Bryan Strzelec raises pastured and free-range chicken, pastured pork and grass-fed cows at Erba Verde Farms in East Aurora. His commitment to making Western New York healthier through high quality, organic meat starts with his passion for humane farming. All of the animals on Strzelec's farm, including twin cows Leah and Sweet Pea (all the cows have names), enjoy fresh air, clean water and plenty of room to roam around the tree-lined, 50-acre property. Strzelec also allows his pigs and calves to nurse longer than conventional farmers.
"I think it makes a difference in quality and taste," he said.
Strzelec, a graduate of Cornell University's Dairy Management Program, grew up on a dairy farm in Cuba, NY and spent some time in restaurant management before returning to farming about 11 years ago. He calls his stint in restaurants, like Dina's in Ellicottville, serendipitous.
"I understand what restaurants need," he said. Adding, "chefs are more comfortable when you can speak their language." Erba Verde's products are featured on the menus of "just about every restaurant committed to farm-to-table in this area," according to Strzelec.
What began as an endeavor to feed himself and his family better quality, healthier food, Erba Verde Farms now supplies hundreds of customers with bacon, sausage, chicken and milk through partnerships with vendors like FreshFix and a milk share. Strzelec spends about 90 minutes each morning milking 13 of the farms' dairy cows.
"I'm excited to see this kind of growth [in organic farming]," he said. "I happened to be in the right place at the right time."
Strzelec, with the help of another full-time worker, does the bulk of the farm chores, including moving all the animals to fresh pasture every day. He is looking forward to adding two apprentices in the fall.
For Strzelec, employing less exploitative practices serves both the animals and humankind. "Too often, we turn to medicine to heal problems that are directly related to the food we eat," he said. "My hope is that as a culture, we look at disease prevention and treatment differently and heal our bodies by eating unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods."