DELANSON – The Chandler family has been steadily growing Mariaville Farm over the past few decades, branching out from beef and bacon to mushrooms and more.
Bob and Christine Chandler founded the farm after moving out of Rotterdam and into Delanson in 1988.
“They grew up in Rotterdam. They had no idea about farming,” said the Chandlers’ son Bobby. “My dad built houses and my mom was a photographer. My dad always wanted to raise kids in the country.” That included Bobby and his two brothers, Billy and John.
“We just raised animals for ourselves, maybe some other people that were friends and family,” Bobby said.
Then, Bobby and his siblings got involved with a 4-H Club and began showing chickens and rabbits at the Altamont Fair, among other places.
“[It] really just built from there,” Bobby said.
[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”60″ display=”basic_imagebrowser”]They raised Black Angus cows on the nearly 300-acre farm alongside the pigs and chickens. As they started doing more shows — and the expenses of keeping and caring for the animals grew — they turned the farm into more of a business, and began going to farmers’ markets, including in Schenectady and Troy, nearly two decades ago.
“It’s a big learning curve, especially because we’re doing all our own breeding stock. When it comes to having babies born on the farm, that’s probably the hardest thing you have to deal with because they always like to have their babies on the coldest day of the year,” Bobby said.
“But you know what? Other farmers will help you,” Christine Chandler said.
The family has leaned on other farmers over the years as Mariaville Farm has expanded. Today, the farm has about 80 head of cattle, 250 laying hens and 100 pigs. They’ve also got ducks, and they raise turkeys specifically for Thanksgiving.
They sell many of their products at the farmers’ markets as well as at For the Love of Bacon, the store they opened five years ago in Guilderland. They’ve since moved to Rotterdam, right across the street from Schalmont High School, where Christine works as a bus driver.
“Moving here was a big change because this is closer to where [the farm is] and I went to school at Schalmont, so a lot of people around Rotterdam know us. It gave us a really good jump-start into the store here,” Bobby said.
The store’s shelves are well stocked with eggs, milk, steak, chicken and pork, as well as other locally produced goodies such as Buddhapesto, which is made in Woodstock; and pickles from the Adirondack Pickle Company.
There’s also a steady supply of mushrooms thanks to another family business known as Mariaville Mushroom Men, which Bobby Chandler helped start about a decade ago.
Bobby was drawn to the medicinal properties of mushrooms after studying pharmaceuticals and getting fed up with the industry.
“I do not like the drug industry and how they handle medicine. But mushrooms are one of the most medicinal foods on the planet, so I fell in love with them,” Bobby said.
They started with growing shiitake mushrooms.
“Normally they take about a year to get ready. The first batch I was growing [were ready] within five months. So the business just took off,” Bobby said.
Eventually the farm dedicated a small, 400-square-foot barn to growing a wide variety of fungi, including oysters, lion’s mane, cinnamon cap, pioppino, reishi and others.
“They all fight cancer, bacteria and viruses. But lion’s mane mushrooms have always been one of my favorites to work with. It’s one of the only substances on the planet known to regenerate nerve damage. It’s good for neuropathy … so it’s good for anxiety, depression [and] mood stabilization,” Bobby said.
For years, he and his wife, Allie, made tea and tinctures with their mushrooms, and sold quite a bit of their harvest to high-end restaurants. More recently they’ve stepped away from that world and focused on another family business: Allie’s Keto Kitchen.
They’ve both been eating a ketogenic diet for several years. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate regimen that aims to help people lose weight by making the body rely on ketone bodies (a type of fuel the liver produces from stored fat) rather than on glucose from carbs.
About a month before the pandemic, Bobby and Allie began offering ketogenic meals to customers at For the Love of Bacon and delivering them to homes as far as an hour away from the store.
“It’s just [about] making people feel good about themselves, [and] healthier,” Bobby said.
In the short term, research has shown that the diet may help with weight loss along with insulin resistance, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. One of the pitfalls is that the diet may be hard to maintain long-term, according to Harvard Health.
Bobby was inspired to go into the pharmaceutical field in part because diabetes runs in his family, and even though he’s not working in the field he feels he’s still helping family members and customers manage the disease.
“I wanted to find a way to help with it and it wasn’t [through] pharmacy. It was [through] the food,” Bobby said. “We like to be able to make sure we can provide quality and know exactly what you’re eating. Food is medicine.”
Each week they cook up a variety of meals in the kitchen at For the Love of Bacon, including chicken parm, shepherd’s pie, pizza, pulled pork and chicken-bacon-ranch casserole. There’s also a hearty selection of decadent desserts, from cinnamon buns to cheesecakes to pies. The meals are sold at the store — which has several fridges and freezers dedicated to the meals — and also delivered.
“All these businesses are intertwined together because they use the meat that we produce to do some of their meals,” Christine said.
The farm has been busier than ever during the pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit people were coming to us, looking to stock their freezers,” Christine said.
They’ve continued to receive calls from neighbors and customers about wanting to stock up, particularly by buying whole or half animals.
“A lot of families … will come to me and say, well how much is it for a whole animal? We’ll go over it, and then they may get two or three [families] to go in with them so that they can all fill their freezers. They have stuff in their freezers so they’re not as worried. … They got food to feed their families and it came from a local farm, and they know it’s good quality,” Christine said.
While the farm is a seven-day-a-week operation, the For the Love of Bacon (834 Duanesburg Road) store is open Tuesday-Sunday.
For hours and information, visit baconandmore.com.
For more on Allie’s Keto Kitchen, visit alliesketokitchen.com.