It was one of those spectacular 50 degree days in January when Paul Colucci and I met at his excavating company’s business office on Steve’s Lane. We jumped into his truck and drove down the road to see 150 head of Full Moon cattle munching happily on hay grown exclusively on the farm’s fields. Slaughter cows were lunching on the left and, in Paul’s words, were headed for “the freezer.” Cows intended for breeding were on the right, and included a bull, cows and calves. About 65 new calves are expected in the spring when you will see all these animals roaming freely in the fields.
Almost the entire herd was housed (winter accommodations only) under a 160 x 80 foot pole barn built with a grant from the NRCSUSDA. Asked to decipher, Paul explained that the acronym stood for the Natural Resources Conservation Services. The agency had worked with Full Moon before and this time provided grant money to turn the farm’s Steve’s Lane property into a high-density stocking yard composting facility which operates only in the winter. First, animal manure is collected in a confined area and the “hay pack” is started by adding wood chips and hay. Corn and oats are added in the spring and, with the help of about 20 very happy pigs, turned into high quality compost. The compost, which is produced by the animals, is spread on the fields. The process uses a minimum of fossil fuels. There is no run-off into the Wallkill, or compromising of the water table —the opposite of those infamous Iowa Agribusiness feed lots.
Five years after she and Paul married, Laura Watson, raised on a dairy, turned sheep farm in Dexter, Maine (her Dad is a veterinarian) decided to raise her own sheep and goats on the five acre property surrounding their home on Phillies Bridge Road. Inspired, Paul, a former 4-H member, bought four steers and built a few sheds. The project took off and soon outgrew its accommodations. The pair purchased ten acres from the Decker Farm, adjacent to the Steve’s Lane Industrial Park, to accommodate their growing business and eventually added a Farm Market Store. Full Moon has grown to almost 400 acres, all but ten acquired as agricultural green leases (no wood lots; no stripping of soil; agricultural use only) and most at a cost of $1/ year. Paul leases land from, among others, Millbrook Farm, Brook Farm, Wright’s, Murphy’s, Jewett and the White Barn Farm. “People have come to us and offered us their land,” Paul explains. They believe in the process.” Paul and Laura have forged collaborative relationships in the community and beyond. They trade information with other farmers and freely share methods they use on the farm. “I have a passion for everything that we do and I also have a passion for sharing everything that we do,” says Paul. When asked about his entrepreneurial spirit, Paul credits his deceased mother, Doris and his father, Bart Colucci (Meadow View Farm) who ran businesses since he was a child and clearly influenced all the Colucci children. “It was bred into us and we ran with it,” Paul added.
In addition to her extensive work on the farm, Laura, an occupational therapist, has made several trips to Haiti to use her skills to help rehabilitate victims of the earthquake there. She Skypes with her Haitian colleagues on Mondays to problem solve and collaborate. Her farm work includes shearing her sheep and spinning and dying the wool to produce fiber art which she shows regionally at fairs and art shows. She has won “First in Show” and “Grand Champion” awards at the Ulster County Fair for the high quality and beauty of her wool and has plans to enter some of the big fiber festivals when time permits.
With the invaluable assistance of their dedicated Farm Manager, Noreen Girao, Paul and Laura raise Pure Bred Devon and Angus cattle, cross breeding the good grass genetics from the Devon with their Angus to produce a product that is well marbled but lean, for better health. All are entirely grass fed and hormone and antibiotic free, though not organic. Their Merino sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and guinea hens are pastured and are also chemical free. “If I’m going to eat something, I want to make sure it’s raised to the best possible standards. I’m putting it in my body and the way we raise our animals is the way nature intended it to be,” Laura adds.
Both Paul and Laura emphasize that farming is easy to do badly. They feel a great responsibility to the animals that depend on them for their well-being. “There’s a lot to know with farming,” Laura explains. “It’s a lot of physical work and there’s always something to do and each season to prepare for. Paul and I help each other a lot and we get help from some of the local kids. There’s no sleeping in on weekends. It’s our responsibility to take care of these animals, to keep them clean and feed them well. If they’re calving in the middle of the night in a driving rain, you’re there. It’s my job to anticipate their needs and make sure they never have a bad day. We take that job very seriously.” The couple emphasize that it is the unwavering support of their family, friends and community that allows them to accomplish what they do, and for that support they are most grateful.
Full Moon products are sold at Cold Spring, a year-round farmer’s market, as well as the Kingston and New Paltz winter markets. In addition to the freezer at the Farm Market Store on Steve’s Lane, Full Moon freezers can be found at Taliaferro Farms on Plains Road in New Paltz and at the Village Market in Gardiner. You can learn more about Full Moon by going to their website, fullmoonfarmny.com or email Paul and Laura at PEC4LJW@GMAIL.COM. Give them some time to get back to you. They’re likely out tending to someone who needs tending to …