Despite the pouring rain at NYC’s Union Square Greenmarket, customer after customer stopped by to ask Dan Gibson from Grazin’ Angus Acres detailed questions about how he raises his animals. His status as the first Certified AWA farmer in Greenmarket back in 2009 is something he’s very proud of and it shows in his conversations. Dan said he gets these questions all the time, but that’s why he loves having a farmstand at Greenmarket. He appreciates when people ask questions and come for tours on the farm. “Once they come for a tour of the farm,” he said, “they’re customers for life.”
While Dan is usually the person you’ll meet at the farmers’ markets, he doesn’t run the farm alone. Dan’s wife Susan, their four grandchildren, his son Keith and his wife Nicole, and Christine and Andrew “Chip” Chiappinelli all assist in raising the farm’s 250 head of Black Angus cattle, 400 laying hens, Tamworth pigs and herd of grassfed Jersey dairy cattle. Dan and his family are successful farmers even though they didn’t come from a farming background. Dan was a corporate executive in NYC, but after 9/11 he decided to leave the corporate world and become a full time farmer.
When asked why his eggs are “so great,” Dan replied, “The hens are raised on pasture and the eggs have an orange yolk that’s full of beta carotene and omega-3. The hens are out and about all day long eating bugs and grass, supplemented with 100 percent organic soy-free grain.” The fact that his animals are pasture raised is very important to Dan. “Pasture-raised is key,” he says. “The term ‘free-range’ is meaningless. All of our chickens are moved to fresh grass every day. We want our animals to have a longer life span and raising our cattle to a later age gives nicer tasting beef because it allows the animals to marble. We cultivate the best grasses, 100 percent Black Angus, best genetics.” As well as providing tasty, nutritious eggs, Dan explains that the chickens provide the farm’s fertilizer needs and pest control. “They replenish the soil’s nutrients with their nitrogen-rich droppings, and eat up all of the fly larvae that are beginning to hatch in the patties left behind by the cattle,” says Dan. “It’s an awesome symbiotic relationship!” The pigs also play an important role, helping to cultivate the soil and remove any long-standing weed problems. “We believe that if you let a pig do what it is naturally programmed to do, everyone wins,” says Dan. “The pigs eat, root, and take mud baths at their leisure, we enjoy a sustainable and aesthetically pleasing addition to our farm, and best of all, our customers get to enjoy a healthy end product that they can feel good about eating.”
Dan explains that he applied for AWA certification to reassure customers that he really was farming with animal welfare and the environment in mind. As Dan recalls, “I was sure in my heart that I was doing the right things, not just providing a superior, safe and efficacious product and we were sure we were treating our animals with the respect that our customers in NYC and Albany would appreciate. I could talk about it all I wanted, but without the AWA logo it wouldn’t have the same impact.”
In 2015, Grazin’ Angus Acres became the first farm in the state of New York to attain Certified Grassfed by AWA status for their beef cattle. “When it comes to knowing the meat, eggs, and dairy products you eat came from animals raised according to the highest welfare standards, AWA is the only label you can trust. It made sense to us at Grazin’ Angus Acres that the Certified Grassfed by AWA logo would be met with the same level of consumer confidence. AWA certification is THE truly independent certification that our informed customers rely on,” says Dan.
Dan’s passion for sustainability doesn’t stop at the farm gate. In October 2011, he opened Grazin’ Diner, the first Certified AWA restaurant in the U.S., sourcing meat, milk and eggs from other local Certified AWA farms. Situated in Hudson, NY, Grazin’ is a modern take on the classic 1950s burger diner. “We serve only locally sourced and sustainably produced meals, including eight different burgers made using 100 percent grassfed Angus beef from our farm,” says Dan. “Our menu also features beef, pork, eggs and milk from our farm, as well as milk, pork, cheese from other local farms all certified by AWA. Most of our ingredients will travel less than 11 miles from farm to plate.” In March of 2015, the Gibsons opened a second Certified AWA location called Grazin’ in TriBeCa, NY. He has plans to open further restaurants in other cities—all using ingredients sourced from local Certified AWA farms.
Grazin’ Angus Acres products are available at NYC’s Union Square Greenmarket every week, as well as at Berry Farm shop in Kinderhook, NY, and Chatham Real Food Co-op in Chatham, NY. Products from the farm are also served at Grazin’ Diner in Hudson, NY, and Grazin’ TriBeCa in NYC. For more information, visit www.grazinburger.com.