By Maya Rader
Judy Genova has always been a “pioneer,” as her mother says. Though Genova was born at Beth Israel Medical Center and grew up on the Lower East Side, she is now the owner of B & Y Farms, a 74-acre sheep, pig and chicken farm in Spencer, NY. “I just go in a different direction than everyone else,” Genova said.
Genova began to live on the land in 1991. As a stay-at-home mom, she homeschooled her children, and had a huge garden and some chickens. However, she didn’t start farming until nine years ago. She explained, “I just decided I’m paying a lot of taxes on this land; how can I put it to better use?”
B & Y Farms is not organic, though it is, “very natural” as Genova put it. Being organic, she explained, is “a paperwork nightmare.” Genova said she knows certified organic farmers who have to hire a full-time secretary to keep up with all of the paperwork.
Genova’s job title is technically owner, but at the farm she works on “anything and everything.” For example, this past winter she had over 70 pregnant sheep and no help. “I was on-call all of the time,” She said. “I basically did everything a shepherd would do, and also everything I guess a sheep-obstetrician would do.”
In addition to all of the farm work, she also completes all of the management and inventory around the farm, does all of the bookkeeping, trains and hires new workers and is the director of communications. “It’s like working a second job!” Genova joked. (She is also a high school teacher.)
B & Y Farms can be found at four different farmers markets. On Sundays, the farm has a stand at Tompkins Square, Forest Hills and the Stuyvesant Town greenmarkets. On Fridays, B & Y Farms can be found at the Union Square market.
The Stuyvesant Town greenmarket was B & Y’s very first market, and from there they were invited to Tompkins Square and then Forest Hills. Then, three years ago, the farm was invited to the Union Square market.
Genova explained, “That’s kind of the real feather in the cap because that market is just such a well-known market and a lot of people really want to be in that market.” Genova then smiled and said, “I guess we proved ourselves.”
Genova called Sundays, when B & Y Farms has three farmers markets, “the hard day.” For starters, she wakes up at midnight. She generally falls asleep at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
“I’ve been able to train myself to know when to relax and go to sleep,” Genova said.
She travels four and a half hours from the farm to the Forest Hills farmers market, while her son covers the market at Tompkins Square and another helping hand, Eric, works at Stuy Town. After the Forest Hills market is over, Genova travels to Stuy Town with her driver, arriving at about 3:30 p.m. to help pack up.
But Genova said the long drive and early wake-up are worth it to be there for her customers.
“It’s a personal connection; it’s not just about getting a dozen eggs, they want to chat (and) check in.” She added, “I try to do that special extra that most people don’t get anymore when they shop in a big supermarket.”