CHESHIRE -- The Martins have been farming in Cheshire since 1790, and brothers Kim, 48, and Shawn, 41, are the eighth generation of Martins in Cheshire. And the brothers' business plan positions them to get back on Elmartin Farm, full-time, by next year.
Elmartin produces all cuts of beef and pork and sells meat at the Adams and Pittsfield farmers markets, as well as in a store open every day at the farm, and at Whitney's Farm Market in Cheshire, Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington, and -- pretty soon -- Honest Weight Co-op in Albany, N.Y.
Right now, there are 53 Angus-cross cows and about 48 Berkshire-cross pigs comfortably rotated over 430 acres of farmland on Windsor Road, nestled inside 360 degrees of idyllic Berkshire mountainside.
The brothers both have full-time jobs in addition to farming. Shawn drives a delivery truck; Kim runs heavy equipment. They wake up at 4:30 a.m. to do chores, go to work, and then are back on the farm doing chores until 8 or 9 p.m. They are also both Cheshire fire officers. "We'd rather be here every day," Shawn said.
Did they ever have other plans? No. "We've always worked here," Shawn said.
"This has always been our focus," Kim said. "It's a great way to raise our families, knowing the food comes from the land."
They have been helping with the farm "basically from birth," Kim said. Elmartin used to be a dairy farm, but the same familiar story of financial viability ended that aspect of the business in 1984.
This is Year One of the meat business, but the idea has been in the works for years. For a long time now, Elmartin has raised animals for the Martin family and a small customer base, but since 2011, the brothers have made a plan, taken classes with the state Department of Agriculture, gotten a $25,000 grant to take care of some basic infrastructure maintenance, and been OK'd for an $86,000 loan from Common Capital "to get the ball rolling," Kim said.
The farm is successful, the products are popular, and it's looking like the Martins will be able to become full-time farmers again, soon. Their parents, Dodie and Gus, who live in the farmhouse closest to the barn, were "ecstatic" to hear about the plan. "They're very happy to see us wanting to continue on the land," Kim said.
Kim and Shawn also live with their families on the land -- Gus sold the development rights in the ‘80s, so no matter what happens, "it will never be houses," he said.
The brothers are, of course, passionate about local food. "Where is the quality control in Mexican beef?" Kim asked. "Butcher shops used to be so prevalent we've gotten so far from that. This country has gotten so that they think it comes from the supermarket."
They said they almost never eat meat that's not off their farm. They do more wholesale and market work than restaurant work, because restaurants usually want only prime cuts. They said they'd like to see more of a local-food-conscious approach: "Take the animal and work your whole menu around it," Kim said. (Some higher-end local restaurants do take this idea and run with it, but it's definitely not a common theme.)
Shawn and Kim are tuned in to what farming looks like now, and what people are interested in. A carriage house across from the barn is one of the first buildings in Cheshire -- it's now an office, and it's being prepped for farmstay vacation lodging.
They also have a marketing person to help with establishing the Elmartin brand. Kim showed me the new logo -- it looks like the heritage farm sign that hangs high on the barn, and it retains the typeface.
"She wanted to get us to a new age, but we wanted to keep the heritage," Kim said. "It's important to us. It's important to show people we've been around a long time."
If you go ...
What: Elmartin Farm
Where: 594 Windsor Road, Cheshire
When: Store is open 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Information: Call (413) 743-5025 or (413) 749-7124 or visit www.elmartinfarm.com
The Martins gave me bacon, and I made a sandwich to frame it.
BAT -- bacon, arugula and tomato (and mozzarella cheese)
Eight slices bacon
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
A few handfuls of arugula
Thick slices of tomato -- local or homegrown is always better!
Italian bread, or any bread with a nice crispy crust
Toast bread; pile tomato and
mozzarella on top. Fry bacon until crispy; top off with arugula and press sandwich down with your hand to keep everything in place.