Highland Hollow: From farm to chef to table
By Patsy Nicosia
If you want to know where your food comes from, Dave and Benaye Raylinsky have the answer:
For restaurants and chefs.
For farmers no longer raising their own meat.
For anyone who likes to eat:
Places like theirs, Highland Hollow, the 500-acre Schoharie farm and business they moved to and created about a half-dozen years ago, adding an on-farm butcher shop in August 2017.
“And we’re just getting started,” Mr. Raylinsky, a fourth-generation farmer and third-generation butcher said.
Highland Hollow specializes in pasture-raised dry-aged beef, pork, and lamb, working closely with chefs and restaurants in the Capital District and the Catskills and offering meat packages and special orders by appointment at their farm store.
Ms. Raylinsky is the farm’s marketing and branding expert, working to tell their story, and together, she and her husband fill a niche that often means late-night texts from chefs “and deliveries on their doorstep before they even open,” Mr. Raylinsky said.
The couple met nearly 10 years ago on a dinner date in Saratoga and started their first farm on 60 acres in Feura Bush before moving their farm-to-table operation to Colby Road in Schoharie.
For a while, Ms. Raylinsky said, they thought about opening their own café at the farm, but instead the business has spun out in a different direction.
“For us, it’s all about wholesome food, doing the best job we can raising our animals, and building our brand…” Ms. Raylinsky said.
“Benaye and I are the farmers and the owners,” Mr. Raylinsky added.
“These people don’t want to talk to someone else. We’re the ones talking to the [restaurant] owners and chefs…and we listen to what they tell us back. We want to hear what they say too.”
It’s a big job, but the Raylinskys manage by controlling their own schedule, getting weekend help from a couple of FFA neighbors, and working as smart as possible.
“It has to be easy,” Mr. Raylinsky said.
When the Berkshire sows they were raising turned out to be terrible mothers, they instead found a breeder who could supply them with piglets, the best way to cut their literal losses.
Their feeds are custom-mixed, based on Mr. Raylinsky’s research and by crossing Beefmaster and Highland cattle, they’ve developed a hardy, grass-fed herd that puts on weight quickly and easily and thrives in a colder climate.
Their sheep are the multi-purpose and efficient Jacobs—a breed without lanolin in its fleece, something that can give lamb a gamey taste.
No one ever said farming’s easy; for the Raylinskys, it means balancing 12-hour days, vet emergencies, and chores with cultivating and maintaining relationships with both their restaurants and on-farm customers.
“But we’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” Mr. Raylinsky said. “People want good food and we’re filling that niche. This is just the beginning of what we can do.”