NOTEWORTHY: Trust is Key to Success of Vertically Integrated Farm

News from the Noteworthy

Trust is Key to Success of
Vertically Integrated Farm

Teresa Labruzzo, co-owner of Dream Weaver Farm in Richfield Springs, admits she was not at all sure if there would be any customers when they opened their farm store two years ago. But in fact, market research wasn’t necessary after all…there is a huge demand for DWF’s products. This edition of “The Life of the Land” will explore some of the elements which make this an agricultural success story.

DWF builds upon agricultural expertise and local good will established by the Labruzzo family over generations. The good health of soil and water is a high priority. Although not certified organic, the farm utilizes sustainable practices such as crop rotation, composting, rotational grazing, and minimal tillage to reduce reliance on pesticides and herbicides. In addition to the usual corn and soy, crops such as buckwheat, oats, and rye play an important role in soil restoration and in the production of high quality animal feeds, hay and straw products, and honey.

A vertically integrated business is one which “streamlines its operations by taking direct ownership of various stages of the production process rather than relying on external contractors or suppliers.” The combination of all these activities has a synergistic effect of adding value in a virtuous cycle. For example, the LaBruzzos have been raising and butchering meat for family consumption for decades. Obtaining a license to sell their meat resonates through the whole system, creating more internal demand for their own feeds and hay, and more people in the store who might also purchase vegetables which are grown mostly for the wholesale market, including niche products such as Chinese cabbage for the Asian market.

Being an integrated operation also results in cost savings. Because most of the operation is local, there are fewer transportation costs. “Waste,” such as manure or straw remaining after grain harvest, can be recycled elsewhere in the system or sold.

In comparison, industrial agriculture, which supplies almost all the foods available in our country, has co-opted any movement to offer healthier alternatives. Thus “organic” foods are now mass produced. “Grass fed” meat and eggs are available at your supermarket. Poultry feed with the same list of ingredients as DWF’s product is available at a big box store near you. But there are some missing ingredients.

One ingredient is the great benefit to the agricultural land in our area when it is properly and attentively managed, with consideration for the seventh generation. Without this, our fields grow fallow, or are degraded by contract farming.

Perhaps you have seen those bumper stickers: “Know your farmer; Know your food.” Since this farmer is feeding her family the same stuff she’s selling you, there are embedded layers of safety and quality in the relationship. The second and most powerful ingredient in the success of Dream Weaver Farm is trust.

Authored by Sustainable Otsego. Since 2007, we have promoted ecologically sound practices——locally, regionally and nationally. Our platform calls for sustainable living, economic independence and home rule. Please visit us at sustainableotsego.net or facebook.com/SustainableOtsego.


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