Ike Malulla built a successful career in a telecommunications firm. His brother, Dave, is an HVAC technician. But a few years back, with retirement on the horizon, they inherited their family’s 200-acre farm in Van Etten, New York, and realized that they were about to embark on an unscheduled detour. “I’m 63, my brother’s going to be 60,” Ike said.
We often cite how we’re in the midst of a renaissance in farming in New York and New England, with the average age of farmers declining, the average size of farms declining, and the number of farms increasing – all signs of a positive rebirth of agriculture in our region. “All the buzz in the farm world is the new, young farmer. Well, we’re the new, old farmers,” says Ike.
What they found as they began attending conferences and conducting field research for their new vocation was that their situation wasn’t all that uncommon. “There’s a whole group of people like us, techie guys in khakis and sports shirts,” he said. “They’ve made their money in tech and now they’re back on the family farm.” Maybe not uncommon, but in an industry of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, the Malullas’ school of farming produces pork, beef, poultry and—especially—eggs that are unreal.
“There are people who will not eat anybody’s eggs but mine now,” said Ike. “Which is kind of cool.” The Malullas combine high-intensity mob grazing—frequently moving animals to optimize nutrition—and silvopasture grazing—utilizing the forest canopy as well as grassy pasture—and frequently move their chicken tractors and pig paddocks to give the land a chance to recuperate after a heavy feed. They don’t use industrial fertilizers, and they only use butchers who believe in humane practices.
“One of our butchers commented that they thought our pigs were fantastic because they were so muscular,” Malulla said. “Because even a lot of small-time farmers raise them in a cage. Our pigs are sprinting around out there in the field, and you can see it [in the meat].” The Malullas also apply their technical background to farming. “We use state-of-the-art polymesh, poly-wire fencing and piping and all that kind of stuff,” Ike said.
Dave and Ike work a lot with like-minded small farmers and producers of local products, sharing knowledge and teaching them how to incorporate modern advancements into their trades. “There’s a lady that makes coffee in Watkins Glen and she sells our eggs and we do Instagram posts about her coffee,” he said. “It’s about that collaboration with other people in the food scene.” Ike says the same about working with Walden. “This agreement that we have to supply eggs to you and your customers was a lifesaver for us. It’s made us able to do so much more.