Farming and Family – A Talk With the Chandlers of Mariaville Farms

One of the farm’s many beautiful views.

The business of  Mariaville Farm is a family affair, based in a genuine love of the animals, and of the land. While Chris Chandler didn’t grow up on a farm, she and her husband Bob decided years ago that they wanted to raise their children in the country. They moved to rural Delanson when their oldest son was three and since then, their family has put down deep roots. It’s easy to see why the Chandlers fell in love with the area, the rolling hills are picturesque, the pastures are beautiful and green, and the roaming animals make their farm look like a postcard. What makes it even more amazing is that this oasis is only a few minutes away from Rotterdam Square mall.

The Chandlers purchased their first Black Angus cows from their realtor, an Angus farmer, and joined 4H soon after. Then the boys — Bobby, Johnny and Billy — started working with show quality animals and showing at fairs. In addition to the show animals, the Chandlers raised some of their animals to eat. After a while, Chris said, “we were pouring so much money into [the farm] that we [decided we] should probably start making money doing it.” That’s when the Chandlers started selling their meat at the Union Street Farmer’s Market. Shortly after that, Schenectady Greenmarket approached Mariaville Farm and asked them to join their group of vendors. Their business has nearly doubled every year since, which has allowed the Chandlers to make the farm a full-time job (Chris also works as a school bus driver and Bob is a general contractor).

Chris Chandler and her cat, which followed us around throughout the interview.

Chris is the primary caregiver for the animals, although she is quick to note that everyone has their own list of chores. She says that she spends about two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon “checking on everybody, giving them food that they need, giving them the water that they need… just doing a little bit extra each day to make sure that everything’s going the way that it should be.” She even takes care of some of the animals medical needs, giving them shots when necessary and once even setting a newborn calf’s broken leg. When I asked her what her favorite part of the job is, Chris immediately told me that it’s when the animals have babies. She loves it “even when we’re out in the middle of the night in January and it’s zero degrees and we’re calving [or] lambing.” She also told me that her sons joke that it takes her four hours to do the chores that they can do in two because she spends extra time talking to the animals and making sure that they’re clean. Despite the teasing, she swears by it, saying that the extra effort is “probably why the animals are so healthy.”

In addition to the Black Angus beef that they’re known for, Mariaville Farms sells lamb, turkey, chicken, duck, and ham and less-conventional meats like rabbit and goat. In addition, Mariaville sells eggs, hay, and as of this year, oyster and Shiitake mushrooms. Bobby, their oldest son, is the mastermind behind the mushroom operation, and he’s recruited his brothers and friends to help him out – leading to them being nicknamed the Mariaville Mushroom Men.

Johnny and Bobby Chandler with some of their Shiitake logs.

To grow Shiitake mushrooms, they inject mushroom spawn — a combination of mushroom mycelium and sawdust — into four-foot oak logs into which they’ve drilled holes. Then they wax over the holes and let them sit under a shade cloth for six to 18 months until they are ready to fruit. Then they soak the logs in water for 24 hours and begin producing mushrooms. This process can be repeated many times until the log produces two to four pounds of mushrooms, which usually takes three to seven years. For oyster mushrooms, the process involves putting spawn in between sections of poplar logs and leaving them to grow inside of plastic bags.

Bobby was inspired to start growing mushrooms after going to school for pharmacy and getting a degree in biology. He feels that there are a lot of untapped natural remedies in the world, and that “mushrooms [are] one of the best super-foods you could ever consume. They’re loaded with vitamins… [and] they have a lot of enzyme inhibitors” which lower the risk of developing certain cancers. For Bobby, growing mushrooms combines his twin desires to help people and help the farm and he wants other people to get involved. In addition to selling logs for other people to grow at places like Schenectady Greenmarket, the brothers are about to start a project at Schalmont Middle School, which will involve an inter-disciplinary study of mushroom growth in their science, math, and home ec classes.

Some Black Angus and Charlet Cross heifers clustered around a Black Angus bull.

This commitment to the health of the community is also evident in Mariaville Farm’s business practices. Although Mariaville isn’t certified organic (they don’t buy organic feed) all of their animals are free-ranged and pasture raised. They don’t use any pesticides on the grass and Chris said that no one has sprayed any pesticides on the land in at least 50 years. In addition to the untreated grass, the Chandlers supplement some of their animals’ diets with feed when necessary, but they can be picky about the sort of feed they use. According to Chris, a friend dropped off a bag of chick feed with antibiotics in it recently and Chris didn’t know what to do with it. The Chandlers never feed their animals antibiotics and only give the animals medicine when they are actually sick, a practice which not only benefits the animals, but the people who will eventually eat the meat they provide.

Ultimately, my visit to Mariaville Farm was a great reminder of the positive impact that a small business run by compassionate people can have on a community. The Capital Region and Schenectady Greenmarket are lucky to have Mariaville Farm and based on their current successes, I imagine that we’ll continue to be so lucky for years to come.

What’s Fresh This Week – September 2

Happy Labor Day!

This weekend we recognize the contributions of American workers! As you walk around Schenectady Greenmarket this Sunday, you’ll notice the fruits of our vendors’ labor – literally! Bountiful produce, fresh baked goods, handmade crafts, prepared foods…all made possible by our farmers and vendors working hard to bring you the best that our area has to offer. Stop by and pick up everything you need for your Labor Day weekend celebrations – and don’t forget to thank your farmer!

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What’s Fresh This Week

The Peanut Principle: Peanut ginger dressing; and a new fruit berry peanut butter with acai berry, pomegranate, cherries, strawberries, raspberry, blueberries, and goji berries.

Palatine Valley Dairy will have plenty of our black olive and roasted red pepper cheddar this week. This is the cheese that won the gold medal in the New York State Cheese Competition last week!

Mariaville Farm: Fresh pasture raised chicken and duck; Black Angus beef; Heritage pork; lamb; goat; fresh eggs, too. Reserve your Thanksgiving Turkey now!

Café NOLA: Portabella mushroom, blackened catfish, and chicken sandwiches; fresh squeezed lemonade (flavored with mango, guava, strawberry, raspberry, or cherry); fresh brewed sweet tea, iced tea, and Arnold Palmers.

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Variety Vendors

  • Laurie’s Gluten Free Goodness
  • Mosaics by Christine
  • Highland Farm
  • The Peanut Principle
  • Adair Vineyards
  • Freddy’s Rockin’ Hummus

Programming

Market Stage

10am-2pm: Running the River

11am & 11:45am: Special appearance by the Fotia Greek Dancers (pictured above). The Fotia Greek Dancers maintain the traditions of music and dance from Greece and Cyprus, and they’ll be performing at St. George’s Greek Festival September 7-9 in downtown Schenectady. More information about the Greek Festival is available here.

Local Expert
Cris Schrader, Sustainable Engineering & Environmental Design

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And Don’t Forget the Bellevue Market!

Thursdays 3-6pm, through September

2176 Broadway, Schenectady (Maranatha Ministries parking lot, located at at the corner of Thompson Street)

Bellevue Market Vendors – 8/30

  • Abbey Farms
  • Adair Vineyards
  • Adirondack Flower Farm
  • Bella Terra Farms
  • Buhrmaster Family Farm
  • Gatherer’s Granola
  • Soulicious
  • Taj Mahal Restaurant
  • There’s No Place Like Home
  • Truffle’s Cupcakes by Collette
  • West Wind Acres

What’s Fresh This Week – August 26

The Awesome Onion!

Many of us use onions as an accent, such as topping off a delicious Black Angus burger with a slice of flavorful onion. But did you know there are so many other ways onions can play a part in your dishes? Chop up sweet onions and colorful heirloom tomatoes for scrumptious salsa. Caramelized onions are a great side dish and can also serve as the base for creamy onion dip; chunks of onion, squash, and other veggies make a killer kebab on the grill; and don’t forget pickled onions that can be enjoyed all year long! Many varieties and flavors of onion are available at the market now – stop by your farmer’s stall and pick up some onions this Sunday!

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What’s Fresh This Week

Quincy Farm will feature rainbow cherry tomatoes; golden rave and pingpong tomatoes; heirloom tomatoes; Sicilian and classic eggplants; yellow and red bell peppers, arugula, spinach, salad greens, and more!
Mariaville Farm: Fresh chicken, duck, and eggs. No-nitrate bacon: chipotle, maple cinnamon, hickory, Irish, or Canadian; Chorizo and Cajun sausage. Lamb, goat, pork, and Black Angus beef.
Susie’s Climax Creations: Fresh young chicken and duckling available. Peach jam is here, plus our other jams, jellies, and pickled items.
Smyth/Cid Pottery: New this week – water filtration crocks, garlic keeps, and garlic and oil bowls.
Skinner’s Sugarbush: Strawberry rhubarb and apple pear pielets; caramel corn mini cakes; chocolate cherry, maple toffee, and lime meltaways. Enjoy our cranberry-lime, apricot, and lemon-blueberry scones; chocolate coconut bars; and don’t forget our maple syrup!
Earthly Remedies: Stop by and check out our dryer balls, deodorant, and bug spray.
Sistahs Vintage Aprons: Come see our selection of full coverage and cobbler aprons in exciting fabric patterns.
Café NOLA: Cajun specialty dishes; fresh squeezed lemonade (mango, strawberry, raspberry, or cherry); iced tea and sweet tea.
Healing Path Massage: Do you have muscular pain or stiffness? Stop by and let us see how we might help ease your discomfort.

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Variety Vendors

  • Altamont Vineyard & Winery
  • dreamPuff Marshmallows
  • Earthly Remedies by Erin
  • Healing Path Massage
  • Mu Mu Muesli
  • Our Daily Eats
  • The Peanut Principle
  • Sistahs Vintage Aprons
  • Skinner’s Sugarbush
  • Smyth/Cid Pottery
  • Susie’s Climax Creations
  • Tierra Farm

Programming

Market Stage

10am-12pm: Cosby Gibson

12pm-2pm: Greg Guba

Community Tables
Local Expert
American Cancer Society

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And Don’t Forget the Bellevue Market!

Thursdays 3-6pm, through September

2176 Broadway, Schenectady (Maranatha Ministries parking lot, located at at the corner of Thompson Street)

Bellevue Market Vendors – 8/23

  • Abbey Farms
  • Adirondack Flower Farm
  • Bella Terra Farms
  • Buhrmaster Family Farm
  • Gatherer’s Granola
  • Soulicious
  • Taj Mahal Restaurant
  • There’s No Place Like Home
  • West Wind Acres

A Tale of Two Farms

Mariaville Angus in Delanson, N.Y., and Barber’s Farm in Middleburgh, N.Y., and are two very different family owned and operated farms. Mariaville specializes in black Angus beef and other meats, and Barber’s in homegrown vegetables. But the substantial results that have come from both farms being in the inaugural group of vendors at the popular Schenectady Greenmarket are quite similar. With the exposure and increased clientele they have received at the market since it began in November 2008, both have expanded and taken their farms in new directions.

When Mariaville Angus first started selling to customers at Schenectady Greenmarket they had one product as their name suggests: black Angus beef.  But their customers began asking for more and soon the animals the Chandler family raised for hobby became part of their business. They now have three breeds of pigs (red waddle, Yorkshire and durocs), lambs, goats and pastured chickens. In July 2010, they began raising laying hens in a mobile hen house, bringing 50 to 60 dozen brown eggs to each market, which typically sell out during the first two hours the market is open.

Over the past three years the Chandlers have doubled their sales at the market each year. The full-time jobs they have worked, Chris as a bus driver and photographer and her husband Bob as a builder of log homes, in addition to running the farm, now support only their family, instead of the business. “We used to work full-time jobs to support the farm. Now the farm is supporting itself. We still work full-time, but the farm is now running independently,” Chris explained.

The family, which includes sons Bobby, John and Billy, plans to build a farm store this year, and start a CSA in Delanson. “It’s the exposure at Schenectady Greenmarket that has made people aware of us. Once people try our meat, they just come back,” Chris said.

Last year, average daily attendance was 2,700 at the outdoor market and 1,900 at the indoor market. The market has opened up Mariaville Angus, and all of the vendors, to many new customers. “We have so many more customers now because so many people come through Schenectady Greenmarket,” Chris said.

Cindy Barber, President of Barber’s Farm, likens the effects that the market has had on her farm and the rural community to a pebble being tossed into the water.

“This hasn’t just been an economic engine for downtown Schenectady. It’s also been an engine for us to expand our own businesses in our own communities. To the people who envisioned this market…how could they have imagined that little pebble would make such a big ripple?”

Last month, while temperatures plunged below freezing for several days in a row, Cindy and her nephew, Jacob Hooper, Vice President of the farm, were seeding new beds of spinach in one of the two high tunnels they built to harvest vegetables year-round. They also grow carrots, beets, turnips and parsnips in the high tunnels which are kept warm with geothermal heat.

“That first season, I could have 1,000 people going by my table at the market. Out here in Schoharie County, I would have maybe 100 cars go on my road…When we first started at the market, we were bringing what we’ve always had as a winter keeping crop, potatoes, onions, squash and we sold out…So in Summer 2009, we put up the first high tunnel growing system. We were able to plant more crops. We knew we had an audience.”

Barber’s Farm went from being a retail operation from May until November to a year-round enterprise, with farm owners hiring additional employees for the farm stand in Middleburgh and the Schenectady Greenmarket table. They now also flash freeze their vegetables , including sweet corn, tomatoes, broccoli, red peppers and butternut squash.

Betsy Henry, Chair of the Board of Schenectady Greenmarket, reflected on the market’s impact on its vendors this way, “We are thrilled that our vendors have been able to expand their businesses because of customers at Schenectady Greenmarket.  It’s exciting to know that our market and our customers have had such a positive impact on the local economy.”

What’s Fresh This Week – August 19

Plentiful Produce!

If you’ve been to Schenectady Greenmarket lately, you know the produce is plentiful! Our farmers are working hard out in their fields to make sure you get all the delicious fruits and vegetables that you love this time of year: greens and garlic, onions and beans, herbs and berries. And now’s the perfect time to stock up on produce for canning and preserving. It’s all fresh, and it’s all here at Schenectady Greenmarket!

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What’s Fresh This Week

Mariaville Farm: Fresh-never-frozen chicken; fresh eggs from free roaming hens. Pasture raised Black Angus beef, heritage pork, lamb, goat, and duck.

Three Chicks and a P will have Indian spice and garden chive hummus! We’ll also have your other favorites. Stop by and see us.

Cafe NOLA: will be bringing our blackened chicken and catfish sandwiches; red beans and rice; fresh squeezed lemonade and fresh brewed iced tea.

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Variety Vendors

  • Laurie’s Gluten Free Goodness
  • Burden Lake Creamworks
  • Mosaics by Christine
  • Wild Sage Designs
  • Highland Farm
  • The Peanut Principle
  • Adair Vineyards
  • Earthstone Candles
  • Healing Path Massage
  • The Seasonal Collection

Programming

Market Stage

10am-12pm: Big Creek

12pm-2pm: The Anonymous Fig Leafs

Community Tables
Local Expert
Denise Kolankowski from Cornell Cooperative Extension Recycling Program.

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And Don’t Forget the Bellevue Market!

Thursdays 3-6pm, through September

2176 Broadway, Schenectady (Maranatha Ministries parking lot, located at at the corner of Thompson Street)

Bellevue Market Vendors – 8/16

  • Abbey Farms
  • Adirondack Flower Farm
  • Ali Herrmann
  • Bella Terra Farms
  • Buhrmaster Family Farm
  • Gatherer’s Granola
  • Soulicious
  • Taj Mahal Restaurant
  • There’s No Place Like Home
  • Wellington’s Herbs and Spices
  • West Wind Acres