The lines have been blurred when it comes to craft food and commodity food and unfortunately they've been blurry for some time. When it comes to what we're producing here at Walpole Valley Farms, we consider it craft and not commodity. So what's a farmer to do when a chicken is not just a chicken, a cow isn't just a cow, and an egg isn't just an egg? Craft farmers have a lot of competition with big agriculture even when you can't compare apples to oranges, so making the connection to customers is extremely important. When it comes to food, what goes into it is what you get out. Food shouldn't be treated like a widget made on an assembly line, and for us, we believe that eating animals that have been treated poorly can't be all that good for our health. The tricky part for farmers bringing craft onto the scene again is that the prices just don't line up with what consumers are seeing at the supermarket.
Chris and I just recently traveled to Texas to an invite only conference for the top 50 or so pastured poultry producers in the country. This conference was essentially a meeting of the minds for people in the same industry. Joel Salatin brought up the topic of craft over commodity and it spurred much conversation within our group. Most of the producers in the room experience difficulty with the arbitrary labeling that runs rampant in grocery stores today. You've seen it, you've purchased it; chicken or eggs with labeling depicting verdant pastures with children romping, sun in their hair, with the poultry grazing on native grasses next to them, no manure in sight. The labeling is misleading, the labeling is downright wrong but it's allowed. As a poultry producer who actually does have grazing chickens about, this labeling is tough to deal with, especially when the prices are lower and the chickens don't actually even live outdoors in many cases. We spoke as a group about coming up with some sort of new label that really means that a chicken is pasture-raised. We quickly dismissed that idea as we don't feel like labeling always depicts the truth, and we don't want to fall into that trap as producers of what we believe to be a nutritionally superior product. So what did we all conclude? We concluded that knowing your farmer is really the best way to ensure that you get what you're paying for and what's been advertised. It always seems to come back to local. When you know your farmer, you make the decision. When you buy the random meat in the grocery store, there is almost no way of knowing where those animals have been, how they've been treated, what they've consumed, or how cleanly and humanely they were slaughtered.
Whew. So with all of that said, we were so incredibly honored to be with all of those great farmers back in January in Texas. When attending a conference like that we are always immediately brought back to the roots of our endeavors, why we started this busy farm in the first place, and why we're still at it. Craft over commodity, terroir over price per pound, sustainability and regeneration of soils over taking from the Earth. So no matter where you are, know your farmer, love your farmer, get to know them, visit their farm, smell it, taste from it, ask questions, and you will get what you pay for; nutrient density, health, a strong local economy, and a connection to your neighbors.
Greetings from the farm! It's been a long time since we've updated the blog and for those of you who subscribe, we apologize. Happy New Year! We had a great 2016 on the farm, we made some changes with our farm help last season and decided to to keep on two of our apprentices from 2015 and hire them as full-time employees and not hire any additional help. We managed to make it through the busiest times with less people, which was difficult, but we made it happen and we're so happy to have had Travis and Tina with us for the challenge.
We raised a few more broiler chickens on pasture this past season and moved to a mobile range coop design to replace many of our smaller chicken tractors. We liked working with the mobile range coops so much that we're planning on making the switch to using them exclusively. If you haven't seen one of our MRC's in action, it's a pretty amazing way to raise chickens on pasture and is much easier on the farmers' back due to less bending and less time all around for moves and feeding. Here's a short video example of one here.
In other news, Chris and I were invited to a conference in Texas for pastured poultry producers from around the country. We were two of about fifty other farmers nationwide farming the way that we do here in Walpole. It was humbling to be among some of the top producers in the country including the well known farmer Joel Salatin and his son Daniel. We soaked up the knowledge that we gained from all of our peers and now that we're home again, we're starting to plan for the upcoming season with fresh ideas and a positive outlook.
We're looking forward to ordering chicks in March and starting the season, it always amazes us how quickly we need to start the planning for the warmer weather! We will be continuing our weekly Movie Nights at the Barn starting in June so if you didn't attend one last year, you must come out for a great family evening of local food, entertainment, beautiful views, and community.
Our farm store is well stocked this winter, we have plenty of whole chickens, chicken parts, turkey parts, all cuts of beef and pork, sausages, jams, maple syrup and maple cream, and the ladies are laying well so we have plenty of fresh eggs. We update our inventory list often so if you're looking for something in particular, take a peek at our website here. We hope to see you soon!
So if you haven't been into the farm store recently, our chicken freezers are stocked full of whole pasture raised chickens and packaged chicken parts again. Chicken harvest started in mid-June, so anything from boneless chicken breasts, to thighs, drumsticks, wings, necks, and even feet are back for sale! We have plenty of pet food made from 100% ground chicken which all of the dogs and cats here on the farm can't get enough of. If you prefer fresh chickens, please give us a call or send us an email to make an appointment to come pick some up on Wednesdays after 3:30 pm. Fresh birds picked up on processing day are offered at $.50 per pound discount. Brand new hot dogs just arrived a few weeks ago with a new recipe and now that grilling season is in full swing, be sure to give them a try! If you haven't tried our French Andouille sausage or our Garlic Parmesan sausage, be sure to pick up a package of each, they have been a recent favorite here on the farm. Our sausages and hot dogs are always nitrate and nitrite free.
Although the strawberries are starting to slow down, we will still have vegetables that will be available in the farm store sporadically. All of the fruits and vegetables that we grow here are grown in no-till gardens without the use of any sprays of any kind and we use organic and heirloom seeds almost exclusively. Melons of all kinds have been planted and hopefully by the end of August we will have plenty to sell in the farm store! For the rest of the garden, the potatoes are growing rapidly along with garlic that was planted in the fall. Kale, broccoli, celery, cabbage, carrots, peas, onions, beans, and so much more are really starting to take off. Keep an eye out in the farm store and maybe your favorites will make their way in!
We hope to see you soon so you can try some of our new products!
Our first chicken harvest is right around the corner and we couldn't be more excited! We thought we had planned well for the increase in interest for these amazing meat birds but we ran out about a month ago, so we'll be so happy to have the freezers stocked once again. We decided to raise a few extra this year so that we can meet the demand.
There really is an amazing difference between factory raised meat and meat that's raised on a small farm with ample room, fresh air and a clean diet. We love hearing stories from some of our oldest (in age) customers that tell us that this meat tastes like the meat that they had as children. It is a testament to the raising practices that we embrace and those comments always make us strive to do our best possible here on the farm.
The chickens that we raise grow a little slower than the conventional Cornish X birds that are the industry standard. The red feathered broilers here at WVF are a strain of chicken based on one developed in France for their prestigious Label Rouge program which is a method of raising chickens on pasture. These Freedom Rangers as they are known as, are great foragers which means that much of their diet comes from what they find on the pasture and less from the supplemented grain that we give them, in turn making them healthier eating for us.
Chicken harvests are a weekly happening here on the farm and although we are slaughtering, plucking, cutting and bagging all day, we enjoy each other, we relish in the fact that these birds have had a pretty good life, and we feel tremendous satisfaction knowing that we are feeding our friends and neighbors wholesome food from this small farm.
We'll have chickens starting this coming week so if you've been waiting, the time has come! Hope to see you soon on the farm!
Walpole Valley Farms isn't only made up of the grassy fields where our cows, pigs, and chickens are raised but we actually have more wooded land than we do pastures. We utilize this area to raise our pigs because they love the shade, the little streams, mushrooms, grubs, and of course all of the acorns and nuts from the trees. One day we would love to graze the cows in the woods too! This past fall, loggers were back in the woods slowly and carefully selecting trees to be cut down in order to let some light into the forest and to harvest some of the timber in the woodlot. It was important to select the right trees based on species and size. The largest tree in a particular area was left so it could thrive while the smaller trees in the same area were removed. Just like thinning seedlings in a garden, the trees remaining wouldn't have to compete for sunlight, water, or nutrients from the soil so they could grow and thrive. By clearing out the smaller trees, more sunlight can penetrate the canopy allowing more area for it to hit the ground where it wasn't able to before. Any grain that the pigs spilled on the ground has seeded itself and has already grown in pretty thick in those areas and is as high as my waist. I was amazed at how well the grass is growing in and it has only been one summer into the project. Hopefully within the next few years the grass will reseed and grow in thick and lush for our cows to enjoy!
Oh egg how I love thee, especially if you come from a pasture-raised hen!! Eggs are simply amazing; nutritious, beautiful, long lasting, and versatile, they really are a near perfect food. The incredible color, taste, smell, and nutrient density of an egg when it comes from a pasture-raised hen is remarkable. Golden yolks standing at attention when cracked into a frying pan is something I love to wake up to.
So what's the difference between an egg from a pasture-raised chicken and one that's raised inside? First of all, chickens, my friends, are omnivores. Chickens thrive on a diet loaded with bugs, worms, ticks, grubs, fly larvae, and believe it or not, grass! When a chicken lives inside, it does not have access to little six and eight legged critters, grass, or fresh air. Indoor chickens usually live on a grain only diet which is not what a chicken would eat if left to roam outside. So what about the egg? A chicken that lives primarily on pasture during the growing season will lay an egg that is superior in nutritional density than an egg from a chicken who eats grains alone.
The above chart from Mother Earth News illustrates that eggs from pasture-raised hens are far superior in the good stuff and considerably lower in the bad stuff. The article accompanying this chart also states that eggs from pasture-raised hens contain:
The research is compelling and definitely makes one think about the money that we spend on our food. The higher price of pasture-raised eggs may be well worth it when we look at the nutritional benefits, the more humane treatment of the animals, and the flavor. It's relatively easy to put a bunch of birds in a very large chicken house and have them fed via machine, (hence the low cost of conventionally raised eggs), but the pasture model is much different and costs more. Pasture-raising any animal takes a lot more physical labor meaning more money spent, but when properly managed, is part of a regenerative type of farming which leads to less runoff, healthier soil, and a happier chicken.
Just a few weeks ago I mentioned how we were anticipating a busy spring and I sure was right. Everything seems to have happened so quickly that we joke about how much gets done in one day that it feels like morning was two days ago.
This past week, the cows moved out to pasture and are loving the tasty spring growth out in the fields. They move quickly through the fields to prevent damage to the grass so on their second and third rotations, the grass will be thicker, taller, and more nutritious. Some of our mama cows have calved and the little ones surprised me with how self sufficient they are. Within minutes of being born they are on their feet and feeding off of their mothers. Some were even running around the field, still tripping over their “new” feet.
We recently got a new flock of pullets and they are out in the Eggmobile. They will be moving right behind the cows, spreading out the cow patties, eating fly larvae and other bugs, while having access to new grass every few days.
We have our first batch of broilers out on pasture where they can also enjoy the grass, bugs, and sunshine!
New piglets came in today and went right into the field to meet the pigs we already had. Their snouts almost immediately went to the ground where they nibbled on grass and uprooted the soil so they could eat roots, grubs, and worms.
On another note, the strawberry blossoms are transitioning to sizable berries! The berries are still green but it's getting me excited for fresh strawberries and, soon to follow, Bonnie's delicious strawberry jam. Other seeds are sprouting all over the garden and flowers are starting to bud.
Spring time is so refreshing after the months of cold winter, and it's apparent here on the farm, especially in these past weeks, that it's a time for rebirth and growth.
These days, it seems that every day out of the 365 in the calendar year stands for something or someone and each month has a title, numerous in many cases. Many of these "National" days and months go by unnoticed but this one, highlighting one of our favorite things, is right up our alley. The month of May has been named National Burger Month and was partially sponsored by some of the big burger chains but we little beef producers like to celebrate too!
Here on the farm we certainly love a burger and every month really does feel like National Burger Month to us. Our 100% grass-fed and finished beef is delicious in all its forms, but ground and made into a burger is always a favorite. Grilling season is upon us so we'll most likely be making more burgers here during the month. With Movie Nights coming right up, we're excited to be firing up the grill more often and enjoying this delicious beef! We love to top our burgers with a couple of slices of our pasture-raised, nitrate-free bacon, and one of our pasture-raised eggs, fried.
We're a bit biased, of course, when it comes to the beef that goes between the bun, but luckily here in the Monadnock Region and beyond, there are plenty of great places to get a truly local burger. Some great places to try are Local Burger in Keene, The Restaurant at Burdick's in Walpole (they use our WVF beef in their burger), Worthy Burger in Woodstock, VT, Worthy Kitchen in South Royalton, VT, Fritz Belgian Fries in Keene, and many others. We always have our delicious beef for sale at the Monadnock Food Co-Op, The Walpole Grocery, and at our Farm Store. So how are you going to celebrate National Burger Month?
Warmer temperatures means that strawberries are almost here! Just a few days ago, I noticed these beauties blossoming and of course I was excited. Strawberry plants require a good deal of work to keep them happy. I have spent countless hours preparing these plants for the spring and spring is finally here!
Each plant needs adequate water, sunlight, and nutrients. I poured our cows' aged manure compost around the base, or crown, of each plant making sure it did not smother it. It is important to allow some air flow to the crown as to prevent any excess moisture that could cause the entire plant to rot and die. I layered some straw around each plant after that so that the soil could retain the moisture and so the straw can wick a little bit of excess moisture from the crown. Over winter the plants went into their form of hibernation but now that the temperatures are warm and the sun is getting stronger, all of those stored nutrients are helping the plants grow big and strong. With the emergence of flowers means that they need to be pollinated by bees, insects, and other pollinators before turning into those sweet ruby fruits. Strawberries take approximately four to five weeks to fully ripen so hopefully by the middle of May we should be selling our very own no spray, no till strawberries!
The annual chick arrival is always a highly anticipated event for everyone on the farm, young and old. For us, there isn't anything else like hearing the chirps of hundreds of little fluff balls in the brooder. The chicks signify the start to the farming season, the promise of warmer temperatures, longer days, sweat, and hard work. As we come out of the dark days of winter, these chicks are a reminder of what goes into this place, the food that we raise for our community, the changing of the seasons, and the cyclical nature of life on the farm.
Recently we started an Instagram account for the farm. Of course, following other like-minded farmers on this social media platform is a given, and I must say that it has opened my eyes to the timing of things, that we're not alone in our mission to raise clean food, and that people really do care about their food....a lot! Seeing other farms across the country post photos and videos about chicks and what it means for the start of a new season is so comforting. Sometimes when you're on a farm day to day, you feel a bit as though you're alone on an island, raising this healthy food for people but not always knowing how it is received, what people think of when they bite into something that is raised locally with care and love. We are not alone in this plight and you are not alone for choosing to eat food that is raised in this way.
As the days go on and the light lingers, our muscles sore and our bodies covered in dirt, we remember how important this work is and that each season is a just a snapshot in time, and we are never, ever alone.
Check out our Instagram page, walpolevalleyfarms.
It's starting to look like spring weather is moving in to stay. With warmer temperatures, the grass is growing in again and insects of all sorts are starting to return. The laying hens are now able to forage for all the returning nutritious plants and bugs. You might notice a slight difference in the rich orange yolks as they transition to diet higher in protein. Along with a richer yolk color laying hens raised on pasture produce eggs with higher omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E so, for good reasons, they were definitely excited to start nibbling on grass again!
The grass out in the field is getting greener and taller everyday. Soon, the cows will return to graze on pasture, chicks will be out in their tractors, and turkeys will be out in the field again. We welcome the warmer weather and rain as our fields become more lush and green. The farm's busy season is approaching quickly! We hope to see you on the farm soon!
With all of the meat that we raise here on the farm, we are always trying new ways of cooking it. We love to grill steaks, roast a chicken, or pan fry some burgers but our favorite method of enjoying our pasture-raised and grass-fed meats is to smoke them. For years and years Chris has used a Weber kettle grill with much success but he's been really wanting to upgrade to a big smoker.
Chris had his birthday a week ago and yesterday a package arrived from a relative and guess what it was?? A smoker!!
Chris was beyond excited and couldn't wait to put it together and get it going. So it looks like there will be a lot more smoking going on here on the farm.
Certainly we can't eat smoked meats every day but we find that cooking this meat at a nice low temperature for a long time not only lends a delicious flavor to the meat but keeps it tender and juicy as well. Chris has experimented with many kinds of wood over the years but the favorite has been apple wood from the apple trees that grow right across the hill at Alyson's Orchard.
I wonder what we'll smoke for dinner tonight?
Within the past week, I watched the documentary “Cooked” on Netflix. Based on Michael Pollan's book, the series focuses on the techniques of how food was traditionally prepared and how those techniques have survived in some cultures but were changed or even lost altogether in others. Each episode focuses on one form of cooking starting with fire, moving on to water, air, and eventually earth. Each also incorporates one or more cultures' traditional use of those techniques and how they are still implemented today. Through the use of fire, aboriginals in Australia hunt iguanas and cook their meals by burying their catch in ashes. Water creates a blending of spices and flavors to transform the raw components of say, a stew or Indian cuisine, which he goes into depth discussing. Pollan used Moroccan-made bread to exemplify how bacteria from the air allows the dough to rise and become the staple food of many cultures. The Earth is where microbes, that are essential to our gut biota, are able to ferment foods such as kimchi and cheeses. One of Pollan's keynotes is that raw food is transformed through cooking to create delicious and more nutritious meals.
Since moving to Walpole Valley Farms, I have definitely become more aware of where my food is coming from and how much more nutritious it is when it is raised and prepared in the most basic ways. I love knowing that our animals are raised off the land in the most natural environment we can provide. Watching this documentary opened my mind and allowed me to compare my life in the suburbs of Philadelphia to this farming lifestyle. The meats that I eat are natural and not injected with preservatives and the fruits and vegetables come from the gardens where sprays are not used. I wondered why I had not eaten like this before and quickly figured out that it's because the nearest pasture based farm to my hometown was an hour and a half away. If it was difficult for me to find a location and I knew what I was looking for, it would probably never occur to others to search for a better food source than the convenient grocery store in their hometown. It really is important to keep foods as natural as possible to get the most nutrients out of them and “Cooked” does a great job at bringing this into focus. I definitely recommend watching the series and checking out the book if you're interested in learning a few things about the source of food, cultures, and preparation techniques!
Fat is back on the scene and I hope it's back for good because it is so amazingly delicious and believe it or not, healthier for us than we've been led to believe over the years. Too much of a good thing can be dangerous but healthy fats can be enjoyed in reasonable amounts as part of a healthy diet. I'm not a nutritionist but the more good fats I eat, the better I feel and adding lard, rendered chicken fat, otherwise known as schmaltz, or beef tallow to my repertoire in the kitchen has been fun.
Here on the farm as I'm sure you can imagine, we have access to lots of animal fat and using it to cook with is a great way to use the whole animal. Lard is one of my favorite fats to use in the kitchen. Lard is the fat of the pig. You can use the fat from the belly and the back but that fat will have a more pronounced pork flavor than the leaf fat that is preferred by bakers for its mild, almost neutral flavor. The leaf fat comes from around the loin and kidneys and when rendered, is clear and perfect for baking, I love a lard pie crust! All lard is great for frying as it has a high smoke point so next time you make some homemade French fries, try frying them in some lard. Our kids love it when we pop popcorn in lard and call it lardy corn!
If you haven't tried chicken fat or schmaltz, a Yiddish/German word for grease, you're in for a treat. The delicious fat that drips to the bottom of the pan when you roast a chicken is the essence of this cooking fat, it makes a delicious gravy and when used to cook your vegetables, will lend them a delicious flavor. In traditional Jewish cuisine, chicken fat is rendered and cooked down with onions.
Tallow is the rendered fat from the cow or lamb. These days the only times you really see this fat is in the form of a suet block covered in seeds out in your backyard in winter, but that hunk of fat is delicious when rendered into tallow. The beefy flavor comes through slightly when the fat is rendered so it's a great fat for adding extra flavor to a dish. Tallow is also a high heat cooking fat so it makes a great choice when frying and unlike lard and schmaltz, it doesn't need to be refrigerated.
I've covered just the fats of the animals that we have here on the farm and that I'm familiar cooking with but don't forget about duck fat and ghee (clarified butter), those fats are also a great alternative to the vegetable fats that could contain pesticide residues and GMO's. Clearly, the attitudes on what's healthy in the way of fat change on a near constant basis, but if you're willing to try these fat alternatives, I think you'll enjoy them. We have all of your fat needs met here at WVF. We have suet from our 100% grass-fed and finished cows, leaf, belly, and fatback from our pasture-raised pigs, and whole, pasture-raised chickens in our farm store.
Winter sowing is a technique used to grow seeds even when the temperatures are below freezing. The containers are prepped and left outside so the rest of the work is left to Mother Nature. The seeds have a special coating that breaks down with the freezing and thawing of the soil. By allowing the seeds to do this on their own creates hardier and more robust plants. Recycled clear plastic containers are used as a mini greenhouses for these young seedlings and provide warmer temperatures and a more moist environment. To create your own winter sowing containers, punch holes in the top and bottom of multiple clear plastic containers. This lets excess water drain out and allows the plants to transpire. If using milk jugs or two liter bottles, they will have to be cut in half first. Fill up the bottoms with moistened potting soil and plant your seeds. The seeds best for planting are hardy annuals and any perennial herbs and flowers. Once planted, water the soil, label the containers, and tape any containers that were cut in half back together and take off the lids. Now, all that's left to do is wait for spring and warm weather. Moisture will have to be checked at this stage and once the plants start reaching the tops of the containers, remove the lids but remember to make sure they do not dry out.
Jackie from the Inn at Valley Farms and I tried a bit of an experiment, we planted some seeds in the high tunnel and some in the winter sowing containers in hopes of observing the differences in the way the seeds germinate and grow. Already, some of the Bachelor's Buttons have begun growing after only three weeks! The warm weather is approaching and that means fresh vegetables again soon!
This time of year is a time of intense planning for the swiftly approaching growing season. We spend more and more hours each week charting our broiler chicken brooder and pasture schedule, ordering birds, mapping out vegetable gardens, planting seedlings, and best of all, interviewing and meeting, (usually via Skype) our prospective apprentices and interns for the upcoming season. Over the past few years we have had some pretty amazing young people come through here and we love hearing about what they have done with the farming experience that they gained while here on our farm.
This opportunity to live and work on a farm is not a new phenomenon but for many young people these days, the removal from farm life is by quite a few generations. Years ago many kids had a farm at their fingertips in one capacity or another. Our older customers often reminisce of working on their parents' farm or having traveled out of the city to a grandparents' or an aunt and uncle's farm to chip in for a while during school vacations. One commonality between all of those memories that we hear are that they were all positive and that although the work may have been physically demanding, the knowledge gained was worth so much.
Here at Walpole Valley Farms we strive to educate the next generation of eaters. We want this farm to be a place where young people can gain practical experience not only in farming but in life. Seeing a farm from the farmer's perspective is a gift that can change the way one views our entire food system, in turn helping to create an educated generation that chooses wisely when it comes to what goes into their bodies and how that food was treated and handled before it hit the supermarket shelves.
Over the past few years we've had many apprentices and interns come through here and all of them are doing such amazing things. We love hearing from them and how this place touched their soul and helped them grow. It is incredibly rewarding to see how each one of these people has put their stamp on our farm and helped us to move forward with this endeavor. We are excited to be wrapping up our apprenticeship interview process and can't wait to get started with our new crew!
Coming from New Jersey, this winter has been much colder than what I'm used to but according to past records and to literally everyone up here, it's been a really mild winter for New England. We are able to take advantage of these relatively warm temperatures by using the high tunnels, or hoop houses, to really lengthen the growing season. Starting seeds in the high tunnel could help them germinate weeks before the ground is even thawed and adds protection from whatever the end of winter has coming our way. High tunnels have plastic sides that can roll up and down to help with temperature, ventilation, humidity, and wind. To demonstrate the high tunnel's power at retaining heat, I was replacing straw for the strawberries a few weeks ago and was doing it wearing a t-shirt. Today, Jackie from the Inn at Valley Farms and I were able to plant our cold hardy seeds in hopes to get an earlier harvest!
The high tunnels are not only used for gardening, though, especially here at the farm. We have laying hens in one high tunnel for the winter months so they are able to stay warm and comfortable until the seasons change and the grass grows in again. In another tunnel, the pigs are able to make their wallows and pile on top of each other to happily sleep in an area without snow and ice while still allowing them access to the outdoors. These hoop houses, made only of a metal frame and a plastic covering, provide warmth, protection, and the opportunity to farm almost year round.
I titled this blog "The Art of Healing" because I truly believe that there is an art to becoming well again, whether it be after an accident or an illness. It's been just over two years since Chris had a near fatal accident on our farm and I have to say, it hasn't been easy. It's amazing the outpouring of support we saw from our community and we are ever so grateful for that; we are continuously in awe by the goodness that we see all around us.
Chris is doing very well but as many know, healing takes a long time; it's sluggish, it ebbs and it flows, and sometimes it seems to halt in its tracks. Getting well again is not as simple as taking a pill and calling it a day, there are good days and bad, great weeks and horrible weeks. Getting well, at least for our family, has meant changing the way that we work, parent, eat, and socialize. We feel that so many of the changes that we've had to make in our lives have taken us out of our comfort zone but in the end, have helped us to grow and heal as a family. We used to homeschool our kids here on the farm but decided to send them to the school in town so that we can have quiet time in the home where we work. This HUGE transition has gone fairly well and we have been able to devote more time to the business behind the scenes, and the lack of noise in the house has created a peaceful place for Chris to rest.
Head injuries are tricky and with damage to the frontal lobe, Chris has had to deal with personality changes, emotional distress, damage to sense of smell and taste, and memory issues. This sounds awful but surrounding ourselves with caring friends and family has really helped ease these issues. Socialization used to be difficult for us due to the busy schedule on the farm, but now we make a point to be with friends who lift our spirits and keep us out of the isolation that could be easy to succumb to in this sort of situation.
More than ever before we practice mindfulness. Through meditation and exercise, Chris has been able to keep PTSD in check. We never used to have a routine with exercise and meditation but we have found now that without practicing these on a daily basis, healing seems to slow down and emotions can get in the way of everyday activities.
Food has been a huge component of this healing journey. How lucky we are to live on this farm with all of these amazing pasture-raised products to keep our minds and bodies healthy and strong! We make chicken stock weekly and sip it to build up our bodies and immune systems. The vegetables that we grow here in this nutrient rich soil feeds our bodies and nourishes us from the inside out. We've had to largely cut out sugar and many grains in order to speed up the healing process and it seems to be really helping.
All in all, the future is looking bright for Chris and the rest of us. By combining healthy socialization, healthy eating, exercise, meditation, a positive attitude and quiet time, Chris is on a sure path to recovery. The art of it all lies in the combination of these things to create a sound body and mind. We have found that good can come out of trauma. We are aware of so much more these days and every day is a blessing to be grateful for. We realize that we are only here for a short time in the grand scheme of things, so we hope to leave our mark while we're around. We thank you all for your continued warm thoughts for our family.
Not too much has been going on in the gardens lately due to the snow and cold temperatures but soon that will change. The transition from planning gardens to planting seeds is happening within the next few weeks. In order to feel prepared to start planting, I have been spending countless hours designing new vegetable and herb gardens by drawing them by hand and by using a virtual garden planner. Through my own experience and from talking to other farmers, gardeners, and homesteaders garden designs need to be based around plant preferences. This includes the amount of sunlight they receive, soil contents, how moist the ground is, companion planting, and so many more. I've been trying to organize succession planting through the gardens while still keeping the plants' preferences in mind. Learning from books, the internet, and from others has really helped me along the way and although I don't mind the break from weeding and watering, I'm looking forward to being able to plant some seeds in the high tunnel so we can all eat some fresh veggies again!
This is one of my quick run throughs on my virtual garden planner
Here at Walpole Valley Farms, the majority of our pasture-raised and grass-fed meats and eggs are sold right here on the farm in our store. Some of our products make it to the Monadnock Food Co-op and to the Walpole Grocery here in town but there are a number of people outside the immediate area or even close by who just can't make it to our store or to the co-op or grocery. We've come up with a solution to your busy schedule! A few years ago we started up a Metropolitan Buying Club of sorts and it's been working very well. Each week we make deliveries in Keene and also in the Upper Valley (Hanover/Lebanon area). We thought, hey, wouldn't it be nice to offer our products to folks in these areas who want this amazing food that we raise but can't seem to make it out to our store?!
Home delivery isn't a new concept, just think of the milkman years ago, this is what we've modeled our program on and with the help of the internet, ordering your food is incredibly simple. The great thing about home delivery is that you don't necessarily even need to be at home when we come through your area, simply leave a cooler with a check inside in a visible location on your porch, or in your driveway, and we'll leave your meat and eggs for you.
So if you've been looking to purchase pasture-raised and grass-fed meats and eggs and can't seem to get to our store, this is the perfect program for you! Read more about our Home Delivery program on our website here. We hope to see you soon on our delivery route!
As Caitlin said last week, winter work on a farm is just different from the other seasons. This is my first winter here but I can already tell what she means. Taking on the responsibilities of producing enough fruits, vegetables, and herbs for the farm family to sustain through the winter months has more to do with planning than I thought. I've been flipping through seed catalogs, designing a new area to grow herbs, slowly switching to vertical growing in the strawberry tunnel, all while still learning.
The herb garden is on hold right now because of the snow fall but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Snow helps insulate the ground and protects the fertile soil from the harsh winter elements. This also helps those wood chips, cardboard, and layers of mulch decompose a bit faster, so I'm welcoming the snow.
By growing strawberries vertically, we are able to weed, harvest, and tend to the strawberries in a less physically demanding way. Crouching over rows for hours at a time will be limited saving our backs, necks, and knees. Also, by vertically growing crops, the space inside of the tunnel is maximized leaving more room to grow other crops or to grow additional strawberry plants. Each vertical planter takes up about two square feet of ground space and can grow up to fifty plants. Strawberry plants need about a foot to eighteen inches between plants so in the same amount of space, we could fit just barely two plants. These vertical growers have potential but right now we are in the testing stage.
Creating the prototypes was fairly easy. I took a roll of unused field fence with one inch gridding and cut a length of three feet off of it. I fashioned it into a long cylinder held together with zip ties and some strong twine. Afterwards, I used burlap to line the inside of the cylinder with it. Then it was ready to be filled. I placed a four inch diameter cardboard tube inside of the wire cylinder and placed drip line irrigation tubing in the center of that. Around the drip line, I packed wood chips until the tube was filled then filled compost between the cardboard and burlap making sure the composted soil was fairly packed down. I'm really excited to plant the strawberry plants and watch them happily grow in the spring but until then, I'm creating many more of these vertical growers and researching new crops to fill in the spaces!
With the passing of the months has come (finally) some cold weather here in Southern New Hampshire. We had an extremely mild and unseasonably warm fall and early winter in 2015. That mild weather didn't last into the new year! The cold temps that we've had over the past week have not only changed the way that we dress when we head out to care for the animals but has also changed some of the extra work that we have to do to keep things running smoothly.
One addition that we must make when the mercury dips below freezing is to install water heaters in our cattle, chicken, and pig waterers. Ice is an issue and if the animals don't have access to clear, ice-free water, their health could be compromised and in the case of the laying hen, egg production could go down. We always find it amusing that the demand for fresh eggs goes up in the wintertime at exactly the same time that the hens want to take a break! We use lights in our hoophouses to help prolong the perceived daylight, hence keeping egg production steadier.
Winter can be a tough time for animals but with little adjustments to the routine, we can keep them comfortable and productive. Our tractor usage goes up quite a bit in the winter as we feed out big round bales to our cattle. The grass doesn't grow in the colder months so feeding them grass that has been dried and baled is the closest we can get to the green stuff this time of year.
The slower pace during these dark months is something to look forward to and always a time for us to reflect on the past season and to plan for the season ahead. The winter on a pature-based farm almost seems like a holding pattern, waiting for the warmth of the sun to push the grass to green again and to assume grazing as usual. Winter is a forced quiet time not only for the animals but also for everyone who works the land. Yes, there is still a TON to do but the work is different, not as physically demanding as at the height of the season and there aren't as many mouths to feed each day. We always look forward to the warmer months but we also love the four seasons on the farm as each one brings a different feeling, a different view of the land, and a different perspective to this work that we do.
Here at the farm, we practice a no-till farming technique in all of our gardens. From transforming an area of grass or weeds into a new garden area, we hardly ever have to put a shovel in the ground or manually till the soil with a hoe. Without tilling the soil, micro communities are left intact, carbon and nitrogen is added to the growing area through different mulches, and the grass and weeds are smothered and broken down to create a rich top layer of soil to grow in. The soil is more aerated, has increased water infiltration, and has a more diverse community of organisms therefore improving the quality of soil. No-till means no back breaking shoveling and lets nature run its course!
In preparation for the spring, I have been expanding the garden behind the farmhouse and creating a new area to plant herbs in front of the barn. I placed a thick layer of cardboard down on the area that I want to plant in come spring and then I dumped a few inches of mulch right on top. Mulch is any kind of material placed down on an area to essentially cover what was there. Grass clippings, hay and straw, seaweed, fine bark, wood shavings, newspaper, yard waste, leaves, and small tidbits that can be found in the forest like pine needles and twigs, are all examples of mulch. I used a combination of some composted cow manure, crushed up leaves, pine needles, and small wood chips.
Some gardeners then layer newspaper, grass clippings, and then pile on a few inches of wood chips right on top but since the mulch I used was a mixture, I decided not to layer with newspaper and grass clippings. After the final wood chips go down, the area is prepared to sit through winter and do its work turning itself into a nice fertile layer of soil.
This has been a beautiful autumn, the leaves, the weather, the harvest; there isn't anything but positive to say about this season. We had a productive season with amazing young people to help
grow the farm, make connections, and take part in the day to day here on the farm. Now we've come to the time of year when we reflect on the season and enjoy the bounty that the farm has
One of our favorite events of the year is Stonewall Farm's annual
Farm Fare. We have been attending as a turkey vendor for many years now and we look forward to seeing familiar faces and soaking up the festive ambiance of the community event. This year,
once again we will be selling our pasture-raised turkeys on Saturday the 20th. If you haven't been to the event in the past you can attend Friday night from 4-7 (we will not have turkeys
available on Friday night) and on Saturday from 9-3. We'll be outside with our turkeys along with some other goodies from the farm. Inside at the Farm Fare, you'll find all the fixings for your Thanksgiving table, so make sure to spend some time inside talking to the great
local producers that have spent the summer months preparing for this event.
Never had a Walpole Valley Farms pasture-raised turkey? This is the year to try one! We
will have various sized birds available for purchase at the Farm Fare on Saturday the 20th only (not Friday evening). Our birds are lovingly raised on the green pastures of Walpole Valley Farms
nestled in the Connecticut River Valley. We move our turkeys to fresh pasture every five days to ensure that the pasture gets fertilized and that the turkeys have a clean, fresh area to roam and eat from. Along with a minimal ration of GMO-FREE grain, our turkeys feast on bugs, worms, and grasses that are plentiful here at the farm. We harvest our turkeys in
October and freeze them right away. Why do we do this you may ask? The grasses stop growing and the bugs and other critters that make these turkeys taste so good are all but gone by late October.
Rather than having turkeys that belly up to a feed trough for the last month of their lives, we process them when they are still eating an optimal pasture diet; the result: a healthy bird that is
healthy for us with a flavor beyond compare.
Stonewall Farm's annual Farm Fare is a great event and we hope to see you there on the 20th!!
Walpole Valley Farms is home to many wonderful creatures, beautiful pastures and woodlands, and two historic barns that make the property stand out and invoke visions of days past. If you haven't
had the opportunity to peek into the barns you should sometime. The post and beam structure of the upper barn at the Inn at Valley Farms is a sight to be seen and the hay mow inside the lower barn, an old dairy barn, at
Walpole Valley Farms is an open, air filled room with ceilings reaching to the sky.
Over the past couple of years we have held a few gatherings in the hay mow of the old dairy barn and have had so many people tell us how much they enjoyed soaking in the space. Two years ago we
held a pig roast at the farm and decorated the hay mow with lights and set up tables, banquet - style for everyone to enjoy. The room was beautiful and we were prompted to think of other
interesting ways to use the space. This past summer we held our weekly Movie Nights at the Barn which ended up being a great success and a wonderful community event. We love this space and we
want people to enjoy it.
This Halloween we've decided use the space again and hold a costume party (costumes not required but
certainly fun) with live music and farm fresh food for purchase. Up until the day of the event we'll be busy stringing lights, decorating, planning and getting our costumes ready! We hope that
you can join us on Friday, October 30th at 7 pm at Walpole Valley Farms. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. We encourage you to order your tickets online ahead of time as the event will most likely sell out. With a great
live band, costume contest with fun prizes, Phat Racks BBQ onsite selling delicious, local BBQ with yummy sides, and a great group of people, this event is sure to be a ton of fun. Hope to see
you at the barn!!
Well folks, this is it. I've been at the farm for almost five months now, and my time is coming to an end. In a few short days I'll be headed home, beginning my 16 hour journey south. My time here has flown by, and though I'm excited to return home to my friends, family, and warmer weather, there are definitely things I'm going to miss here on the farm.
It'll be strange not waking up early every day, starting my day off with chores, seeing the chickens that I have grown so accustomed to. I'll miss going to check on the pigs, bringing them scraps and watching them grow so fast! I'll miss seeing the cows and saying hello to Micah every time I pass. I'll miss cleaning and sorting eggs. It'll be so strange not to lift heavy egg baskets and get excited over high egg counts, clean eggs, and little and jumbo eggs. It'll be strange not handling egg cartons, lifting crates full of eggs and seeing them stack up until deliveries are made. I'll miss working in the farm store, where I'm starting to see familiar faces and have restocked and tidied up so many times.
I'll miss saying hello to Leroy (the pet sheep) as I head up the hill. I'll miss being greeted every morning by our livestock guardian dogs, Casey and Annie, so excited to see me. I'll miss the first animals that greeted me on the farm - the cats! As I left my own two little kitties at home, seeing the cute and friendly cats here really helped. Monkey, Moses, Peter, and Anonymous - I'll sure be sad to leave y'all! I'll miss the mornings when I feed them, the afternoons when they just want to snuggle and be pet. I'm sad I won't get to see Anonymous continue to grow.
To all of the inn guests that have come with me for chores, thank you. I've enjoyed taking you around, showing you what I do on a daily basis and sharing the knowledge that I have learned here. On those tough days when I'm missing home, your enthusiasm and excitement about the animals always makes me feel better and reminds me of why I came here to begin with.
To my chicken harvest crew, thank you. Chicken harvest was one of the things that concerned me the most, coming here to the farm. I had no idea what to expect, or what I was getting myself into. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people. From the first harvest that took all day, to our last chicken harvest and finally, the turkeys. I always enjoyed Wednesdays, knowing that meant a day I got to work with everyone, listening to y'all joke around and just genuinely enjoying myself. It'll be so strange not to head up to the chicken kitchen, eagerly awaiting Wednesdays, and I'll definitely miss everyone and harvest day!
To Bonnie, thank you for showing me how to make jam. It was a new experience for me, and I enjoyed spending the time with you, getting to know you better and learning the tips and tricks of jam-making. When I attempt to make jam in my future, I hope I can do you proud!
To Dan, thank you for looking out for me and always making me smile. Whenever I asked you a question or needed help, you always dropped what you were doing to help me. Your jokes always made me laugh, and I've enjoyed working with you these past few months. Seeing you in the morning always made me smile, and weekends just weren't the same without you working.
To Chris, thank you for showing me the ins and outs of the farm and how best to take care of all the animals. Thank you for your patience and understanding as I learned and made mistakes. I've appreciated all the time and knowledge you've given me during my stay here, as well as all the kindness you've shown me.
To Chris, Caitlin, Sam, and Henry, thank you for everything. Thank you for letting me come to your beautiful farm and experience farm life for the past five months. I've really enjoyed getting to know all of you and appreciate the kindness and generosity you've shown me. Thank you for helping to make my birthday special and helping me when I wasn't feeling well. Thank you for all the fun times, from communal meals and movie nights to just the everyday conversations. I can't believe that this is it. These past five months have flown by, but I know this is an experience I'll take with me, something I will never forget. I'm excited to see how the farm will continue to grow, and take pride in knowing that I helped, if only a little.
As Autumn approaches, certain plants in the garden are no longer producing flowers or fruit. I have had to pull out the snap peas, most of the corn, and multiple summer squash plants. The snap peas were starting to die back and by removing them, I allowed more sunlight to reach the leeks and celery. An animal decided that the corn was a great midnight snack and so it tore into and ate quite a few ears of corn. The remaining stalks were sadly laying on the ground so I decided to pull them hoping it would discourage the animal from snooping to other parts of the garden and to allow more sunlight to penetrate the garden. The summer squash plants have recently gotten the blight so removing some of the affected and nonproducing plants lets more air circulate between what's remaining plants.
On another note, I have been making some slow progress on what is going to be an herb garden right next to the grain room. So far, I have just been trying to get a raised bed in place before the frost comes. This may not seem like the most challenging task but it has involved manually pulling up weeds and grass from the roots with hoes and shovels. This has been followed by adventuring down into the fields to small rock piles, with the ATV and trailer, where I gather the flattest rocks I can find. I brought the rocks back up and stack them so a sturdy two to three foot wall was created. So far, I have a corner in place and about eight feet along the wall. I'm really looking forward to completing the raised bed so that come spring, we can fill it with compost and start to plant a variety of herbs whether their purpose is culinary, medicinal, to attract bees, or just to create a pleasant aromatic space in the garden. Although there is still much work to do, I am motivated to make the space into a beautiful area for the Casertas and Inn guests to enjoy for years to come.
There's nothing like the taste of homemade jam. Is it the sweetness? The color? The love that goes into it? I think it's all of the above but there really isn't anything like a warm buttered
toast slathered with grandma's jam.
Here on the farm, our kids are lucky enough to have a grandma who makes a mean jam and our customers are lucky enough to be able to get it at our farm store. Grandma, aka. Bonnie, uses only fruit
from our farm or from Alyson's Orchard just up the hill, making it a deliciously sweet local product. This year there has been a bumper crop of nearly all of the fruits that go into her
concoctions. My ultimate favorite is the peach jam made with fresh peaches from Alyson's Orchard.
If you haven't tried any of Grandma's jams, you're in for a treat! With flavors like three berry, peach, apricot, damson plum, apple pie, peach pepper, strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry,
there's something to please just about anyone with a sweet tooth. On Saturdays in our farm store you can sample most of the jams before buying, so come on in for a taste!
Believe it or not turkey time is now. Thanksgiving seems very far off into the future, especially with the humid weather we've been having, but when it comes to topping off your
holiday table with a pasture-raised turkey from a local farm, now is the time to put in your order.
So what's the difference between a pasture-raised turkey and a conventional one? Well for one, pasture-raised turkeys, you named it, live on pasture and eat what is available to them on the land
such as grass, bugs, worms, grubs, etc. In a conventional model, turkeys typically do not live outside but inside barns with concrete floors, automatic feeders, and no access to the outdoors.
Most pasture-raised poultry also get some grain but their diets are rich in animal
protein (from the bugs and worms) and grasses which lends a totally different (and in my opinion tastier) flavor to the meat. The conventionally raised birds living inside are eating grain
and grain alone and may be crowded unlike their pasture-raised counterparts.
So if you're looking for a humanely raised and pastured turkey to highlight your holiday table this year, look no further than a Walpole Valley Farms pasture-raised turkey. Come on over some
Saturday during our store hours and take a visit to see them for yourself. Our
turkeys sell out every year so make sure to get your order in soon, we'd love to be part of your special meal! Order yours here today!
When you come visit the farm, one of the first animals you are likely to be greeted by are actually our barn cats. There are four of them, and they tend to hang around in the entryway. They are all very friendly, and love attention.
Recently we've had a new addition to our barn cat family. The kitten of our only female cat, a little black and white ball of fluff that you may catch a glimpse of running around. The newest addition's name is Anonymous, and boy is she cute! She has recently starting spending her nights outside and is assimilating well into the barn cat lifestyle. She has already befriended the other cats, and in the morning when I feed them she's there, ready to get a snack. The inn guests love her, and she's a hit at movie night.
So next time you're here take a minute to look for her. She might be in a tree, sleeping on the porch chair, or running around the front yard, but she's sure to bring a smile to your face when you spot her!
The garden has begun to wind down as far as growing goes. Throughout July, the garden nearly doubled in size and the work to keep up with weeds was an overwhelming task. Now that the plants are near full size, patience is the key as we wait for the fruits and vegetables to ripen. The leafy greens section is constantly supplying us with kale, collard green, red and green lettuce, and swiss chard. On top of this, we have been able to harvest peppers, zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers. Last week, the sugar snap peas were finally ready to be picked. We went out and picked until we only saw little pods left and did not realize just how many came off of the ten foot row of peas. There were way too many for us to eat before they spoiled so we blanched and froze the extras.
With harvesting comes more ideas for delicious meals and treats. I have been using a combination of kale, collard greens, and swiss chard in stir fries while the lettuces stand great alone as salad. A few weeks ago, I shredded some zucchini and made a yummy pumpkin zucchini bread that Travis, another apprentice here at the farm, and I gluttonously devoured in a day. I helped Chris's mother, Bonnie, harvest raspberries from her garden and then we spent a few hours making the raspberry jam that we sell in the store. It was a great opportunity to learn from her and to create something that can be enjoyed by our customers and by ourselves, of course.
The positive energy that we use to work everyday ultimately produces the very food that we need to nourish our bodies. Having a garden is a great way to develop some food on your own and its really quite exciting even if it does require some extra work. The more time I spend here, the more I appreciate where my food comes from and how it's raised. I hope you are able to come out and see the garden before summer rushes to an end!
Whether you're a a writer, a painter, a schoolteacher, an engineer, or a farmer, we all need a little inspiration from time to time. Anyone who has visited Walpole Valley Farms knows that we have
a lot of creative solutions to the many challenges of sustainable agriculture. Even so, we're still mortal and, like anyone else, benefit from a fresh flow of ideas. So what do we do when we find
ourselves in a slump of imagination? To date, we've not come up with a better way to get our creative juices flowing than getting off the farm and surrounding ourselves with other farmers --
like-minded people who are taking different approaches to reaching the same goals of land stewardship and humane handling.
This week I had the privilege of attending a pastured pork workshop organized by the Granite State Graziers and hosted by The Farm at Woods Hill in Bath, NH. The small size of the workshop -- about 25 people -- turned the presentation into a friendly discussion about how to deal with various aspects of managing swine. Two or three people offered up questions about problems they were having with their pigs, and several others jumped right in with solutions they'd come up with after having similar experiences. Two hours later, I felt like I was ready to strike out and start my own pig breeding operation. And who knows? With piglet prices sticking at record highs, maybe it's not a bad time to get into that business!
Following the seminar, we changed into our work boots and hit the fields for a tour of the farm. The focus was on their pig operation, but there was plenty of inspiration to be had even in passing. The system that Amber and Justin (Farm Manager and Assistant Farm Manager, respectively) use for moving their broiler chickens around caught my eye from a distance. After asking a few questions about the daily care of these birds, I was convinced that we should incorporate certain elements into the system that we have here at WVF. Some of these components, such as automatic watering systems, are huge time savers. We installed them in our chick brooder this year, and managed to free up about 4 worker hours per week -- time that used to be spent cleaning and filling fountain waterers that can now be spent observing and interacting with the animals to make sure they stay in tip top shape. The Farm at Woods Hill makes use of a similar nipple watering system for their pigs (see photo below). The closed design helps keep the water clean for the pigs, and the design is fun for them to play with!
I'm always excited to see how other farms manage their livestock, especially when I get the chance to stop and ask questions about what works well and what doesn't work so well in a given
management scheme. When I leave a new farm, it is always with an eagerness to keep improving our already awesome (if I do say so myself) way of doing things. I'm very grateful to people who put
the time and energy into hosting events like this, as I feel that they really bring the agricultural community together. What do you do when you're looking for inspiration, and how can you help
other people who are working towards similar goals? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! Who knows, you might just inspire a whole new round of brainstorming!
It isn't everyday that you get to speak with a truly passionate person, these people are few and far between but when you meet them, you know that they are doing exactly what they love. The
passion oozes out of them, is reflected in their work, and shines through their eyes.
We have been lucky enough to meet one of these people and with her lens, she has so beautifully captured the passion that we and many other area farmers carry for working the land. This woman is
Kimberly Peck, local photographer with a love of natural light and our region's beautiful farms. You may recognize her work as it's
been featured all over the Mondadnock Region in the Monadnock Table Magazine, the posters at the Monadnock Food Co-op, advertising for Monadnock Buy Local, as well as many other publications, local and beyond.
Kim's work clearly translates to the viewer not only her passion but the important work of our farmers. Until somewhat recently, people didn't even know what the faces behind the meats and
veggies that they buy at the co-op look like; Kim is changing that. Through her gorgeous photography and her photo essays (one was just published in the Summer issue of Local Table) Kim is
inspiring people to find out more about the food that we consume, to really look behind the scenes and to taste the abundance of local flavors growing right here in our peaceful
You can find Kim's wonderful book at many local area businesses including the Monadnock Food Co-op and here at our farm store. The recipes are from Sarah at Mayfair Farm and the photographs illustrate what an amazing local foods economy we have growing here in this area.
See you soon!
As most of you already know, our weekly chicken harvest has begun. It's strange to think that we've already had four. It seems like just yesterday I arrived at the farm and our first harvest was a month away. It's also amazing just how fast these chickens grow.
We receive our broiler chickens as baby chicks, just a day old. They come in boxes in the mail, where we receive over 400 at a time. We bring them to the brooder that is set up and waiting - they have food, water supplemented with apple cider vinegar and molasses, and heat lamps to keep them warm. We dip each little beak in water to give them their first drink after their journey through the US Postal Service, and then watch as they run around the brooder, listening to their scurrying feet. When they arrive they are so small and soft - recently I got my first opportunity to help unpackage the chicks when they arrive, and therefore my first time handling the chicks on day one. They seemed softer than day two, though I know it shouldn't make that much of a difference!
When I first arrived, it seemed like the chicks stayed pretty small and then suddenly they were a lot a bigger. After 4 or 5 batches of chicks, which arrive every two weeks, I'm starting to notice the small increases in size. After just a day or two they are already a lot bigger! The turning point of size comes at around two weeks old. Before this, they still look as they did when they arrived, but afterwards, their feathers start to grow in and they begin to lose their fuzz. They enter an awkward 'teen' phase!
At about four weeks old, we go and catch all of the little chickens and transport them down to the field, where our chicken tractors are ready and waiting for them. From here they get access to fresh grass daily, in addition to their grain. They get to enjoy the sunny days and fresh air.
About a month later, we once again catch our now full-grown chickens. Except this time they are transported to the chicken kitchen, where they are processed and sold. I haven't actually eaten a lot of chicken since I've been here, but chicken harvest always makes me want to! For my Southern friends, "Eat Mor Chikin!"
As the apprentice responsible for garden duties, I have taken the opportunity to learn new growing methods. Hilling potatoes, using a teepee made of branches for pole beans to grow on, and creating a trellis for cucumbers are some of these methods I have been exploring.
To hill potatoes, a trench is dug out in the middle of a row and the potato seeds are planted about six inches underground. After the potato plants start producing leaves, or until they are between six and eight inches tall, a hoe is used to gently mound the soil around their stems. This allows space for the tubers to branch out and grow to ultimately give a higher yield when it comes time to harvest.
In the center of the garden, I made a teepee out of sticks that the other apprentices and I gathered from the woods. I planted pole beans around the base of the teepee and was so excited when they started to climb up them. This method helps the pole beans get up off the ground so that they are able to recieve more sunlight for photosynthesis, escape pesky weeds, and create a higher yield of fruit. This in turn helps us more easily identify the beans when harvesting.
Lastly, cucumbers have intrigued me since I spent last summer volunteering at an organic and medicinal garden in the Ecuadorian Amazon. There, they had a very sturdy bamboo trellis built low over the cucumber beds. The cucumbers could climb on top of it and spread out to recieve more sunlight, space from invasive weeds, and protecting fruit. The cucumbers dangle between the gaps in the trellis to avoid an abundunce of moisture and prevent rotting. I attempted to recreate this trellis idea but only used what I could find and repurpose. With some twine, thin branches, and time it eventually all came together. I am proud of my shabby trellis and now that the cucumbers are exploring it, they are probably just as happy as me.
So far the garden has been time consuming but very rewarding with the pleasures of seeing how each and every plant is absorbing life from the sun, soil, and rain. I look forward to being able to harvest the fruits of our labor and enjoying their yummy nutrients!
Here at Walpole Valley Farms, we take great pride in our poultry raising and harvesting techniques. We could certainly take the easy road and raise quick growing birds with white feathers that would be soooo much easier to process, but we decided years ago to raise a slower-growing breed called a red broiler or Freedom Ranger. This breed is based on a breed designed in France for their Label Rouge program which is a standard for raising poultry on pasture with strict standards. These chickens are superior foragers making their meat healthier and tastier.
Each year that we have raised these chickens we have only had one harvest per month, so there has been just one opportunity each month to get fresh chickens. This year we've decided to increase production and harvest once per week resulting in fresh chicken available in our farm store each Wednesday! While not everyone has a problem with frozen meat, we do understand that there is something to be said for a fresh, never been frozen, chicken straight from the farm.
If you aren't able to make it to the farm on Wednesdays to pick up your chickens fresh, we always have frozen chickens in our farm store. We only raise these birds in the warm months when the grass is green and the bugs are plentiful. Even when frozen and enjoyed in the dead of winter, we believe that the nutrient density of our poultry is much higher than that of a standard supermarket bird based on what they are eating in season, how they are lovingly harvested, and their daily moves to fresh pasture. You can pick up fresh chickens each Wednesday through September in our farm store from 3-6 pm.
By Erica Seifried
Hello y'all! It's been about a month since I journeyed north to Walpole Valley Farms, and already I've learned so much and had so many new experiences.
Back home, before I left, when I told friends and family I would be working on a farm in New Hampshire, I typically got 1 of 2 responses.
1) It's so cold up there! -Commence winter horror stories-
2) What type of farm is it? What are you going to be doing?
To the first, I would respond, yes, but I'm not going to be there through the heart of winter. I'm hoping that in the summer it will be cooler. And so far, it has been.
To the second, I would give a vague response of: taking care of animals. I had no idea what I would be really doing on the farm. All I knew was that they had livestock, and my job would be working with them.
Well, after a month things have begun to fall into a routine, and I feel confident that when I go back and I get the same question, I can actually answer them this time. Yes, I am taking care of animals. But what does that mean?
It means that every morning we do chores. We feed our various types of chickens, ranging from little baby chicks to full grown chickens. Every afternoon we do chores as well, which is similar to the morning, except we also collect eggs.
Almost every day I spend time cleaning and sorting eggs. There is time spent setting up cow fencing and visiting the pigs to give them some leftovers. And almost every day there is something new to learn and experience.
This week we also began our chicken harvest, and with movie nights starting next week, I'm sure my days will get busier! But so far I'm enjoying learning more about our cows, chickens, pigs, and turkeys, and learning how to farm sustainably.
By Tina Morgan
In the month that I have been here, at Walpole Valley Farms, I have been cordially welcomed into the Caserta's farm and family. Within the first week, I was not only instructed on how to feed and care for the chickens, pigs, and cows, but I was given the responsibility of creating and maintaining the garden. I was ecstatic when I could finally apply what my grandmother, mother, aunt, and cousin had taught me over the years. As a biology major, I always had an appreciation for plants, so being the one to sow and grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs was right up my alley.
As the garden slowly turned from a plot of weeds, wildly growing grass, and trees full of burrs into a structured garden, I was immediately complimented on the enlarged size and overall transformation. The garden has become more of a community effort here at the farm, and I wouldn't have been able to accomplish nearly as much on my own. Whether it was help with the initial planning and inspiration, weeding, tractor runs for compost and wood chips and spreading wheelbarrows of it, rock decorations, or planting, each member of the farm has chipped in. Of all the lessons to be learned, accepting and inviting others to help with a project is important, but seeing them become excited and proud of the progress, is definitely the most gratifying. I know that when it comes to harvesting the fruits of our labor, everyone can feel as though they have contributed and the garden will be just as rewarding for them as it has already proven to be for me.
As many of you know, Walpole Valley Farms is committed to promoting agricultural literacy through education. This is sometimes accomplished in little ways -- for example, a friendly chat with our store customers about how we raise their food and why we use the methods that we do, or through fun events hosted here on the farm. Other times, as in the case of our internship/apprenticeship program, it's a very extensive, hand-on process. Each year we take on 3-4 motivated, upbeat, bright-eyed-and-bushy-taled individuals to live and work on the farm as they learn the ins-and-outs of sustainable grass-farming. This week it is my distinct privilege to introduce the new team of apprentices that has joined us for the 2015 season. Be sure to stop in at the farm store and say hello!
The first arrival of the season, Rosemary did not have to travel far to make it to the farm. A native of New Hampshire, Rosemary has previous experience in the hospitality industry that she developed while working as an assistant inn keeper in Hillsboro. Here at the farm, Rosemary splits her time between caring for animals and helping out in our on-site Bed and Breakfast. In her free time, Rosemary enjoys swimming and honing her butt-kicking Kung Fu skills!
A graduate of Drexel University with a degree in electrical engineering, Travis has chosen to ply his trade with the portable electric fence system we use at the farm to rotationally graze our animals. Travis spends most of the work day caring for animals. though is also known to spend time whispering to plants in our vegetable garden. His favorite animals here are the cows, but he's advised me not to tell the pigs -- he doesn't like playing favorites! In his free time, Travis enjoys biking and exploring the hiking trails in and around Walpole.
After studying biology in college, Tina is all about the plants! On the farm, she fills the unique role of gardening apprentice. After lending a hand during daily animal chores, Tina splits off to plant seeds and do battle with weeds in our large herb and vegetable gardens. Thanks to her work, we'll be enjoying fresh, seasonal produce throughout the summer and fall. In her free time, Tina enjoys drawing and painting. She can often be found in the adirondack chairs near our farm store, drawing inspiration from the beautiful views.
Last but not least, Erica had the longest journey to arrive at WVF. A native of the Peach State, Erica studied business at Georgia Tech. After 3 years in the heart of Atlanta, Erica was ready for a change of scenery, and the opportunity to see the inner workings of a small, rural business. Here on the farm, Erica spends most of her day caring for animals. She has a soft spot for the cows, but also enjoys working with our baby chicks. She has recently taken up the hunt for a litter of kittens that one of our cats is hiding in the woods. In her free time, Erica enjoys swimming, reading, and writing.
What's better than dinner and a movie? When the movie is played in an old barn and dinner includes grass-fed burgers and dogs, that's what. We are so excited to announce that weekly this
summer we will be showing free movies in the barn and cooking up some of our delicious grass-fed meats!
Movie Night has been a tradition on the farm for years. Started by Chris's sister Jackie and put on once
per summer at the Inn, Movie Night was always looked
forward to with great anticipation. With more and more going on at the B&B with events and guests, we decided to move the event to the lower barn and to offer it once per week as well
as offer dinner for those interested. Our own grass-fed burgers and hot dogs will be available for purchase as well as all you can eat popcorn. Outside, we will have the fire pit roaring for
those of you who'd like to kick back and relax and enjoy the scenery.
The list of movies is well rounded, there's a little something for everyone. We start the season off with the blockbuster Big Hero Six and alternate throw-back classics with newer films to entice
the wee ones and their parents alike. Take a look at our event page for more information and the
See you on the farm!
By Chris Freeman
Okay, if you want to get technical, it has been one year, one month, and three days since I began my tenure at Walpole Valley Farms -- and oh what a one year, one month, and three days it has been! I normally take my space here on the blog to write about what I've been doing in the kitchen. Today, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on my experience living here at the farm. Besides, who really wants to read about mussels in a spicy red wine sauce served atop spaghetti squash slathered in bacon fat?
I'll never forget my first night on the farm. I was, after all, awake for most of it! As a fresh Massachusetts escapee, I needed some time to acclimate. The first step in this process was learning to pile on the blankets, and make creative use of space heaters. Remember how cold it was last April? I do. We hadn't yet embarked on the beautiful and comfort improving renovations on the apartment and farm store, and boy did it get nippy at night!
Since that first night, I have had the privilege of watching the rolling hills beyond my bedroom window execute a series of elaborate costume changes. Spring has burst forth twice -- the speed and vigor with which the fields grew verdant leaving me just as astonished the second time around. I watched summer pass, with blue skies and and bright sunlight sending cows to chew their cud contentedly in the shade of distant windrows. Fall came, and the hillsides exploded into color with all the flamboyance of a flamenco dancer twirling away until fatigue triumphs over movement. Finally, winter came, slow and silent, and cloaked the farm in a mantle of of snow that was at first luxurious, then tedious, and finally odious. I think I speak for everyone in expressing my relief for the final return to warm weather and green pastures.
Each season brought with it an array of sights, smells, feelings, and goings on, all of which have woven together to form the fabric of what has been a wonderfully life-changing experience.
To be sure, there have been plenty of challenges and frustrations along the way. That comes with any job. If I were working in an office, I might really get my knickers in a bunch over a
paper jam in the copy room. Instead, I get to fume about that time I got to spend two hours chasing a jumpy calf back and forth over hill and dale. At least later you can tell tales of
running after high-tailing animals without getting that look of feigned interest mixed with pity that you sometimes get when descanting upon the finer points of double-sided printing.
Moments of delight and an enduring sense of accomplishment have far outweighed moments of frustration and fleeting feelings of defeat. Often it is the little things -- my first taste of fresh nettle tea brewed right out of the fields, or of butter-soaked maitake mushrooms discovered growing at the foot of a venerable oak tree. Other times, it's big stuff -- successfully re-designing our chicken processing facility, learning how to drive a tractor without hitting the broadside of a barn, and, more recently, developing new skills as a manager.
The transition from my apprenticeship into my current role as assistant farm manager has brought me closer to my goal of living the full farming lifestyle -- and that's exactly what
farming is: a lifestyle. Part of that transition is longer hours -- as I write this, the clock is politely informing me that it is past my bedtime; however, those longer hours are accompanied by
a higher degree of self-direction, allowing me to immerse myself in my work in a way that connects me with the goals and vision of the farm. I feel, now more than ever, that I am a
proactive participant in the nature-centric land ethic that we practice here. How could I not, when my decisions about how to manage our pastured-livestock have a visible, tangible, and
measureable impact on the ecological health of our fields and woodlands?
The last year, one month, and three days have brought me tremendously closer to feeling ready to start my own farm business, but I'm not there just yet. In the meantime, there is much to do here at Walpole Valley Farms. I am excited to be working with a great team of new apprentices for the 2015 farm season!
Agriturismo (in English we say agritourism) is a term coined by Italians, blending the word for agriculture and the word for tourism, to describe the the act of staying on a farm
while on vacation. The Italians have agriturismo down. If you look at a map of all of the farm stays in any given region of the boot, you'll be overwhelmed by the offerings and
amazed at the beauty of the properties. While here in the States we're a little behind when it comes to the sheer numbers of farm stays available, we sure do have some wonderful farms to explore
all over the country.
Agriturismo in Italy started to gain popularity in the 1970's and 80's when farmers on small-scale farms started to see less profit coming in. As the Italian culture is heavily rooted in
traditional farming practices, keeping these farms alive and profitable was important. In order to secure more income each year, these small farmers started renovating their properties and
opening up their doors to guests so they could experience farm life at its best.
We're so glad that the Italian agriturismo is catching on here in the states where there are many different types of farm stays available, from rustic to elegant. Some farms allow guests to take
part in harvests, chores, walk about the properties, taste food that comes from the grounds, and so on; there really is something for everyone. We are lucky to have been in the agritourism
business for quite awhile now. Jackie, Chris's sister opened up the doors of The Inn at Valley Farms here on the farm over fifteen years ago now. Each year the farm and inn get busier as the demand for an on-farm experience
grows. Every farm stay is different so it's important to do some research before you book your stay. A great resource for searching for farms offering agritourism is at Farm Stay U.S. , there you'll find an interactive map, ;inks to farms, and information on what to expect out of your farm stay. So
if you're looking to relax in the country, enjoy the agrarian past of our nation, or simply try out farm life for a bit, a farm stay could be just what you've been waiting for.
By Chris Freeman
The decision not to raise lamb this season was a long and difficult one to make, made all the harder by how much we at Walpole Valley Farms love to eat those woolly fellas. Those of you who shop regularly in our farm store may have noticed that we have run out of lamb. Watching that last package of ground lamb cross the checkout counter was hard -- or, at least, it would have been hard were it not for the knowledge that I, like a dragon of a more carnal than numismatic bent, had been jealously guarding one solitary pound of the stuff in my lair-- I mean, my kitchen. Watch out for those runaway similes, kids.
I’d been saving this precious little meat brick for just the right recipe and occasion. A welcome home dinner for my friend Mark provided the excuse; all I needed now was an idea for a dish. A trip down memory lane to the early days of my college cooking proved to be just the inspiration I needed. It was right around my junior year that I was first introduced to tagines, the slow-cooked, heavily spiced stews hailing from North Africa -- Morocco, in particular. The generous seasoning used in the preparation of a tagine is enough to compensate for the taste of lower quality meats, which was a boon when I was living in an area where the only way to obtain quality lamb was under contract for my firstborn with Whole Foods. Preparing the same dish with meat from the lambs that I lovingly shepherded during my apprenticeship last summer, however, brought this dish to a loftier plane of gustatory delight.
There are many great recipes for lamb tagines floating around on the internet. I’ve probably even followed a few of them in the past. However, on this occasion, I wanted to “wow” my dinner guest by doing something a little different. I ended up settling on a fusion dish that brought together the traditional ingredients of a Moroccan tagine with some Italian-influenced ingredients, such as bell peppers and rosemary.
The key to success with this dish is getting the seasoning right. You’re going to want to prepare a Ras el Hanout spice mix. Ras el Hanout is Arabic for “head of the shop,” and generally describes a spice shop’s private label blend that incorporates many of its top shelf ingredients.. Accordingly, there is considerable variation in the ingredients and relative amounts from one Ras el Hanout to another. I personally find the Epicurious recipe to be a good starting point, though I usually make some to-taste adjustments, including an increase in the amount of cumin and cinnamon.
What you'll need:
Ras el Hanout
1.5 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon applewood smoked sea salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl using a whisk.
1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed and soaked overnight
½ butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 pound of ground lamb
2-4 medium carrots
1 stalk celery
2 bell peppers (one yellow, one green)
2 cloves of garlic
1 small bunch of rosemary
Himalayan pink salt
Freshly ground black pepper, optional
Small bunch of cilantro
¼-½ cup home cultured yogurt, sour cream, or kefir
Add lard and/or butter to a large dutch oven over high heat. Crumble in ground lamb, season with a pinch of salt and optional black pepper, and cook until browned. Remove lamb from dutch oven and set aside. Drain any gratuitous fat (but not all of it! That’s where the flavor is!).
Add the carrots, onions, celery, and bell pepper and cook over medium heat until golden. Add the rosemary and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Deglaze with about a quarter cup of dry Marsala wine, then add the Ras el Hanout mixture and stir thoroughly to coat the sauteed vegetables.
Return the lamb to the dutch oven and add crushed tomatoes. Depending on how watery your tomatoes are, you may need to add some stock or water (see previous recipe on how to make stock. I would recommend lamb or beef). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 hours.
In a separate pot, add chickpeas along with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until they reach a satisfactory consistency. Drain, stir in a large pat of butter, and season to taste with cumin and cayenne. At the same time, steam the cubed butternut squash above a pot of boiling water until it softens to the point where a fork is easily pushed into the larger pieces, 7-10 minutes.
Finely chop half of the cilantro and stir into your cultured dairy product, along with a pinch of sea salt and some cumin. To plate, pile up the butternut squash and chickpeas on the plate,
and top with the “bolognese.” Dress with a dollop of the seasoned yogurt/sour cream/kefir, and garnish with the remaining cilantro leaves.
I considered using spaghetti squash instead of butternut squash for this recipe. I think this would be an interesting interpretation of the Italian/North African fusion theme.
We love farms. I was joking the other day with a customer that before Chris and I started to farm seriously, we used to take a day here and there and drive to visit farms around New Hampshire and
Vermont. Before we had our own meat to consume at mealtimes, we would visit farms in our area to purchase directly from them. The connection that we made to our farmers and the importance of
being on the farm where the meat was produced was important to us, and still is. How great is it to sit down to a meal and say "this beef came from the farm down the road?" We believe strongly in
the "know your farmer" slogan and recommend visiting the farms where your meat is raised. Buying directly from your farmer takes out the middle man and keeps costs lower for you and for your
So what are some of the reasons why buying directly from your farmer is best?
1. The same product at the co-op or at the market will be higher in price. When you buy directly from your farmer, the cost is lower for you and the farmer ends up doing better than if he or she
sold the product to a grocery store at a wholesale price.
2. You have the opportunity to see, smell, and feel the farm where your food has been raised. Is it clean? Is it neat?
3. You will most likely get to meet and speak with your farmer directly, which enables you to ask questions about how the crops and/or animals were raised.
4. You may be able to buy in bulk which saves money. Ask your farmer about buying a half or a whole animal. Vegetable farmers may be able to sell you a bumper crop in bulk.
5. There may be more availability at the farm. Yummy products like chicken feet may not be available at the grocery store, but you'll find them on the farm!
We've had a farm store for a few years now and we love the days when we are able to chat
with our customers about what we do here on the farm, favorite cooking ideas, or even the weather. The community building that takes place at the farm store is important to us. We urge our
customers to come on out to the farm, take a tour. The convenience of the supermarket is difficult
to beat but the experience of coming to the farm to get your food is a memory worth making.
By Chris Freeman
Complex, multi-step recipes have their place, but sometimes you just want recipes that are scrumptiously straightforward. After a long day out in the fields, this way of serving chicken breast is one of my "go to's" -- great taste, minimal effort. What's not to love?
Everyone and their uncle has different guidelines for how long and at what temperature to cook chicken, and chances are that you do, too. I currently do all my baking in a toaster oven, pending next week's installation of my new range (we've had to wait for all that evil white stuff to finish melting to plumb the gas hookup). I'm not sure how accurately my Black and Decker keeps temperature, so I won't lull you into a false sense of security with exact cook times.
What I will do is tell you my general technique. I recommend starting the chicken under the broiler. Watch it carefully, letting it go until the skin starts to take on a lightly golden appearance. I find that the direct heat from the broiler helps make the skin nice and crispy (assuming you are using skin-on breasts). Once you've accomplished this, you should reduce the temperature to, say, 375-400, and bake until it's done. You'll know it's done when the juices run clear, or when a thermometer inserted into the middle reads around 165 F.
What you'll need:
Start off by seasoning your chicken breast with a little sea salt. Proceed to bake it either according to your own method, or to the method described above.
While your chicken is baking, begin working on your vegetables. In a small saucepan, melt a few tablespoons of butter (or coconut oil) and stir in your ground ginger. Add honey to taste, and stir until dissolved.
Add your carrots and beets, and stir to coat them in that buttery deliciousness (or coconutty deliciousness, if you've gone that route).
Add about a quarter cup of warm water, and cover pan to steam until tender (8-10 minutes).
If you're good at timing, your chicken will finish up around the same time as your veggies. If not, just remove the veggies from heat, give a quick stir, and leave covered under a kitchen towel until you are ready for them.
Spoon the vegetables onto the plate, and set the chicken breast atop them.
Optional Extra Step
This recipe is quite good topped with an apple cider gastrique. A gastrique is a sweet and tart reduction made from vinegar and sugar or, in this case, honey.
This step should be started around the same time the chicken goes in the oven. It takes about 20 minutes to complete:
Add honey to a small saucepan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, or until honey has noticeably darkened.
Add your apple cider vinegar and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to the consistency of maple syrup.
Remove from heat and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spoon over the plated chicken breast, and enjoy!
--When I prepared this, I actually used beets that I had pressure canned in the fall (ie they were already cooked). You may or may not be able to reproduce the color separation between the carrots and the beets that is shown in the above picture. If it really matters to you, you could try cooking them separately, or steaming the beets above the carrots and then adding them at the end.
--You'll notice that there is no starch with this meal (as with most of my recipes). I don't eat much in the way of grains or starchy vegetables, but if I did I would definitely try this with creamy mashed potatoes.
Albert Einstein understood the law of attraction, basically the notion that what you feel you attract, what you think you create, and what you imagine you become. He believed that if you expect
bad things to happen, they will, if you expect great surprises in life and expect life to be easy and filled with joy, it will be. I like his thinking.
I think of Albert's quote on the left quite often. I think of farming and how difficult it is sometimes. I think of the nights when I have to trudge through mud, snow, rain, thunderstorms or even
hailstorms to care for our animals. I think of predators hungrily waiting in the trees surrounding the farm and I think of broken farm equipment.
All of this sounds so negative. Who would want to do this job? Who would want to deal with so much potential negativity? Then I think about what I want from all of this. I think of what I'm
getting out of this experience. I think of my body working, being used for what it was meant for. I think of all of the positive that rises from what many see as negative, and I
My point for all of this is that we need to stay positive, we need to put our blessings over our burdens. In farming, it is extremely important to stay positive. Things don't always go as
planned, the weather doesn't always cooperate and we don't always have good years. We are the architects of our destiny so we need to envision a clean, successful farm and hopefully if Albert is
right on, that's what we will get! We raise good meat because we expect that how we are raising our animals will yield a delicious product. We surround ourselves with positive people therefore
we are positive and are lucky enough to be outside everyday so we are able to find beauty in everyday things. Regardless of your profession, living with the law of attraction in mind
could help you through your day and especially through times of difficulty. As Rumi said "What you seek is seeking you."
By Chris Freeman
Good magicians never share their tricks. Luckily, I am not a magician. Just an amateur cook who doesn't mind revealing the secret ingredient. For many of my recipes, that secret ingredient is broth or stock. I know, I know.. sounds boring, right? Au contraire, my friends. Au contraire.
There are many good reasons to make your own broths and stocks rather than buying them from the grocery store. The first, and most relevant, is that it just tastes better. I have not yet found a pre-packaged stock that approached the taste of even my most disastrous home cooked batches (barring the time that I accidentally burned 3 pounds of chicken feet to the bottom of my stock pot, turning it into something that resembled an alien's placenta; but we don't need to get into that...).
Another excellent reason to make your own stock is that it gives you more control over various cooking variables to ensure that you're extracting the most nutrients from your ingredients. For example, you can adjust the cooking time depending on whether you are trying to create a meat stock or a bone broth.
A third great reason is that making your own stock is eco-friendly. Water is heavy, and takes a lot of energy to truck around the country in the form of 1-quart tetra-paks. By making stock at home, you reduce the amount of energy that goes into putting a meal on your family's dinner table. You'll also save some packaging from going into the waste stream. Finally, as if all this were not enough to earn you your environmentalism merit badge, you'll also prevent some food scraps from going into the garbage.
The basics of making a stock are the same regardless of the protein you're using as a base (e.g. chicken stock, beef stock, etc). For the sake of simplicity, and because it is an ingredient in my first two recipe posts, I'm going to provide instructions for making chicken stock.
One really wonderful thing about chicken stock is that it is in a reciprocal relationship with chicken soup, as well as chicken with roasted vegetables. When preparing your main course, save your vegetable scraps! You might not want to gnaw on the stem end of a carrot, but boy will it give great flavor to your stock! I save all of my vegetable trimmings and keep them in a bag in the freezer.
You'll also need a chicken carcass, which you can buy or create. You can buy a ready-to-boil chicken carcass from our farm store, or you can create it by roasting a chicken for your Sunday dinner and saving the carcass to boil later. It does not matter whether the carcass is
pre-cooked or not. In addition to the chicken carcasses, I also STRONGLY recommend adding chicken feet to your stock. That might sound weird at first, but trust me on this one. The feet provide
an excellent source of gelatin, which is not only excellent for your joints and gastrointestinal health, but will also give a thick, luxurious mouthfeel to your stock.
What you'll need
Add your chicken carcasses and feet to a large stock pot and cover with water.
Add the apple cider vinegar and leave to soak for 30 minutes. This step is optional, but will help extract more of the nutrients from the carcass.
Add your vegetables and bring to a boil. Periodically skim and discard any foam that rises to the surface.
Continue boiling for 2-3 hours.
During the last 10-15 minutes, toss in a handful of parsley for some added flavor.
At this point, you've created stock. That wasn't so hard, was it? At this point, you can strain out all of the liquids from the solids. If you're planning to pick the residual meat off of the carcass, now is the time to do it.
Alternatively, you can continue to boil your stock until it becomes bone broth. This takes at around 24 hours, and will likely require that you top off the water level in your pot from time to time.
We all want to live long, healthy lives free of chronic pain and inflammation, this really can't be debated. We are constantly bombarded with information in the media that tells us one week that
a food is healthy for us and the next thing we know that same food is considered taboo due to its associated health risks. What's a human to do? We need to eat, we want to enjoy our food free of
guilt and we want to eat foods that taste good. We have finally found an eating lifestyle that works for us that leaves us feeling satiated and not wanting more.
Over the past eight years or so Chris and I have been on a mission to beat inflammation, treat Lyme disease naturally, and feel our best. We have tried everything from cutting out gluten to the
GAPS diet to heal our guts and move on from pesky skin issues, bloating, lack of energy and more. We decided to cut out all grains and sugars (for the most part) and follow a paleo diet.
So what is the paleo diet you may ask? The diet is more of a lifestyle and means staying away from grains, dairy, sugar, starches, legumes, alcohol and processed foods. The foods that are
recommended are pasture-raised meats, seafood, nuts and seeds, healthy fats and lots of vegetables and low-sugar fruits. The paleo diet, short for Paleolithic and sometimes referred to as the
caveman diet, is based on the theory that modern humans are not evolved to eat the products of an industrialized food system and that it is these foods that are causing chronic illnesses, cancers
and degenerative diseases. It makes sense that our metabolisms have not been able to catch up to modern farming and the availability of so many sugars, starches and
We certainly indulge in non-paleo friendly treats from time to time, especially in social situations but most days we stick to meals of vegetables and pasture-raised meats and eggs from our farm. Eating this way has worked for us and we are not only feeling leaner with more
muscle mass and less fat, but we have also noticed that the perpetual brain fog that we were living under has been lifted and we are much more productive.
Luckily, living here on the farm has been perfect for carrying out the paleo lifestyle, we have access to the amazing meats and eggs that we raise and we get plenty of fresh air and exercise. We
have many customers who follow the paleo diet and rely on the healthy meats that we raise to keep them in the best shape possible. So is the paleo lifestyle right for you? We love to talk about
it so come by the farm store and chat with us!
It has been said that chicken soup is good for your soul (heathens take note). Unfortunately, the age of canned soups and stocks arrived at the soul-crushing expense of this illustrious staple. Today, we’re going to resuscitate the tradition of homemade chicken soup, this time with a multicultural twist!
Whether you’re feeling under the weather, or just sick and tired of bland store-bought alternatives, this soup is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. Unless you happen to find a crowd that just doesn't like soup, but if that happens you should definitely find a new crowd.
Here we go...
What you’ll need:
In your stock pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add your carrots, onion, celery, bok choy, ginger, turmeric root, hot pepper (if using), crushed red pepper flakes, and a healthy pinch of sea salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and begin to turn a light golden color.
Take this time to cut your chicken into quarters and remove the bones from the thighs. Slice the chicken parts into finger sized pieces and set to the side.
Add the garlic to the stock pot and cook, stirring continually, until fragrant (about 30 seconds), then deglaze with about a quarter cup of soy sauce, allowing the liquid to cook down before proceeding to the next step.
Add your stock, chicken, mushrooms, and cabbage. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Add additional soy sauce to taste. Serve into bowls and garnish with sliced scallions, if desired.
This would probably be good with cilantro and/or lime. You can also sprinkle in different herbs and spices that you like during the first step. For example, add some cayenne to bring up the heat, or some ground ginger or turmeric to really pull out those flavors. I make this soup a little differently each time, but the recipe above is a good starting point.
At Walpole Valley Farms there really isn't anything better than clean eggs in the nesting boxes at the end of the day. Well, maybe calving season is even better, but clean eggs are certainly at
the very top of the list of our favorite things here on the farm. We've tried many techniques to ensure that our eggs stay extremely clean but nothing has kept them as clean as they are now since
we made one simple change.
I'll fill you in on the change in a moment but first I'll tell you that we used to close up the nesting boxes in the late afternoon at egg collection time before the hens settled in for the
evening and opened them back up in the morning. This was keeping the eggs somewhat clean but witnessing the hens fighting for a place to lay in the early hours was enough to make us think twice
about closing them at night. The problem that we ran into with open nest boxes at night was hens soiling the bedding, resulting in dirty eggs which take precious time to clean, not to mention
having to change the bedding so frequently.
We have tried electronic doors in our eggmobile (moveable coop) on pasture but without success. In the winter months the chickens live in one of our hoop houses. This year we
decided to build and "egg room" with an electronic door. The door opens and closes on a timer so the hens are only able to access the egg room during the prescribed hours. When we go in to
collect in the afternoon, we remove any broody hens and place them outside where they can't sleep in the nest boxes. So far we have been so much happier with the clean state of the eggs. We hope
to replicate this situation for the pasture this year. One of our dreams is to buy this contraption which would ensure clean eggs on pasture even at the muddiest of times.
Until then, we'll be using the chicken guard automatic door to keep our hens happy and clean!
If you’re reading this, you probably love small farms, and if you love small farms, you probably love food. The two go hand in hand, like pasture-raised bacon and eggs, or pork chops and coffee. Yes, you read that correctly: Pork. And coffee. Press on, fearless reader.
Before I go any further, I should mention that mine is a new voice on this blog. Hey there, I’m Chris. Originally from Massachusetts, I joined the team last spring as one of the farm’s seasonal apprentices. I loved the experience so much that I decided to stay on as assistant farm manager-- though between you and me, the alternative was to drag me out of here with a chain! After seven months of bucolic views and farm-fresh food, it’s hard to imagine living any other way.
There are many wonderful aspects to farm life, but I’m joining this blog to talk about the food. I consider myself an amateur cook -- amateur, from the Latin “amator,” meaning lover (ooh la la). I mention the etymology of the word because I want to impress upon you, dear reader, that I have no cooking credentials beyond a deep enthusiasm for futzing around in the kitchen. Because I don’t claim to be a professional chef or recipe-writer, I offer this blog as more of a way to share what I’ve been doing in the kitchen, rather than as some authoritative treatise on gourmet cooking. Food is the ultimate conversation piece, and I want these blogs to function as a discussion. Please, feel free to share your tips, tricks, and tweaks in the comments section.
One of the things that I love about cooking is that it is an imprecise art. Some people (especially those who bake frequently) like to carefully measure out every ingredient. I, on the other hand, don’t like to measure any of my ingredients, preferring instead to prepare everything to taste. Now, some of you may hear that and think “oh, I’m not going to be able to replicate these dishes.” To those individuals, I offer the following: Stop, take a deep breath, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Cooking is more about technique than about the relative quantities of ingredients you use. If you really like the taste of a particular ingredient, use more of it! Contrariwise, if you dislike an ingredient, you can give it the old “it’s not you, it’s me” speech, and go your separate ways.
Another caveat that I will issue is that you, the reader, are likely working with more comprehensive appliances than I am. My kitchen is currently under renovation, so I’ve been cooking with a two-burner hot plate and toaster oven while I wait for my range to be installed. If you have more burners available to you, you may have more flexibility with timing the different components of these recipes. Or you might just make more dirty dishes.
Alright, I think that’s enough introduction. Let’s dive into this! The inspiration for the recipe I am sharing today came from the digital equivalent of pulling ingredients out of a hat -- a “random ingredient generator.” After a few clicks on the “OMNOMNOM!” button, the program finally spit out the following: “coffee, pork, squash, and hazelnuts. Pick three.” After mulling over various possibilities, I finally came up with an idea for coffee-brined pork chops with maple and spice butternut squash puree, steamed broccolini, and candied orange peel.
What you’ll need:
2 pork loin chops, preferably from a local, pasture-based source
1 quart of freshly brewed coffee
~1T ground coffee
~¼ cup of sea salt
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground peppercorns (optional)
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
Maple syrup, to taste
Butter, lots of it, preferably from grass-fed cows, divided
1 bunch of broccolini
½ shallot, minced
¼-½ cups marsala, or other fortified cooking wine
¼-½ cups chicken stock (homemade is infinitely superior to store bought)
Candied orange peel for the garnish (I found some at a local candy shop)
Brew coffee the night before, or early on the day you plan to cook. Add a hefty amount of sea salt (¼ cup or more), bay leaf, a touch of maple syrup, and ground pepper (if using) to the hot coffee, and stir thoroughly. Chill the mixture in the fridge until it has cooled to at least room temperature, so as to prevent unwanted cooking of the meat.
Submerge your loin chops in the cool coffee brine and let it chill out in your refrigerator for a minimum of one hour prior to cooking. You’re going to get better flavor penetration the for as long as 8 hours.
Fast forward to dinner prep time. Remove loin chops from the brine, and pat dry with a napkin or towel. Rub each chop with a small amount of fresh, coarsely ground coffee beans. You may choose to brush a small, additional amount of maple syrup onto each chop, if desired. This will improve caramelization of the meat during cooking, giving the dish great flavor and color.
Place your cubed butternut squash in a large steamer basket and steam over boiling water for 7-10 minutes, or until a fork is easily pushed through the squash. About halfway through the steaming process, begin preheating a large, cast-iron skillet over high heat.
Transfer the butternut squash into a blender or food processor. At the same time, add your loin chops to the preheated pan.I use cast iron, which is naturally non-stick, so I don’t use any oil for this step. Depending on your cookware, you may find it necessary to add in some Extra Virgin Olive Oil, butter, or a combination of the two. Flip the chops back and forth every couple minutes to help balance the rate of heat penetration with the rate at which the exterior of the cut caramelizes. You are looking for a deep golden or cherry-red color to indicate that the meat is done.
Take the time between each flip to work on preparing the butternut squash puree. Add a copious amount of butter (I probably used 3-4 tablespoons), along with maple syrup, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to taste. Blend until it reaches desired consistency. One caution: Don’t overdo it with the nutmeg -- it can be toxic in large quantities, especially for pregnant women.
Remove pork chops from the skillet and set in a warm area to rest. At this time, you should add your broccolini to the steamer and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until it reaches the desired tenderness.
While the broccolini is steaming, add a large pat of butter and your minced shallot to the skillet and cook, stirring, until golden brown. Try to stir up any pan dripping from the previous step, as this will enhance the flavor of your reduction. Add your cooking wine and let it simmer for a minute or so before adding your chicken stock. It’s important that the pan is hot when you add the wine, and that you wait before adding the stock. You’re trying to cook off as much of the alcohol taste as possible; if you add the stock and the wine at the same time, you’ll form an azeotropic mixture that will prevent this from happening.
There are many ways you can go about presenting this dish. In my case, I was constrained by the small size of my plates, so I went with a straighforward stacking approach. I spooned a healthy serving of the butternut puree onto each plate, then added the pork chop off-center and balanced it with the steamed broccolini. I then spooned my pan reduction over the dish, garnished the pork with a few pieces of candied orange peel, and voila! Dinner.
When I made this for a friend, we had quite a bit of butternut squash left over. There’s probably enough to feed four people, so go right ahead and double the amount of pork you prepare. Depending on the amount of skillet real estate you have at your disposal, you might want to pan sear the chops and finish them in the oven -- that way they will all be hot when you go to serve your meal.
If you’re looking to try this out for yourself, and want to use pork from our farm, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that, due to outrageous popularity, we are currently out of loin chops. The good news is that we are going to have more by Valentine’s Day, so if you’re looking to cook something special for someone special, this may be just the thing!
A year to the day has passed since Chris took a nearly fatal blow to the head here on the farm. Words can't describe the emotions of the year and we are continually reminded of the compassion and vitality of this generous and loving community.
Chris has had his ups and downs both physically and emotionally as he continues to heal, but overall his spirits have been high even knowing that he will live with lasting effects of his injuries. Spending quality time with friends and coming to the realization that the farming that we do makes people very happy, has been paramount to the healing of his mind, body, and spirit.
As we enter this first week of a new year, we remain humbled by the love and support that holds us up, keeps us going, and that has enabled us to carry on the important work that we do.
Love and peace to you this new year,
Chris and I don't buy meat or eggs at the store as we raise all of our own, but we do enjoy checking out what's available on the co-op and grocery store shelves. Recently we were poking around
the aisles of a not-so-local co-op, looking at what they have in the way of meat and egg products. I almost walked past the egg cooler but stopped when a colorful carton of a dozen perfect brown
eggs caught my eye. I examined the box through and through, reading all of the various health claims and of course checking out the goods.
The egg carton I held in my hands was indeed beautiful. As Chris can attest, I am highly swayed by the aesthetically pleasing so I can easily see someone like me picking up this dozen eggs
without even thinking. The box was labeled with buzz words such as cage free, organic, no hormones or antibiotics, fresh, humane, etc. These words don't bother me as we also use buzz
words on our cartons such as pasture raised, and GMO-free. What got me was the picture on the box, a
photograph of a little girl with sun kissed skin and locks holding a chicken in the middle of a verdant pasture. Hmmmmm.
In the farming business there is a lot of deceptive marketing but I think this type bothers me the most. The cage-free chickens who laid the
eggs that sat in the carton I held unfortunately did not have the opportunity to roam in the fields and visit with cute kids. Free-range or cage-free chickens are most likely still raised in
large, overpopulated barns where beak clipping is permitted and the only binding word in the free-range model is "access to the outdoors" which does not guarantee that they will actually go
outside. I have seen these operations and although the chickens are not confined to a wire cage, they are cramped and most likely have a hard time even finding the door to the great
Don't let the word organic fool you either. If you are worried about what your chickens are eating, good for you, you should be, but just because a hen has been eating organic grain all of its
life does not mean that it has been outside or been treated with respect.
In any event, it really is best to meet your farmer, know your farmer, and visit your farmer often with questions. Don't hesitate to ask to see the animals at your chosen farms, this is how you'll know if your farmers are doing the job that you expect from their marketing. So before you buy, do a little research as free-range, organic, or cage-free eggs may not be all they are cracked up to be.
Here at Walpole Valley Farms we do not believe in keeping our chickens in cages or all "cooped" up. As I
write this blog I occasionally glance out the kitchen window to see our hens hunting and pecking for bugs, worms and grubs, beaks fully intact. That's what they like and that is
Turkey time is right around the corner and you know what that means...time to order your pasture-raised turkey from Walpole Valley Farms! Our turkeys are raised on pasture and moved every few
days to a new plot. As the turkeys move from place to place, they gobble up (no pun intended) bugs, worms, grubs and copious amounts of grass. Our turkeys eat a locally raised GMO-free grain as
well as what they find on their own, but they do prefer the bugs and grass and our pastures benefit from the manure that they spread as we move them about on the farm.
From now until Thanksgiving, the turkeys are fattening up on a wonderful, natural diet. They have another month until our October turkey harvest. Many people ask us why we slaughter our turkeys
in October if Thanksgiving is in November. The answer is a simple one for us, we want the turkeys to be as healthy as can be and we don't want to finish them on grain alone. The October weather
can be unpredictable and many times in November we have already had a few snowfalls. Point being, there isn't anything for these birds to eat from the pasture from late October into November. We
slaughter our turkeys in October when they have reached a good weight and freeze them the day of the harvest to preserve the freshness and flavor. A turkey that has been eating grain and grain
alone will taste much different and be quite a bit fattier than a bird eating mostly from the pasture.
Our phone typically rings off the hook during the week before Thanksgiving with people on the other end of the line looking to purchase a pasture-raised turkey for their family meal. At that
point in our season all of our turkeys are sold out. Due to the specialty product that it is, we raise only a small number of turkeys. So if you haven't ever had a locally raised, pastured
turkey, now's the time to make the order. Stop on in at the farm store during our regular hours or give us a call to reserve yours today!
Eating locally is becoming increasingly popular as we have many more local farms to choose from, more farm stands, more co-ops popping up in the area, and more conventional grocery stores carrying local products. Here at Walpole Valley Farms we're kicking off NH Eat Local Month with a farm tour sponsored by the Monadnock Food Co-op. Visiting farms is one way to show your support for local food and to get a close-up view of where your food comes from. Many area farms offer tours on a monthly basis or by chance. On these tours you can get in touch with the animals, people, and land behind the farms you love and support.
What are some other ways we can show our support for eating locally? One of our favorite ways to eat local is to grow our own food. We know that not everyone has the time or space to do this so that's where your local farmer comes in. For the items that we don't grow here on the farm, we enjoy visiting farmstands and seeking out the locally grown section at the co-ops or grocery stores. Buying your veggies, fruits, meats and value added products at a farmer's market or a farmstand ensures that the farmer is getting a good price for their products. Buying directly from the farmer is a fun way to connect yourself to your food and it helps keep your local economy strong.
These are just a few ways to eat local this month. August in New England is a wonderful time to enjoy the bounty of the earth. We're lucky to live in one of the top three states to eat locally, let's keep the momentum going!
We aren't all lucky enough to have grown up with acres and acres of land to explore, had the oppotunity to watch a calf being born, or hear the sweet chirp of newborn chicks, but there are many opportunities to get a farm experience these days. Farms of all kinds across the country and around the world are offering internships, apprenticeships, farm stays, and WOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) experiences to the young and old alike.
In recent years there has been a steady increase in the interest of going back to the land. As a nation we have become so unhealthy and disconnected to the food that we consume, that many young people today long for an experience that puts them in touch with the earth and her seasons. The average age of a farmer today is about 55 years so clearly young farmers are in demand. One way to get real farming experience is to take part in an internship or apprenticeship on a farm.
We started our internship program four years ago and have had wonderful luck with it thus far. Our first year we hired one intern, the following year two, then three the following and this year we are up to four. We believe strongly in passing along our knowledge and experience of sustainable farming and the program also ensures that the pricipal farmer or farmers don't get burnt out. In order to have young people jump right into farming as a career, we have to show them that farming doesn't have to be all dirty work. We like to go into the behind the scenes work such as marketing, creating lasting relationships with customers and chefs, and the financial side of it all. There is a lot to learn and your typical farmer wears many hats.
So what will an intern or apprentice bring away from a season on a farm? The most important things I think that are gained from the experience is a deeper connection to the food that we eat, a reverence for the land and an understanding of the cycle of life; these are all things that will help anyone no matter what career they choose. We want to instill a love of the land and a deep respect for the animals and their place here. We hope that all of our interns and apprentices leave with that respect and take it forward into the world to make a difference.
This time of year marks a very special time for us here on the farm, double-yolker time!! Every spring we start a new flock of laying hens and every spring without fail, we come across quite a few double-yolked eggs. So what's up with all of the double yolks?
Double-yolked eggs are rare in commercial egg production due to candling before packaging, but about one in every 1,000 hens lays a double-yolked egg. In backyard or small flocks though, eggs are typically ungraded, allowing those eggs to make it to the consumer. Eggs from young hens often have double-yolked eggs due to their immature reproductive system which is getting into the swing of laying one egg about every 25 hours. Just like a human female, all of the eggs a hen will ever lay are already inside her when she is born. Early on in the hen's first few months of cycling, the reproductive system just isn't in rhythm yet and she often releases two yolks that travel down the oviduct together, becoming encased in shell as they make their way towards the vent.
In some cultures double-yolked eggs are seen as a sign of fertility, a sign of an upcoming union between two people, good fortune, or double your expectations. It's always fun to get a double-yolker and kids really love seeing the two golden orbs sitting high in the pan. It's a surprise every time and if they carry good fortune, well that's even better!
So what about baking? It has been said that double-yolked eggs are excellent for baking as they add a richness to your baked goods that is usually achieved by using duck eggs. If you are unsure about using the double-yolkers, it is suggested that the white from another egg to balance out the fats will do the trick. I say go for the richness!
Some have asked us if it is safe to eat a double-yolked egg. Yes, completely! Lucky you, you got some extra nutrients!
We consider ourselves grass farmers. What is grass farming you may ask? Just as it sounds, we grow grass. Growing grass doesn't sound overly intersting or involved but it is the foundation of our pasture-based farm. Since our cows and our lambs eat nothing but grass, we focus on producing the best grass available to feed them the diet that they are designed for. By properly managing our livestock to graze (and eat down) and fertilize the grasses, we promote regrowth, increase soil organic matter and sequester a whole lot of carbon!
The cattle are only a piece of the puzzle. We rotationally graze our cattle in our pastures here in Walpole, NH. Along with our pasture-raised chickens, pigs, turkeys and lambs, the animal movements about the farm add manure to our fields. This manure feeds the soil and the animals are nourished by the perennial grasses that grow here in this fertile river valley.
Did you know that pigs, chickens and turkeys eat grass? The grass isn't only for the ruminants on the farm, it's enjoyed by everyone. The turkeys, chickens and hogs eat their fair share of the green stuff lending a delicate and delicious flavor to the chickens' eggs and meat.
One of our farmer idols Joel Salatin says that "herbivores do not require tillage or annuals, and that is why all historically deep soils have been created by them, not by omnivores." What we are trying to do here at Walpole Valley Farms is to create soils that will last for generations to come, soils that our grandchildren's grandchildren will be able to live off of. Our legacy will be the soil, a worthwhile legacy.
Over the past eight years since implementing a rigourous rotational grazing program for our cattle and rotating our laying hens, turkeys, pigs, lambs and broiler chickens, we have seen an amazing increase in the fertility and swath thickness of the grasses and deeper soils overall. We are proud of our rotational grazing program and we are reaping the benefits with more grass.
See us in action on the farm. Schedule a farm tour or stop on by during our farm store hours. We'd love to show you what we do and how we do it!
As I sit down to write this blog, I gaze out of the window to see perpetually snow covered fields. For us the snow has been a bit of a blessing this year. The cold weather and the covered landscape has forced us to stay in and for Chris, it has forced him to concentrate on healing. This winter certainly has been an interesting one, we really needed the proverbial village just to hang on to any semblance of our lives before Chris's accident.
The community of Walpole and the Monadnock and Fall Mountain areas have amazed us with their support. It was difficut at first to accept help from anyone, but the more we realized the severity of Chris's injuries, the more we knew we needed it. Chris and I are very independent people, we take pride in getting things done ourselves so accepting so much help from our community and our family and friends was a big deal for us. We now realize more than ever the importance of lending a hand. We are grateful for this lesson and will be eternally changed by it.
As for healing, Chris is doing very well. He celebrated his 40th birthday on the 23rd with friends, a plan that he wasn't sure he'd be able to follow through on. Although he can't perform much physical labor at the moment, he is up and about and looks really great considering the healing that is still taking place on the inside.
None of us will ever know the pain and trauma that Chris endured. The shock of the day will be with everyone who was present that day for some time to come. We are feeling blessed every day that we are surrounded by friends and family and couldn't ask for a more loving community. Thank you all for the love and support you have shown us over these past couple of months. You'll start to see more of Chris in the days to come, the farm is getting busy and the season is upon us! So here here to starting anew, this is a glorius life.
Early on Friday afternoon our small town withstood two tragedies. Our neighbors at Far HIlls Farm lost their barn and store to a fire and our own Chris had a tragic accident in our woods. Our hearts go out to our neighbors and we continue to pray for Chris's recovery.
That day, Chris went into the woods to check on what he assumed to be a fire or snowmobile accident on our trail. He was riding the tractor and came across some trees across the trail. He was in the process of moving them and was hit in the face by a branch that sprung back with such force that it fractured most of the bones in his face, shattered his nose and left him with a large open wound on his forehead. Chris's vision went black for what he remembers to be about 4-5 minutes at which time he walked aimlessly toward what he thought to be home. When his vision returned, he realized that not only had he walked away from home but that could not walk himself the half-mile back to the farm in this condition. Miraculously, he followed his tracks home and was immediately met in our driveway by our brother-in-law Tim and 911 was called.
Becasue of the fire on County Road, most of our Walpole emergency vehicles were on the scene of that tradgedy so we did have to wait for assistance. Upon arrival of the EMT workers, it was decided that helicopter transport was necessary. The helicopter from UMASS Medical Center in Worcester landed at Alyson's orchard after our town trucks plowed them a landing pad.
The rest is history but you can imagine how scary it was for Chris and all of us! From here on out he remains in stable condition but will require an extensive 12+ hour surgery to reconstruct his face and repair his sinuses. We are amazed at the outporing of positive energy, financial help, food, farm help and childcare offers that we have received over the past few days.
Chris is resilient and I can already tell that even after this traumatic brush with death, he will come out of this stronger, more self-confident, wiser and more powerful. Everyone around us has shown their resiliency which is so important for Chris to see as well as our children to witness. If anything positive can come out of this trauma I can only hope that he experiences "posttraumatic growth" and continues his positive outlook on life which is why so many people are infectiously drawn to him. I think resiliency is what is most important right now so I am counting on myself and my family and friends to show their resiliency as well. It's going to be a long road to recovery but it can be a positive one!
Thank you all for your support and continued positive thoughts and prayers. Chris is in amazing spirits considering. :-)
Yes, that's us, looks like we're the official spokespeople for the Monadnock Buy Local sponsored Plaid Friday again this year! If you haven't heard of Plaid Friday here's a quick synopsis of what it's all about.
Plaid Friday was conceptualized in Oakland, California a handful of years back as a way to bring more attention to shopping local and indepedently owned shops for the holidays. Oakland is known to have stong buy local campaigns but they took it to the next level plastering the area with Plaid Friday posters before the holidays thus bringing in lots more business to non-box store shops. The idea took off and is now being implemented across the country. The Monadnock Region has been participating for a few years now and the results have been very positive.
So why plaid? Take a look at tartan fabric and you'll notice many threads woven together, different colors crossing over one other to make a strong cloth, each one different. This strong, diverse fabric symbolizes the individuality and creativity of small local and independently owned businesses that make our communities so robust. Unlike the box stores, there's something different to discover in each tartan or in this case shop.
So this year, think about shifting your shopping, buy local and independently owned for the holidays. A little goes a long way to keeping money in our communities and making them stonger.
This year Walpole Valley Farms and The Inn at Valley Farms are both hubs for Plaid Friday and we'll have lots of wonderful gift ideas such as gift certificates for our pasture-raised meats, handmade wreaths and kissing balls, homemade pies, homemade jams and jellies, bags, organic cotton t-shirts, maple syrup and so much more! We'll be open in our farm store from 10-4 on Friday so please stop in and see us and don't forget to wear PLAID!
I've always loved sheep. All breeds, shapes, sizes and colors, hair sheep, wool sheep, black, brown and white sheep. Three years ago I convinced Chris to add sheep to our roatational grazing system here on the farm. The first year we raised only ten and it was relatively easy to keep them in the netting, move them about on the farm and herd them when they needed herding. We added twenty the following year and this year we raised fifty. With the fifty, we certainly encountered a few more escapees, more frequent moves and so forth, but the meat that these animals yield is worth the running around.
Lambs are indeed quite nice to look at, fluffy puffballs of cream colored wool (in this case) and amazingly efficient at mowing down a pasture. It is impressive that these creatures are not only satisfied with a green diet of grasses and forbs but that they finish out so well without grain.We've been using a five acre field full of rose bushes to graze the sheep. We move them every three to five days depending on the paddock size and the types of grasses and shrubs available to them. The leaves of the rose bushes are always the first to be devoured which has helped the fields tremendously.
Lamb is not a wildly popular meat in the U.S. Even here in New England where the landscape a hundred years ago looked a lot like James Herriot's Yorkshire stomping ground, we just don't consume a lot of it anymore.There are some speculations about why that is, but many believe that it is partly to due to the copious amounts of mutton served to the troops by the government during World War II. Some of these men upon coming home vowed never to eat lamb again. Some people like mutton for the stronger taste and dislike lamb for it's lack in depth of flavor. Well we've fallen in love with lamb and can't get enough of this sweet meat. It is amazing how some bad experiences can shape the way something is received even after so many years.
If you are unsure about eating a "baby" animal, come on over and look at the sheep that we have here at Walpole Valley Farms. They are sturdy, fat, covered in wool and definitely don't look cute and cuddly any longer. We feed our lambs on grass and grass alone so it takes longer for them to reach a reasonable slaughter weight. These lambs head to the butcher at about ten months so they look full grown and can make a lot of loud noises when they're hungry for fresh pasture.
SO if you haven't given lamb a chance due to it's bad rap or because you just can't handle eating a baby, try our grass-fed, mature but not mutton, lamb, you'll be glad you did!
As we apporach our final chicken harvest I have been thinking about the incredibly short season that we have to raise our broiler chickens here in New England. Many of you have asked why we don't just raise more broilers inside during the colder months so we can provide fresh (not frozen) chickens all year long. In this blog post I aim to answer that question and help you to understand why, during the colder months, frozen is better.
Well the answer is an important one and one for you to ponder when you think about the seasonality of your food. First let's recognize that chickens are omnivores so they need animal protein and love to eat copious amounts of bugs, grubs and worms. Guess what else chickens love? Grass. Fortunately (in my opinion) we have four distinctly different seasons here in New Hampshire but unfortunately we don't have green grass, bugs and worms in the middle of winter.
The chickens that we raise are moved daily onto fresh grass giving them the best of the best all season (May to September) and they never touch the same plot of ground more than once during those months (much cleaner than an indoor chicken house). So these chickens are eating less grain than chickens raised inside during the colder months since they have access to the grasses and bugs that they love so much. We feel that this diet is superior to an all-grain diet, not to mention the lower cost to the farmer and consumer. The health benefits of eating a chicken that has been pasture-raised during the buggy months are also an important factor in choosing a frozen bird in the winter over a "farm fresh" one from the grocery store. I'll be willing to bet those "fresh" chickens haven't seen a pasture.
I'm pretty sure that when many of you think about your vegetables you think about seasonality, eating strawberries only in June, snap peas in the early summer, etc. We have to think about our meat this way as well and a great way to preserve the flavor of the season is to the freeze the meat right after slaughter to ensure that all the vitamins and minerals from the pastures go directly to you through your meat. This is why we raise our chickens only in the warmer weather. So in this case frozen is better.
We have our final chicken harvest this weekend so if you haven't pre-ordered your chickens for this Saturday, we have some left so come on by the farm store between 4 and 6 pm and pick up a fresh chicken or two. We will continue to have frozen chickens all year in our farm store. When you pick up fresh chickens on the harvest date you save money off of the regualar price!
Hope to see you on the farm!
Here in the valley time moves fast as the summer rolls on. The animals are turning grass into thick muscle and beautiful fat, the trees are heavy with fruit in the pig paddock, and the gardens are overflowing with amazing food.The season started slowly but now like a runaway train, is barreling toward its end.
This bittersweet time always creeps up on us. This is the busy time but sadly is also a time when we must say goodbye to our summer interns. We reflect on the work that each of them has put in on the farm, how they have helped our farm grow, what knowledge we have passed on to them, how they were chosen in the first place and how it worked out.
This summer has been a great one. We've had the good fortune of the company of three wonderful young women who worked the land with us this season, who gave it their all and who will all be extremely successful at anything they choose to do.
Having interns has been an interesting and humbling experience. Having to share your home, meals, and lives with strangers doesn't appeal to everyone, that's for sure, but we feel that each summer gets better and we tweak systems, living arrangements and expectations based on our experiences. Overall I have to say that it is refreshing to be around young people who have so much energy, stamina, and willingness to learn.
We will miss Aidan, Heather and Julia and hope that they will take this farm experience and the practical knowledge that they have gained and do wonderful, amazing things!
The fruit is here! This past week the raspberries ripened and are so abundant that they can't be eaten in just one sitting. Living in New England we only get this delicious nature's candy once per year, so we gorge ourselves when we can and save the rest in jars as jam. We have strawberries growing inside a high tunnel and also outside so we were able to make quite a bit of strawberry jam this season as well.
Jam is one of those treats that I don't indulge in much but who can so no to a slice of buttery toast with local, homemade jam on top? I sure can't and my favorite time to eat it is in the dead of winter. At every bite I think back to the heat of the summer and the thorns of the raspberry vines that we curse at the time but give us bountiful, delicious food to savor that I am oh so thankful for.
So in the spirit of preserving the harvest, we made more jam than the three families here on the farm can eat. So if you are crazy about jam or know someone who is, we've got you covered. We stocked the farm store with both Three Berry Jam and Strawberry Jam and we also had so much rhubarb and ginger that we have a wonderful compote to go with our pasture-raised pork. Oh and we never, ever use any sprays or synthetic fertilizers on our fruits and veggies...clean, safe and nutritious!
See you soon on the farm and enjoy the season's bounty!
We know we are fully into the summer season when we start to have events on the farm. Last year we held a monthly potluck dinner called Food and Thought which was pretty well attended and a lot of fun. The idea behind the dinner is to come together, eat local food and talk about farming and food. We had a great time dining and talking with customers and friends and being outdoors on the farm this time of year at twilight is truly magical.
We decided to hold the dinners once again and the first one will be held next Wednesday, June 19th. We start at 6pm and finish up right around 8. We provide grilled chicken from the farm and Walpole Creamery Ice Cream for dessert but we ask everyone who attends to please bring a side dish to share.The event is free of charge and family friendly.
In the interest of keeping our waste down, we have billed this potluck as a "zero-waste' event so please come with your own plate, cloth napkin and utensils. We will be sitting outside unless it is raining. If it does rain we will be inside the barn. If time allows we also invite you to walk through the pastures, visit the animals and collect eggs with us!
We hope to see some of you next Wednesday for our first monthly Food and Thought Potluck! For more information please contact us at (603) 756-2805 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pasturedmeats.
As the pigs were loaded onto the trailer and headed for the slaughterhouse today, I got to thinking about how different this pork is than the pork you typically find at the grocery store. First off, these pigs are pigs, they have had the opportunity to roam and root, roll in mud and eat grass and bugs to their heart's content. Yes they have eaten their share of locally sourced, GMO-FREE grain, but most of you would be amazed to see them put down mouthfuls of grass and an impressive array of insects. Pigs are omnivores like us so they can eat both plants and animals so when they are pastured they forage for what they crave that isn't in their feed mix.
Pasture-raised meats are known to be higher in certain vitamins and nutrients which makes the choice to eat pasture-raised more affordable when you factor in the health benefits. The pigs get nutrients from the healthy plants, bugs and roots that grow in this rich soil here on the farm. The meat that we get from these pigs is not white like the pork most of us grew up on. I must say that I loathed eating pork chops as a kid, the dry, nearly tasteless meat always left my taste buds yearning for something else to erase the expreience. So what is this meat like? It is dark pink to ruby red and smells fresh with marbling throughout which makes for less cooking mishaps and more smiling faces around the dinner table.
Chris and I have been smoking pork chops on the grill lately and it is our new favorite way to eat them! So try not to think about pasture-raised pork in the same way you think about that dry, tasteless pork of your childhood, give a porkchop a try and see that it really isn't "the other white meat" after all.
We have plenty of pork products in the farm store with more bacon on the way in the next few weeks. We also have our very own rhubarb ginger chutney that goes wonderfully on pork chops. Ask us about how we smoke the pork chops and try it yourself...your taste buds will thank you!
Every year in the late winter Chris and I sift through applications for our summer internship here on the farm. We love the interview process and getting to know why so many people want to spend their summer on a farm. This year we had about twenty-five applicants from all walks of life. We've had ivy league students, professional writers, vagabonds, folks in mid-life looking for a change, and many more seeking the opportunity to learn more about sustainable farming. We are honored to pass along the knowledge that we have gained while farming and get excited about igniting a passion for farming in others.
So what do we hope to accomplish with the internship? In addition to having extra hands to help us here during our busiest season, our aim with the internship is to help educate the next generation of farmers and eaters. When we look for prospective interns we look for people who are either interested in starting their own farm someday, aspire to work in the farming industry or hope to be an advocate for sustainable farming.Through working with the animals each day, attending farmers' markets, processing poultry, canning, gardening, making deliveries, and working in our farm store, we hope to instill in our interns the importance and the inner workings of the local food movement. While the interns are here with us we assign reading on sustainable agriculture and livestock, we watch films together and discuss reading assignments, so it is more than just physical work day in, day out.
This year the girls we chose are all here because they were looking to deepen their understanding of where their food comes, to work with livestock and to gain more experiece for future endeavors. Aidan (left) loves horses and is studying Environmental Science at Delaware Valley College, Heather (middle) an aspiring writer is planning to put her farm experience down on paper when she goes back to UNC in August, and Julia (right) a recent college graduate, is hoping to attend veterinary college in the fall and desires more large animal experience which she'll definitely get here on the farm this summer.
So much has happened in the past six and a half years! We went from a micro-farm to a small farm and we have really expanded our scope when it comes to where our products can be found. We've been amazed at the reception to our products and the fact that people love this stuff really keeps us going!
So where can you find our products? The first place we always keep stocked is our farm store. When you visit our store you'll always find a large selection of our 100% grass-fed beef and lamb, our pasture-raised pork, chicken and eggs and maple syrup. When you buy directly from the farm you get a better price and so do we, so it's a win-win for everyone.
As for stores, you can find our eggs (hens raised on pasture) in The Walpole Grocery and in the brand new Monadnock Food Co-op. The co-op also stocks some of our sausages from our pasture-raised pigs, steaks from our 100% grass-fed cows and other items when available.
We also attend the Walpole Farmers' Market from May to October and bring an array of meats, eggs and vegetables to the market each week.
Now for restaurants. We have been doing business right here in Walpole with The Restaurant at L.A. Burdick for quite some years. The chefs at Burdick's have been extremely supportive of the farm and we love that they are right downtown. A new addition to the dining scene in our area, Popolo has also been extremely supportive and uses our pasture-raised eggs in signature pastries, and for their Sunday brunch. Our ground beef can be found as the grass-fed selection on the menu at the Port Authority Cafe in Keene. We recently formed relationships with Pine at the Hanover Inn, The Lord Jeffrey Inn in Amherst, MA, and The Farm Table in Bernardston, MA who are all using our farm products on their menus.
So be sure to support the businesses mentioned above. All of these establishments are doing a wonderful job incorporating more local products into their offerings and menus. Hope to see you at the farm soon!
There you have it. Port Authority Cafe in Keene is our favorite place in the Mondanock Region for a burger (and no it isn't becuase Mark Seidler, owner and chef uses our 100% grass-fed beef) there are many reasons why we love the place. First of all, the menu is expansive and thankfully, very healthy. This is a place where you can get your veggies if you so choose. It's not all about the fries and chips here, you can get a flavorful asian salad with cabbage and toasted sesame oil, Vietnamese sandwiches, noodle bowls, and of course, burgers from lamb and beef to made in-house veggie, there's something for everyone. We also love the atmosphere. Living on the farm we don't see many people so it's nice to sit in front of the large windows and people watch.
I was lucky enough to have a little time to myself last week (a very rare occasion) so while in town for meetings, I decided to stop in to Port Authority Cafe for a bite to eat. Owner Mark Seidler was just about to shut down for his well earned break in between lunch and dinner but had some time to serve me the last lunch of the day. I chose a tea from the cafe's extensive tea menu and made myself comfortable. Mark chatted with me while he cooked, mostly we talked about business both the farm and the restaurant, local foods, the new co-op and so forth but what I remember most about our conversation was how grateful Mark is for his wonderful and loyal cutomers. Mark is admittedly a little quirky and when he's busy he may come across as less forthcoming than the smiling chef I chatted with last week but once you're hooked, you're hooked. At Port Authority Cafe, Mark puts the food first and is eager to please. He would rather have folks wait and come back than have a mediocre meal in his establishment.
So if you have ever found yourself outside the doors of Port Authority Cafe wondering why there is a wait, be patient, the food is amazing, healthy and thoughtful and the grass-fed burger comes from Walpole Valley Farms! You'll love the tea menu, broad lunch and dinner menus and inclusive beer selection.Try it and you'll love it!
Joel Salatin. The New York Times calls him " the high priest of the pasture" and we call him our inspiration. If you don't know who Joel Salatin is, you are not alone but over the past five years or so, Salatin has moved into the limelight and into the minds of many as a celebrity farmer. With appearances in movies such as Fresh and the food horror movie Food Inc., Salatin has made a name for himself when it comes to what you do want on your plate.
Joel Salatin is a farmer and lecturer from Virginia who raises animals in a holistic way on pasture free of harmful chemicals. Some of Salatin's ideas on farming are unconventional but put into practice, they really work and are generally healing to the earth. Salatin calls himself a grass farmer and his first priority on his farm is creating the best soil possible. He uses his livestock to add fertility to his soils, rotating them onto fresh forages daily, sequestering carbon along the way. Salatin has quite a following and pasture-based farming has exploded in the past few years. Despite his contributions to the farming world, the best thing about Joel in my mind is his positive outlook on life, the guy is just as happy as a clam and he truly loves his job. Who doesn't love a positive guy?
Chris and I first heard of Salatin when we read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma back in 2006. We got so excited about Salatin's ideas about farming and his simple, commom sense approach to business and farming that we just craved more infornation about him. Chris decided to go to Virginia to see if Salatin was all he was cracked up to be. He signed up for an intensive two day workshop that covered all of the basics of Salatin's Polyface Farm.
Upon Chris's return home, we became farmers. Salatin turned out to be much more than we had ever dreamed. We dived into any and all information about sustainable farming, read all of Salatin's books and articles and started to farm. Chris learned how to put his fears aside and just do it. Chris explained to me that on Salatin's farm not every angle on every structure is straight. He learned that Joel doesn't let the need for perfection hold him back, he just gets it done. Those words really helped us and we wouldn't be where we are today if we hadn't just taken the plunge into uncharted waters.
So on these cold winter nights when we aren't as busy in the fields and the season seems a long way off, we think back to when we first started farming and the reasons why we are passionate about what we do. We thank Joel Salatin and all of the other farmers in the numerous peiodicals, books and lectures that we have read and sat through. We know there are many, many farmers out there who have learned so much from Joel and none of us could do what we do without the hard work of farmers like the Salatins. Thank you!
The chickens started laying quite a few more eggs this past week, such a relief it has been to us and many of you out there who have been missing those delicious, golden-yolked little spheres. Chickens are funny little creatures and if you have some of your own hens or have the opportunity to visit a farm, make sure to just observe them for a while. Feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs everyday ensures plenty of time for observation and I am constantly amused and amazed by these dinosaur-like birds.
Once in a while if I am lucky, I am able to watch a hen lay her egg. The process isn't really much different than a human female giving birth to a slippery baby. The egg is wet when it is laid and this coating is called the cuticle. The cuticle is like a protective coating and is nature's way of keeping microbes out of the egg until washing. The hens make funny noises, flap their wings a bit and always inspect their freshly laid eggs, some of them not wanting to give up them up at collection time. And they do this day in and day out which is the truly amazing part.
Our youngest little boy loves eggs and he loves to watch the chickens with me. He doesn't like their curiosity when it comes to his c lothing or shoelaces but they always make him laugh. When he was just a baby they were also known to make him cry due to the cacophony of c lucks emanating from the coop, not to mention their beaty little eyes that admittedly can be a little unnerving.
Chickens are a huge part of our farm and we are thankful for the eggs that they produce and the absolutely amazing manure that we end up with at the end of the winter season. We always turn that poop into tomatoes so it really is a win-win for everyone. Thank you chickens!
So if you haven't had the opportunity to really spend some time with chickens please come on by! We'd love to take you with us while we collect eggs and show you what we do and you'll be sure to enjoy watching the hens.
This time of year always brings with it a sense of calm and quiet, and is so welcome after the busy summer season. During the winter months we have time to think, relax, read, plan, cook and really be with our family, in the moment. One of the moments we most look forward to during these dark months is winter conference time.
This weekend Chris and I will be attending the Vermont Grazing Conference in Fairlee, Vermont. Aside from the absolutely beautiful surroundings on Lake Morey, we will be sharing meals and ideas with like-minded farmers from all over New England and soaking up knowledge from some great national and local speakers. Oh, and the conference organizers do a great job of making all the farmers feel pampered (something most farmers rarely feel) with delicious meals and great accomodations.
For the past 7 years we have enjoyed going to this particular conference. The topics of the sessions are diverse and include everything from boosting your communication skills to animal behavior, improving your soil composition to biogas and composting. The conference seems to have a little something for everyone, beginning farmers and seasoned farmers alike.
Farmers need to be educated just like in any other profession. Chris and I both came to farming from other fields of work and both of us did a lot of learning along the way in our former careers. Professional development is important to staying on track not only with current trends but also in keeping an open mind to different ways of doing things. Farming is no different, there are so many ways to farm and there are always advancements in technology and sustainability.
We are really looking forward to this weekend of sharing, learning and catching up with farmer friends. We'll be sure to come back home again with new ideas and a fresh outlook for the 2013 season!
Growing a small business is like tending to a seedling, a little water, a little love and eventually that seed starts to take off. The farm started off small but is slowly growing all the time thanks to the love and little bits of business that give it the fuel that it needs to keep growing. Well the seedling just got an infusion of Miracle Grow.
About two weeks ago we received a call from New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection's Charlie Burke. Burke works closely with restaurants and food establishments in the state and tries his hardest to make connections between chefs and farmers. He was recently asked to help put together a local foods menu for our new governor, Maggie Hassan's Northcountry Inaugural Ball. Mr. Burke informed us (here's where the Miracle Grow comes in) that they would very much like to see our pasture-rasied chicken on the menu!!
Governor Hassan has been very specific about what she wants to see on the menu for the ball. Her stipulation: local foods raised right here in New Hampshire. So along with producers of fresh vegetables, butter and beef and fish from our New Hampshire coast and lakes, our chicken will be highlighted on that very special night this week.
The connection with Charlie Burke has already come in handy with several restaurants calling the farm asking about what we produce and how they can get it. We thank forward-thinking people like Governor Hassan who are actively making strong statements with the food choices that they make. When public officials, celebrities and people that we look up to make the choice to eat local food, the entire movement takes on a whole new shape and is propelled further into the public eye.
Maybe someday soon local food will be the norm and not the exception but until then we can thank all of the amazing coordinators, farmers, chefs and foodies who are making this food movement so strong. So thank you to Govorner Hassan and Charlie Burke for giving Walpole Valley Farms a little Miracle Grow this winter. Our seedling is on its way to becoming a full grown plant.
Oh and we'll be sure to find out how the chef at the Mt. Washington prepared our chickens!!
Yesterday we recieved a call from a young man looking to buy a chicken for his family Christmas meal. As we talked about the farm he explained that he will be sourcing all of the ingredients for the meal from local farms with the intention of getting his family to eat more locally. What a gift.
Over the past few years we have heard many similar stories and every time we hear one we are newly motivated to keep striving to make our local food system even better. As we prepare our holiday meals we think of all of those positive stories, the many tables that will be crowned with a roast or a ham from the farm, and all of the people we have yet to meet, in search of a new way of thinking about eating.
This Christmas we will be enjoying a standing rib roast (a cut we rarely get the chance to taste) and one day soon we will cook one of the hams from our pasture-raised pigs. Below you will find two wonderful recipes for both of these meats. Enjoy!
Standing Rib Roast
(otherwise known as Prime Rib)
1 5-bone beef standing rib roast (10–12 lbs.),
chine bone removed and tied back on
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 1⁄2 tbsp. dry mustard, preferably Colman's
1 1⁄2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
1. Season beef with salt, including the rack of bones. Rub mustard all over beef; sprinkle with rosemary and pepper. Set the beef in a 12" × 14" roasting pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2–3 days.
2. Remove beef from refrigerator 3 hours before you are ready to roast it, to allow it to come to room temperature. Arrange rack in lower third of oven and heat to 450°. Roast the beef, rib side up, until it begins to brown and sizzle, 20–25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325°; continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 120° (for medium rare), about 2 hours more. Transfer roast to a carving board and reserve any pan juices. Cover loosely with foil and let rest for 25–30 minutes. Remove and discard chine bone. Carve roast and serve with reserved pan juices. Recipe from Saveur.
Maple Glazed Ham
Since we all have access to such great maple syrup
in these parts,try this delicious recipe from Real Simple
And of course happy holidays to all of you and we hope to see you soon!
Ah Thanksgiving! This time of year always feels like an official ending to the season for us here on the farm. We were at Stonewall Farm this past weekend for their annual farm fare and had our turkey pick-up at the farm store so it was a pretty busy day. Every year for the past few years we have set up a table at Stonewall to sell our pasture-raised turkeys. We could not believe the line of people patiently waiting to purchase the centerpiece of their Thanksgiving meal. What an honor as farmers! Since we spend most of our time here on the farm it was great to be out and have the opportunity to talk with our customers and hear all about how they will prepare their turkey this Thanksgiving.
There is something extraordianry about being part of the Thanksgiving meal of more than one-hundred families. Chris and I are grateful for the amazing amount of people who are on a quest to support small, local farms and to bring back heritage breeds. We are continuously amazed by the generosity and goodness of those who support us in our farming endeavors and are honored to have our turkeys who were raised with love, on the tables of so many of our friends and neighbors. We thank you all for your ongoing support and we wish you the best this Thanksgiving.
And here are two of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes that will be sure to wow your guests this holiday:
Oyster and Chestnut Stuffing
Chris makes this delicious stuffing each year and I love that the recipe calls for items that our pioneering ancestors could have used in 1621...that makes it all the more
6 cups of bread crumbs (from homemade bread made with wheat, cornmeal or a combination, toasted and coarsely grated)
1 to 2 tablespoons (total) finely chopped fresh sage, or thyme, basil, summer savory, marjoram or whatever smells good to you alone or in combination (or 1 to 2 teaspoons dried)
2 or 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 large onion, chopped
2 or 3 stalks of celery with leaves, chopped
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
half the turkey giblets simmered in water and chopped (use the rest and the broth in your gravy) (optional)
1/2 pound chestnuts, chopped (optional)*
1 pint of oysters, whole if small, chopped if large (optional)
optional broth from cooking giblets and or oysters**
1 egg, beaten (optional, for a moister stuffing)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
*To peel chestnuts, first cut deep crosses into the flat side of the nuts. Place them in a pot of salted water; bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Then drain, cover
chestnuts with lukewarm water and peel away the outer shell and inner skin. (This can be done ahead of time.)
**Cook the oysters ahead of time by bringing them to a boil in 1 cup of water. Let them simmer for 15 minutes. Drain, chop and add to the stuffing mixture.
Put the bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl and blend in the herbs. Sauté the onion and celery in 2 or 3 tablespoons of the butter and add to the bread mixture. Mix in the giblets, chestnuts and oysters.
Add the melted butter, beaten egg and enough other liquid to make the stuffing as moist as you want.
Do not stuff your bird ahead of time, as stuffing is a perfect medium for bacteria to grow in. Just before roasting, spoon the stuffing into your bird loosely to give it room to expand-then off to the oven PDQ.
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 1, November 1991 issue.
This is a wonderful and scrumptious way to use up all the parts of your turkey this Thanksgiving.
You can enrich the stock for this gravy with any odd poultry parts that you may have in your freezer. Make the stock while the turkey roasts in its foil wrapper, then finish the gravy with the turkey drippings while the bird continues to roast unwrapped.
Turkey giblets (including neck) and wing tips from a
12–14-lb. turkey, rinsed
5 shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
5 sprigs of one fresh herb or a mixture, such as thyme,
oregano, savory, tarragon, and basil
1 bay leaf
1⁄2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
6 tbsp. turkey fat skimmed from reserved turkey drippings
6 tbsp. flour
2 cups reserved turkey drippings, skimmed of fat, or
enough turkey drippings with the addition of chicken
stock or water to yield 2 cups
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Put giblets, wing tips, mushrooms, celery, onions, carrots, garlic, herbs, bay leaf, wine, and 5 1/2 cups water into a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to medium and gently boil until stock has reduced to about 2 cups, 1–1 1/2 hours. Strain stock into a bowl, setting neck aside, and discard solids. Pick meat off neck bone, add to stock, and discard bones. Skim off any fat from stock and set stock aside.
2. Heat turkey fat in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 4–5 minutes. Gradually whisk in stock and neck meat, then the turkey drippings, and simmer, stirring often, until gravy thickens, 10–15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm in a gravy boat, if you like. From Saveur magazine.
Wow, what an amazing season! SO many inspiring things happened on the farm this season! We feel so blessed to have such an enthusiastic crew, loyal customers, and a beautiful valley in which to work and raise our family. This is the time of year that we like to reflect on the season and make our notes as to what worked and what didn't, etc. We feel like we had a pretty good season and since in life we are always learning, we like to think of each season as part of our ongoing farm education. Here are some of the highlights from our very busy season:
Our intern program really started to take off this year and we were lucky to have not just one but two wonderful interns who put in their all and stayed through until the middle of October. We will miss them and hope that this farm experience will aid in their future endeavors in the food industry.
As for the animals, we had a great year for calves and piglets with many newborns to ooh and ahhh at all summer. Chicks are always fun and the farm tour groups always got a treat since the brooder was perpetually full! We raised 2,000 broiler chickens on the farm this year which is quite a feat! Moving the chicken tractors takes up the most time and effort but we believe that because of these daily moves, their health and taste is superior. We also added more lambs to the farm this season. Last year we raised only ten but this year we decided to raise forty. The lambs were raised entirely on pasture and did a great job cleaning up the rose bushes in the field behind Chris's parent's house! So if you love lamb like us, you know where to find it!
This summer we started a monthly potluck dinner called Food and Thought. We had a pretty good turnout each month and really enjoyed hearing everyone's food stories. We hope to do the potluck again next year so keep that in mind for next summer.
This September we were visited by Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of the USDA. We are inspired by her Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign and were feeling pretty honored to have her on the farm so she could see all of the great programs that the USDA and NRCS have been able to offer a small farm like ours.
We will continue to be busy all winter long but much less so than in the summer. We will be looking forward to our winter farm conferences and catching up on some reading with our feet up next to the woodstove.
Come see us soon!
Over the years the nutrition powers that be have flip-flopped on whether or not eggs are good for us. One year they're villainized and the next, they're a super-food. Well guess what? They've been defamed once again and this time we're told that eating egg yolks is almost as bad as lighting up a cigarette! I don't know about you, but it sure is tiring to have to question the healthfulness of our diets on a regular basis. I don't want to eat anything that is unhealthy but really, are eggs that bad for me?
Since this "news" about eggs came out, I had to get to work finding out the truth about eggs. It's pretty hard for me to believe that such a wholesome food can be so bad for me. As I've said before, I'm not a nutritionist so this information is for your entertainment only.
With all this talk about eggs Chris told me that his grandfather, former butcher at the Drewsville Store and egg lover, indulged in eggs and bacon nearly every day for most of his life. He lived to be 92 and he didn't die from clogged arteries or a heart attack. Talk about a lot of cholestorol! So my question is, how do we arrive at the conclusion that one food should be avoided because of its higher cholesterol content? What happened to following a balanced diet? Were the eggs that the study participants ate from pasture-raised hens? Maybe each of us has a different level of tolerance for cholesterol based on heredity.
With all this in mind, I came to the conclusion that there are just too many variables to pin a bad reputation on just one food. The Weston Price Foundation has numerous articles on the reasons why we need cholesterol (even the so-called "bad" kind) which are quite intriguing. Mother Earth News came out with a great article in 2007 comparing conventional eggs vs. eggs from pasture-raised hens. The study concluded that the eggs from pasture-raised hens contain 1/3 less cholesterol and 1/4 the saturated fat of their conventionally raised counterparts.
I suppose we could all take a good look at our diets and make some adjustments but do eggs really have to be eliminated? People will start eating eggs again next week or next year when the authorities on nutrition change their minds about eggs yet again. In the meantime though, you'll find me at my breakfast table each morning with a golden-yolked, nutrient dense, pasture-raised egg!
Since the opening of our farm store back in October of last year we have had an increase of traffic on the farm. Much of this new interest in our farm and products has been coming from people on the Paleo or Primal diet and from people practicing Cross-Fit, an intense strength and conditioning regime that is spreading like wildfire.
When on a Paleo or Primal diet the idea is essentially to eat like a caveman with a higher percentage of calories coming from protein than from complex carbohydrates and concentrating on whole foods rather than processed foods. Lots of veggies and fruits low on the glycemic index are a huge part of the diet, organic when possible. Typically sugar, starch and grains are either completely eliminated or used very sparingly.
Because the major source of calories on this diet should come from high quality, pasture-raised meats and eggs we have been very busy keeping the Paleo people happy. We have heard some great success stories from our customers who use this diet and who participate in Cross-Fit (which also relies on a relatively high protein diet from healthy meats and eggs). We have heard stories of reclaimed health, women with cycles returning after years of sporadic periods, dramatic weight loss, and a general sense of renewed well-being.
I'm no nutritionist but it does seem reasonable to eliminate most sugars and complex carbs. I know that I personally feel better when I don't indulge in the two but just like most people, I enjoy an occasional treat. I think the most important thing to remember is that we are what we eat so how our food is raised or produced means so much when it comes to our health and the health of the environment.
We love to hear our customers' stories and we have quite a few of our own to tell, so come on by the farm and let us know how your food journey is going.
The Farmers' market season is in full swing and there really is something for everyone at the Walpole Farmers' Market. While sitting at our table at the market yesterday in the stifling heat, I realized how lucky I am to live in a town that has numerous farms and artisans. The gorgeous setting of the market certainly makes for a pleasureable, open-air shopping experience where patrons are encouraged to smell, touch and even taste much of what is offered.
When walking toward the common on Fridays locals have come to expect wonderful smells and happy children playing under the ancient pine. The cow bell, typically rung by one of the farm kids signifying the start and finish of the market is a quaint reminder of our agricultural past. Luckily you can do just about all of your shopping for the week at the market. Vendors from all over the area bring their wares and many offer samples such as local farmstead cheese, artisnal breads, maple cream, and bread and butter pickles. Shoppers can also eat dinner and dessert at the market with choices including sushi, burgers, gelato and freshly made canolis. As for the grocery list, shoppers can expect to find both organic and conventional produce, cheese, milk, eggs, meats, berries and other fruits, wine, and pickles at all price points.
Farmers' markets are not only for organic or natural products which some believe to be the case. The Walpole Farmers' Market along with many other markets encourage all farmers whether conventional, natural, organic or otherwise to be represented at the market. This market truly is like an outdoor grocery store offering the freshest possible food so don't hesitate, get down to the common next Friday, enjoy the fresh air, get to know your farmers and support local agriculture!
Farmers' markets are more than just a place for farmers to sell their products, they build community, support the local economy and provide farmers and consumers the opportunity to form relationships. Farmers can do better when they sell directly to consumers and consumers can learn a lot from talking with their farmers so a thriving market is a win-win for the entire community.
You can find us at the Walpole Farmers' Market each Friday from 4-6pm on the common. We also have farm store hours every Wednesday from 3-6pm and each Saturday from 10am-3pm and always by appointment.
See you at the market!
The moment we had all been preparing for arrived last week when our summer interns arrived. We spent much of the prior weeks making a comfortable space for them to live, turning our farm store into living quarters and moving the store to its new location in our old supply room.
After a day's drive from Wisconsin, Maria and Brian arrived on the farm and we could instantly tell that they were happy to be here. We showed the couple to their room and let them settle in while we cooked their first dinner on the farm: our own lamb sliders, local sauteed veggies, and a salad of our own greens, with a dessert of ice cream from Walpole Creamery.
Over dinner we got acquainted and talked about the farm, our goals, Maria's and Brian's interests (they both love to eat and were active members of the University of Wisconsin's Slow Food group), and the day ahead. Our boys were happy to have company and immediately took to the two of them.
We are so excited to share the farm and our knowledge with Maria and Brian and hope to have an extremely productive summer season. You can chat with Maria and Brian at the Walpole Farmers' Market or at our farm store on Wednesdays and Saturdays and be sure to mark your calendars for our monthly Food and Thought Potlucks on the farm, the food will be fabulous and the conversation is sure to be enlightening!!
Many of our readers and customers are savvy when it comes to the environment and sustainable food but the vast majortiy of folks in the USA don't really know why organic, sustainably-raised, pasture-raised, grass-fed and humanely-raised foods cost more.
So why does this food cost more? There are many reasons, here are a few,
1. Small, sustainable farms cannot rely on government subsidies. When you factor in the subsidies (from your taxes) the price of conventional will be about the same as sustainably-raised. So essentially we can say that the price of conventional food is too low, not that organic is too high.
2. High demand drives prices up. When there are lower quantities of a product, such is the case with small sustainable farms, the farm can't offer low prices to customers to gain market share like a "big" farm with lots of product to sell.
3. Much of the work on sustainable farms is done by hand, not mechanized. Each set of hands costs money but luckily there aren't any fossil fuels being burned when we use humans and not tractors!
4. Production costs are often higher on an organic farm. Certified organic grains cost more as do seeds, fertilizers, and there is a lot of paperwork which takes time.
5. Conventional food is not cheap. When we factor in all of the hidden environmental and social costs of producing food so cheaply it becomes apparent that it is actually very expensive and we must move toward a locally based, sustainable food system.
I'm sure there are more reasons but these get the ideas flowing and the awareness up. Did you know that North Americans spend less per capita on their food than people of any other developed nation in the world? That is quite a statistic! Clearly many of us don't feel like we can afford to eat locally raised, sustainable and organic foods all the time but we can try to realize that a lot of the things that we do spend our money on are not things that we need and most don't support our communities. So the next time you are faced with conventional or organic, local or South American, try to remember the hidden costs behind those dollars and cents.
See you at the farmers' market!
After all of our patient waiting, sow number two, otherwise known as Large Marge, finally gave birth to her piglets. We were able to witness the birth of all seven of her babies and kept her calm as she repositioned herself during her strong contractions.
Marge had seven beautiful piglets, five of them black like her, and two with both black and pink markings. Two of the piglets have stripes like a tiger making them easy to distinguish from their siblings and supremely cute.
Unfortunately Marge didn't turn out to be Mother of the Year; she became aggresive towards her newborn piglets and essentially abandoned them. Things don't always go as planned and sadly we had to separate the piglets from their mother. We made sure that all of the piglets had a chance to get some colostrum before putting them in a stall in the barn under a heating lamp.
We've never had to bottle feed any of our animals so this was new territory for us. We spent quite a bit of time with the babies making sure that they got the hang of sucking from the bottle and then made a plan for the rigorous feeding schedule ahead of us that night.
The first night was the hardest as the piglets really could not drink much at a time. The next day Chris and I looked at each other with sleep in our eyes remembering the days when we were up in the night with our boys as infants. We don't miss those days but this has been an important reminder of how fragile life is.
Certainly we wish that Marge could have cared for her babies and we could have used one less chore to do at this busy time, but we are grateful for these little lives and for the experience this situation gives to us as farmers.
This week we started brooding our second batch of 500 broiler chicks, 150 turkeys, the first batch of broilers went out on pasture and the cows and sheep are in their daily roatations now. We could not have survived this past week without family and friends so we thank the big kids for taking on evening feedings and our neighbors Gin and Megan for taking the graveyard shift...we love you all!
Like I said in one of my previous blogs, farmers and the general public have opposite schedules. We get to do some relaxing in the winter months while the majority of folks have their break in the summer months.
Most winters we are able to get some good reading in and we hope that you will take some time to read some of our favorite, thought provoking, and mostly food or animal related reads this summer. I've listed them in no particular order and there are a few that have been around for a while and that we read some time ago but are such eye opening reads that I included them.
1. Animals in Translation by Dr. Temple Grandin. By now you must know how much we respect Dr. Grandin's works and this book is a wonderful look into how Grandin herself has been able to use her Autism to unlock the mysteries of animal behavior. A great read for anyone who loves animals.
2. Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappe. This book really hits home when it comes to the climate change discussion. Instead of scaring people or dismissing human impact as a cause of climate change, Lappe takes an educated look at how we produce food and how we eat. The best part...she does not shun an animal-based diet but sees animals as an integral part of healing the earth when managed correctly.
3. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Written in 1906, Sinclair's epic novel on many a high school reading list exposed the meat-packing industry of the time and the deplorable working conditions that people endured. Even though we have come a long way since 1906, today's meat industry has its own problems that we must be aware of if we are to make positive changes. A great read.
4. Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes. For me this book means so much since Shannon interviewed us for this book. In the book she talks of the role of women in the household today. She explores why many women across the country are choosing to live simply in spite of having achieved a college diploma, and the changing face of homemaking and motherhood.
5. Holy Cows and Hog Heaven by Joel Salatin. This book is a consumer's guide to sourcing and buying locally raised food. Joel goes into detail about what questions consumers should ask when visiting farms and how to spot a good one.
6. American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen. In this interesting book Jacobsen discusses terroir or "taste of place" meaning that each region has specific qualities in the soil or certain weather conditions that produce superior agricultural products. The term was originally used to classify wines but now is used to classify everything from berries to fish.
7. Farmer Jane by Temra Costa. In this profile of female farmers, Costa illustrates what femininity has brought to farming and celebrates women who are making a difference in sustainable agriculture.
8. The Omnivore's Dilemma Young Reader's Edition by Michael Pollan. Having been the driving force behind our decision to farm, Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma can now be easily shared and discussed with youngsters with the young reader's edition. What's more important than teaching children about the food system? This would be a great summer read for a family combined with visits to local farms.
9. Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. In this cookbook rich with historical stories of food, you will find traditional recipes from around the world many of which focus on pasture-raised meats and offal. A must for any healthy cook.
10. Folks, this ain't normal by Joel Salatin. Last but not least, in his latest book we are entertained and swayed by Salatin's views on the way things are these days. From farming to education Salatin wakes up readers to the unnecessary complications of daily life and lends ideas to what he believes life should be like in America today.
This is the time of year when we have to really start thinking about the shape of our bodies. All winter long we ate relatively heavy meals and without chicken tractors and animal paddocks to move each day, our muscles got a bit out of shape. On our farm we use mostly people power to get the job done so we rely heavily on keeping our bodies in tip top-shape. The animals won't let us take a sick day so keeping healthy is paramount.
Moving our bodies to do our work gives us a lot of satisfaction and a well toned body to boot...we won't ever have to buy a gym membership, that's for sure! Other than the use of a four wheeler to haul food and fencing around the farm we use our bodies all day long to keep the farm going. The gardens here are no-till gardens therefore we are not using mechanical inputs to till, it is all done with our own energy and all of the animals are moved by hand each day requiring muscle and stamina.
Having a physical job has its perks but in order to benefit, one must take care of oneself. Eating well has proven to help us avoid getting hurt, sick or fatigued. At our house we take food seriously. We try not to eat sugar, limit our consumption of grains and eat a lot of local veggies. We try to stick to eating meats that we have raised since we know that the animals have been treated well and eaten well. We take it slow when we are tired and employ relaxation techniques to avoid getting stressed. Most importantly we share in the farm responsibilities so that neither of us gets so tired that we cannot work.
Our bodies are an an important part of the farm and our physical labor makes the farm even more sustainable. Most of the fuel that our bodies expend comes directly from the soil that we tend, closing the circle and making it a sufficient closed system keeping our bodies, souls, and land healthy.
Last week while doing morning chores three-year old Henry called out "Mama, I found something, come see." Sure enough he had found something! That little "something" was a beautiful newborn calf with a gorgeous brown coat still wet and steamy from its mother's womb. The calf somehow managed to walk under the electric fence that separates the pigs from the cows and his mama couldn't get to him.
I climbed over the railing and into the loafing shed and gently nudged him back under the fence as his mother nervously watched me, unsure of my intentions with her baby. When the calf was safely on the other side, his mother's face softened and she seemed to say "thank you" with her eyes. The calf immediately began to nurse, all the comfort of his mama dribbling down his wet chin.
Sometimes folks ask us if we have to assist cattle births on the farm and the answer is that we've never had to. This isn't to say that we will never have to get involved but we are glad that the cows safely and swiftly give birth on their own. We get a big kick out of finding calves this time of year, especially in the early summer when the grass gets high. When the cows are turned out in the pasture the females that are ready to give birth typically go off on their own and find a nice spot in the tall grass where they can labor peacefully. Often we do not find newborn calves right away as they stay hidden in the grass and stay close to their mothers. This "hunt" for newborn calves each morning keeps us motivated and gives the kids an excuse to get dirty.
This time of year is always such a special time on the farm. New life abounds and this is just the beginning. Next week chicks will arrive and the pigs are due to have piglets in the middle of April. We are looking forward to welcoming all sorts of babies to the farm in the next month so come on by and visit, we'd love for you to meet the animals!
Ah spring flowers...a sign that new life is beginning to emerge from the cool depths and warmer days are right around the corner. When I see these first crocuses right outside our front door I am given a gentle reminder that we are heading out of our quiet, reflective months of winter and running head first into our busy, never-sit-down months of spring and summer.
It is easy to get stressed when you have deadlines and farming is no different from any other job in that respect. When the season starts we have a long list of items that need to be checked off in order for the farm to run smoothly. Every season is different and we are always trying new things and working with different people. These changes are both exciting and daunting and this is the time of year that we do our pre-season brainstorming so we have a good plan in place for when we are tied up with other work.
The other day I was reading a farm blog that I enjoy and the author pointed out the fact that farmers have an entirely different schedule than most people. She made a chart that showed what non-farming families are up to during the seasons of the year. Below her first chart is another illustrating the life of the farmer during those same seasons. Her charts show the farmer busy in the spring and summer and the non-farmer busy in the fall and winter. With less and less people farming it is no wonder why as a nation we are out of touch with nature and natural cycles.
The flowers remind me to relax, take a deep breath and focus on the here and now because like the crocus, the summer does not last forever and even though it is hectic and seemingly undending, we need to enjoy it while it lasts.
When we attended the Vermont Grazing Conference this past January we met a farmer from Rhode Island, Patrick McNiff who is essentially doing the same sort of farming we are; pasture farming. We discussed farming with him and discovered that he breeds livestock guardian dogs. We were instantly excited as we have been researching dog breeds best suited to protecting our animals here on the farm.
We instantly got a great feeling from Pat and over the weeks following the conference we kept in touch with him and did some more research on guardian dogs. It turns out that Pat's dogs are origianally descended from the same dogs on Joel Salatin's Polyface Farms. Pat drove to Georgia to Nature's Harmony Farm to get his first dogs and now he is providing beautiful dogs to farmers like us.
Pat emailed us a picture of Casey (1/2 Great Pyrenees, 1/4 Anatolian Shepherd, 1/4 Akbash) the dog that he currently had for sale and we immediately fell in love. Casey's beautiful cream-colored coat and serious face were enough for us to say "he's the one."
A week after letting Pat know that we would buy Casey, we packed up the car with dog crate, leash, snacks and kids and headed to Rhode Island. When we arrived at Pat's farm, fittingly called Pat's Pastured, we felt like we had come home. The sight of elecrto-netting surrouding a couple-hundred chickens and the sound of deep grunts coming from the woods told us we were on a pasture-based farm.
We talked with Pat for a while and stretched our legs and then the five of us headed out to the pasture to see the dogs. Casey's mother just had a litter of five so we were lucky enough to see week-old puppies on the way! As we approached the dogs who were guarding the flock of sheep we were surprised by how big and sturdy Casey looked. He came right up to us and it all seemed right.
After spending some time with the dogs we walked back to the farmhouse where hospitable Pat cooked us up a delicious lunch of tacos with some of his grass-fed beef and some locally made salsa.
With full bellies and warm hands we headed back out to the field with the car and loaded Casey into the crate. We gave Pat a few minutes to say goodbye while the kids climbed a massive tree in front of the farmhouse.
We said our own goodbyes and thanks and headed back to home. We returned to Walpole in the dark and took Casey for a walk around the yard. We put him in the pen in the barn where we had kept the sheep so it smelled like home to him. In the morning we put him to work with the chickens and he seems right at home!
Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day I thought a little blog about hearts would be nice. No, I'm not talking about human hearts here, I'm talking chicken, beef, lamb and pig hearts; that
little consumed organ that is really quite delectable. Here on the farm when we make a chicken stock we often throw twenty or so hearts into the pot. They never last long
though! Both of our kids love them and can't get enough.
Organ meats are not your everyday fare but they are becoming increasingly more popular due to their outstanding nutrient density and their attractive price.
Catherine Ebeling and Mike Geary, authors of The Fat Burning Kitchen Program point out that most predatory animals instinctively eat the organ meats of their kill before moving on to the more muscular meats. These animals instincively know that these organs are the most nutrient dense. The authors go on to explain that even vitamin C and D can be found in organ meats. Dr. Weston A. Price also has written about the many health benefits of offal (liver, heart, tongue, brain, kidneys). Dr. Price's research found that organ meats can be from 10 to 100 times richer in vitamins and minerals than muscle meats!
I must say that I wasn't always a heart-eater but once I tried one, I won't turn one down. In fact, I like pretty much all of the offal that I have tried and it certainly has helped to have known the origin of the meat. Organ meats are not for everyone but for those of you who are willing to give it a whirl, you may be pleasantly surprised.
If you are feeling daring or feel like you could use an extra boost of nutrients try these two yummy and simple recipes for cooking chicken and beef hearts. Enjoy!
Sauteed Chicken Hearts
1-2 lbs chicken hearts
1 leek or onion
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter (I love to use ghee)
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the leeks or onion in butter or oil for five minutes or so
add chicken hearts and sautee until firm and brown.
Beef Heart Skewers
1 3 lb. beef heart cut into chunks
1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil
Brown the chunks of beef heart in oil for a moment
turn off heat let cool and put onto wooden or metal skewers
Grill outside or on a grill pan until cooked thoroughly
If you're ready to take the leap and try some organ meats we always have them available at the farm store.
Happy Valentine's Day!
There is a lot to love about winter when you are a farmer. The down-time, cooler weather or needed physical rest are great, but one of our favorite aspects of wintertime is the opportunity to learn from other farmers at conferences. Every year we attend at least two conferences for grass farmers, the Vermont Grazing Conference in Farilee, VT and the Winter Green-Up Conference in Latham, NY.
Both conferences were great and always get us back into planning mode. This year I was a amazed at how much we have learned over the past six years and left both conferences with a renewed confidence in what we are doing and how much knowledge we have acquired with only the fuel of passion for this lifestyle.
At the Vermont Grazing Conference Chris and I were able to once again see Dr. Temple Grandin. There are few people who are able to invoke such intense respect and awe like Dr. Grandin. Grandin is unique in her field (animal behavior) in that she does her job with a major handicap...autism. The amazing thing about Temple though is that her autism has proven to be the opposite of a handicap, a true gift.
Temple's battle with certain aspects of her disease have led her to important discoveries in animal behavior, most noteworthy being the importance of being in tune with animals' senses.
Temple spoke to us first about livestock handling facilities and their design which she has had a significant influence on industry-wide. She illustrated how animals see the world, what frightens them and keeps them calm, and how to humanely ease the handling and eventual slaughter of animals.
Later in the day Temple spoke to us about animal behavior and humane treatment to animals. At the end of her talk Chris and I were able to ask her a few key questions about working with our herd of cattle and our bull. Chris even got Temple to flash us a broad and genuine smile, not an easy feat!
We are so grateful to have had the chance to see Dr. Grandin again, she is truly inspirational. Most of all we are thankful for all of the important contributions Dr. Grandin has made worldwide in animal science and the humane treatment to animals.
One item that was on our to do list when the new year arrived was to join the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. With all of the recent assaults on small farms, raw milk, and food sovereignty we decided it was time to show our support for a brave and necessary organization.
We first heard about the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund from Joel Salatin while hearing him speak at a conference last year. If you know our farm at all, you know that we put a great deal of confidence in Joel and his opinions about farming and life. Now Joel is not one to endorse many products or try to sell anything (other than his farm products, books and farming methods of course) so when he said that it was worthy becoming a member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, we listened.
The fund is a non-profit organization whose clear mission is to (quoted from the fund's website):
Now since we process poultry on the farm and sell directly to you our customers, we felt it necessary and dutiful to join this year.
Family farms should continue to be an integral part of our great nation's food system and it seems that more and more, small farms are struggling just to make it. Keeping the playing field even between large and small farms, letting consumers decide whether or not they want to consume raw milk or farm-processed poultry, and keeping our rural landscapes dotted with farms is so important to our future.
And on a lighter note...check out this funny clip about local food!
Welcome 2012! Here on the farm we like to think about all of the positive things that have happened over the course of the year. We learned so much in 2011 and will no doubt learn so much more this year. We had our ups and downs, ins and outs but all in all we had a great year.
Some of the highlights of the year were raising lambs for the first time (and completely on grass!), truly pasturing our pigs which meant that they had full access to all of the fields and all of the goodies out there, having eight new calves fathered by our Devon bull for the first time, and learning to manage employees as young entrepreneurs.
We opened up our farm store in 2011 and have enjoyed the constant contact with our customers and the luxury of having the products to sell right here on the farm. We held over a dozen farm tours this season to school groups and the public and learned what works for each age group. The inn and farm hosted the Feast on This film festival which was a great success and brought awareness to many about the importance of our local food system.
Chris and I have a couple of farm conferences to attend this month and we always come back from them with fresh ideas and a renewed perspective on exactly what we are striving for on the farm. The cold air will clear the mind for 2012 farm planning and before we know it it will be spring again and the animals will be grazing once more.
Since the holidays both fell on Saturdays, our farm store was closed the past two weeks. We are open again this Saturday and can't wait to see you. We just got pork back and we will have lamb in two weeks.
For me this time of year brings with it a feeling of tranquility. I love the chill in the air and the darkness which always make me want to come in and spend time with my loved ones. The cold and the darkness although difficult at times, brings us together unlike the sunny summer months when we use every last bit of daylight to work. Our bodies need a rest but then there is the holiday rush...
The holidays shouldn't be about stress and if we can, we should try to give back to each other and the earth. This is the part that I stress about. How can we satisfy our love of giving and receiving gifts, eating, traveling and sending cards when trying so hard to tread lightly on the earth?
Some simple things we can do to green up our holidays are shopping locally, sending fewer cards or going digital, including locally raised ingredients in our holiday meals, making gifts from natural or found items, choosing gifts with less packaging, buying used items or upcycled items instead of new, giving a gift of an animal from Heifer International, giving gifts that disappear like food, or an experience such as a museum pass or tickets to a performance.
When we are all done with our festivities we can compost our trees or have them chipped (here on the farm the goats eat them like candy!), reuse or recycle our wrapping paper and boxes and finally we could all take some time to go through all of our clothing and other posessions and donate what we don't need or no longer use.
Whew, that's quite a list but looking at it makes me feel just a bit better. If we all do just a little to make the holidays more sustainable we'll be better off tomorrow and hopefully a little less stressed!
If you are thinking about giving a gift of farm fresh food or a night away, we have gift certificates available at our farm store and there are inn gift certificates available at the Inn at Valley Farms.
Happy holidays and thank you all for your continued support of the farm and inn!!
First of all we'd like to thank all of our loyal customers for supporting the farm and sharing so many great food stories! We have loved hearing about your family feasts and are honored to have been a part of them.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner here on the farm. We cooked up two heritage turkeys and the majority of the side dishes were made from ingredients either grown on the farm or locally. What a wonderful sense of accomplishment it is to reap the rewards of this beutiful harvest.
Now onto chicken. We raised quite a few chickens this season so the freezers are stocked and we will continue to have frozen chickens for sale through the winter. Since we raised so many, we have the luxury of enjoying one of these delectable birds once a week or so. After eating the meat we always make a stock with the carcass that we either use right away or freeze. Often times we add some chicken feet to the stock pot which adds a layer of delicious gelatin purpoted to be excellent for our joint health.
Lately I've been trying to branch out from my typical roast chicken which is always great but getting a bit boring for me to prepare. I recalled once making a fricassee which the family (including the little ones) absolutely loved. So I searched for a fricassee recipe that would be sure to incorporate at least some veggies other than onion. I came across a recipe for fricassee with artichokes and fennel and had to try it. The recipe comes to us from Martha Stewart but I changed it up a bit not only to make it a little less messy but a little less time consuming as well.
First you take a whole chicken and cut it into ten or so pieces making sure to save the carcass for stock. Brown the pieces on all sides in a bit of oil of your choice (I used olive and sunflower oils plus a smidge of ghee). Slice a red onion and a fennel bulb and add to pan. Add one 15 ounce can of artichoke hearts minus the water and one cup of chicken stock. Add salt and pepper put the top on and let simmer on the stovetop for about 30 minutes, check frequently. After the liquid has cooked down take the top off and let it cook down some more until it produces a creamy sauce. Serve immediately, garnish with fennel fronds (and save the rest of the fennel stalks and fronds to add to your stock for a delicious, robust flavor).
Our kids loved this meal and what I thought would be enough for us to eat for lunch the following day was gobbled up that night! If you try the recipe let us know how it goes...we hope you like it as much as we did!
Black Friday or the day after Thanksgiving has been, for years now, termed the "busiest shopping day of the year." The term has many origins but the most important one to businesses is moving from the "red" into the "black" or turning a profit. Over the past ten years we have seen an increased number of large national chains advertising earlier and earlier for "Black Friday Savings." Along with all the hype often comes violence and for many people, a feeling of obligation to shop on this day. It doesn't have to be this way.
So why "Plaid Friday" you ask? The spirit of Plaid Friday is supporting the unique diversity of local businesses, and bringing community back to our shopping experience, hence the use of plaid and not simply one color. So if you must shop on the day after Thanksgiving, make it local. Support our local businesses and our local economy. Holiday shopping should be fun!
Both the Inn at Valley Farms and Walpole Valley Farms are hubs for the Plaid Friday event. Our farm store will be open from 10am - 3pm and we will have all of our delectable farm products including gift certificates to our farm store and maple syrup made with sap from maples on the farm.
We will be offering hot samples of some of our farm products and the first five people to come to the store will receive a certificate for a free farm tour! We'll be ready to snap your picture if you come sporting your plaid attire in support of the event.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and now is the time to start thinking about preparations for the year's most important meal. The star of the meal has been and always will be the turkey. Our phone has been ringing off the hook this week as we prepare for our annual turkey pickup on the farm. I guess more and more folks are learning about the differences between a pasture-raised turkey and a conventional one!
If you are looking for a succulent, flavorful, humanely and sustainably raised Thanksgiving turkey, a pasture-raised one is the way to go. The demand for pasture-raised and heritage breed turkeys has skyrocketed in the past few years due to the increased awareness of shopping locally and preserving old animal breeds. We are happy to be raising them on the farm as they always give us a good chuckle when they gobble at us in unison.
Once you try a pasture-raised turkey you may never go back! The copious amounts of grass, bugs, and worms that the turkeys consume really comes through in the flavor of the bird. The heritage turkeys have more dark meat and are quite a bit smaller than a standard white turkey but the flavor is to die for.
If you did not reserve your turkey this year we still have a few! We will be selling both heritage and white broad-breasted turkeys at the Stonewall Farm Fare this Saturday starting at 9 am. The turkeys will go fast so be sure to get there early!
This Thanksgiving please enjoy your families, friends and the amazing food that we are all thankful for this time of year.
Love is in the air when the Big Love Mexican Diner, a mobile Mexican food establishment, drives into town. Owners Rachel and Dan Kusch just love what they are doing and love supporting local food. Their business of cooking up healthy, local, fresh food that is easy to eat, quick to assemble, and mobile to boot has become incredibly popular.
Chris's parents came across the purple Mercedes van emblazoned with the Big Love logo while traveling in the Lakes Region. They ordered their food and while waiting, got into a great conversation with one of the owners about Walpole Valley Farms. Before we knew it Dan and Rachel had put in an order for pasture-raised chickens! We are thrilled the mobile diner is using our chickens and so happy to see the initiative Rachel and Dan take to keep our food as local as possible.
What a great opportunity to be part of such an innovative and forward-thinking business. Selling our chickens to neighbors like Dan and Rachel speaks volumes to what we, along with so many others, are trying to achieve with the sustainable practices of our farm. We are confident that our chickens we lovingly raise will be lovingly cooked up by Rachel and Dan (watch a great video clip here) who will in turn, spread the message about the importance of loving local food.
Unfortunately the Big Love van won't be spotted in the Monadnock Region anytime soon but when in the Lakes Region you'll find mouth watering Mexican food in Plymouth, Meredith, Moultonborough, and Sandwich.
The time had finally come for us to better service our customers' needs so this summer we set to work on the old milk room in the dairy barn. The mammoth, stainless steel bulk tank was removed, revealing the perfect space for a little farm store.
After a paint job and a little TLC, we opened our farm store doors onthe 22nd of October. With hours two days a week, we weren't sure what sort of traffic we would get but on our first day we had people waiting at the door at 10 am when we opened! We were so excited to see all of our customers and chat about the happenings on the farm, local food, and the coming winter.
For us, having a connection to our customers and having the opportunity to talk face to face about our products is so important. We are glad that our new farm store has become not only a place to buy wholesome pasture-raised meats but also a place where we can talk about our passion...the farm. Farming is hard work but connecting with all of you and seeing the upswell of interest in the kind of farming that is good to the earth and to the soul is well worth it!
You'll find us at the farm store Wednesdays from 3-6 and Saturdays from 10-3.
Thank you all for your continued support!!
It hit me the other day as our son Sam was listening to a recorded version of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. Wilder's vivid tellings of a bygone era when just about everything that everyone ate was either hunted, grown or raised on small homesteads. Sam's intent listening spurred me to listen as well. As I washed eggs and listened to her description of life in the 1800's, I realized how much we are doing here that is so similar to her time. Sam loved the story and asked to listen to it over and over. I could tell that he felt a connection to that time and that (here at least) not much has changed in the eyes of a five-year old.
Of course this led to other thoughts, especially the fact that many kids don't have the opportunity to spend much time on farms or with animals. Kids today don't see chickens being slaughtered or have to put food up for the winter. The changing of the seasons certainly does not go unnoticed but is of less importance when one can drive to the grocery store to purchase all that is needed to sustain oneself.
Kids need farms. They need to see them, smell them, feel the warmth of an animal's breath on their skin, they need to get dirty, plant seeds, and harvest what grows. Getting kids to farms is one of our most important jobs as adults because what is more important than the life giving energy of a farm? We need children to understand the importance of where our food comes from .
There are so many farms in this area that open their doors to the public with enthusiasm. So if you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends with kids, give them the gift of a farm tour. Make a day of it and visit numerous farms with different specialties.
First of all we'd like to put in a word for all of people in our area who have lost property and crops due to the extensive flooding in our area this past weekend. As farmers, our hearts are going out to those who had stranded livestock, flooding, and tree damage.
The other day our five-year-old Sam went to the garden and brought in some carrots. He placed them in the sink and proceeded to remove the tops and wash them clean of earth. He looked at me and said "Mom, we have to save these for winter so we'll have something to eat." I looked back at him and smiled feeling a deep appreciation for the sheer fact that at five, he knows that we should be putting our fresh food by so we will have something wholesome to eat when the cold weather sets in.
Of course he has seen us do this and has helped his grandmother pick and freeze berries, we've made jam and the whole nine yards but to hear him really make the connection made me feel so good. Our kids know where their food comes from (for the most part) and it makes a big difference in the way it feels when it comes to the table. It is so refreshing to be able to say that "this steak came from one of our cows" or "thanks for helping me pick the green beans, aren't they yummy?!"
This connection to our food is so important and knowing your farmer and where your food comes from helps strengthen that connection. There are some things that we don't produce ourselves that we buy locally such as cheese, corn, bread, and milk. It is so nice to hear the kids say "Mom, can I have some of Bill's milk?" There is a face behind the white liquid that our son Henry can't get enough of. We know what the cows at Flying Cloud Dairy look like, what they eat, and above all,we know the farmer.
We want our customers to know us like we know our farmers. We deal with a lot of other farmers such as our grain grower. We know him, trust him and see him on a regular basis. We have relationships with our customers too. We take the time to talk to them and ask how their lives are going. We invite our customers into the fields and often times, into our house. We hope that when people sit down to a chicken dinner or a barbeque, they are thinking of the animals and people behind their meal. There is nothing like knowing the history of exactly what the cow you are eating was eating before it was on your table. When you know your farmer, you can ask these questions. So we hope that you will come get to know us and get to know your other farmers so we can all strengthen our connection to the food and to the land together.