Meet Katherine Carestio of Backbone Farm

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

I was born and raised in Nebraska, and studied agricultural policy in graduate school. After more than 10 years of working on farms and for agricultural organizations, I started Backbone Farm in 2018. My husband, Jamie, was born and raised in the Western Finger Lakes. He is a craftsman with his own design-build carpentry business. Our daughter, Maizey Wilder, was also born on the farm in 2018.

What do you produce, and what do you offer at the Co-op?

We raise 100-percent grass-fed and pasture-finished beef. Our pastures and animals are organically managed. At the Co-op, we offer ground beef and beef marrow bones. Once the new store opens, we will offer a wide variety of cuts. We also sell halves and quarters direct to customers. 

Can you give a brief history of your farm?

We bought our 67-acre farm in July 2015, shortly after we were married. Sometimes we joke that we bought a brush farm, but we chose this land adjacent to the Finger Lakes National Forest because it felt sacred. In its heyday, it was a hay farm. When we arrived, it was marginal, raw land overgrown with invasive species. After two years of living here, mowing weedy meadows, installing infrastructure and observing, it became clear that management-intensive rotational grazing was the best way to regenerate the landscape.

Can you tell us the story behind the name of your farm?

We are located on the eastern slope of the north-south ridge between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes called the Hector backbone.

Would you tell us more about your farming practices?

Our pastures and animals are organically managed. I move our cows at least once a day to a fresh paddock of native forages. I also move clean water by hand along with the cows each day. Our calves are born on pasture, and raised with their moms and siblings. From birth to butcher, each animal lives under our care. We steadily work to improve the perennial pasture quality, and develop hardwood and wild apple silvopasture paddocks. 

Why should folks consider buying local meat?

Buying and consuming local, grass-fed meat is one of the most sustainable ways to eat 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.

What is your favorite part of farming?

I strive to be a steward of ecological restoration. We’re turning marginal land into a more resilient system that produces nutrient-dense food.

Photos by Sara Tro Photography