I am very excited to tell you about this great farm we took a trip to this past Friday. It was just over an hour drive from Downtown Buffalo and worth every minute of it. Sojourner Farms is located in Olean, NY, run by Pierre and Lesa Dionne.
From their website:
Having both grown up on commercial (i.e. chemical and fertilizer-intensive) potato farms, Lesa and I for several reasons, had no interest what-so-ever in that type of food production. Serendipity would have it that we would become owners of an abandoned dairy farm and the question was what to do with all that fallow land. We sure didn’t want to go into the type of farming we had grown up with but again, fate stepped in and a few years ago Cornell Co-op extension brought a gentleman by the name of Joel Salatin as a guest speaker at an alternative-farming seminar in Alfred and he planted the seed in me to seek further information about this up and coming “radical” approach to farming called pastured meat production.
This type of farming seemed much more user-friendly and sustainable ecologically, and as a practicing Physician, it was obvious to me that this was a much healthier way to raise meat both for the consumer and the farmer. Not knowing if this was something we wanted to pursue in a big way, we followed Mr. Salatin’s suggestion and began with pastured poultry since it was seasonal and not capital intensive to get into.
The moveable, open-air, chicken houses, which allow them plenty of room and constant fresh pasture to feed on.
I did a lot of research on what I was looking for in a farm, I knew that although we really didn’t eat meat often, when we did, I wanted to know where it came from and how it was raised. I want the meat I eat to be without hormones and antibiotics (or any chemicals for that matter), I want to know that the animals are raised humanely and given room to roam and fresh grass to eat. Having learned about Sojourner Farms a few months back, exchanging many emails with Pierre and subsequently placing an order for four chickens and 1/5 of a pig, this brought us on the journey to see the farm and to pick up our food this past Friday afternoon. What a fabulous and life-changing, short trip we were lucky enough to take. It is so incredibly refreshing to see the happy animals roaming the many acres of grassy farmland and to know that they are all well-treated and living the lives they deserve to live. We were able to speak at great length with Pierre about how he acquired the 260 acres of land he owns, how he got into farming in this manner, which (as you would guess) it isn’t easy and it is very costly to run. Pierre is still a practicing physician in town (two days a week) and has a full-time daily farm hand on staff. Lesa is a full time school teacher. Pierre and Lesa feel “…that if more people knew how most of our food is produced commercially, they would demand significant paradigm shifts. We, as a society, have delegated the task of monitoring food quality to others and they may not always have the consumer’s best interest at heart.”
Happy cows, grazing on delicious pasture at Sojourner
One of the very many beautiful views.
Being able to shake the hand of the man that raised the food we would soon be eating, asking questions about how the animals are raised and fed, seeing the land they live on and feed off of, it is an experience that really cannot be put into words. I truly feel that if more people were aware of the foods they eat and where it comes from, more people would take action to ensure that same food is of the utmost quality, both ethically and otherwise. We owe it to ourselves to be educated about what we consume, what it is doing to us, the animals (if you choose to eat meat), and the environment. Your actions can speak louder than you know and supporting the places that share those beliefs is the only way to help make the changes you seek, a reality. The trip to Sojourner was probably the single most emotional food related experience I can ever recall from my lifetime. I feel so lucky to have found their farms and to be able to support them and what they are doing.
On the drive back to the city, we stopped at a farmer’s stand bought some tomatoes, baby potatoes, and fresh from the field, strawberries and lettuce. From those two stops we were able to make an amazing dinner. We butterflied and grilled a whole chicken along with some baby potatoes for grilled herb potato salad and I threw together a delicious green salad with tomatoes, walnuts and feta. Since, I know we will be making this exact meal again, I decided to forgo the photos and recipes this time. Mark and I were so happy to not be rushing off somewhere and to be together (alone), that we wanted to enjoy a beautiful dinner, slowly and quietly without interruption. That chicken was hands-down, THE best chicken we have ever eaten in my life. So fresh, so flavorful and I truly feel like you can taste the love and care taken every single step of the way. Thank you Pierre and Lesa, for all that you are doing.