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The Face of NY Agriculture

Holly Browder
Browders Birds, LLC
Long Island, NY
Browder’s Birds is a 16-acre pastured poultry farm and we raise Certified Organic broiler chickens and laying hens.
Holly Browder

Can you describe your farm?  

Browder’s Birds is a 16-acre pastured poultry farm located on the North Fork of Long Island.  We raise Certified Organic broiler chickens and laying hens.  In addition, we have ducks, sheep and a bee yard on our farm. 

How did you get into agriculture?

Prior to farming, my husband Chris, and I lived in New York City but became involved with a CSA on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and grew interested in the local, organic food movement. The idea of sustainable farming interested both of us as well as the pastured livestock model.  After Chris completed an apprenticeship at an organic farm on Long Island, we decided to launch a pastured poultry business in the 2010 season.

What is your role on your operation? 

My husband, Chris, and I are co-owners of Browder’s Birds.  He oversees the day-to-day farming operations and I manage the marketing, which includes the farm stand, our restaurants and retail accounts, farmers markets and our product development.

How do you incorporate technology into your operation? 

Social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, is a powerful tool to attract more customers and educate them about your farming practices.  And who doesn’t like to see pictures of baby animals? I also write a weekly e-newsletter with a farm update and where to find our products.  The newsletter helps to build a loyal relationship with our customers. 

What is the biggest challenge facing agriculture in New York State?

It’s very expensive to operate a small business in New York given the regulations, taxes, labor costs, and on Long Island, high land values. 

What is the biggest opportunity?

Our proximity to New York City gives us access to an almost unlimited supply of customers willing to pay a premium for local, humanely-raised food.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Farming is much more than just growing food… we produce a line of canned and jarred products, as well as quiches, in a commercial kitchen that complement our poultry and eggs.  And last season we started producing a line of knitwear made from the wool of our flock of Cotswold sheep.  I really enjoy coming up with new ideas and products to help grow our business.

How do you see your farm changing in five years?

More customers will be looking for convenience when shopping for food. Just look at the boom in online meal delivery services.  For small farms like us to compete, we will need to make it easier and more efficient for customers to eat local by offering prepared, pre-sliced, cut-up and pre-packaged foods from the farm.

Why is Farm Bureau important to you?

I joined the Long Island Farm Bureau Board of Directors two years ago as the only Certified Organic Farmer.  I respect that Farm Bureau supports all types of farms – even those that don’t align with my values or practices. While we may have our differences as farmers, we still share issues that threaten our livelihood and there is greater strength in working together.  

What advice do you have for beginning farmers? 

Do an apprenticeship (or several) before starting out on your own.  Nothing else can prepare you for the work required and the relationships that you gain while working with and for others will come in handy in the future.