I grew up in the country so the outdoors and animals have always been an important part of my life.
After attending college for business and horticulture I worked in multiple disciplines including administration, landscaping, floral design and botanical gardens. I decided that a home business would give me the flexibility I desired for family and an opportunity to pursue the things I loved.
My love of nature and animals led me to the beautiful and unique alpaca. I was taken by these graceful, timid creatures and their luxurious fleece. In 2004, my home business as an alpaca breeding farm took flight. After seven years of breeding, birthing, animal husbandry, marketing, showing, traveling and establishing our farm in the alpaca world it was time to move to more pastures and more barns.
Along with the move came a new desire to slow life down, have more time with my family and more time to enjoy the things I loved. Alpaca shows and traveling went by the wayside and our shift to focus more on sustainable farming practices took it's place.
While working the farm and gardens of our new home I looked into having a pig for our farm. Just one! Along came the Kunekune pig, and one soon grew to be a breeding herd very quickly. I adore these pigs and have become a longtime preservationist of this unique breed of swine.
So now our farm has diversified. We also have egg chickens and occasionally meat chickens. We grow a lot of the food we eat and raise and sell kunekune breeding stock and heritage pork products. Who knows what might be next?
So, even though I feel like life has slowed down, I think I'm just as busy, but completely enjoying every moment.
I love my life, my family, my friends and Bel Canto Farm!
Life is Good!!
I was born and raised in an Italian-Amercian home in New York City and developed a love for the outdoors at Summer Camp along the Long Island Sound. I worked with a landscape installation and maintenance firm then as a greens keeper on several golf courses in Westchester County through my teenage years.
I attended SUNY Cobleskill as a Dairy Farm Management Major, but quickly switched to Agronomy and began my academic journey toward a Ph.D. in Plant Science from Cornell University in 1990, after a BS (’84) and MS (’88) at the University of Rhode Island, 3 years as an Asst. Golf Course Superintendent, and a short stint as a Golf Course Superintendent.
Barb, Danielle and I married in 1991 and lived in MI and WI as I served on the faculties at MSU and UW-Madison. We returned to Cornell in 1996 and started with Horses and Chickens, then Alpacas, and now KuneKune Pigs.
The farm has proved to be a unifying activity for Barb and I as well as good responsibility training for the children. Most importantly for me is the feeling that I am spending my leisure time as a Gentleman Farmer, by definition: The gentleman farmer has an independent source of income and farms for pleasure rather than for money. Simply for the pleasure of farming. Yet, the economics of our farm to date has allowed for us to turn small profits, but more importantly great returns on our own well-being.
Nothing centers the soul better than managing the manure of our animals!
Bel Canto Farm was established as an alpaca breeding farm in 2004. On our small three-acre parcel, we built a small barn, added fencing and purchased two breeding females and two pet males for the kids. Over the next six years we established our brand and recognition in the alpaca industry, the kids and Barb successfully competed in numerous alpaca shows throughout the Northeast and Mid-West, Barb was elected to the Empire Alpaca Association, and our herd grew to fifteen beautiful, award-winning alpaca.
We quickly outgrew our three acres and decided to purchase land and build a new home. Four miles away was a gorgeous piece of property with 40 acres, three very old barns, and a little greenhouse. The land was perfect for building our dream home, but the barns needed a lot of renovating, including tearing down old structures, rebuilding, painting, adding fencing, and one massive cleaning.
The alpacas were transferred to our new farm in 2010 and our family moved into our newly constructed home in 2012.
It wasn't long after moving to the new property that we purchased our first Kunekune Heritage Pasture Pig and began breeding and selling this wonderful breed of swine.
Our Kunekune herd has expanded to include 20 foundation breeding stock and anywhere from 60-100 piglets and maturing pigs on the farm at any given time. With more of a focus on our pigs, the alpaca herd has been reduced. We continue to have alpaca in our fields for our tours, fiber products, and our own enjoyment.
In 2015 our pig numbers reached a point where we could begin to consider selling pork products and market hogs. We are very excited to venture into this new market selling pasture-raised heritage pork in USDA cuts and whole hogs. We currently supply Kunekune pork to local restaurants and families. Our chickens continue to supply our family and some customers with farm fresh eggs and we now have filled a freezer with tasty and very healthy alpaca meat.
...and so the farm thrives and we move forward.
Exciting times ahead for us at Bel Canto Farm!