Entrepreneurship takes on many forms in many different industries, including farming. Like any other business or startup, farms must find ways to differentiate from one another to attract both individual consumers and restaurants or retail stores.
When Always Something Farm began, Michael Parkot knew that he wanted the farm to change the way people ate. He wanted everyone in WNY to have access to “real, honest food” that wasn’t cultivated hours and hours away from their home.
From a small corner lot in Clarence to over 40 acres of land in Darien, Always Something Farm now raises everything from chickens to turkeys to rabbits and pigs – and they’re doing so in the most ethical and nutrient-dense way possible. They were an Ignite Buffalo grant recipient, and have plans to build additional infrastructure to accommodate their animals during the cold winter months.
Learn more about Michael Parkot and Always Something Farm in today’s Founder Friday!
Tell us the story of how your business got started.
Always Something Farm was started in earnest in 2013, on a corner lot in a rented house in Clarence. The foundation for it was actually laid several years before that. Someone dropped off some baby chicks that they “found” to the veterinary hospital where Stephanie worked. We raised them, not knowing any better, thinking how it would be so cool to have our own eggs. Knowing little-to-nothing about baby chicks, we didn’t realize that those chickens were meat chickens and not layers. Once we accepted that they weren’t going to lay eggs, Stephanie’s grandfather taught us how to butcher them. Eating that first chicken, taking that first bite, ruined store-bought chicken forever.
In 2014, we moved to the current farm, 42 acres in Darien, and started raising pasture chickens, egg layers, turkeys, and rabbits. In 2017, we embarked on our pastured pork program, and added in several heritage breed pigs, including the highly sought after Mangalitsa breed. We currently sell all of those items to the public as well as several restaurant clients in Buffalo, East Aurora, and Williamsville, and Moriarty Meats on Grant Street.
What has been the biggest accomplishment for your business to-date?
So far our largest business success to-date has been wining the Ignite prize. The mentorship has been huge for our farm, as our background was more healthcare and not very much business management. The prize money has been slated for additional infrastructure items that will allow us to reduce our feed costs by putting in feed silos, and the addition of a greenhouse that our layer flock will reside in over the winter. We will also use those chickens to build up a compost pack that we will then use on the farm, or team up with our new friends at Groundwork Market Garden
to help fertilize their soul. We purchased an additional 350 chickens to help boost our egg production and two boar pigs (males for breeding) that will add to the genetic diversity of our pork program.
Goals for the next year? Three years?
Our goals for the next year are to be able to eliminate the waiting list for eggs, continue to develop our partnerships with other local farms, and start selling retail cuts of meat to customers. In three years, we are hoping to have an on-farm butcher shop that will allow us to meet our customers’ demand for real, honest food, but also to refine our pork production to a complete farrow-to-finish operation.
What this entails is having animals born and raised on the same farm their entire life, only leaving for processing. This would be huge for the animals and the ethics involved in raising real, honest food. Our breeding program with these porcine partners is also with the goal of raising the most flavorful and nutrient dense pork possible. We want to foster a connection between our customers and the food they will consume. We want them to see the integral part they can play in helping to eliminate the abysmal conditions on factory farms by supporting small family farms in their locality.
Some people ask why we moved back to Buffalo from the Ithaca area. I grew up in the area and we wanted to raise our family here. We also saw the tremendous opportunity to change the way people eat in the region and wanted to be a part of that change.
Share some ways that you give back to the local community.
We are hoping to help build a community around food. By partnering up with other farms, we hope to start providing access to people who are living in food deserts. Eventually, we would love to participate in the SNAP program that allows customers to use the SNAP benefits at the farmers market/store at a beneficial rate for them to gain access to real food.
Who has been your biggest motivator through the ups and downs of owning a small business?
The thing that motivates us through the 98 degree days, or the -40 below wind chills are our customers. Knowing that they’ve made the choice to spend their money with a local farmer and they’ve dedicated their work to that purchase creates such a symbiosis between us that we have to hold up our end of the bargain. We get to see those people, and hearing how much they loved their pork, rabbit, turkey, or chicken really makes that hard work seem worthwhile.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Our advice to those wanting something new or different as an entrepreneur is this: Do something. Do something that helps you move one tiny little step closer to that goal. If you want to be a farmer, start with one basil plant, cultivate it, nurture it, and enjoy it when it’s ready to eat. Look for someone willing to teach you, watch them, learn what they do, and more importantly the why – there are mentors out there waiting on students to arrive. Also, be ready to persevere in spite of everything, hold fast to the idea that you’ll be triumphant in the end.