Backbone Farm is a 67-acre family farm operated by Katherine Carestio, offering 100% grass-fed and pasture-finished beef organically raised from birth to butcher on a small family farm in Hector, NY. The farm practices rotational grazing, moving their herd of black Angus cows at least once a day to a fresh paddock, and neighbors the Finger Lakes National Forest on the eastern slope of the ridge between Seneca and Cayuga lakes called the Hector backbone.

Her Story

Even though Katherine was born and raised in Nebraska, she didn’t understand the agricultural significance of the heartland until her first farm job after college in Kansas. The environmental impacts of conventional farming eventually led her to study agricultural policy in graduate school. Katherine craved a deeper understanding of the country’s food system and an ecologically sound alternative. After more than 10 years of working on farms and for agricultural organizations, she started Backbone Farm in 2018.

In July 2015, shortly after she and her husband wed, they bought a 67-acre former hay farm. The marginal, raw land overgrown with invasive species felt sacred to them. Katherine fell in love with the diversity, exposure, challenges, and potential. In the mixed hardwoods, sugarbush, conifer plantation, wild apple orchard, and old hayfields, Katherine and her husband Jamie saw a neglected haven ripe for restorative agriculture.

For the first two years, they mowed weedy meadows, installed infrastructure, and observed. They studied the ecosystem, degraded soil, and interaction of water with the uncultivated landscape. By the winter of 2017, it was clear that management-intensive rotational grazing was the tool to regenerate the landscape. With good timing, they were able to start with an excellent “grass-bred” herd from their nearby mentor farmer friends.

Farm Practices

Backbone Farm’s pastures and animals are organically managed. Their black Angus cows are rotationally grazed, moving at least once a day to a fresh paddock of native forages. Katherine moves clean water by hand along with the herd each day. Calves are born on green pasture and raised with their moms and siblings. From birth to butcher, each animal lives under their care. The farm works steadily to improve the perennial pasture quality and develop silvopastures among established hardwood, conifer, and wild apple trees in desperate need of thinning.

In the winter, they bale graze the cows out on pasture by unrolling bales of hay. Although some of the hay is “wasted”, the purpose is to spread seed, nutrients, and carbon across the farm. The cows are happy with a fresh strip of stockpiled grass and hay. Katherine is happy with the cows spreading fertility around the farm all year, even after the grazing season is over. As the pastures regenerate and expand, Backbone Farm will be able to raise more mama cows and calves each year. They raise their yearlings through the second winter in order to finish them on lush grass in June and July.

Why local, pasture-raised, grass-fed meat matters

Buying and consuming local, grass-fed meat is one of the most sustainable ways to eat meat because so few agricultural inputs are needed on a per calorie and nutritional basis. Ruminant animals play a critical role in a healthy agricultural ecosystem. Backbone Farm strives to be a steward of ecological restoration, turning marginal land into a more resilient system that produces nutrient-dense food through the beautiful power to build resilient soils and diversity in the silvopasture landscape.

Backbone Farm Products at GreenStar

You can find 100% Grass-Fed & Pasture-Finished Beef and bones from this local, woman-owned, and operated business in the frozen meat cooler of our 770 Cascadilla Street store. Look for their ground beef, rib steak, beef liver, soup bones, marrow bones, and broth bones.

Product Selection Standards at GreenStar

GreenStar prioritizes local and organic red meat. Red meat sold at GreenStar must be free of hormones or antibiotics and packed without artificial additives or preservatives, including nitrates. Suppliers must be farming locally or regionally, or organically/sustainably, and must be compliant with GreenStar’s standards for the fair and reasonable treatment of animals as confirmed by third-party certification or direct verification by GreenStar, based on reasonable evidence. Curious to know more about GreenStar’s red meat & poultry suppliers? CLICK HERE for a list that outlines the name, location, and farming practices of our meat suppliers.