Jeffrey and Nina Saeli founded Centurion Farm, LLC in 2017. The farm comprises a 58-acre mix of pastures, hardwood forests, riparian forests, and wetlands. Currently farm operations are focused on the establishment of a small scale market garden.
Jeffrey grew up on a farm in western NY, and began learning how to cook and preserve food at a young age. He encouraged Nina to study to learn how to grow vegetables and herbs while she was recovering from two spine surgeries due to military service. Nina found gardening physically and mentally therapeutic and personally rewarding. Jeffrey enjoyed having an abundance of herbs and food readily available when it came time to prepare meals. The more Jeffrey encouraged Nina to grow food, the more she immersed herself in the study of soil, plants, and organisms. Today Jeffrey and Nina work together to develop the ecosystems necessary to grow healthy plants and nutritious foods, while providing appropriate resources for those organisms that support the process.
Using established and emerging permaculture techniques, Jeffrey and Nina plan to make efficient and sustainable use of the land, forests, and water; will preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Farm for current and future generations and the community; and will willingly share resources with native wildlife and plant species. They aspire to someday serve as an example operation for those who of necessity are returning to locally scaled agricultural practices; driven to such need by the paired challenges of peak oil and climate change.
Location: 287 Creek Rd, Locke, NY 13092
Top 3 Products in Year 2: Garlic, Onions, Tomatoes
How has the Profit Team Program helped your farm? The Profit Team has provided access to persons able to answer questions we had regarding marketing opportunities and handling produce during and after harvest. They also provided a complimentary trial of Cabbige.com, a web-based small farms database that helps farmers track production, sales and pricing. The site authors also provide local and regional pricing information to help farmers set prices. Finally, the Profit Team has provided a small grant for consulting services, which one of our owners is using to become better informed about a variety of topics.
When you envision your farm business five years from now, what differences do you see? In five years, we expect to be farming full time and hope to build a seasonal store on the property to sell our own produce, herbs, and hand crafted products, as well as other locally grown and produced items. We plan to expand operations to comprise between two and six acres of produce fields; a one-acre orchard with fruit trees and red and black raspberries; the establishment of larger scaled perennial culinary and medicinal herb beds; and sections reserved for cut flowers. Additionally we hope to eventually incorporate limited livestock (chickens, and perhaps a head or two of beef).
If you weren’t a farmer, what would your dream job be? We are both retired military; farming has been our dream job. If we were not planning to be farmers, we would prefer to be consultants; Nina in the area of emergency preparedness/curriculum development, and Jeff in Information Systems Management.
What is your best piece of advice for an aspiring farmer? Start small and build your business based on dedicated research, sound analysis and informed decision-making. Be sure you have a taste for the labor involved in farming before making sizeable financial commitments. Attempt to remain debt free if possible, and rely on owner equity and farm proceeds for growth and expansion. If you do need to rely on financing, make sure your business will cash flow using realistic assumptions about costs and revenue. Conduct a risk assessment, and have a plan to mitigate identified risks. Understand that risk means you might lose money, and you might fail. Spend a year or two learning what will grow on your farm; understand that soil quality, airflow patterns, daylight patterns, water sources and your techniques all matter – not every location is suited for every crop. Finally, get involved in your community; it does take a village… be part of that village.
The Cornell Small Farms Program in partnership with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) are bringing the week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) training back to New York State. ATF gives veterans an opportunity to see sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and examine farming as a viable career.
ATF combines engaging classroom sessions with farm tours and hands-on activities. Participants learn about business planning, budgeting, record keeping, marketing, livestock production, vegetable production, and more. Participants gain a strong foundation in the basic principles of operating a sustainable farming enterprise. In addition, ATF attendees join a nationwide network of supportive farmer-veterans and agricultural advisors.
Instructors include NCAT sustainable agriculture specialists, staff from the Cornell Small Farms Program, Cooperative Extension, and USDA agencies, plus experienced crop and livestock producers.
Veterans are invited to complete an application by June 23, 2017. The program is available to military veterans in New York State who are interested in starting a farm or who have recently begun farming (less than 10 years). Spouses and farming partners are also invited to apply. Selected participants will be notified by June 29.
Dates, Location, and Cost
Armed to Farm is scheduled for July 31-Aug. 4, 2017 at SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury, NY. The training will be divided between classroom sessions and travel to local farms for tours and hands-on activities.
The event is free for those chosen to attend; lodging, transportation to local farms, and most meals will be provided. Participants must pay their own travel costs to and from the event.
NCAT and the Cornell Small Farms Program organize and host the Armed to Farm event in New York. Financial support comes from NCAT’s ATTRA program and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Please contact Margo Hale, firstname.lastname@example.org, (479) 442-9824, Dean Koyanagi, email@example.com, or Kat McCarthy, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2015-70017-22882
Location: Jacksonville, NY
Wild Hill Farm is a vegetable CSA farm located on 50 acres in Bloomfield, NY. A CSA with 150 weekly
shares is the heart of the farm, with 4-5 acres in vegetables. U-Pick blueberries are an additional crop
on the farm, as well as hay and straw. All land is managed using organic practices.
Wild Hill Farm is Erin Bullock’s second CSA farm, started in 2016. She also started Mud Creek Farm CSA, and ran it for 5 years growing it to over 250 weekly shares, before selling it to her assistant manager.
Location: Bloomfield, NY
Top 3 Products: 20-Week Vegetable CSA share, U-Pick Blueberries, Hay
How has the profit Team Project helped your farm?
Scaling up fast to profitability was the goal this year, as we doubled CSA membership from 75 to 150
weekly shares. Getting members to sign up was a challenge, and hiring the marketing consulting firm
helped us reach our goal! Now we have the income to run the farm, and the momentum of loyal
members to fund the expansion of the farm. It was difficult as a new farm entering the market in 2016
to make ourselves known. A promoted “farm commercial” on Facebook really helped us reach and
acquire new members.
When you envision your farm business five years from now, what differences do you see?
With a loyal CSA member base, we will diversify from just vegetables to offering fruit, meat, mushrooms, agritourism, and other products. Possibly value-added or prepared foods as well.
If you weren’t a farmer, what would your dream job be?
Farmer, just not working so much.
What is your best piece of advice for an aspiring farmer?
Think about life balance.