Despite the pouring rain at NYC’s Union Square Greenmarket, customer after customer stopped by to ask Dan Gibson from Grazin’ Angus Acresdetailed questions about how he raises his animals. His new status as the first Animal Welfare Approved farmer in Greenmarket is something he’s very proud of and itshowsin 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 grassfed Black Angus cattle, 400laying 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 pasture raised 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, as well as 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.”
Grazin’ Angus Acres applied for the Animal Welfare Approved certification to reassure his 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 Animal Welfare Approved logo it wouldn’t have the same impact.”
Dan’s passion for sustainability doesn’t stop at the farm gate. In October 2011, he opened Grazin’ Diner, the first Animal Welfare Approved restaurant in the U.S., sourcing meat, milk and eggs from other local 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.”
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, the first Animal Welfare Approved restaurant in the world, in Hudson, NY, as well as at the Local 111 restaurant in Philmont, NY. For more information, visit www.grazinangusacres.com. To find out more about Grazin’ Diner, visit www.grazindiner.com.