“There’s no such thing as a typical day,” chuckles Kevin Jablonski, proud owner of the fourth-generation family farm, Mack Brook Farm. Kevin explains how one second he’s checking on the cattle, raking the hayfields, and examining the water pump per usual, and the next thing he knows, his mower breaks. This is every farmer’s nightmare. Nevertheless, the cows don’t stop grazing, and Kevin gracefully works to keep the rest of the farm operating smoothly when things don’t always go as expected. Kevin’s persistence, dedication, and honorable value system make him a family farmer hero.
Mack Brook Farm has been in Kevin’s family since his grandparents purchased the land in 1928. It is situated on 300 acres of land, between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains of Vermont, in Argyle, NY. Kevin was born and raised on the farm, and recalls his childhood days spent watching his father milk cows on what was then, primarily a dairy farm. When Kevin was 9 years old, he and his family were involved in a car accident that left his father injured and unable to milk cows. As a result, Kevin’s family was forced to sell their cows, abruptly ending young Kevin’s carefree days of frolicking around the dairy farm.
But those early years made an impact: immediately following college, Kevin purchased a few calves and started his own dairy in an effort to pursue the family passion on the land once again. After years of success, the price of milk quickly dropped, and Kevin sold all of his cows in 1987. But he kept all his equipment knowing it was not the last of his farming days. In 2004, Kevin purchased a small herd of beef cows, officially transforming Mack Brook Farm into a beef cattle farm. Today, Kevin and his two sons live and work on the farm, dedicating their lives to maintaining the values of sustainable farming and providing good food that have been in the family for generations.
Kevin and his family have a strong commitment to sustainable farming. Mack Brook cattle are raised in a humane and unconfined environment, free of stress, growth hormones, GMOs and antibiotics. Kevin practices rotational grazing, strategically moving the herds to fresh paddocks after a certain length of time in order to keep their forage healthy. His cattle eat only Mack Brook pasture grasses during the growing season and then hay from only Mack Brook fields in winter. The cattle are unconfined on over 60 acres of pasture year-round. Because all of his cattle are born and raised on the farm, Kevin can guarantee 100% traceability in his product. Mack Brook Farm is proud to have earned the Animal Welfare Approved label. Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) is a food label for meat and dairy products that come from farm animals raised to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. The program was founded in 2006 as a market-based solution to the growing consumer demand for meat, eggs and dairy products from animals treated with high welfare and managed with the environment in mind.
Kevin takes great pride in raising his cattle and providing free-range, grass fed Angus beef that provides many health and environmental benefits. Because of rotational grazing and the lack of confinement and exposure to other animals, there is far less risk of E. coli contamination in his beef. Kevin’s cattle are grass fed as opposed to grain fed. Feeding cows grain increases the amount of acid in their stomachs, creating a home for bacteria to thrive. A grass fed cow makes for a healthier cow, and a healthier eater.
When it comes to health and the environment, Kevin takes great care of our natural resources, particularly water. Kevin has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) to fence off his streams to keep the cattle from contaminating the banks. In pastures where the animals have to cross a stream, Kevin has implemented stream crossings, or bridges that allow the cattle to cross without eroding the bank, or polluting the water. As pastured cattle, as opposed to confined cattle, his animals are naturally fertilizing the pastures on Mack Brook Farm. This significantly reduces the use of chemicals on the land, and thus reducing the risk of chemicals entering the water.
When asked what he would like eaters to know about family farming, a very humble Kevin avoided making reference to his own commitment, and instead took pride in all the farmers that share his same same values. “The majority of farmers, at least in this area, are hardworking, and they do their best to produce a quality product. If people buy local, I think they’re better off because these local farmers are quite proud people, who know what they produce.”
As for the future of Mack Brook, it is Kevin’s goal to stay there a few more years, working to provide a quality product, before leaving its fate in the hands of his two sons. Whether they decide to continue to raise cattle, or explore a different type of farming, Kevin knows his sons share the same farming values, and will achieve great success in continuing the family tradition.
- Connect with Mack Brook Farm on their Facebook page.
- For more information on how family farmers can protect our water, read this Ask Farm Aid answer to the question, “I have heard horror stories about the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico this year. How can farmers better support our waterways?“
- Other Farmer Heroes have come up with innovative ways to keep their farms operating. Kate Canney found a way to farm despite not owning her own farmland. Dru Peters and Homer Walden share their creative methods for growing for the benefit of other farmers. And Chris and Donna Garza are finding success online, through researching farming practices and also selling their meat directly to customers.
- Last fall, a reader asked, “The other day, I came across “grassfed beef” in the supermarket. Aren’t all beef cattle fed grass? If not, what do they eat? Is this something I should feed my family?” Find our answer in this Ask Farm Aid column.
- You may have found that finding meat produced locally can be a challenge. Why is that? Ask Farm Aid explains in this 2010 column.
- Want to know more about food labels that farmers like Kevin use to distinguish their food? Visit our food labeling page.
- For resources to find food from family farmers like Mack Brook Farm in your area, check out our Find Good Food page.