Valley Bounty: Custom cuts: Bostrom Farm in Greenfield pivots from dairy to grass-fed meat

By JACOB NELSON

For the Recorder

Published: 02-03-2023 4:41 PM

Talk to most farmers raising animals on pasture, and they’ll tell you the same thing – from a farming perspective, the animals are secondary.

“Our mantra is creating good food from grass,” says Kyle Bostrom of Bostrom Farm in Greenfield. “Basically, we farm our pastures, and we use livestock to turn it into something people can eat.”

In their case, it’s cows and pigs that transform plants into fresh and creative beef and pork products butchered and processed right there on the farm.

Bostrom raises about 20 beef cattle each year, rotationally grazing them through 25 acres of pasture. It’s a mix of calves raised from birth – which take almost two and a half years to mature on grass – and steers bought from other local farms in spring to be finished on grass through the summer and fall.

Soon he’ll finish preparing another 15 acres for grazing, allowing him to move the pigs they buy and raise each summer onto pasture as well. Bostrom hopes this will benefit the land, the pigs and his bottom line. Price increases have made animal feed quite expensive, but if you already own land, allowing pigs to forage can supplement their diet for free.

Today the grass at Bostrom Farm becomes meat, but for a long time it became creamy Jersey cow milk.

“From the early 2000s until 2017 we sold our milk to be bottled by Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative,” explains Bostrom, “but eventually we were just too small for them to work with. Then for a few years we had our milk co-bottled by a dairy in South Hadley and sold half gallons of cream-on-top whole milk in local grocery stores. That worked well, until COVID hit and the logistics became egregious.”

Bostrom was loathe to give up the routine of dairying, which he enjoyed alongside his job teaching industrial arts at Greenfield High School. But his COVID pivot to raising pork and grass-fed beef allowed him to keep farming with animals, just for a different purpose.

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“The game changer was receiving a grant to build a meat processing room in our barn,” he says. The grant in question was an APR Improvement Program grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture. These are available to farmers who have already restricted their land for agricultural use through the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction, or APR, program, and are designed to help keep those farm businesses active and strong.

Adding the ability to butcher their own meat on-site is what sets them apart, says Bostrom. “There are only a few local slaughterhouses, so if everyone is sending their animals there and having them fully butchered and processed, they’re all ending up with really similar stuff.”

Instead, Bostrom’s cows and pigs are still slaughtered elsewhere, but they come back to the farm in large portions. From there, they can be custom cut and processed to Bostrom and his customers’ liking.

“Our whole goal is to offer people hyper-fresh meat, including sausages and other end products made without chemicals or preservatives,” he explains. “Anything we make is just our meat and a handful of ingredients and spices. For example, we cure our own maple pepper bacon, and the only things we add are maple syrup, pepper and salt.”

“We make fresh ground beef,” he continues. “We make special sausages like apple kielbasa, cranberry sausage, or wild ramp sausage in the spring. For a while we were even making our own burgers with jalapenos and cheddar cheese.”

Most of their meat is sold straight from the farm at 701 Colrain Road just north of Greenfield, where retail hours are now Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors can check the farm’s Facebook page for weekly availability, order ahead in some cases, or stop by to see what’s there and watch them making it.

Bostrom Farm also offers a CSA, usually three times per year. Customers pay upfront for a mixed box of beef and pork products to be picked up monthly over the course of a season. Their 2023 winter CSA has begun, but spring and summer are still to come. In summers, they’ve often attended the Greenfield Farmers’ Market.

Many of the skills Bostrom honed as a dairy farmer still apply now, especially managing healthy pastures through rotational grazing. With this method, livestock are restricted to small sections of pasture, encouraging them to graze and deposit manure with even intensity, before moving on to let that area rejuvenate. This mimics the behavior of grazing herd animals in nature and encourages richer and more diverse pasture soils and plant life.

Bostrom has also started planting cold-hardy annual crops like tillage radish, clover, ryegrass and oats into fields in the summer to extend the grazing season. In the fall when perennial grasses start dying back, these plants provide additional forage and prolong the switch hay for winter feed.

Butchering, meanwhile, has been “an interesting learning curve,” says Bostrom, but one that’s in his blood. “My grandfather had a butcher shop in Connecticut in the 1940s and 1950s,” he says. He’s also learned from his brother, who also owns a retail butcher shop in New York, as well as friends and colleagues locally.

As winter turns to spring things will get busier, with plant starts for sale at the farm store, the arrival of new animals for summer grazing, and new projects like completing the organic certification process for more of their products. Bostrom still misses the dairy business, but for now, he’s found the next best thing.

Jacob Nelson is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about local farmers raising animals near you, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.

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