State of the Farm

This is the time of year when we look around us and ask, “how can we get better?” That’s also why the CSA fee is charged in January - your financial assistance is a big part of our ability to grow our farm systems and make your food and your environment better at a time of year when we would otherwise be cash-starved.

Our “get better” project this year will be increasing our pastures while making each one smaller. How’s that?

The most important tools for a healthy pasture are 1) limiting the cow to her first bite so that there are plenty of remaining grass “solar panels” to absorb the suns rays and thereby facilitate regrowth, 2) long term rest before re-grazing, and 3) a pasture small enough that the cows’ natural fertilizer is concentrated rather than spaced here and there over a large area. With those principles in mind, we have two pastures that are much too large to allow proper implementation of these principles. We will start with our far east side pasture which is 20 acres large. Our intent is to break it into 4 pastures of about 5 acres each. 5 acres suits our purpose.

How does this work in your favor? The better the grasses consumed by the cattle, the better the nutrition in your food and the better the environment you live in - grass is one of the great carbon traps known to humankind.
 

2018 Pricing

This year our only significant adjustment will be in the All Beef category (with or without chicken). Why? We introduced the All Beef because we wanted to accommodate folks who had religious issues with pork in the Traditional package. It has been more popular than we anticipated while pricing is unfair to Traditional and All Pork members. Remember that it takes 2 1/2 years to finish a steer while a porker takes only a year and a chicken from Jolly takes 3 months. That long beef finishing period accounts for a huge relative cost in terms of raising a steer, so All Beef should be priced higher.

So here goes with the prices that will first be charged for deliveries in February. Prices remain the same for this month - we always want to give advance warning of price changes so as to not surprise. Below are the changes: prices will be the same whether the order is with or without chicken.

All Beef: $294 instead of $269 (the new price keeps us below grass-fed beef grocer prices + ours is locally grown + delivered to your door).

All Pork: Stays at $269. This price reduction puts a $25 difference between all-pork and all-beef. Seems about right.

Traditional: $274 instead of $269 for our most popular package. This 1.8% adjustment just covers our increasing costs while narrowing our profit margin slightly. We’re OK with that. Hope you are.

We think these prices can stick into 2020. They keep us below grocer prices, it’s locally and sustainably grown in your food shed, and we deliver to your door. 
 

Plant-Based Protein? Not

There’s a lot of talk about “plant-based protein” these days. The apparent hope of plant-based proponents is that you can get a complete diet without eating meat. I’ve given myself a primer on the question of whether you can satisfy the body’s requirement for a complete protein from beans and nuts. This will be the short version.

Plant-based proteins are ALL incomplete proteins. Therefore, they CANNOT fill the needs of your body. Only meats – beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish and the like, and dairy – will provide the complete essential amino acids your body requires.

You may google phrases like “animal vs plant proteins” where you will find the details.
 

Pre-salted Meats, redux

The positive response to our process of lightly salting some of our cuts with the purist of all salts, Himalayan, has been encouraging. We also know that not everybody gets the message the first time, so let’s review again why this works to improve the eating and nutritional experience.

Salt, if given time, will dissolve the tendons that can make meat tough. Tendons are pure protein and salt doesn’t change that, but instead improves it by making it more digestible and the meat more tender and moister.

How to maximize the experience: The osmosis starts at the butcher shop but will stop when the meat reaches its frozen state. To restart the salt’s magical effect on your meat, assume you want to cook a particular cut on Thursday. Take your meat out of the freezer on Wednesday morning and place it on your kitchen counter until the meat is thawing but still has plenty of chill to it. Place it back into the fridge, take it out the next day 45 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Cook and enjoy a moister, more tender cut of meat. Try this method with all of your cuts that have Himalayan Salt added.

However, if you want to avoid the extra day’s thaw, you will still have an improved product by just thawing and cooking immediately
 

SOUPS!

We are big fans of soup, especially during these cold winters. We make it simple to start with and add vegs and starches when we reheat it. We have even used roasts and osso buco to make large batches to store in the freezer. Here is an example of what you can do with cuts such as short ribs, your chicken carcass or any of the other cuts.

First find our Bone Broth recipe at our website. We prefer cooking the meat and making the broth in the pressure cooker, but of course you can use slow cooker or stock pot if you prefer. It only enhances the flavor and richness if you are including a good chunk of meat when making the broth and it allows you to cut the meat into smaller bite-sized chunks when you go full scale into a soup.

Okay, you have made your meaty broth. We then strip off the meat and cut them into chunks for division into freezer storage containers. We found the perfect containers at Kroger’s, called “SOLO, Bowls to Go”. Freeze the broth and meat chunks for ready use when soup is on the menu.
The great thing about a soup is that you can have a complete meal in a bowl. Add your desired ingredients as you warm the soup up - think broccoli florets, green beans, collards, mustard greens, sweet or summer peas, corn, rice, pasta or potatoes. Choosing among these so that you have your different colors completes your meal. Add a buttered crusty french roll and a glass of wine and you are really eating like kings and queens.

It doesn’t get any better than this, folks!

State of the Farm

This is the time of year when we know whether everything got into sync with Mother Nature. Are the winter pastures up and growing, providing a salad bar of oats, rye, clover and standing hay for our grateful and very much appreciated momma cows and their offspring, piggies, chickens at Jolly Farms and egg hens at Coyote Creek? If so — and it is so this year — then we ease into Christmas with family and friends, nearly overwhelmed by a grateful heart. This will be a splendid Christmas, so good that it is almost eery. Dancing with Mother Nature can be grand when fickleness abates and her stars align over our little patch of Earth.

Best wishes for a grateful Christmas in your home too, but let us remember those for whom life after Harvey, a lost job, or the loss of a loved one finds them less than grateful. Reach out wherever you find them. ‘tis the season of giving back as well.
 

The Lamb Project

Our effort to introduce seasonal lamb to our members is off to a wonderful start. Lamb packages sold out between 9:45 pm and 7:06 a.m. the following morning. Twenty-four of our households will be receiving lamb as the major portion of their coolers this month. However, we badly underestimated the demand with nearly as many not making the cut as did. We covered 24 but were unable to supply 21. Sorry about that but we had no idea based upon our test surveys that so many would be interested. We are working with our lamb farmer to see if he can supply more lamb for the coming Easter season and, if so, we and he will do our combined best to double the lamb we have for Easter. No promises yet, but we are working on it.

Along the same line, we are in discussions with quail and rabbit farmers to see if it makes sense to offer these meats as occasional extras in your coolers. Variety is the spice of life, yes?

GO ‘STROS!

We can hardly wait for Astros spring training which will be upon us sooner rather than later. What a wonderful journey they carried us on as they defeated the three most storied franchises in the history of our national pastime. First the Red Sox, then the Yanks, and finally the Dodgers in 7. Thank you, Astros. You lifted us.