By any measure, what Matt Baumgartner has accomplished by his mid-forties is nothing short of remarkable. After growing up in Utica and graduating from Union College in Schenectady, Baumgartner went to work for the town’s most famous employer, General Electric, before leaving that gig at 23 to open what would become Albany’s beloved burrito and beer joint, Bombers Burrito Bar, in which he sold his interest last year. He’d come to establish 14 restaurants, bars and other businesses across the Capital Region and elsewhere Upstate—including four Wolff’s Biergarten locations, The Olde English Pub in Albany, The Little Rice Ball in Troy and what has become his pet project and dream come true, June Farms.
Situated across 120 acres in West Sand Lake, about ten miles due east of the state capital and yet a world away, June Farms is not only where Baumgartner hangs his hat, but it’s also home to an exotic menagerie of draft horses, Scottish Highland cattle, chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, a dog and, as this place sprang from the imagination and drive of one of the area’s most successful entrepreneurs, another business (or, actually, businesses). There’s a lounge, the Pony Barn, which is open to the public in season, as well as a wedding venue (a recent episode of a Bravo show—Baumgartner wouldn’t say which one—was recently filmed there), plus a number of perfectly appointed private cabins you can rent by the night.
As if all that weren’t enough, Baumgartner, who’s openly gay, has been a passionate supporter of LGBTQ rights in New York for many years. Back in 2011, long before the Oscar contender Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Baumgartner held to account—by way of a particularly conspicuous billboard—a state legislator, Republican Sen. Roy McDonald, who at the time was wavering on a vote in favor of same-sex marriage in New York. Baumgartner was recognized by the national newsmagazine The Advocate on its “40 Under 40” list in 2012. He’s also built quite the active—and highly entertaining—social media presence, with thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram. (His nom de guerre? “@Burritoboy,” naturally.)
saratoga living checked in with Baumgartner to talk about living one’s dreams, lessons learned and farm life.
Secrets To Success In Creating Start-ups “I’m pretty fearless when it comes to starting new businesses. I never worry about the downside of it or the risks I’m taking. I think even in failure, you can learn a lot about the next business you want to start. It’s also fun to start a business.”
Why He Sold His Stake In Bombers “I’d had the business for 20 years. When I was younger, 40 sounded like it was centuries away, and I always said that when I was 40, I’d like to sell and do something else with my life. I don’t have the emotional attachment to the restaurants that you’d think I would. I love them, and I’m attached to them, but I know they’re in good hands. I felt like it was the right time to pursue other dreams, like the farm.”
On Creating A Real, Working Farm From The Ground Up “I was living in New York City and going down three or four days a week because I’d started a menswear line there. The restaurants and all were doing great, but I didn’t feel happy. I wanted to do something to enrich my soul—to work the land and breathe the fresh air. As much as I love the restaurants, this is giving me a lot more happiness than I ever thought it would.”
On The Lost Art Of And Appreciation For—Farming “Farming needs a better brand marketing campaign. It’s something people feel is impossible, but it isn’t. It’s sad the way we’ve eaten as a culture, and it’s a privilege to see an animal raised in front of you and to know how you raised them and that they were treated well. It’s really easy to grow your own food and for a family to eat for an entire year on what they raise. If people knew that, there might be more people willing to purchase a couple of acres. You know, farming isn’t even listed on the census anymore.”
On June Farms Becoming The Next Martha Stewart Or The Beekman Boys “I respect Martha Stewart and the Beekman Boys so much—the Beekman Boys are my idols! But I’m really focused on just keeping June Farms a simple and happy place.”