Suburbia leads to Barnet

crossBARNET - Zach Mangione, owner of Cross Farm in Barnet, proves that you don't have to come from a long line of farmers to succeed in the agriculture industry.

Mangione grew up in the suburbs of Albany, New York, where he became accustomed to a congested lifestyle, but craved the simplicity of the outdoors.

"It was the suburbs, you had to drive everywhere, and it was just very commercial. In terms of farming, I don't think I had even ever stepped foot on the farm," he said. "I always had an attraction to the outdoors and the mountains, and I liked the idea living rurally."

So after high school, he decided to pursue that change, and attended Saint Michaels College where he received a degree in Business Management.

Now the 33-year-old entrepreneurer owns and operates Cross Farm in Barnet, producing completely certified organic livesocks. Mangione joked about his educational background, not completely understanding how a business degree led him to the farm, but also admitting his gratitude for that managerial understanding. "Quite honestly it's worked out really well, because if you're running a farm you're running a business. I have colleagues and friends that are farmers, and something I always here them say is that they wish they knew more about business. "

Mangione raises pork, lamb, and poultry, and made the decision to go completely certified organic because it's a concept he stands behind, despite the occasional reprecussion. "Part of the reason I did certified organic is because I believe in it, but I also did it because I wanted to differentiate myself in the market," he said. "However, sometimes there's this sense too, being in an area like rural Vermont, which has such a rooted agricultural tradition, people sometimes think that certified organic is sort of hoity toity. I'll get that reaction sometimes."

This is the third year that Cross Farm has been in business, and Mangione discussed the difficulties of operating a farm independantly. Between caring for the animals, maintaining the barn and the land, and managing financials, there's never really a moment of downtime. "Quite frankly I think it's harder work than most people care to do. It requires a lot of different skill sets, and you're always learning about something new."

But despite the countless hours, taxing work, and his limited ability to venture too far away from the farm, Mangione feels that there is no work more fufilling. "It's really rewarding work. I mean what's more essential than growing food for people. Right? So for me, every day it's clear in your mind what you're doing and what the purpose is."

Mangione began this venture with the goal of operating a farm by the time he was 30, and now that he has surpassed that point, he hopes to begin earning his investments back. "To become profitable is one of the foremost goals, which I see happening this year."

However, the Cross Farm owner has no intention of running a production so large that full staffing is ever necessary. "I've never wanted to grow the farm to a point where I have a bunch of employees. I just basically want to be able to sustain myself. I don't know if I'll venture into any other animal species," he said.

And as for his family, all of which remain happily in the suburbs, he says that they're extremely supportive of his new lifestyle, but will never stop joking about "farmer Zach".