Agricultural Stewardship AssociationAgricultural Stewardship Association

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Conservation Stories

Since its inception in 1990, ASA has helped landowners protect a variety of working lands throughout Washington and Rensselaer counties.
Simply Grazin' II

COVID-19 fuels unprecedented growth

Simply Grazin’ responds to both by doubling down on conservation efforts

While COVID-19 brought the world to a halt for many people and businesses, for Mark Faille it was more like rocket fuel on the fires of his Simply Grazin’ operation.

“Most years we see 10-20% growth,” says Faille, “But this year we’re at 100-150%. And I don’t see any signs of it slowing.”

With success comes challenges

“I can’t emphasize this enough: Now is the time to be preserving every piece of land we can.”

The premier producer and wholesale distributor of 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef on the East Coast, Simply Grazin’ operates farms in New Jersey, Virginia and Washington County, New York. In addition to beef, their pasture-raised pork, poultry and lamb are sold through retailers including Whole Foods, FreshDirect and Walden Local Meat Co.as well as numerous small butcher shops and retail establishments.

“The demand for locally-raised beef is extremely high right now,” says Faille, “Between distributors losing access to overseas meat — particularly China — and a growing consumer demand for locally-raised product — especially through home delivery channels, we’re honestly having a hard time keeping up.

The first challenge is finding help. The labor market is extremely tight. And the other challenge is the cost of land.”

Since COVID hit, Faille has seen land prices in Washington County jump from $1,500 to $2,500 per acre virtually overnight. “I can’t emphasize this enough: Now is the time to be preserving every piece of land we can. You’ve got land developers and solar folks all looking to buy land. I’m working to conserve everything I have but realize that for some farmers, an asking price of $2500 or even $3000 an acre is hard to pass up. We’ve got to get every bit of land we possibly can conserved over the next five years. If it gets chopped up into small lots, agriculture in the region is done for.”

Reinvesting in the farm and the community

In addition to protecting the land from development, Faille sees easements as an easy and natural way to invest in the communities where his farms are located.

“Every dollar we get through the sale of our development rights goes directly back into the local economy,” he explains. “Some of it goes to the tractor and hardware stores, some of it goes to paying salaries of local people, that they then spend at local businesses, and on and on. By investing back in our business, we’re investing in our community. If we don’t do that, we’re basically undercutting the financial viability of the place we live in.”

Another 540 acres conserved thanks to you

Simply Grazin’ conveyed two easements to ASA in 2018 on 505 acres in the towns of Fort Ann and Hartford. In 2020, they conserved two additional easements for 540 acres in the towns of Fort Edward and Hartford. Funding for the new easements was provided in part by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

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