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Browder’s Birds in their pasture. (Credit: Charity Robey, file photo)

Browder’s Birds of Mattituck is one of the first North Fork recipients of New York State’s New Farmers Grant Fund. The certified organic and pastured poultry farm was recently awarded $22,045 from the state to expand their operation.

Owner Chris Browder was obviously thrilled.

“It felt great,” he said.  “But the reality is it’s very expensive to be a start-up farmer, which is what we are. It takes a tremendous amount of capital to meet equipment requirements, so it’s nice that there are avenues like this that help.”

The New York New Farmers Grant Fund, included in the 2014-2015 budget, was created to help new and early-stage agricultural businesses across the state. The grants help beginner farmers afford access to innovative agricultural techniques, while still operating and contributing to New York’s agricultural sector. This year the fund will provide more than $610,000 in grants to help start-up farms get a leg up in the business.

“This isn’t free money, it’s a 50% cost share program,” Browder said. “Half of all our expenditures are paid by us, the other half by the state and that portion is only reimbursed once we’ve spent it out of pocket. So we spent $44,000 to get $22,000 back.”

For Browder’s, the funds from the grant will go toward equipment and related services for a year-round, frost-free irrigation watering system for their animals, as well as a back-up power generation for their freezers.

Another item the grant will fund is perimeter fencing for the farm.

“Right now we have portable electric netting, which can be moved to rotationally graze the animals, but we need something to surround the entire property to keep the chickens and sheep safe from predators,” he said. “You’d be surprised how sneaky sheep are at escaping the netting.”

The other North Fork business recipient of the New York State Farmer’s Grant this year was Condzella Hops of Wading River, which received $17,000.