A Gardiner Family Farm
By Barbara Sides
From Issue 13: Winter 2012
On any given weekend you can find the beef, pork, chicken and eggs from Brookside Farm selling briskly at six different farm markets scattered throughout the Hudson Valley. The 169 acre Brookside Farm on Albany Post Road just south of Route 44/55 is owned by Drew and Sharon Syckoff. We met in their lovely old farmhouse where they live with their three children, Lily, Hank and Mack, and Pineapple, a faithful guard dog that protects the farm animals from coyotes, foxes, skunks and hawks.
Sharon Sycoff grew up on a farm in South Carolina and Drew was raised on Long Island among potato farms. They love animals and hoped to raise their prospective family in a rural, farm environment. “It has always been a dream of mine to have a farm,” Drew adds. In September Brookside Farm was certified organic by the Northeast Organic Farmers Association. Their herd is grass-fed and finished as well as organic. Achieving certification is a source of pride and a testament to the Sycoffs’ desire to humanely raise the very highest quality beef, chicken and pork. “We went out there and researched the best current methods for running an organic farm, which included management-intensive grazing and moving the animals to fresh pasture every day.” The Sycoffs invested heavily in the genetics of the animals on the farm and chose the “best of the best,” the Wye Angus breed of beef cattle maintained by the University of Maryland. A genetically pure breed, Wye Angus beef cattle have never been bred to be big, and they fatten beautifully on grass which they eat in abundance as they move from pasture to pasture.
Culinary Institute chefs and students have been to the farm and praise the quality of Brookside beef and eggs. The farm’s eggs have been featured at the Culinary and are served at Café Mio here in Gardiner and sold at Earthgoods in New Paltz. A couple that couple married at The Mohonk Mountain House arranged for the farm’s chicken to be served at their wedding reception.
The Sycoffs’ goal, to run a small scale, very high-quality, profitable farm is clearly succeeding. Sharon can’t keep up with the demand for Brookside eggs and the pair have had to hire three staff to run the six weekend farm markets, and two full time workers to help run the farm. There are plans for regular hours to sell—as well as grill—beef and pork right on the property, and Drew envisions a gazebo for dining, with beautiful views of the fields.
The Sycoffs speak very well of the other grass fed beef farms in Gardiner. Very much in keeping with the Farm to Table movement, in addition to Brookside, Gardiner’s “Beef Belt” includes Kiernan Farm, Brykill Farm, Full Moon and Four Winds. The Sycoffs reserve special praise for Jay and Polly Armour of Four Winds. “Jay and Polly were amazing,” Drew adds. The pair spent hours helping the Sycoff’s fill out the formidable application for organic certification and shared their experience and passion for farming, for which the Sycoff’s are most grateful.
Three years ago, Drew and Sharon launched Brookside when they bought three cow/calf pairs, one steer and 26 egg-layers at auction. Today, the farm grazes 48 head of cattle with 23 calves due in the Spring and raises 250 egg-layers with plans for 500 next year. From modest beginnings, the Sycoffs have built a successful family business and a busy, productive life. “I’m happy that my children know where their food comes from,” Sharon adds. “Lily and I collect eggs and we have begun to set up the cow paddocks with the kids. There’s nothing like watching them run through the fields,” enthuses Drew. It sounds like a dream come true.
You’ll find Brookside meat, poultry and eggs at the Gardiner Green Market (winter hours) at the Gardiner Library. Visit their website at brookside-farm.com, or call them at 845-895-7433 to order.