Owner: Julian Mangano
Business Name: Della Terra
Year Established: 2016
Describe your start-up story: As I was entering adulthood, I would constantly consider what my future would hold and how I would navigate life. Through all of the assessing and evaluating, I came up with one consistent thought, “I would like to live a self-sustainable, autonomous life”. Being self-sustainable, in my mind, meant making money from an independent business, owning my own land, and relying on renewable energy. The vision was vague, but I knew the starting point would be to own a piece of land. By the time I was 27, I was compelled to start really figuring out how I was going to begin my journey towards a self-sustainable life. I began researching various geographic locations. Living in New York City at the time, one of the main variables I was considering was low population density. I wanted peace and serenity, not the hustle and bustle of the “concrete jungle”. One of my college buddies knew my desire to own property. At the time, his father recently acquired some land, and they were working together to build a structure. They got the property through Christmas and Associates. I decided to peruse the company’s property listings and found a parcel in Castorland, NY. Evaluating the location, it seemed like Lewis County was a winner. The property was equidistant to my family in Ohio and my lady’s family in NYC/Connecticut, you could get to Boston, Montreal, NYC, Montreal, Buffalo, and Cleveland in 5 hours or less. I also found out that Lewis County had more cows than people! I was sold. We drove up to take a look at the property and loved it, but were kind of undecided. We finally made up our minds, but when we called to put in an offer, the property we wanted was off the market. It was a big bummer. Luckily, however, a week passed and we got the call that the initial offer was rescinded. We locked in and pulled the trigger of July 2015. The purchase allotted us with 5 acres of land. Now that I secured the land, the next step was figuring out how income was going to be generated. I Googled "what can you do with 5 acres of land?", and I quickly was introduced to Jean-Martin Fortier, and the book, "The Market Gardener". I became instantly intrigued about the prospects of engaging small-scale agriculture as a means of building independence. I started to visit as many small farms as I could, as well as take courses that would help me move forward. I had the fortune of doing a Small Farm: Planning and Design Course, through Farm School NYC. I also engaged in the FARMroots' Beginning Farmer Program, provided by GrowNYC. I had never grown food on a large scale, so with all the classes I was taking, everything seemed conceptual/theoretical, and not practical. I began to get the itch, desiring to pull all of the knowledge I had obtained and get my hands dirty.
I stepped away from a high paying job, in the largest city in the USA, to fulfill my innermost dream. I left with the vision of cultivating nutrient dense, chemical free produce, assisting in the movement to re-localize food production/consumption, and reconnecting individuals to nature. The spring of 2017 was when we broke ground and began production! The name of our farm is Della Terra, which means ‘Of the earth’ in Italian.
I feel that growing food is a skill that has been depleting over the decades. As corporate farming has increased, small-scale growing techniques have been put to the wayside. Coupling this with the average age of a farmer in the US (58 years old), I feel that it is necessary for younger individuals to step to the forefront and grow food. I feel re-localizing food production will allow for definitive, long-term sustainability.
What do you like the most about being a sustainable business? My vision and overall business practices are sustainable. I mostly use hand tools for cultivating my market garden. The whole operation is off the grid. We hand pump our water, but I recently bought a solar-powered submersible pump that I have to install (This is going to save some time and backache!). We employ organic growing methods that are in accordance with the NOFA Pledge. What I like most about engaging a sustainable business is that I can introduce others to the way I do things, which can influence them to make more sustainable and healthy decisions in their day-to-day life. I am motivated to be able to have my primary source of income be from activities I engage on my property. Doing so will provide me the ultimate fulfillment of realizing my dream of living a self-sustainable, autonomous life.
Why did you choose to build your sustainably practicing business in Lewis County? I think the advantages of Lewis County are the sense of community that exists, the originality and hominess of the area, and the access to nature/outdoor activities. Lewis County is a prime location to set up innovative, niche businesses. I think it is also a great place for individuals who work remotely and want a more centered and wholesome day-to-day. I think the people of Lewis County value those who work hard and provide an impact to the community at-large. I think tremendous opportunities exist in the county for revitalizing the manufacturing infrastructure and establishing a sustainable production hub in the North Country.
What advice would you give to someone looking to build a sustainable business in Lewis County? The advice I would give someone looking to build a sustainable business is to assess the overall needs of the community. Develop something that can be profitable, but also has the capacity to help stimulate economic growth and development in the region.
Are there any local partnerships or organizations that have helped you along in your business journey? The Lewis County IDA has been there for me to connect me with people and resources, when I need it. The local NRCS office has been extremely helpful. I have benefited from the services provided by the Cornell Cooperative Extension. I want to work on building more local partnerships.
What are the current projects you’re working on and what are you looking forward to in the coming years? I am working on providing a weekly microgreen subscription to consumers and restaurants. I can grow microgreens all year, which can help me with cash flow. I am also working on developing a food scrap collection service and composting operation. There was a recent law passed (Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law) that will take effect in 2022. I want to be able to take advantage of this new regulation that will help enhance the sustainability of my farm and the community.