Welcome to Sweet Judy Blues
Hi! I'm Tara Roberts, and my husband Henry and I own Sweet Judy Blues Farm. We're located in Greenville, New York, which is in the northern Catskills region.
For now, Henry and I still live in New York City half of the time. New York is a city of countless restaurants, but very little open land (and although Central Park is lovely, there are definitely no crops growing or livestock grazing). Eating well is a city-wide prerogative, but it's easy not to think about where your food comes from. However, New York state is actually home to more than 35,000 farms, which use about 23% of its land area (New York State Agricultural Society).
When we tell people in the city that we have a farm, one of their first questions is often whether we grew up on farms. The answer is, not at all. I grew up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. I was surrounded by country music, but not country living. My mom had a veggie garden in the backyard of our suburban neighborhood, but I don't think I ever saw a cow up close. Henry had a little more exposure to farming. He grew up in Sydney, Australia, where it was much more common to go to the beach than the country. Still, his family friends had a farm that he visited often growing up, and some of his fondest childhood memories are of riding four-wheelers and shooting guns on their property.
So how did we get into farming? In 2016, we'd both been living in the New York City for five years. My first two middle-grade novels had been published, and Henry had opened two restaurants. We'd gotten married earlier in the year, and were starting to think about what we wanted for the future. We couldn't see ourselves staying in the city forever and raising kids there. We started looking for a house in the Catskills, the mountain range a couple hours north of the city. The second one we saw was a farmhouse built in 1831 on a plot of 63 acres. It had been a small dairy farm in the past, but the owners were in their 70s and had stopped farming the land more than a decade before. Somehow, we knew right away that it was the one for us. We made an offer, and before long, we were the new owners of not only a nearly 200-year-old house, but also 63 acres. Next, we had to figure out what to do with it.
Henry grew up eating fresh, healthy food in Australia, and that's the kind of food his restaurants serve. I didn't focus on eating well until I was an adult, but it's very important to me now. So the idea of producing natural, nutritious food made sense to us both. A good portion of our land is clear and flat, it was divided into paddocks, and several natural water sources flow through it. For those reasons, and because the previous owners had raised dairy cows, we knew cattle would be a good fit for our resources. But unlike them, we decided to raise beef cattle.
So where did we start? We read a lot, listened to podcasts, took an online course on Grazing Management via Cornell University's Agriculture Department, and spoke to as many cattle farmers as we could. In March, our first eight Pinebank Black Angus cattle arrived. They were purchased from a farm in eastern New York where they'd been raised 100% grass-fed by a farmer who has taught us a lot about holistic, sustainable farming. A month later we had our first chickens, and this summer we've been planting and tending to our vegetable garden.
In the coming weeks and months, look to this blog for updates from our farm, from victories to challenges. We're only just starting on this journey, and we have so much to learn. We're excited to share it all with you!