Meet the Maker: Isabel Buenaga
Thursday, July 07 (2022)
Meet Isabel Buenaga
of Pork & Greens Farm in Castleton, NY
Isabel Buenaga wears MANY hats - farmer, businesswoman, sandwich boss, pop-up events queen...the list goes on. We know and love Isabel from several years of partnership starting with Pork + Greens Sunday pop-ups in the front of SM CO and evolving into becoming retailers of her incredible pork products, and most recently our grab n' go sandwich line. Isabel is truly a powerhouse. A kind, ambitious, and seriously talented farmer that we are so lucky to have so close to home. We asked Isabel to answer a few questions about herself so that you can get to know her a bit better, too! 
We know you well here at SM CO, but for those who DON'T know you well, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

IB: Hi! I’m originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, I moved to the Northeast US for college. I went to school for Global Studies, Political Science and Entrepreneurship. For the past six years I have been living/ working between the Northeast US and Puerto Rico. I gravitated towards the Hudson Valley / Capital Region because of the amazing farming and food community. I’m excited to continue to build a community and set roots in Troy. I have always had a love for good food and animals, so farming was definitely a shift in my career but a natural fit. I have a perfect 12 year old dog who pretends to be a farm dog but really just likes sunbathing.  
SM CO: How did you decide that you wanted to be a farmer + what has your journey to establishing Pork and Greens been like? 

IB: In my junior year in college, I went on a study abroad program to India, Brazil and South Africa that focused on comparing social issues across the three cultures/ countries. In a very liberal arts fashion, it taught me about everything that was wrong with society but no concrete ways to take action. With much frustration and no desire to go into the non-profit or political world, I took the summer for a fun job as a summer camp counselor on a farm in Vermont. When I started I knew nothing about plants, agriculture and livestock (I can’t emphasize NOTHING enough). But I fell in love with the process of growing/raising food, the community around agriculture and breaking bread with local abundance. 
After that summer, I was farming every second I had free. I worked on a 30-acre organic vegetable farm part-time and volunteered at a diverse livestock farm while in school. When I was on break I WWOOF'd (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) on a farm in California or worked on farms back home in Puerto Rico. After graduating I worked on different farms of varying sizes, crops, and livestock. This led me to discover my love for pigs and an appreciation for their role in the food system. 

Pigs were originally domesticated because of their ability to turn food waste into a significant protein source with beautiful dark meat and gorgeous marbling. Industrialized agriculture has turned pigs into machines of consuming corn/soy animal feed and bred pork to be “the other white meat”. Pork & Greens was born out of the desire to go back to the way pigs were raised. We partner with the Regional Food Bank, Warbler Brewery and Ardith Mae to source all their food. They are raised exclusively on food scraps and that makes all the difference. On average, we divert around 5,000lbs of food waste a WEEK. 

Starting the farm has come with so many ups and downs, but it has been the most rewarding experience. I’m so grateful to Emily Liebelt, Assistant Manager at P&G, for taking on this work with purpose and helping me throughout this process. The original goal was to repurpose food to raise pigs and grow an intensive production of greens. That has changed slightly because of the land we lease, but it has shifted and grown into something I couldn’t have imagined before. We now raise pork and grow microgreens as well as producing prepared foods, provisions and sandwiches with local ingredients. This combination of products allows me to get creative with what the season and local producers have to offer, but also to make sure every ounce of products gets eaten and appreciated. 
SM CO: We're stocking your incredible sandwiches! Can you tell us a bit about why you're making these, what ingredients you're sourcing, etc?

IB: I wanted to start making sandwiches to help make eating local convenient and easy. Everyone is busy and in need of quick meal options, but there are very few options to eat locally and seasonally on the go. And what is more convenient and delicious than a well crafted sandwich?! With so many amazing food growers and producers in our region it is so exciting to be able to get creative with each sandwich. I’m excited to source throughout the year from our products as well as: Placid BakerBella NapoliEdible UprisingLovin' Mama FarmKing Creek FarmsGomez Veggie VilleOwl Wood Farm and many more. The goal with collaborating with other farms is to take products that are in bounty, excess or not well known and showcase them alongside other local ingredients to make a perfect bite.