CUTCHOGUE, N.Y. – Raising chickens and pigs wasn't always the plan for married couple Carol Festa and Tom Geppel.
Formerly a stock market research analyst and a tax consultant, they found new purpose in Cutchogue on Long Island's North Fork.
Following their passion for the earth and good nutrition, they became farmers, converting an old potato barn into a store for their organic and ethical meat and produce.
"It's one of the few professions where you work with your heart, your hands, and your head at the same time," Tom said.
They named 8 Hands Farm for themselves and their two kids, who began helping at ages 6 and 10. In the decade that followed, the staff grew, along with the number of animals.
"We have 150 sheep. We've got 100 pigs. There's a lot of individuals in that that you've got to make sure are all doing well," Tom said.
All the animals on the farm have distinct personalities; the goats tend to be extroverts, while the sheep are often skittish.
"The goats are more like dogs and the sheep are more like cats," he said.
Respecting the earth is central to the mission at 8 Hands Farm.
"For us, all of our animals can behave the way that nature intended them to, which is chickens scratching around, chickens taking sun and dust baths, sheep walking around, grazing, pigs rooting around," Tom said.
The same level of care applies to the plants.
"Everything that we produce on our farm is, we like to say, 'beyond organic' because we don't even use certified organic sprays, so it's basically just putting the seeds in the ground," Carol said.
Carol and Tom are committed to minimizing waste.
"Everything gets used on the farm," Tom said.
Surplus eggs from the 1,000 laying hens get turned into egg pasta and frozen custard. Sheep's wool becomes yarn. Extra vegetables get used in prepared meals. Meanwhile, solar panels help keep the operation running sustainably.
"I pull so much carbon out of the atmosphere here with a permanent pasture that's a living soil," Tom said. "It wasn't about the money. It's about what's the best thing for the soil and the animals and us nutritionally, so that really brings you to regenerative farming."
Though running a farm comes with its fair share of challenges, Carol and Tom hope their work will inspire other farmers to pursue regenerative methods.
"It's not easy," Carol said. "There just has to be that drive to continue to move it forward because you know that what you're doing, in the end, is really valuable."
8 Hands Farm
4735 Cox Ln
Cutchogue, NY 11935
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