BATTENKILL VALLEY CREAMERY
Don and Seth McEachron, 4th & 5th generation farmers, are the father-son owners and operators of Battenkill Valley Creamery in Salem, New York. In 2010 and 2016, the McEachrons won Cornell’s top prize for the highest-quality, freshest, and best tasting milk in New York. Knowing that award-winning milk starts with happy, healthy cows, Don and Seth set the standard for sustainable farming and proper animal treatment. The McEachrons have been dairy farming in the Battenkill Valley region for over a century. Today, their herd numbers 350 cows of mixed breed Holsteins, Jersey, and Holstein-Jersey crossbreeds for higher butterfat content, on 1,000 acres of land.
Click to enlarge the photos below and walk through a day in the life of Don & Seth McEachron.
Left to right: Ivan Arguello, Jr., Ivan Arguello, Sr., and Enrico Palazio, Jr.
IVAN ARGUELLO, a 30-year veteran of the grocery business, owns KEY FOOD MONTAGUE in Brooklyn Heights. Ivan’s family has operated the store, part of the cooperatively owned Key Food chain, since 1982. Today Ivan runs the store alongside his nephew Enrico Palazio, Jr. and his son Ivan Jr. Over breakfast recently, we talked about the longevity of their family business, our shared commitment to taking local food mainstream and where the super-market business is headed.
Tell us about your family’s history in the grocery business.
My father came to New York from Nicaragua in 1979, in the midst of the revolution there. He started working in construction out on Long Island, and then purchased the store in Brooklyn Heights in 1982. He found the right people to run it, and learned everything he needed to know about the supermarket world from them. My brother-in-law Enrico Palazio, Sr. and I took over the business when my father passed away in 1994.
Why Brooklyn Heights?
I’ve always felt at home here. It’s a great community that appreciates the value of having a quality supermarket in the neighborhood, and we have many loyal employees, some who have been with us for 30 years. We owned a second store, in the Bronx, for a while, but ultimately decided to focus all of our time and attention on making the Brooklyn Heights store the best it can be. My wife Mary Elizabeth and I live in New Jersey now, but I love Brooklyn Heights. The store is my second home.
How has your business changed over the years?
Consumers today are much more informed about food and demand higher levels of service, convenience and transparency from their sources and grocery stores than ever before. Their interest in local food continues to grow, and we dedicate ourselves to finding the best sources from around the region. That inspires our focus on quality, the products we offer in the store and how we present them. We work hard at getting that right. It means a lot to us that customers continue to support their local family-run supermarket.
How have you responded to these developments?
We talk with our customers all the time, ask for their input and anticipate broader consumer trends. It’s important to listen to the younger generations. I see that they’re eager to try new foods. Knowing how they shop has changed how we think about selling food. Enrico and Ivan Jr., our store’s third generation and younger consumers themselves, have helped with this. In 2015, we collaborated with a group of Fordham business school students to analyze consumer and market data and identify changes we needed to make to better serve our customers. Those adjustments, which we’ve implemented over the past couple of years, have been very successful.
What are some of those modifications?
We focused on product sourcing, store remodeling, and product presentation to ensure the best food and fit with our customer. We opened a new kitchen and hired a professional chef to develop recipes so we could offer a broader array of prepared foods. We now have a farm stand look that sets our produce department apart. Ivan Jr. has a knack for spotting trends, and he’s always out foraging for the tastiest, highest-quality local products. Enrico is involved in the deli and cheese departments and keeps the operations and finance side of things running smoothly.
How did you find FIVE ACRE FARMS?
I’m proud to have been among the first to discover and carry FIVE ACRE FARMS. Dan (Dan Horan, Five Acre Farms Founder & CEO) lives in the neighborhood and has long been part of the community. Like KEY FOOD MONTAGUE customers, I believe in your company’s mission and want to support the region’s outstanding farmers. I know from talking with our customers that they recognize that local farmers and businesses need our support to thrive and grow and want to do their part to make that happen.
What makes your partnership with FIVE ACRE FARMS work so well?
To me, the foundation of our productive working relationship is our shared belief in the vital role local food plays in building community and the local economy. FIVE ACRE FARMS really knows local food. You provide great-tasting, high-quality local products. You connect us to our farmers by telling us about them and where our food comes from. You show that you really care about our store. There aren’t many companies out there that offer your level of service, that send ambassadors into the store, like you do, to visit, talk with dairy managers and introduce your products to customers.
What do you like to eat at home?
I eat very well at home… steaks are definitely a favorite. We enjoy many cuisines from around the world. And my wife always asks me to bring home FIVE ACRE FARMS Maple Greek Yogurt. That’s what she serves when her friends come over for breakfast. They just love it!
KEFIR, first created more than 2,000 years ago in the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe, is a cultured milk drink that tastes like yogurt and has the consistency of a smoothie.
Our smooth, creamy LOCAL KEFIR is packed with healthy probiotics and comes in plain, maple and honey flavors. To make it, we start with the best local whole milk from cows cared for by outstanding local farmers and add 12 carefully selected live cultures. For our LOCAL MAPLE KEFIR, a 2016 SOFI AWARD FINALIST, we mix in just the right amount of pure local maple syrup, tapped from our farmers’ old stand trees, for a delicate maple flavor. Our kefir is pasteurized and homogenized, and we never use any artificial sweeteners, additives, thickeners, gums or stabilizers.
Like all FIVE ACRE FARMS products, our LOCAL KEFIR is sourced and produced within 275 miles and sold in retail locations and top restaurants throughout New York City and the Tri-State Region. We sell Milk, Half & Half, Heavy Cream, Buttermilk, Greek and Regular Yogurts, Cage Free Eggs, and seasonal Apple Cider. Each package specifies the farm where that batch of the product was made.
FIVE ACRE FARMS brings the best-tasting local food to grocery stores, restaurants and food shops. We find outstanding farmers using sustainable practices, pay them fairly and tell their stories. Our business helps to create new jobs, promote the local economy, expand access to local food, safeguard the environment, preserve farmland, protect groundwater, and foster proper animal treatment. We call this being “Positively Local®”. To us, that means knowing exactly where our food comes from. It means growing the region’s economy and actively participating in the community. It means restoring the connection between farmer and customer.
- Is your whole milk really whole milk?
- Milk composition, including fat, varies by breed
- Butterfat greatly impacts how dairy tastes
Are you ever confused by all of the different types of milk in the dairy case? Whole, 2%, 1%, 0%, reduced, skim, fat free. What does it all mean?
Milk is one of our most nutrient-dense foods—with calcium, protein, vitamins A & D, to name a few of its superpowers. The amount of butterfat (cream) in cow’s milk varies by breed. The iconic black and white Holstein produces milk with up to 4% fat while Jerseys—the ones with brown coats—produce richer-tasting milk with about 5% fat. Brown Swiss and Guernsey cows make milk that’s somewhere in between.
But here’s the big milk curveball: Federal guidelines dictate the percentage of butterfat for each milk category. Since butterfat is very valuable, large milk processors want the federal “whole”percentage to be as low as possible. What you need to know, as a shopper, is that milk can still be labeled as “whole” even if some of the fat has been removed. That doesn’t sound like “whole” milk to us.
At FIVE ACRE FARMS, we look for cows whose milk is naturally high in butterfat. We don’t adjust the fat content in our whole milk (a process called “standardization”), and we think that’s something you can taste. No wonder our whole milk—simply what comes out of the cow—is so popular. Taste the difference it makes in our yogurt, kefir and buttermilk—all made using our whole milk.
Drop us a line at email@example.com to tell us your favorite variety and where you buy our milk, and we’ll send you FIVE ACRE FARMS swag to show our thanks.
Erin is the Executive Pastry Chef at REYNARD at Brooklyn’s WYTHE HOTEL. Happily for the sweet tooth, she has discovered a delicious home for FIVE ACRE FARMS local dairy products and cage free eggs in her inventive desserts, among them the Kefir Mousse she shares here. Growing up, Erin learned to love texture and technique baking with her grandmother and cooking with her father. A veteran of the teaching kitchen, she has taught baking and pastry at WESTERN CULINARY INSTITUTE, the CALIFORNIA CULINARY ACADEMY and the FRENCH CULINARY INSTITUTE (now the International Culinary Center). She joined the opening team at REYNARD in 2012.
• 1 TBS Powdered Gelatin
• 3 1/2 TBS Water (cold)
• 2 Egg Yolks
• 3 1/2 oz Five Acre Farms Plain Kefir
• 3/4 cup Sugar
• 9 oz Five Acre Farms Plain Kefir
• 2 tsp Lemon Juice (fresh)
• 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
• 25 oz Heavy Cream
•1/8 tsp Citric Acid (optional, elevates kefir flavor)
• 3/4 tsp Fine Sea Salt
1. Bloom gelatin in cold water by evenly sprinkling gelatin over the surface of the cold water, and let the powder sink into the water to hydrate. Don’t dump into water as a clump or the gelatin will not rehydrate properly. Let stand for 5 minutes to fully bloom.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and find a metal bowl that fits just over the top and traps the steam below.
3. Using that bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, 3 1/2 oz portion of kefir and the bloomed gelatin.
4. When pot has come to a boil, turn heat off. Place your yolk mixture bowl over top of the steaming pot and begin to whisk.
5. Whisk this mixture until it has become frothy, lighter in color and when you draw the foam on top of itself, it holds on the surface for 3 seconds.
6. Once your yolk mixture has come to a ribbon, remove from heat and transfer to a clean bowl.
7. Let this mixture sit while whipping the heavy cream to billowy, firm peaks.
8. Gently whisk remaining 9 oz kefir, lemon juice, vanilla extract, salt and citric acid into cooling yolk ribbon.
9. Once kefir mix is homogenous, gently fold in whipped cream.
10. Pour mousse into serving vessels and chill minimum 4 hours or overnight.
SAMASCOTT ORCHARDS, Kinderhook, New York, has been our valued partner since the start, supplying apples for FIVE ACRE FARMS Local Apple Cider and Local Apple Juice. The Samascott family has been farming in the Hudson Valley since the 1900’s and perfecting apples since the 1940’s. Cousins and 4th-generation farmers Jake and Bryan Samascott, alongside their siblings, grow more than 70 apple varieties, picked when they are perfectly ripe.
Click to enlarge the photos below and walk through a day in the life of Jake Samascott.
DAN HORAN founded FIVE ACRE FARMS in 2010 to keep farmers farming and expand access to the region’s best local food. In this interview, he offers his perspective on the company’s mission, its work to bring local food into the mainstream and what it means to be Positively Local®.
How does Five Acre Farms define local food?
The way we look at it, local is about more than just distance. Local means knowing where our food comes from and what practices and processes were used along the way. It means paying farmers fairly to support their responsible farming and business practices. Local means growing the region’s economy and actively participating in the community. It means restoring the connection between farmer and consumer. We like to call this being “Positively Local®”.
What distance is considered local? Is it 50 miles—or 500?
Some people say 50 miles. Others say 500. Under the federal food safety law, local food is produced within 275 miles of where it’s sold. We think that makes sense for the Northeast, though to us, mileage is just one aspect of local. So much goes into growing, processing and distributing food that it’s more realistic to think of that effort as regional rather than going on only within the borders of your own state.
How do you select your participating farmers?
We travel around the Northeast, meeting with farmers and introducing ourselves, FIVE ACRE FARMS and how we work. Once we identify a prospective partner, we make a number of farm visits and learn about their farming practices and processes. We take our time to make sure that we have the shared vision and goals needed for a successful partnership.
Isn’t the farmers’ market the place to buy local food?
I love farmers’ markets. Having started my career as an organic farmer, I learned my first lessons in sales at farmers’ markets and always encourage people to buy directly from farmers. I also believe in keeping farmers farming by making their products more broadly available to consumers. FIVE ACRE FARMS helps farmers get into the mainstream, beginning at the supermarket—where Americans spend the most time food shopping.
Is it possible to buy local food year-round?
While it can be a challenge to buy local all year long, you should be able to get local milk and eggs throughout the year regardless of where you live. Take advantage of that to buy the freshest milk and eggs you can get your hands on. You’ll taste the difference. Other possibilities will vary by region. In the Northeast, where I live, I can buy local apples and root vegetables year-round.
How can I make sure that my neighborhood supermarket carries local food?
Hopefully, you’re noticing more and more local tags and labels in your store. If not, ask the store manager to buy local. Be sure to mention specific local items that you and your family like. Give the store leads by telling them about your favorite area farms. In my experience, grocery stores appreciate and respond quickly to this kind of input. If your store already has a local buying program, applaud its efforts, help spread the word and offer feedback.
There are so many products and claims out there. What’s your advice for making good choices when shopping local in the grocery store?
The key is to know your sources as much as possible. Start with a couple of items, and learn where they come from, who makes them and exactly how they’re handled. If you know the farmer, then you’re well on your way to being able to make a good decision. Sometimes information about the source is purposely hidden from you, and you’ll be able to tell when that’s the case. Knowing that we all lead busy lives, FIVE ACRE FARMS tries to make things simple. When you see our label, you know where your food comes from. You know that it’s local, delicious and healthy. You know that, because we vet our farms carefully, the farmers who produced it treat their animals properly, care for their farmland and groundwater and conserve energy. We do the legwork for you.
Where can I find Five Acre Farms outside the grocery store?
Our focus has always been, as we sometimes put it, bringing the farmers market to the supermarket. We’re also finding a wealth of opportunities to build on that focus by being the local solution in other places as well—like, for example, coffee shops and restaurants, including the new Kellogg’s NYC cereal café in Times Square. We even have local flying at 35,000 feet, where our products are used by UNION SQUARE EVENTS in creating in-flight menus for DELTA. We’re bringing local food into the mainstream where it should be, making it part of our everyday lives.
FIVE ACRE FARMS brings the best-tasting local food to grocery stores, restaurants and food shops. We find outstanding farmers using sustainable practices, pay them fairly and tell their stories. Our business helps to create new jobs and promote the local economy, expand access to local food, safeguard the environment, preserve farmland, protect groundwater and foster proper animal treatment. We call this being Positively Local®.
Sourced and produced within 275 miles, our products are sold in retail locations and top restaurants throughout New York City and the Tri-State Region. We sell Milk, Half & Half, Heavy Cream, Buttermilk, Kefir, Greek and Regular Yogurts, Cage Free Eggs, Apple Juice and seasonal Apple Cider. Each package specifies the farm where that batch of the product was made.
To Be Positively Local, we:
KEEP FARMERS FARMING
We pay our farmers fairly—and directly —a price that’s above the market rate and reflects what it costs them to make high-quality food, hire and treat people properly, take care of their animals and protect the environment.
IMPROVE ACCESS TO LOCAL
We bring the best local food to grocery stores and price our products so as many people as possible can buy fresh, quality local products.
CONNECT YOU AND YOUR FARMER
At FIVE ACRE FARMS, we tag all of our products, so you know exactly where your food comes from and can be sure that the farmers who made it adhere to sustainable practices. We vet them so you don’t have to.
PROMOTE LOCAL ECONOMIES
We create jobs across the region by partnering with local farmers and processors and doing business with local vendors.
IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT
Our farmers have higher standards when it comes to our founding principles of protecting groundwater, replenishing soils and conserving energy.
Through our work with farmers, we are supporting more than 5,000 acres of farmland in New York, Massachusetts. Connecticut, and Vermont.
What’s With The Name?
It’s been more than 20 years since Dan first had the idea that became FIVE ACRE FARMS. At the time, he was running WALDINGFIELD FARM, the organic produce farm he founded in Washington, Connecticut in 1990. Back then, Dan envisioned a company that would own or franchise a number of five-acre farms along the East Coast, working closely with farmers to market the food they produced. (Why Five? You can produce a huge amount of food and operate a viable business on just five acres of land.) Dan’s original business plan became part of his application to business school, but that was not the end of it. Over the years, while getting an MBA and then working in the grocery business and restaurant management in New York City, Dan continued to refine his concept. He ultimately concluded that FIVE ACRE FARMS could make local food available to more American consumers, and in doing so support a greater number of responsible farmers, by partnering with, rather than owning, farms.
agriculture noun: the science, art, or occupation concerned with cultivating land, raising crops, and breeding, and raising livestock; farming.
WHAT’S IN YOUR LOCAL CIDER (and not…) THIS SEASON:
- Learn what distinguishes this year’s early apples
- Warm weather results in lighter color apples
- Sparse rainfall makes for more sweetness
The next time you reach for a jug of FIVE ACRE FARMS apple cider, look for signs of variations in the apple harvest that naturally occur from year to year.
What’s distinctive about the early fall local apple harvest in the Northeast this year? Due to the unusually dry, warm weather of late summer and early fall, many apples in our region ripened before developing the deep red skin color we’re used to seeing. The lack of water also concentrates the fruit’s natural sugars, making this year’s cider apples especially sweet. The lighter complexion can be seen in many varieties with Macintosh being the best example. Macs, the traditional New England base for cider, are green apples that rely on crisp, cool nights and adequate moisture to develop their red color just before ripening. (To make our cider, we blend a base of Macs with up to 20 other varieties.) Happily, these climate-related fluctuations don’t change the great taste of our local apples, producing a sweet, crisp cider that’s as delicious as ever. And whether they’re deep red or a subtle pastel, local apples are the only ingredients in FIVE ACRE FARMS cider, with absolutely nothing added.
Our friend Frances Boswell is one part of the talented pair behind Kitchen Repertoire. On their blog, Frances, a food editor and stylist, and Dana Gallagher, a photographer and creative director, share their love of food, cooking and visual story telling and offer culinary inspiration from everyday life.
Learn more about Frances and Dana and discover new recipes at kitchen-repertoire.com.
• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
• 1 1/2 teaspoons peppercorns
• 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
• 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamon seeds
• 1/2 teaspoon cloves
• 1 small cinnamon stick
• 3 bay leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
• 2 teaspoons sea salt
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• Pork shoulder about 5 pounds
• Several sprigs fresh thyme
• 2 large onions, thickly sliced
• 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
• 1 1/2 cups apple cider
• A few cloves garlic
• 3 crisp apples
Combine cumin, peppercorns, coriander, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and nutmeg in a spice grinder and work to a powder. Brush pork with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season well with spices, salt and some fresh thyme. Refrigerate about 1 hour.
Heat oven to 425º. Strew bottom of dutch oven with onion, carrots and garlic to create a bed for pork. Add cider. Set the pork shoulder, fat side up, over vegetables and cider and place in oven. Roast until top of meat is golden brown and crisp, about 40 minutes. Reduce heat to 300º, cover dutch oven and continue cooking another 6 hours. The meat should be very tender and easily fall from the bone. With about 1 1/2 hours left to go, halve and core fruit. Toss with remaining tablespoon olive oil, fresh thyme and a pinch of sea salt. Arrange apples, cut side up, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in oven (on a rack below meat) and roast until meat has finished cooking. Remove meat and apples from oven. Shred meat from bone and serve alongside apples.