by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Fire Creek Farms in Livonia, NY is, in many ways, a dream come true to its owners. Farming has always been important to Jakob Stevens and his fiancé, Kyli Knickerbocker. Both grew up farming and realized while initially dating that they wanted to start their own farm together. The couple launched their operation in 2016 with 10 pigs.
Today, the operation also includes unfiltered honey, free-range pastured laying hens and meat chickens, all-natural beef, pastured pork, tomatoes, black raspberries, radishes, onions and hay. The duo sells through a community supported agriculture program, a few farmers markets, and, soon, their own farm store.
They raised money gradually for the self-financed project through their off-farm jobs and from farm income.
The store measures 24 by 24 feet and includes three freezers and one cooler. The freezers will store beef, pork and chickens and the cooler is reserved for the eggs and seasonal vegetables.
“We’re definitely going to talk with some other farms,” Knickerbocker said. “We have a friend who raises lamb. He was wondering if he could put some in the store. Others have berries and candles and things like that. We’ll welcome other farms and artisans to put their products in.”
Knickerbocker grew up in Pittsford, NY on Knickerbocker Farms, raising hay, straw and cash crops. Stevens had worked on farms since he was around 10 years old. Together, they now own 10 acres and rent close to 250. The couple gets a little summer help from family and neighbors with hay and straw, but “mainly, it’s us,” Knickerbocker said.
She takes pride in the quality of what they raise together.
“We grow and raise the highest quality products for our customers,” Knickerbocker said. “We work every day to continuously improve our practices.”
The couples uses environmentally sustainable growing methods, such as cover crops, natural fertilizers, beneficial insects and honeybees. When it comes to the livestock, they recycle scratched or bruised produce from the fields and local grocery stores as an added supplement for the pasture-raised pork.
They also reuse spent brewer’s grain from local breweries for cattle and pig feed, saving waste and the expense of some of their feed.
They are Beef Quality Assurance Certified, Pork Quality Assurance Certified, and members of the New York Beef Producers Association, New York Pork Producers Association and NY Farm Bureau.
They are in the process of obtaining Certified Organic certification for the fresh produce.
Currently, Fire Creek Farms owns 15 head of cattle and manage another farm’s 150-head herd. The farm also has between 25 and 50 pigs, 150 to 200 laying hens, and 300 meat birds during the summer. They send out their animals for butchering to Schrader Farms Meat Market in Romulus, a USDA certified facility.
As most of the animals are raised on pasture, the couple provides only huts for farrowing sows and houses the calves in the barn on their rented land. They hope to eventually build a barn.
The meat chickens move with their chicken tractors throughout the summer to fresh grass daily, and the laying hens have a coop and fenced area.
The pasture mix is mostly native grasses with the addition of Timothy, clover and occasionally rye grass. They purchase grain from Keystone Mills in Romulus.
Acquiring new land represents a big challenge for the couple, as is obtaining laborers for the farm. They’re planning for their wedding in June at the farm and, eventually, children.
“He says he needs ‘free labor’ at the farm,” Knickerbocker said. “I assured him that won’t happen until they’re 15 at least!”
Managing their time also difficult. In addition to their work on the farm, Knickerbocker teaches math at Victor High School and Stevens works for the City of Rochester Water Authority at Hemlock.