State of the Farm

We sure are making up for last year's "non-winter" in a hurry. In fact, it is 32 degrees this morning as we approach Valentine's Day. Valentines marks the last average freeze day in Washington County but I suspect we will see more freezing weather before this winter is over.
Hard freezes came early and often this year and the result has been a dampening of our winter pastures' recovery. After grazing our oat and rye pastures just once, we have not returned as the winter grasses were stunted by the cold waves which have included snow and sleet. We hope that will change as the weather warms so that we see a final burst before the spring grasses show up but that is hope only - not expectation. In years like this one, all bets are off. We shall see…
 

Peachy

You may remember that last year our peach orchard grew no peaches at all, a first in 15 years of ample peach production. The previous winter was so warm that the orchard blossomed early but our one hard freeze came after that and snuffed out the flowers — so, no peaches for our porkers. I'm not worried that we will have an early bloom, but I am anxious that we may have a late freeze after normal warming occurs. If so, we could see our second year without peaches. I can hear the pigs grumbling already. They like their peaches.

Brenham Festivities

Old Town Brenham will celebrate 5 years of its renewal plan with an April 21st festival of music, local spirits and local foods. JVF will be there with a pig roast offering. This festival will also mark the last good weekend of the wildflower tour so its a can’t-miss opportunity to see the county seat in its renewed form while celebrating spring ’18!

All proceeds go to local non-profit organizations that promote Texas farms and ranches.

Himalayan Salt

We have added many new members as we rebuild from our members who were lost in Harvey. After much study, we have contemporaneously added a step at our butcher shop procedure, the light pre-salting of many of our cuts. So for all of you who have not been informed of this addition, here are the "hows and whys" of this improved process.

  • Salt is an essential mineral, providing the necessary sodium that our body demands for good health (Honi and I have a family member who suffered a stroke for lack of adequate sodium in his body).
  • Especially in this hot humid climate that we all experience, we need salt to replace our supply that is sweated out.
  • We chose Himalayan salt because it is considered the purest form of all of the salts.

THE BENEFICIAL EFFECT OF SALT ON MEATS:

  • So long as salt is given time to work its magic, salt penetrates the toughening tendons in meat and dissolves them into a liquid form through the osmosis process. The result: enhanced juiciness and most importantly, enhanced tenderness.
  • One last and not to be overlooked advantage: the tendons that are broken down by salt are pure protein - so your proteins are increased as you enjoy them in their converted, edible form.

HOW TO MAXIMIZE THE EFFECT OF HIMALAYAN SALT

  • osmosis begins when the salt is applied to the individual cuts at our butcher shop but is halted as the cuts are frozen and vac-packed. So you will get the maximum benefit from salt by thawing the cut for 24 hours in advance of cooking. You can speed up the thawing process by leaving the cut on your kitchen counter until you see the juices start to emit. Return to the fridge until you are ready to cook.
     

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