About the Farm

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People

Leith MacKenzie started Sweet Grass Meats in 2005. Leith manages the land and the livestock, coordinates with our butcher and feed suppliers, and takes good care of all our customers. Mary Kate MacKenzie joined the farm in 2019 as the bookkeeper and business manager.

The farm is truly a family affair. Leith's parents Malcolm and Drury MacKenzie make the maple syrup and help with farm chores and haying. We are lucky to have the support and encouragement of all Leith's siblings and their spouses and partners.

Land

We graze 280 acres of perennial pasture in the hills outside of Naples, NY. We practice management-intensive rotational grazing, which means we move livestock to fresh pasture at least once a day, sometimes more, during the grazing season. Our fields get 5 to 8 weeks of rest between grazing rotations. This management strategy produces healthy soils, productive pastures, and high quality feed for our livestock.

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Livestock

Beef Cattle

Our cattle are primarily Black Angus, although some of our crossbred cows show Scottish Highland and Herford characteristics. We select medium frame “easy keeping” cattle that grow and finish well on a full forage diet. The beef herd spends the entire year outdoors, consuming mixed grass and legume pasture in the summer and hay in the winter. Calves are born on pasture in May and weaned in December. We finish steers at 23 to 28 months of age, from March through August. We are still growing the beef enterprise, so most of our heifers stay on the farm to join the breeding herd. We occasionally source and finish stocker cattle from neighboring farms with similar management practices.

Sheep

We maintain a flock of White Dorper ewes, who live outside all year until just before lambing season. They move into the hoop barn for lambing in April and May. Then the ewes and their lambs head back out onto pasture a few weeks after birth. We move the flock daily during the grazing season, and feed hay on pasture in the winter months. Weaning takes place in the fall, when the market lambs move back into the hoop barn. The added shelter helps the lambs grow well on a diet of hay and baleage. We sell finished lambs all winter long, emptying out the barn by March to get ready for the next spring lambing season.

Honey Bees

With up to 60,000 worker bees per colony, our honey bees are the most numerous livestock on the farm. These productive pollinators collect nectar from our pastures, hedgerows, and gardens. In spring they forage early blooms including maple, willow, locust, apple, and dandelion. As summer progresses they move on to later blooming trees and a variety of pasture plants: clover, vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, milkweed, and chicory. Fall brings abundant forage from goldenrod, aster, clover, knotweed, and thistle. We regularly inspect colonies throughout the season to assess their health and productivity. Our colonies have a high winter survival rate due to careful management.

Summer grazing for ewes and lambs
Summer grazing for ewes and lambs

Mama cow and calves grazing
Mama cow and calves grazing

Winter feeding and cow scratches
Winter feeding and cow scratches

Summer grazing for ewes and lambs
Summer grazing for ewes and lambs

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