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Kast honored as ‘Next Generation Farm’

Photo from NYS Ag Society: Pictured from left include at the New York State Agricultural Society meeting in Syracuse on Jan. 4 include from left: Commissioner Richard Ball, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets; John and Cheryl Kast; Amanda and Brett Kast; Elizabeth Claypoole, NYS Ag Society; Mark Modzeleski, The Voss Group, award sponsor.

Staff Reports Posted 16 January 2018 at 9:31 am

Brett and John Kast embrace new technology, apple varieties and other crops

Press Release, NYS Agricultural Society

SYRACUSE – An Albion farm was recognized recently with a “Next Generation Farmer Award” at the New York State Agricultural Society annual meeting.

Kast Farms is a Century Farm dating back to 1884. Brett and John Kast are brothers who represent the fifth family generation to operate this diversified fruit, vegetable and grain operation in Orleans County.

Using new precision technology, partnering with Cornell University and others, and trying their hand at experimental crops like industrial hemp has enabled the brothers to uniquely challenge the status quo to help grow farm profitability, the Ag Society said.

The Kast family got their start in farming in 1884 when Aldelbert Chapman purchased the original 140-acre farmstead. Since that time, the Albion-based operation has grown to 4,500 acres. It’s a diversified fruit, vegetable, and grain operation that takes full advantage of Orleans County soil and climate afforded by its proximity to Lake Ontario.

John and Brett Kast pursued separate careers off the farm prior to returning home within the last 10 years. Until 2012, John was employed by the Buffalo and Fort Worth zoos. Brett worked in the Texas oil business before returning in 2008. The family business has immediately felt their combined impact. Owned and leased orchard acreage has increased, and the brothers created their own land limited liability corporation, adding another 600 acres of crop land.

Using new precision technology has allowed the pair to put their own stamp on Kast Farms, including prescription planting, fertilizing and spraying. Working with Cornell University and others, new consumer-friendly apples such as RubyFrost and SnapDragon are being grown on tall spindles and the future may dictate even more diverse varieties. For the past four years, Kast Farms has been malting barley and growing industrial hemp. Partnering with Farm Fresh First, they’ve expanded into spinach production, all with an eye to adapt and drive efficiencies for where customers and new markets are driving.

Both brothers believe that having off-the-farm work experience has enabled them to uniquely challenge the status quo to help grow farm profitability. But they’re quick to look to long time employees, vendors and Cornell to mine for new ideas, efficiencies and mentoring. “It’s this combination that has allowed the farm to continue to grow and be profitable,” John said.

Established in 1832, the mission of the NYS Agricultural Society is to foster, promote, and improve the NYS food and agricultural industry through education, leadership development and recognition programs. It has played a vital role in the development of the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the NYS Agricultural Experiment Station, the NYS Fair, and the Empire State Food and Agricultural Leadership Institute (LEAD NY). In 2011, the NYS Agricultural Society Foundation was formed.

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