Farm Visit: Boyden Farm

Earlier this week, a few of us from the Co-op had the opportunity to visit our friends out at Boyden Farm in Cambridge, VT to get a tour of their beef operation.  It was a gray, late winter day, but we stayed warm as we walked around visiting the cows and learning all about what the Boydens and their staff do.

Clem, Nick, and Jamie at Boyden Farm
Clem, Nick, and Jamie from City Market visiting Boyden Farm

Boyden Farm raises grass-fed, grain-finished beef on about 900 acres, using non-GMO feed.  This means that the corn and soybeans that are fed to the cattle are GMO-free varieties.  In terms of feed, the cows all receive hay mixed with ground corn, okara (the soy byproduct of tofu production; from Vermont Soy), yeast (to help promote good bacteria in the cows’ stomachs, similar to humans’ probiotics), and salt. In total, corn only makes up about 30% of the cows’ diet. In addition, the cows go out to pasture in the spring and then are slowly taken off pasture in the late summer and fall as grass growth begins to slow.  The cows spend winters in open barns. 

Ground corn
Mark showing us the ground corn they include in their feed mixture

Mark showing us okara, the soy byproduct of tofu production

The Boydens currently raise Angus cows and are in the beginning stages of breeding hybrid Holstein/Piedmontese cows.  Piedmontese is a breed of cow originally from Piedmont, Italy that has a gene mutation that causes double muscling. This breed has a gene for inactive myostatin, allowing for unrestricted muscle growth. Double muscling results in beef that is lower in fat, is tenderer, and has more protein.  The Boydens’ first hybrid Holstein/Piedmontese will be ready in about a year, but in the meantime, we got to visit all of their calves!

Holstein/Piedmontese calves
Holstein/Piedmontese calves staying warm indoors

Nick bonding with cows
Nick bonding with some of the Holstein/Piedmontese calves

After touring the barns, we stopped in quickly at the Boydens’ sugar house and winery (two projects that are managed by other family members) and then were treated to delicious burgers fresh off the grill (despite the wintry weather!).  Thanks to Mark, Lauri, Bryce, and Lee for their hospitality and for showing us around the farm!

Mark and Lauri Boyden
Mark and Lauri Boyden

Cow licking camera
One more for the road (this photo makes me laugh every time): Cow licking the camera