F. Hodge.
Its basically good management, so its not hard to meet their requirements, she said.
Pineland buys stock at about 700 pounds and raises them for approximately 180 days until they reach slaughter weight at 1,200 to 1,500 pounds, said manager Clark C. Gale. Most of the cattle come from Virginia and West Virginia, but Pineland would like more local animals, he said.
We try to do it all natural, he said. Were learning every day.
Any animal that ends up treated by antibiotics is taken out of the program and marketed differently, he said.
Beth A. Downing, Burke, raises sheep, not beef, but she hoped the tour would give her food for thought.
Sometimes, its taking an idea and seeing if we can apply it to our farm, she said.
Andy L. Weaber, vice president of New York Beef Producers and manager of Windy Point Angus, Potsdam, said Pineland offers an alternative.
I think its another market for producers, he said. In upstate New York, getting cattle moved for the proper price is hard. This is another avenue.