The Farmers Behind Sir William Farm
Originally Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
It all started with an honor box on the farm down the road — Farmer Bruce and his son Justin Conover at the Rasweiller Farm just off Copake Lake were always outdoors — rain, shine, hot or sub zero — keeping our farm friends comfortable, clean and happy.
In 2002, I started shopping at the Sir William Farm like it was my local market dropping cash into a box to pay. Coolers were packed with fresh meat, produce, local dairy and old-fashioned jars of specialty products. My friends would visit from the city and we would cook a feast, ooooh, ahhh, and love our farmer. This is responsible eating! This is eating local! I was in heaven!
The feeling wasn’t mutual. Bruce had no interest in me or my red-bottomed heels, nor my curious questioning, not even my compliments or suggestions as a food entrepreneur. He always waved, head down in a customer service obligation. I respected him and his hard work. Over time we began a dialogue and the conversation led to loyalty — as well as new customers. I told everyone about the gorgeous Bolognese I always made using his ground beef! And where else do you buy $20 Filet Mignon — and know the source?
At 4 p.m. a cold winter’s night in February 2011, I visited Bruce and it was already getting dark. I asked him if he would participate in an event I was putting together to celebrate the farmer. He said no. I pleaded. He said, “Who would mind the farm?” I asked every time I saw him every week for months to follow as I continued to shop at his farm stand — which by then accepted credit cards too! Bruce was becoming savvy to the fact that New Yorkers never have cash in hand but will spend triple with plastic!
The week before the Friends of the Farmer Festival I asked him if he would at least donate his amazing sausages to our “Five Mile Grill” to sell and raise money for the FarmOn! Scholarship Fund. Shockingly, Bruce agreed. Since that exchange I have learned so much about my food and farming. He always shares insight, support and solutions. He sticks up for me when people inquire about the red head who cares about helping the farmers and after 10 years he knows I’m reliable, an honest customer and has made time to become my friend.
I’m the luckiest girl in Columbia County to have farmers as friends. Meet your farmer. Know your food. Buy local and get involved. If every day you choose one local ingredient to consume — you feel healthy, you contribute to your community and bring farmers like the Conovers commerce for them to make a living in agriculture. Only then we can fund succession to educate the next generation who heed the calling to the farm. If we all choose local every single day — imagine the impact.
All this talk of Haylage, Baleage and Silage makes a girl’s head spin! But that is what the black angus cattle eat at Sir William Farm in the winter when the grass loses its nutrition and pasture is left only for roaming. The Conovers told me this in a lengthy conversation about their feed of choice before a cow becomes our carefully cared for grass fed food.
Having been born farming the land, Bruce moved from Iowa to Hillsdale in 1970. The father and son team have been renting land at the Rasweiller Farm for over a decade and selling meat to local businesses, New York City and running their own farm stand under the Sir William Farm name. Justin started the business with 125 mother cows 10 years ago and when cash flow got tight — he planted a pumpkin patch which was a huge success. Bruce Conover adds, “We had no idea that marketing it at this location was going to work.” Since then they have expanded their mainstay offer of black angus beef to include Berkshire Hogs (you can buy a whole pig like we did for the recent Friends of the Farmer Hootenanny! Pig Roast), a variety of sheep and locally made products.
Stop by — meet Justin and Bruce Conover and be sure to say hello! Bruce has gotten friendlier in the last 10 years and Sir William Farm Stand sells fresh meat, eggs, cheese, fruit, vegetables and homemade pies that are to die for delicious. It’s a word of mouth success story. So tell them we sent you and then tell a friend. But don’t forget to pay! It’s an honor system you know. FarmOn!
Q&A with Bruce and Justin:
Do you cook?
We love to grill — year round — even in the snow.
Do you shop at the supermarket?
Yes, but in the summer we self sustain, except for pantry basics.
What’s your favorite food?
Ronnybrook Ice Cream
What’s your philosophy on the farm?
We have challenges everyday but it’s never boring — always excitement — most of the time too much excitement!
Where is the stand?
Sir William Farm Stand
4160 County Route 7, Craryville, NY 12521. Phone: 518-325-3105
Price Range: $2 to $26
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