In 2012 Leanna Mulvihill was a Stone Barns Center compost apprentice. She helped turn food and crop scraps and landscape and animal waste into nutrient-rich compost. Since then, she has taken a variety of farm and farm-education jobs: helping another former apprentice, John Agostinho, at his Fatstock Farm, taking a livestock apprenticeship at Glynwood farm, growing vegetables at Obercreek Farm and teaching at Phillies Bridge Farm. She has married all of those experiences into a strong business plan for Four Legs Farm, her new independent livestock enterprise, which is now entering its first season.
Leanna submitted her business plan to Glynwood’s Hudson Valley Farm Business Incubator last June and was accepted into its three-year program. On 25 acres in New Paltz, N.Y., acquired by one of Glynwood’s partners, the Open Space Institute, Leanna is starting Four Legs Farm. Leanna’s acres are part of a 323-acre share owned by the Mohonk Preserve. In April, 30 lambs and 24 pigs will arrive. The sheep will be rotationally grazed on 20 acres of pasture and the pigs on five acres of woodlands.
Leanna shaped her business plan taking into account existing infrastructure. The farm doesn’t have enough barnyard space for winter sheltering, so she is bringing in weaned animals that will go straight onto grass, and she won’t keep stock for breeding. Her animals will be slaughtered twice during the year at Eklund Processing. As she won’t have the kind of regular product flow necessary to supply farmers markets or restaurant and wholesale accounts, all the meat produced by Four Legs Farm will be sold direct to customers in 150 meat shares. Leanna is partnering with the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Phillies Bridge Farm and Huguenot Street Farm who will host a one-time drop of her meat shares in the fall. A small percentage of her product will be saved for spring and winter sales.
Livestock became Leanna’s focus after examining what the market needs and what she’s passionate about. She points out that in a county with a lot of vegetable producers, Four Legs Farm can fill a market need.
After she leaves the incubator program in three years, Leanna’s hope is for Four Legs Farm to relocate to other land with the help of the Open Space Institute or another land-access program, and to transition to breeding stock and birthing her own animals. When it comes to expansion, she doesn’t want to grow in number of animals. “I want to grow as an aggregator” she says, “marketing and distributing meat shares for other producers.” For the time being, to supplement her farming income, Leanna works part-time as the operations manager at the National Young Farmers Coalition, and she recently applied to the New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program.
Leanna’s pastures patiently await her very first flock of sheep and sounder of swine, and she is excited to get to work. “I feel really lucky to get to start farm with so much support, and so close to my family [in New Paltz],” she says, “It’s such a big deal.”
Photo by Ethan Harrison