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PHOTO: Mary Beth Flatau
Farmers: Mark and Denise Beyers
Location: East Aurora, New York
Specialties: Maple syrup, pastured poultry and eggs
It all started with a well-timed maple leaf. Mark Beyers was deer hunting in the woods on his property when a red maple leaf dropped into his lap. It caused him to look around and take notice of just how many maple trees were on the land he owned with his wife, Denise. With the spark of an idea in his head and memories of making syrup as a kid, he returned to the house to talk to his wife and the couple decided they’d give syrup-making a try.
That same year, neighbors gave them a few unwanted hens, which the Beyerses happily accepted: Denise raised chickens, ducks and geese as a child and wanted to know specifically where her family’s meat and eggs would be coming from. Before either of them knew it, Beyers Maple Farm was officially born.
“We never realized we’d like it so much,” Denise Beyers says. “When we become passionate about something, we do everything we can to make it happen.”
Today, the pair of Marine Corps veterans makes maple syrup in addition to raising pastured meat chickens and turkeys, laying chickens, and honeybees. And this becomes even more impressive when you realize that Mark is doing it all as a double amputee: He was severely injured in Iraq in 2005 from an IED blast, which required more than 40 surgeries and the amputation of his right arm and leg.
“Individually, we may not be able to accomplish as much, but with the grace of God and when we work together with friends and family, amazing things happen.” Denise Beyers says.
Making maple syrup! It’s not easy by any means, so for my husband to accomplish the things he does with only one arm and one leg is nothing short of amazing. He makes me proud to have him as a husband and father to our children. We love to teach our children how to make syrup and carry on family traditions—how to live honestly and self-sufficiently—and making memories are most important.
Farming is hard work and making money doing it is even harder. Raising organic poultry is especially costly because of the feed and processing costs. We raise chickens for 12 weeks and turkeys for 21 weeks, and we don’t see a dime until they are processed and in our freezer, which is a significant drain on our budget. Plus, we have the challenge of actually selling the chickens in a timely manner to make the money back that we already spent raising them.
Research, read books and find resources to help your unique situation. There are foundations out there to help with start-up costs with beginning your own farm business, as well as helping with classes to further your education. The average age of farmers is around 55, so it’s time for more people—and especially more veterans—to step up to the challenge and become farmers. It’s a very fulfilling and satisfying job. We can all make a difference in our own communities by providing healthy, sustainable sources of food.
This article originally ran in the January/February 2017 issue of Hobby Farms.