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Updated: June 10, 2024 Shop Talk

Q&A: New Braintree farmer achieves dream of locally sourced foods

A man in a hooded sweatshirt smiles while leaning on a farm gate Photo | Courtesy of Matthew Koziol Matthew Koziol, owner of Farmer Matt in New Braintree

Matthew Koziol’s fascination with farming began as a child when he would visit his relatives’ dairy farm in Canada. A few career paths and many farming internships later, the self-taught farmer achieved his dream of owning his own 214-acre farm in New Braintree. In 2018, the Farmer Matt brand was born and focused on raising quality beef. Today, the farm has grown to include a farm store, restaurant, catering services, and events.

How do you go from working in finance to owning a 214-acre farm in New Braintree?

As a kid, my parents always grew their own food. We had a huge garden and always sourced everything locally. Weeding the garden was part of my chores, and I always had my hands in the dirt working. My first job was at Randall’s Farm in Ludlow. All these early experiences reinforced my passion for farming.

I was helping at a West Brookfield dairy farm as it transitioned to grass-fed beef, and that was where I got the bug. I started reading as many books as I could about grass-fed pasturing, cattle livestock management, and holistic grazing. I started doing internships with local farmers and rented an abandoned farm. I was able to purchase this property in 2020.

A bio box for Farmer Matt
Bio box for Farmer Matt owner Matthew Koziol

Was it always your vision to create a local restaurant?

I knew I wanted to have a meat store. In 2012, I sold my first beef from a little farmstand. Fast forward to 2020, this thing called COVID happened. This building came with a commercial kitchen, and my chef friend was on sabbatical because of COVID, so we collaborated. We started to offer farm fresh meals to-go every Friday. We were having fun and had a ton of customers because nothing else was open. Then it seemed like a light switch, all the restaurants reopened, and we had to reinvent our business plan again. I looked around and saw the beautiful property and picnic tables and decided to focus on comfort foods bringing families together. That direction has been really successful for us.

What makes your beef different than products found at a grocery store?

Because it's raised here locally. I make all my own feed. I know what goes into my livestock’s diet. Adams Farm in Athol processes our meat and dry ages our beef, which creates a more robust flavor. Genetics plays a key role. We have Black Angus cattle, and we selectively breed them. We don’t use antibiotics or any added hormones. With the big box stores, there is no way to trace that piece of beef to a specific farmer or the town it was raised in, but here we know what goes into our cattle.

Where do most of your customers come from?

Most of our customers are within a 15-mile radius, although we're starting to see a definite uptick from Worcester and Springfield. We don't deliver, we don't ship, so you have to physically come to the farm.

How is your business doing so far?

Business is booming. I'm very happy with sales, and we have a really solid customer base. On the other hand, because of inflation we have increased labor costs, increased cost of goods, diesel fuel costs. Everything costs more. So, we are aware of our expenditures and reinvesting back into the company. We provide jobs for local residents and help the local economy, so we are balancing costs without going up on our prices or lowering our high-quality standards. New Braintree has been amazing. It's a unique town that’s very agriculturally minded. The support of the town government, staff, and customers has been the best.

What are your top selling products?

Our ribeye steaks, pulled pork, Farmer Matt’s burgers, and shepherd’s pie.

Why are you passionate about your work?

I love what I do. I am selling something that I believe in. I mean, where else do you get to sit and have this beautiful 360-degree view? The farm was originally Wes Palis Farm and has been continuously farmed since 1735. It makes me feel good I am a caretaker of this piece of land. I am trying to make smart decisions that respect the land. Maybe one day we'll find a young farmer who will take over and continue what we're doing here.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Correspondent Sloane M. Perron.

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