Mark Russo

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Farming Status and Plans

Description of farming status, plans, and practices:

In the winter before COVID I worked as a cutter at Stratton's Custom Meats with a part-time gig as a stage technician at The Egg Performing Arts Center in Albany (insert egg-related joke here). I have been unemployed since the 2nd week of March, and have been keeping myself busy with Tiny Urban Regenerative Farm, a tiny urban farm producing rabbit, quail & microgreens out of my backyard & a nearby community garden in Troy.
I've been in the field for ~7 years--mostly in holistic livestock management but I have worked on a few veggie picking crews--in 2019 I co-managed certified organic broiler chickens, pastured pigs & laying hens at Laughing Earth Farm (in Cropseyville). I tend to have a variety of projects going on at any given time: I regularly produce a segment on farming for the Hudson Mohawk Magazine (based at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy), I sit on the Board of the Mount Ida Preservation Association where I co-produced open mics, community meals & educational events, and generally have at least one other major project happening on a rolling basis. Now that the winter of COVID is here I'm turning my attention towards planning for the future.
In an ideal future I would be a managing partner on a cooperative farm community within an hour of Troy/Albany, but I'm flexible for the right opportunity. My partner & I are working towards starting a farm of our own in 2021, with the goal of providing the majority of both our incomes eventually. She has 4 summers of wwoof + a full year of experience managing a grass-fed lamb farm in Berne, NY & currently works remote for an anti-pollution non-profit.  I have co-founded a co-op house called The Basswood in Troy that I love but it is time for us to get out of the city & live more closely to the land. For now I am raising rabbits in my backyard & we keep a flock of laying quail at a community garden in North Central Troy.
I'm interested in implementing regenerative practices that focus on building soil health, including agroforestry/silvopasture/permaculture/keyline systems, no-till/no-dig gardening, holistic planned grazing, biodynamics & other 'beyond organic' techniques, as well as using my production background to produce media telling the stories behind the regenerative agriculture movement. It's hard for us to imagine being able to realize the vision I, my partner, & so many other young people have for the future through the nuclear family farm model, we are looking to joing others who are also committed to co-operative strategies for managing land, business, work/life balance & thriving in an uncertain future. We're also interested in pursuing complimentary enterprises/gigs, such as agrotourism & wellness retreats--we both recently recieved our level 3 Reiki Master certificate & will likely pursue yoga teacher training in the future.
I'd like to develop my skills in holistic grazing & financial management, heavy equipment operation & maintainence, humane livestock handling & slaughter,  butchery, alternative energy & feed systems (esp. anerobic digesters & composting w/ BSFL), orchard/tree care & perennial nursery propogation, natural building, marketing, & more.
 
 

Description of marketing method:

Direct marketing via online ordering & delivery site. Exploring contract growing options for local ethnic markets

Does this farmer have a business plan?

In progress

Farm Characteristics

Preferred location:

  • Capital Area
    • Albany
    • Rensselaer
    • Saratoga
    • Washington
  • Hudson Valley
    • Columbia

Desired acreage:

21-50, 51-100, >100

Infrastructure required:

Onsite housing, Barns or other facilities for storage of equipment, livestock, and crops, Water access, Fencing, Electrical Access

Description of buildings required:

Shed or barn for rabbit breeding stock. Winter housing for future sheep/cattle. 

Description of water access required:

Ability to develop gravity-fed watering system in pastures.

Description of fencing required:

Ability to install electric fence onsite

Crops and Livestock

Primary crops:

Hay

Primary Livestock:

Cattle - Beef, Goats/Sheep, Pigs, Poultry, Other livestock

Description of livestock/crops:

Pastured rabbits & poultry, sheep & beef in the future

Farmland Tenure

Tenure options desired:

Farm Management, For Lease, Partnership, Other Tenure Agreement

Description of tenure options desired:

In an ideal future I would be a managing partner on a cooperative farm within an hour of Troy/Albany. I am open to other opportunities for the right fit! Equity considerations for long-term commitment a must.

Additional Information

Will this farmer's operation qualify an eligible landowner for an Agricultural Assessment?

Yes

Experience & education:

On farm work experience, Farm internship/apprenticeship, Farmer training or workshop

Experience description:

Internship at Soul Fire Farm, Grafton, NY 2012
Internship at Longmeadow Farm, Cornwall, CT 2012
Internship at Heather Ridge Farm, Preston-Potter Hollow, NY 2013
Assistant Manager at Falling Water Permaculture Center, Sharon Springs, NY 2014
Raised & direct marketed small flock of Muscovy ducks, 2014
Work/Live Trade, Solstice Hill Farm, Sharon Springs, NY 2014
Veggie Mobile Market Assistant, Capital Roots, Troy, NY 2014-2015
Co-operator, Soliphilia Farm, Greenwich, NY 2016-2017 - Raised & marketed geese for Christmas 2016
Farm Crew, Laughing Earth Farm, Cropseyville, NY 2018-2019 - Veg picking crew for 115 member CSA, 2018; Livestock assistant, 2019
Certificates/workshops: 
Permaculture Design Certificate from Whole Systems Design in VT, 2016
Regenerative Ag workshop with Mark Shepard at Back to the Lane Farm, 2017
Intro to Holistic Management via Little Seed Gardens/Hudson Valley Savory Hub, 2018
Game of Logging lvl 1-4 Chainsaw Certification, Vermont Woodland Training, 2019
HERD Fellowship, Regenerate 2019 Conference, HMI & Quivira Coalition, 2019
Reiki level 3 Master - Usui & Shamanic style, Maya Moon Wellness, 2020