The herd of beef cattle and flock of sheep at Liberty Farms in Ghent, NY…
Danielle Larese and Nick Weinstock raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) sheep and goats at BOTL Farm in Ashford, Connecticut.
Nick and Danielle are both first-generation farmers. “The decision to start farming snuck up on us, as big decisions sometimes do,” says Danielle. “Nick was taking over the family business of construction project management while I was finishing grad school and establishing myself as a career government scientist when we met the farmer who would change our lives. She accepted our clumsy offers of free labor on her farm and in return, taught us invaluable lessons about the reality and the infrastructure of raising animals on pasture. We worked with her for four years and then decided to take the plunge ourselves and start farming. The day Nick officially quit his day job in order to begin farming full-time was terrifying, but we suspected it’d be easier to build a farm while we’re in our 30s instead of waiting until our 50s or 60s.”
BOTL Farm is 41 acres (20 being currently used for production, of which 4 is pasture and 16 is transitional silvopasture). The flock of sheep at BOTL Farm are Icelandic, a relatively small breed that are hardy foragers. The goats are Kiko goats, which have impressive parasite resilience, the ability to deliver and nurse triplets, and a preference for woody, shrubby things the sheep won’t eat. The sheep and goats work well together and have helped Danielle and Nick transform some of their wooded areas into silvopasture.
In addition to being Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, the sheep and goats at BOTL Farm are also Certified Grassfed by AGW, the first—and only—food label in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100% grass and forage diet, and raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range.
“We have designed and developed our farm so that our animals can express their natural behaviors. The herds live on pasture all year long and are never confined; they graze and forage as long as each season permits then eat hay during snowy months, but are never fed grain which disrupts their rumens; they breed according to their natural cycles and birth unassisted on pasture; and they have the room to explore and interact with their surroundings,” says Danielle. “Raising animals in this way makes our farm sustainable compared to conventional farming practices — the animals are improving the quality and fertility of the land.”
BOTL Farm decided to pursue certification with A Greener World because it seemed like a natural fit. “AGW’s work in demonstrating to the public and to farmers that livestock can be grown sustainably was important to us. We are only interested in raising healhty, happy animals who express natural behaviors and we need to raise them on pasture to achieve to that type of regenerative farming that we strive for.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW lamb and goat from BOTL Farm is available directly from the farm by appointment only. To learn more about BOTL Farm, visit BOTLFarm.com. Contact Nick at nick@BOTLFarm.com and 908-268-3192. You can also follow the farm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.