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Archive for the ‘CSA’ Category

Farm Day

There was much anticipation of farm day around here.  I’ve written about our monthly community supported agriculture (CSA) meat share before, but this was the first time we visited the farm.  When asked if she would like to help butcher our Thanksgiving turkey at Godfrey Family Farms, The Child’s first question was, “Will I get to help take the feathers off?”  Each time a parent at school innocently asked if she was looking forward to the holiday, she swelled with pride and explained that she would be meeting her Thanksgiving dinner up close and personal.

*insert Lamorinda-mom cringe here*

Meanwhile I was awash with suburban hyperconsciousness myself:  are the alarms set, where are the work gloves, oh #$%*, it’s going to be 51°F and raining.  We packed enough spare clothes and shoes to enjoy farming to it’s fullest and not need the car detailed afterward.  You would have thought we were leaving for a month.

Enjoying a cinnamon roll with a mason jar of fresh milk from their Jersey cow, Mocha.

We were instantly put at ease upon arrival.  The Godfreys are a remarkably welcoming large family.  Kids far outnumber adults.  While taking in the comforting coordinated chaos, we warmed up with coffee in the kitchen (coffee with real cream from their cow).  The Child dove into the throng of many kids rolling, filling and cutting cinnamon rolls with Rose’s guidance.

That morning she got a full tour of the farm.  She watched Rose milk their Jersey cow.  She learned how to collect eggs from the Godfrey’s genius henhouse set up.  She met cows, chickens, turkeys, goats, rabbits, geese, ducks, sheep, pigs, and quail.  She met the livestock guard-dog puppy.  (It turns out when you cross an Anatolian Shepherd with a Great Pyrenees, you get something akin to a horse.)  In a matter of minutes The Child was off and running with the kids, on the best tour possible… a view of farm life from farm kids.  Every once in a while I would peek around and make sure I could spot her, and it was clear from a distance that she was thrilled and having a ball.

The Child, baby chickens, and many giggles!

The farm didn’t smell like a farm.

I don’t smell very well anymore (anosmia… but that’s another post), so when I could not smell any of the, eh hem, traditional farm smells I assumed it was just my deficient olfactory receptors.  But then I started asking around to the other participants, and no one else smelled anything either.  It makes sense given that every creature has room to be healthy, and nothing goes to waste.  From the bits discarded during processing of birds to the potato peelings left over after making lunch for a crowd.  No resource was squandered.

Then I asked the real finicky nose.  My kid.

“Nope,” she said matter-of-factly. “I didn’t smell anything gross.  Brian said that’s his test.  When he can smell an animal he has too many of them.”

And it seems to be working.  The farm didn’t smell like a farm.  It smelled like being outside in the dirt, cold, rain, and fresh air.  The ewww-factor simply was not there.

Hands on Learning

When it came time to start processing birds, the Godfrey’s were smart and did a practice run.  There were some old laying hens which, while not the best eating, word on the street was they make a superior stock having given their all.  It was a great way to learn a process I’d never seen before.  Learning how to do it properly is daunting;  catching, killing humanely, scalding, plucking and dressing.  There is so much to learn… which organs you probably don’t want to break, how to get entrails out without making a giant mess, all the while keeping the work area clean and the bird safe to eat.

Rose homeschools her children on the farm, clearly a skill set useful when handling a dozen awestruck suburbanites out to pat themselves on the back for their purchasing choices.

Photo Credit: Colleen Cummins/Appeal-Democrat -- Click on the thumbnail for the article

They made the day about relaxed learning.  Assiduous with keeping workspaces clean, tools in good repair, and coolers of ice water at the ready, the backyard classroom had a relaxed, pitch-in-where-you-feel-comfortable attitude with avid discussion amidst shivering smiles.  The Spouse did most of the hands-on work, while I preferred to watch with frozen fingers stuffed in pockets.  The Appeal-Democrat story the following Sunday did a great job covering the actual processing of birds.

Good Teachers Share Mistakes

Brian and Rose are extremely modest given what they have achieved in a mere two years of farming.  The day was full of learning-on-the-job stories from natural born storytellers.

Photo Credit: Godfrey Family Farms

The “chicken mansion” is a source of well-earned pride, giving visiting kids a chance to collect eggs without the daunting prospect of reaching under the actual chicken.  Brian laughed as he admitted the crows got the better of him for a while, as they would wait patiently for lunch to roll down the chute.  Now some fabric covers the treasure until kids come to collect it.  Next to visiting the baby chickens inside their pen, collecting eggs with the other kids was The Child’s favorite part of the day.

Another achievement is their plucker.  Brian beamed when he recounts Rose discovering the online design for the Whizbang Plucker, and chuckled while sharing his own pride having built a tool himself which works so well.  This contraption was remarkably quick, and speed is essential when getting a bird from slaughter to the cooler to ensure food safety.

Our Bird

Our day at the farm is what community supported agriculture (CSA) is all about.  Brian and Rose Godfrey thoughtfully shared a bit of themselves with the curious and engaged community they are fostering throughout the Bay Area.  It was a day of embracing the ideal that everyone always has something to learn.  The experience reinforced that buying our monthly CSA-share of meat helps ensure the safety and quality of what our family consumes and serves.  And we all in turn brought our well-cared-for, tasty birds home to share with our friends and family to spread the love.  Delicious love.

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Musing about how The Child eats jump-started my writing, especially after we began eating goat at home.  It was the first time we ate goat we prepared ourselves, and the first time we purchased meat directly from a farm.  A positive experience, we were encouraged to search for a regular meat-CSA to join.

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a food distribution model wherein the consumer and the farmer share the risk and rewards of farming.  Typically a subscription, the consumer pledges a monthly rate for a share of what the farm produces each month.  While it is more common to find fruit and vegetable CSAs, the demand for meat and dairy is on the rise.  Consumers typically seek out CSA food in an attempt to eat local, support small-scale agriculture, or obtain organic products.  They may also supply a greater variety of products, as well as heirloom produce or heritage breeds.

Singing the praises of Godfrey Family Farms is long overdue.  We experimented and signed up for a monthly share at the start of the year.  Having no idea what to expect, we planned to re-evaluate after 6-months.  Honestly, I thought by June our freezer would be bursting, and it would prove to The Spouse that our family was not large enough to justify the 15 pounds of meat each month.  We do not have sufficient square footage for a deep freeze of our own.

But I was wrong.  I love it.

One Saturday morning each month, The Spouse drives to a Home Depot parking lot to fetch our share of the monthly meat.  It runs $100 for approximately 15 pounds of various cuts from various beasts, including fresh eggs.  Rose and Brian Godfrey are remarkable.  They write a blog to keep folks posted about happenings on the farm, and have a Facebook Fan Page as well.  They both have a way with words and wit.  Back in January, I read their post about geese including photos of Thanksgiving…

…looking through the fence at Christmas…

…and I knew these were my kind of people.

Our traditional Easter dinner is rabbit after all, and we call him Thumper.

As it turns out, we consume most of the share each month.  We even purchase extra;  several dozen more eggs, and additional chickens anytime they have them.  We are thrilled when some challenge of farm living means there are extra rabbits, ducks, or veal bones to be had.

The meat CSA has made a profound difference in our diet and our lives. From the very first shipment of duck eggs with a magical double yolk… to guilt-free pastured veal… and a variety of beasts… Yes, it is safe to say I am biased.

To counteract said bias, I will skip the compulsory review of pros (eating local, pastured, and small-scale), and head straight to the cons of any CSA.  But are they really cons?   Seem more like advantages to me.

You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. My daughter learned this in pre-K, and it is a rule many adults could stand to learn.  When you join most CSAs you do not typically get to place orders.  And if you do it ought be considered a lucky perk worthy of your undying gratitude, not setting an expectation.

We learned how to meal-plan based on what default produce arrived in a box on our doorstep, and this is really no different. So we have tried new things such as guinea fowl, water buffalo, and duck eggs.  Instead of shopping based on a plan, we plan based on the shopping.  One Saturday each month we gather around the cooler to see what Santa brought us while attempting play a game of freezer Tetris with the frozen blocks.

Please remember it is a farm people!  The animals and crops really do not care what your schedule is, much less your menu.  Sometimes the guinea fowl are too much trouble to raise again.  Sometimes the butcher goes on vacation and instead of pork you get glorious water buffalo from the neighbor’s farm.  Sometimes the momma animals turn out to be less than skilled mommas.   And sometimes the hams, sausages, and bacon come cured by someone else.  We have fallen in love with Rose’s recipes, the Italian sausage and brats in particular, and this is not a con for us.  But it may be for some folks.  If you are particular about what cuts, or which beasts, or what sizes you *need* to have, perhaps this isn’t the right purchasing model for you.

Eating nose to tail. A big part of eating sustainably is eating nose to tail. Philosophically, if you are going to show respect for the animal you are consuming, let nothing go to waste. Economically, if you learn to cook the stuff other people do not want, you will have a wide selection of cheap proteins from which to choose.

It was not our intention to pose the chicken as if it were dancing off stage left. *giggle*

I am confident someone is enjoying the extra bits. (Lucky #$%^&*@!)  And even though Godfrey chickens arrive intact from beak to toes, most of the regular shares do not include offal.  When a family of three buys 15 pounds of meat per month, it reduces our trips to the grocery store.  That puts a dent in how many times we pick up braunschweiger or headcheese for lunch, have calf’s liver for dinner, or discover we like new things like veal kidney chops.

I miss my butcher. Well, not a particular butcher per se.  We predominantly shop at Lunardi’s Market, since the Andronico’s near us went out of business (pout).  It is an average-sized traditional grocery store with a meat counter, and a veritable army of butchers.  They appreciate questions and are quick to ask someone if they don’t know the answer.   I have never been ignored or hustled along.  The Child always loves to visit them.  Since infancy, she has been accompanying one of us, helping to pick things out, watching all the action as the butchers break things down, and fascinated by the various meats hanging from the ceiling.

Approaching this calmly as a reality helped her develop comfort and understanding of what lands on her plate.  But we spend less time visiting the local butchers now that our freezer is packed to bursting once each month.

Maybe it is time to figure out where to put the deep-freeze after all?  The Spouse can park his car in the driveway, right?

Okay, maybe not.

Skillet Sausages

Cast iron skillet (optional)
Bratwurst, bockwurst or favorite sausages
Onions, sliced in half, then in half-rings
A favorite beer or hard cider

Brown the sausages and add the onions tucked in around the edges, i.e. don’t just layer them in on top.   Open up a favorite beer to enjoy and share with the skillet.  Every once in a while check to see that things aren’t sticking.  When they do, add some beer and use your tongs to scrape up the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

Skip the bun, serve with mustard and a side of sauerkraut or coleslaw… or both!

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