For someone who married into farming, Nancy Weber has gone far in agriculture. She has served on numerous farm-related boards, curates the Daniel Parrish Witter Agricultural Museum and helps run Mexican Pride Farm with her husband, Sam Weber.
He introduced her to farming.
“His family had a dairy farm,” Nancy Weber said. “Our second date was milking cows. I had no clue, and was terrified of those beasts. They were so big!”
After they wed in 1973, she had plenty of opportunity to get accustomed to farming, since Sam continued to work on the farm in Mexico, New York, and eventually took over when his father retired. Sam continued to milk cows for 40 years, until selling the herd five years ago.
“The economy was not working in our favor,” Nancy Weber said.
Sam Weber ran the farm with just the help of their two children. A barn fire in 1989 set them back financially, so when they rebuilt, they scaled it to operate as a one-man farm of 70 to 80 head. They weren’t sure if either of their children would be interested in running the farm. As it turned out, both did.
Now they raise beef and hay, Nancy Weber said, “and when the foxes don’t get them, chickens.”
The Webers didn’t want to get rid of their livestock, but they could tell that dairying wouldn’t work out for them anymore.
“The dairy industry has been so volatile,” Nancy Weber said. “It wasn’t anything we were encouraged about. My husband could see the handwriting on the wall. It was hard to recover from 2008. Things had not really been good for 10 years before that. Neither one of us was getting any younger.”
They have 20 head of beef, but Nancy Weber said they’re still in the building phase of the operation. The farm is Certified Organic and grass-fed on 40 acres. An organic dairyman uses the bulk of their 250 acres to raise hay, and they lease 100 acres for hay.
The dearth of USDA-inspected slaughterhouses in their area has prompted the Webers to sell their beef “on the hoof” so it’s the buyers’ responsibility to find their own slaughterhouse or perform the task themselves.
“It’s very difficult,” Nancy Weber said. “You have to make an appointment to get animals slaughtered at a USDA facility. We desperately need more. It’s very hard for beef, sheep and goat growers. You can use a mobile poultry (processing) facility if you have chickens, but even that is not enough. It becomes a logistics nightmare.”
She said that the growth of consumers’ interest in the source of their food is driving sales made directly from the farm and from farmers’ markets. But all that meat must be USDA-approved.
She said that consumers, however, may take their live animal from the farm where they purchased it to a non-USDA slaughterhouse, or they may slaughter it themselves.
Weber had worked for Verizon for more than 20 years, retiring in 2002. At that point, she ramped up her volunteer efforts.
The couple had joined Farm Bureau in 1974 when their son was born, partly as an effort to network and make new farmer friends. They had felt that non-farmers typically didn’t understand the strain of their farm lifestyle and why spontaneous camping trips to socialize didn’t work for the Webers anymore.
Nancy Weber currently serves as the president of Osego County Farm Bureau and has served on the New York Farm Bureau board in the past. She’s also a member of LEAD NY, a program of Cornell University.
“You do a lot of ... field trips to all facets of agriculture — from manufacturing to processing, marketing, farms themselves, and you travel abroad,” Weber said.
She visited Chile in 2007 for a couple of weeks.
“LEAD NY is outstanding,” Weber said. “A really huge chunk of the leadership of agriculture in New York State has been through that program.”
She has served in various roles at the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse, including on the board of the New York State Agricultural Society, which started the Fair and built the Witter Agricultural Museum, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.
The cabin on display inside the museum was actually originally reconstructed at the fairgrounds, and the museum was built around it. The popular cabin attracts many fairgoers because of its size and the details of 1800s life, from the kitchen implements to the cradle beside the large bed on the first floor. The second floor is a sleeping loft. At this year’s fair, historic interpreter Deb Lum posed there as a 19th-century woman going about her regular crafts and chores of the period.
“I could probably make a million off that museum if I auctioned off a night in the cabin,” Weber said. “Everyone wants to live in there. It’s like with the tiny house movement — there’s the original tiny house!”
Weber coordinates the various exhibits that occupy the museum. The demonstrators present only during the 13-day state fair. They show yesteryear skills ranging from basket-making to soapmaking to woodworking, all useful skills on a farmstead of the era.
Weber hopes the museum can obtain the funding to remain open year-round.
Since the fair moved the midway in 2017 and expanded the area around the museum, the organization now has a bandstand, and has planted a heritage orchard along with hops and grapes on two trellises.
Weber also serves as the food coordinator for NOFA-NY, where her daughter, Bethany Wallis, serves as the education director. Weber coordinates donations of organic food for serving attendees at the NOFA-NY organization’s winter conference in Saratoga, New York.
It is clear that since her first days learning about farming with Sam, Nancy Weber has stayed involved and active with her many farm-related pursuits.