Q&A With Holly Browder of Browder’s Birds

Holly Browder, Browder's Birds

Q: How long have you been farming on the North Fork?

A: My husband Chris & I have been farming on the North Fork for five years after we left our previous careers in the city.

Q: What careers were you in?

A: Chris was an investment banker at BofA and I worked at McKinsey & company. But we both wanted to do something we were passionate about instead. We were members of a CSA on the Upper West Side, and the integrity of food really mattered to us.

Q: Did you have any agricultural experience before you started farming?

A: No we didn’t have any experience. Our first season out here Chris apprenticed at Garden of Eve Organic Farm in Riverhead. He was 44 at the time, and though he was told he wasn’t the oldest apprentice they ever had, he never met anyone older who worked there.

Q: What surprised you the most about the switch?

A: Even though I knew it would be hard, farming is seven days a week, you don’t get a day off.  It’s not like our corporate jobs that had paid vacation, weekends off, benefits.  Still, we love to be here and we love what we do.

Q: What do you farm?

A:  We are a livestock farm, predominately chicken. We raise broilers for meat chicken, we raise laying hens for eggs. We also raise sheep and lamb, and now we have a flock of ducks.

Q: Why livestock?

A: When we started farming there was not a lot of livestock on Long Island. It’s still growing slowly. We thought it was niche we could fill. Currently we’re the only certified organic poultry farm on long island.

We offer chicken shares and egg shares. We also sell at various farmers’ markets on the East End as well as on  our farm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Q: How did you pick the North Fork for your farm?

A: Chris and I met on Shelter Island one weekend.  We really love Shelter Island and the North Fork. And  we were staying close to NYC, as I was working at McKinsey still that first year.

Q: What should readers picture in their minds’ eye when they think of your farm?

A: Sixteen acres of free ranging animals raised naturally. All our chickens are raised on organic pasture and roam freely with the help of electric fencing. All the chickens and sheep  are rotationally grazed to give them access to fresh pasture, bugs and weeds.  To make the rotation easier, everything’s housed in portable structures.

The sheep are our lawnmowers, the lead herbivore on the pasture, and then the omnivore chickens come in, and eat all the bugs the sheep revealed, at the same time as fertilizing the pasture.

Q: How large is your herd?

A:  We do under 2000 meat chickens a season, 300 laying hens, 10 sheep, one ram, a flock of 10 ducks and 6 bee hives.

Q: What’s your goal? How big do you want to get?

A: We’re not interested in industrial scale farming. We want to remain a sustainable farm that feeds its community.

Browder’s Birds sells its meat and eggs at farmer’s markets and through CSA. Visit their website to learn more details.

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