Diamond Hills Farm

Farmer Jason Detzel stands in the shade with one of his beef cows.

Diamond Hills Farm represents how the Match Program can help farmers explore various business models without over-extending themselves with a mortgage or capital improvements. Jason Detzel operates Diamond Hills Farm on a 250-acre property in Columbia County, New York. Jason began raising cattle here in 2012, but this story reaches back a bit further.

In 2010, CLC helped a pair of beginning farmers locate land for their beef and sheep operation. They had been farming on other local farms previously and decided to start their own business. With help from the Farmer-Landowner Match Program, the farmers contacted the landowners and after negotiating terms signed a 10-year lease. They also installed fencing for 80 acres of pasture. After operating their business through a few seasons, the farmers decided to move away from their business and began to look for someone who would be interested in taking over their lease.

At the same time Jason was apprenticing at farms in Virginia. For several years he had been having an ongoing conversation with a friend of his who was living in New York about starting a farm. Although they had both been long-time vegetarians earlier in their lives, they decided that sustainably-grown beef would be the best fit for their business plan and were left wondering where they should farm.

A series of events led them to the Hudson Valley where they began to look for available farmland. As beginning farmers who could not purchase land they remained flexible with their business plan to accommodate whatever land opportunities arose.

After a six-month search for land, Jason and Lori found Awesome Farm. Its location in Claverack, the installed fencing, and the 10-year lease made this a perfect fit. Diamond Hills Farm had found its home, and Awesome was able to sell their infrastructure.

Since that time, Diamond Hills Farm has gone through several changes. A significant change is that Jason now operates the business himself. This, along with the fact that he works full-time as an agricultural service provider for a nearby cooperative extension office, has help shape the farm.

For several years, in order to minimize his capital investment in equipment and labor time in growing hay, Jason purchased hay for winter feed and sold his meat at farmers markets and through direct sales. More recently, Jason has been purchasing stocker cattle in the spring, raising them on grass throughout the season, and then selling them in the fall. This accommodates his schedule, and still allows him to prioritize care for the animals and stewardship of the land.