In the Field / Kindred Kreek
Keeping up with the demand for locally raised protein
Photos by Eric Frick
Noah’s Ark featured an array of feathered and furry beasts. Jeff and Jillian Jendrowski have Kindred Kreek Farm, where alpaca, pigs, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, duck, quail, pheasant, rabbits, turkeys–far more than two of each–wander the fifty acres of pastures in Newstead, New York. Add in eggs from chickens, quail, and ducks, and the menu-friendly menagerie is becoming a go-to source for humanely raised local proteins whose variety has kept the farm afloat since 2005.
The Jendrowski family
Kindred Kreek started with alpacas, raised for both fleece and meat, at a time when alpaca popularity was at its peak. A farm store inside a small, rustic barn drew visitors to the farm to shop and pet the gentle, long-lashed camel cousins. But alpaca wool’s blessing is also its curse. The fiber is so durable that once someone purchases a pair of socks, they won’t soon need to return to buy replacements.
“Our first three years were strong,” says Jendrowski. “But once you have one scarf, sweater, or blanket, you don’t need another. The value of the animals went down due to an abundance of fleece west of the Mississippi. So we started doing meat, but that’s tough because they’re cute and cuddly.”
As alpaca demand dwindled, Kindred Kreek added pigs. A few years later, the farm doubled its pastured pork operation by purchasing 110 pigs from heritage breed favorite T-Meadow Farm when the pork pioneers sold their stock in 2017 and retired. With the hogs came the restaurants that had grown to depend on the flavorful pork and its versatility in whole-animal butchering and charcuterie. Black Sheep co-owner Steve Gedra, who had purchased lamb and other meat from Kindred Kreek in the past, was the one who connected T-Meadow’s desire to sell the prized pigs with Kindred’s want to buy them.
Kindred Kreek’s fleet expansion didn’t stop there. The farm added 550 laying hens, 150 ducks, and 150 quail to its growing throngs of sheep, goats, turkey, and cows. The variety, says Jendrowski, allows the farm to keep up with Western New York’s steadily increasing demand for locally raised protein while diversifying the farm’s products and offering stability.
Caring for this many animals has always been a family affair at Kindred Kreek. Jendrowski grew up on the farm, which his parents purchased in 1975 to raise a family and pork, beef, chicken, and turkey for themselves and friends. His dad was a factory worker, his mom ran a home daycare business, and neither considered themselves farmers. Jendrowski bought the farm from his parents, who still work on the property along with Jendrowski’s two sisters and three daughters. Despite the chores that come with raising and selling hundreds of animals, Jendrowski, like his parents, still works off the farm as a commercial snow plow operator, a job he’s held for twenty-one years. It’s a lot to juggle, he admits, but his to-do list doesn’t stop there.
Last year, the farm began offering dressed pigs prepped for backyard pig roasts and is looking into a catering license that will allow them to do the cooking. Kindred Kreek is a regular at four area farmer’s markets, season-long engagements that require a lot of time but allow the farmers to get to know their customers and hear valuable feedback. The farm is constantly seeking connections and support within the local food community, working with local breweries to transfer high-protein spent grain out of the waste stream and into delicious pig feed and helping spread the word about what other community members are doing, from u-pick cherry days at Dan Tower Farm to a local Iron Chef competition to benefit a chef friend with ALS. Jendrowski’s remaining waking hours, of which there are few, are spent researching what it’ll take to open a certified kitchen on the farm that will allow them to butcher their own animals and sell fresh, custom cuts of meat in a staffed farm store.
While uncertainty surrounding fuel, feed, and equipment prices, weather, and the availability of labor have left many Western New York farmers to question the future of their profession, Jendrowski still sees farming as a solid way to make a living now and moving forward.
“It’s the most sustainable business you can have,” says Jendrowski. “Everyone has to eat. I think we’re transitioning back to small, local, brick-and-mortar buying as Amazon destroys the world. With food, people want the backstory and want to see the stuff in person, but it still has to be convenient. Knowing the farmer and their practices and how animals are raised are important, but we have to produce at a volume that keeps price down. That’s what we’re working on next.”