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From trading bonds to raising chickens, sustainably of course

Agriculture wasn't in Dean Carlson's original plan. "I was a bond trader working in derivatives," says the owner of Wyebrook Farm, a 355-acre spread in Chester County. Carlson is now offering sustainably raised chicken and eggs, with beef and pork on offer this fall. "We have two full time employees, three summer employees and two chef interns," says Carlson of the Honey Brook operation.

Carlson left Susquehanna International Group in 2009, hoping to take time off in a bear market. "I came across the idea of sustainable agriculture and became captivated by it," says Carlson, who explains that conventional agriculture, with its dependence on cheap oil, cannot last forever. "Five to 10 years years from now, it will be obvious. Food will become higher priced and more scarce. You see it already."

Carlson purchased the foreclosed 200 year-old farm from a bank for $4.25 million, and has invested over $750,000 in improvements, which include solar power and renovations to three existing 18th century stone buildings. "The previous owner was going to develop the land into a 100 house tract," says Carlson.

"I looked at the business of conventional farming and didn't like it," explains Carlson, who refers to standard practices as the definition of a bad business -- capital intensive and fraught with variables. "With sustainable agriculture, you are minimizing your input cost. Instead of machinery and hay in a barn, animals are out in the field, harvesting the grass themselves. Our input costs are sunshine and rain."

Wyebrook Farm's first product, Freedom Rangers Chicken, is now available for $4 a pound direct from the farm. Carlson is transforming the old stone barn into a store where customers will be able to purchase chemical-free grass fed meat and poultry directly. It's just a 45 minute drive from Philadelphia, and not much farther from New York.

Carlson draws inspiration from billionaire financier Jim Rogers, who, when asked by a room full of MBA finance students for advice, replied "Quit school and go work on a farm."

Source: Dean Carlson, Wyebrook Farm
Writer: Sue Spolan
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