Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Fast-growing organic meat farmer buys & son to manage Pole Valley Golf

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor

Mark Faille, who in the past decade has become a major farm presence in Washington County raising “100% grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork,” last Friday bought the 197-acre Pole Valley golf course in the Town of Hartford and renamed it Hartford Greens Country Club. His son Dylan, 28, is managing it.

Dylan told The Chronicle in a phone interview Sunday evening, “It’s really touching how people appreciate that we’re keeping it a course, to see how relieved and happy they are.”

He said he spent the weekend working 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. as the only employee, doing everything from “fueling up carts and sanitizing carts” to “running the register.”

“I’m a farmer, man. I’m not scared of the hours.” He said some of his father’s farm employees came by to help.

Dylan was so new to the business that while he said “Marvin takes care of the green and Bradley takes care of the equipment,” he didn’t yet know their last names.

Dylan said the course is in good shape, but that the equipment is 1970’s vintage.

Steve Forbes built Pole Valley and operated it since 2002. He put it on the market for $600,000 in 2018, saying, “I really need someone to take this golf course to the next level…to improve the facility and bring it to what it can be.

The elder Mr. Faille operates Simply Grazin’® , a farm that started and still operates in New Jersey and now also farms in Virginia and New York State. It says Whole Foods Market is a major customer.

Since 2010, Mr. Faille has purchased a series of Washington County farms amounting to some 2,000 acres that he is working, and he has made it his base of operations. (See sidebar.)

Dylan said his father was a heating and air conditioning contractor in New Jersey near Princeton, raising beef for their own use when he left the contracting business and opted to farm full-time after the death of Dylan’s sister at a young age from a heart ailment.

Dylan says the golf club “has unlimited potential starting with the obvious — a clubhouse,” which it doesn’t have now.

Dylan Faille, left, will manage the former Pole Valley golf course his father Mark purchased Friday. Photo provided.

“There will definitely be a clubhouse in the future,” he said, but for now he thinks of installing outside concessions, “like food trucks on a trailer — everything outside, that is our priority. First, it’s a nice thing to have anyway but you’re also safer at this particularly time.”

“I mean for this to be a year-round thing long-term,” he said. “I’d like to have some golf simulators. We want to be something that could be enjoyed year-round for weddings, graduations or large gatherings.

“We would like being able to host charity fund-raisers, holiday parties.”

He said he does not play golf himself.

“I went to play golf once or twice in New Jersey — it’s not this vibe. People are very rude. To learn to play golf in New Jersey it’s not fun, it’s more stressful. I feel comfortable here. I could hop in the cart with any of the guys and we could have a conversation for four hours.

“This is a course if you never played golf you could come here and feel comfortable. The people I’ve met here validated what we thought in buying the course — a lot of amazing, kind people.”

“We’re a good kind of crazy,” Dylan said. “Sometimes people need to blaze new trails. Don’t focus on the money. It’s about being a good person, trying to find a way to keep that aspect of your life while making a living at it.

Asked how business was this past week end, Dylan said, “we did 50 sales, which was more than 50 people.”

Pricing? “Walk nine for $10, ride nine for 20; walk 18 for 20, ride 18 for 40. He said the price with cart had been $18 and $38.

“I’ll try to keep it simple,” he said, with round numbers in part to avoid making change. “We’re a half hour from a bank and if I’m the only one here, how am I going to get there?” he laughs.

He said concession charges range from $1 for water, $2 for soda and most candy.”

“Simple, quick, easy and as least expensive as I can make it, so we can get on with the fun.”

Dylan added by text: “My degree is in applied sciences. I’ve never run a course and haven’t played much golf. But golf in itself is an applied science. So I love it. I’m a nerd like that. lol.”

He said wants the course operation to be “clean and efficient,” with the “least pollution, least amount of chemicals, minimize irrigation. I want to be an example trying to do a better way.”

He said, “Everything is related when you focus on the similarities other than the differences. I apply that lens to life.”

Mark Faille’s ‘Simply Grazin’® raises beef, pork on numerous farms he bought in Washington Co.

“Simply Grazin’® raises 100% grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork, poultry and lamb on beautiful farms located in New Jersey, Virginia and New York,” says its website.

The farm is operated by Mark Faille, who last week bought the Pole Valley Golf Course in the Town of Hartford.

“We are the East Coast’s premier producer and wholesale distributor of 100% grass fed beef and veal, and pasture raised pork and poultry. We also offer lamb, goat and rabbit,” the Simply Grazin’s website says. It started in New Jersey. “As our business expanded, we ran out of land to farm in New Jersey.

“So, in 2010, we purchased a 400-acre property on County Route 17 in Fort Ann, NY. We converted the dairy barns for our hog operation and transitioned the fields to organic hay.

“In 2016, we purchased the 150-acre Gibbs Road Farm in Hartford, NY. And, in 2017 we purchased an additional 250-acres of farmland in Hartford, NY, as well as 300-acres in Fort Edward, NY.

“Along the way, we fell in love with the rural beauty of the area and we have moved our business headquarters to Washington County as well.

“At our New York farm locations we raise beef (Red Angus, Black Angus, Simmental, and Hereford), pork (conventional breeds: Duroc, Yorkshire, Landrace; and heritage breeds: Red Waddles, Herefords, Mangalitsa, Mulefoot and cross breeds of all), poultry (Broiler Chickens and Broad Breasted White turkeys) and lamb.

“Our Fort Edward, NY farm features a unique set-up for sows and their piglets, which is the back bone of our gestation and farrowing crate free operation.

“Once the sows are ready to give birth, they are moved indoors to a 12′ x 8′ stall where the mother can interact with her piglets, and then a smaller, heated section is attached to each stall where only the piglets can enter to sleep and stay.

“This smaller section helps reduce injury or death to piglets, which is one of the most challenging factors when farrowing without farrowing crates.

“One of our Fort Ann, NY locations is a 400-acre farm that serves as a grow-out facility for our pork and also provides additional pasture for our cattle. It’s also an excellent resource for our winter forages.

“An additional location in Granville, NY is 150-acres and also provides much needed pasture, a grow-out facility, and outbuildings that support our ever expanding agricultural operation in New York.

“In June 2019, we purchased three more farms in NY. We added 169 acres of pasture and crop land on Brayton Road in Fort Ann, NY. And, we also added an additional 100 acres and an additional 79 acres on County Route 46 in Fort Edward, NY for hay land and pasture land.

“Our most recent addition of farm land came in May 2020, as we agreed to lease with the option to buy a 625 acre farm in Kingsbury, NY.

“We are protecting our Upstate NY farm land in Hartford, Fort Ann and Fort Edward, through a state farmland protection grant given to us by the governor’s office in December 2018.

“If you want to buy locally produced food, you have to conserve the land, you have to protect the farmers, and you have to support the agricultural infrastructure. This is a great place to farm.

“We’re here for the long-term and we want to make sure there is a solid base of farms, farmers and farm businesses. We want to build partnerships with other farmers to ensure that this area doesn’t become overrun with development.”

Copyright © 2020 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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