We recently spent a sunny winter afternoon with Jeff and Barrita Shanks at Seven Bridges Farm. Located in Lima, just 20 minutes south of Rochester, the farm is beautifully situated over 150 acres.
Jeff’s family has been on the land since 1942. He’s been in agriculture his whole life and started Seven Bridges about ten years ago to raise beef for the restaurant he owned, Crossroads Restaurant. Jeff later sold the restaurant and began growing a customer base on the farm. “We sell mostly to individuals,” says Barrita, though many restaurants and schools in the Rochester area serve Seven Bridges meats. The Shanks are regulars at farmers’ markets, and can be found at the Rochester Public Market every Saturday.
We started our tour of the farm in the chicken coop, where the chickens rushed to greet us and peck at our boots. Barrita entertained us with a story of a cat giving birth in the chicken coop, and one of the chickens raising the kittens as her own! In addition to all natural beef, pork, and chicken products, Seven Bridges sells nest box eggs. Barrita sent us home with some that were just laid that morning, and boy were they delicious!
Seven Bridges houses their herd of Holstein Steers in several barns, each grouped by age. We stopped by on a chilly February day, and instead of grazing on the vast, snowy pastures, all of the cows chose to stay inside. We couldn’t blame them!
The youngest calves at Seven Bridges are about two weeks old, and each has their own individual shelter on the farm. “We can trace every cow back to its first day of life,” Barrita proudly tells us. Jeff grows and grinds the feed himself, ensuring the farm’s 270 cows have a balanced diet from day one of being weaned off milk. “We feed our animals like we feed our kids.”
It’s truly a labor of love for Jeff and Barrita, who put in long hours on the farm. Jeff is often out the door at 6:30 and back by 5:30. Long days on the farm don’t deter either Jeff or Barrita from a little extra exercise. “Farming is a different kind of workout, so we do yoga every morning to stay in shape,” says Barrita. “If you don’t move it, you’re going to lose it!”
After touring the barns, we trekked through the snow with Jeff and Barrita and their furry companion, Blue. We stopped by the log cabin where the Shanks often relax on a warm summer evening. Barrita still laughs telling us the story of having their wedding here 9 winters ago, which left no choice for the guests but to walk through deep piles of snow.
“I’m really excited about Hart’s Grocers because they’re going to do things the old-fashioned way,” Barrita tells us. “There’s going to be a side of beef hanging, something for people substantially to see and say, ‘Oh, I would love if you could cut me a few t-bones off of that!’ I like old-fashioned. People are going to love Hart’s!”
Jeff and Barrita take great pride in raising their cattle without growth hormones or antibiotics, and Jeff’s homegrown feed is free of pesticides and animal by-products. “You can really taste the difference in our meats,” says Barrita. Look for Seven Bridges in our butcher case this spring.