I probably should not have mentioned the abundance of rain and grass on my last newsletter in late May. Since then we've had almost no rain for the entire month of June (at our Wisconsin farm for sure), and our pastures are bone dry. During a normal June we can expect 4-5 inches of rain. We cut almost 90 acres of hay on Memorial Day weekend and were thinking we should have cut more. But now we are thankful that we left a substantial portion of the farm in tall grass so the beef herd can continue grazing. The fields we cut for hay are still not ready to graze. See a few pics below of the "tall grass" fields we were grazing a few weeks ago. We turned them into some pastures this week that had grown over their heads!
Beef Grazing Tall Grass Pastures
In general we try to graze pastures at 12 to 18 inches which provides a very nice balance of protein and energy (carbohydrates) for the herd when the grasses and legumes are at the peak of palatability. The longer grasses that have gone to seed will be tougher and have more lignin which is harder for the cattle to digest. However many grass fed beef producers are finding very good weight gains and flavor on beef grazed exclusively on tall grasses so we are not too worried about it.
We have been taking our batch of forty (40) "winter" pigs in for harvest the last couple of weeks and now are getting some of that fresh pastured pork back into the store. We have a great supply of pork shoulder roasts (see pulled pork taco recipe below), as well as pork chops, loin roasts, spare ribs, and lots of artisan brats and sausages hand-made by our chef friends at Hometown Sausage Kitchen in East Troy, Wisconsin. More nitrate-free bacon and sausages will be coming back to the store in late July.
Anna and I grill up some brats at least once a week in the summer, and usually go for the Packer Brats (bacon, cheddar, and spinach) but I really enjoy the jalapeno and cheddar brats and the plain-old bratwurst as well. In addition to those varieties, we have spicy Italian sausage, Spanish-style Smoked Chorizo sausages, as well as fresh and smoked Kielbasa and the ever popular Maple-Ginger-Sage breakfast links.
We also picked up our first batch of summer piglets this week from Tuthill Family Farms near Wyoming, Illinois. They specialize in producing purebred Berkshire pigs for meat quality (not show pigs). This batch were mostly born in mid-April and should be ready for harvest by late October. Many people are suprised at how quickly they grow to a market weight of 250-280 lbs., but most of our pigs are only about 6 to 6 1/2 months of age when we take them in for processing.
Berkshire Piglets checking out new grass paddock
CORN FREE AND SOY FREE EGGS
We asked our feed supplier to create a custom organic feed blend for us this year so that we could get our hens off the traditional corn and soy-based feeds so common in US poultry production. We have long been soy-free with our layer feed as many people have problems with soy allergies, but more and more customers have been asking for corn-free feeds as well. A common concern is that most corn and soy grown in the US is genetically modified and sprayed with any number of toxic herbicides and pesticides. However, our feed has always been certified organic, therefore it cannot be geneticaly modified or sprayed with most herbicides or pesticides. Our feed supplier, Cashton Farm Supply, confirmed that they do test every load of grain for GMO and herbicide contamination.
Our new custom layer feed mix includes organic peas, wheat, flax, fishmeal, and alfalfa meal. So far the hens seem to like it and our egg production has been strong. I've noticed the egg yolks are not quite as dark as they used to be, evidently the corn does provide quite a bit of yellow/orange pigment to the yolks. Of course the hens are still foraging on fresh pastures so supplementing their organic feed with insects, grasses, clovers, and forbs for a very well-balanced diet. With our egg production strong we still have the egg bundles available for sale in the store and online for curbside pickup.
SUMMER FARM CAMP - JULY CAMPS COMING UP
We have completed the week-long farm camps for the youngest campers and they had a blast. See a few pictures below of the campers learning about how to raise cows, chicklens, and pigs on a regenerative farm as well as some basic survival skills.
The next camp for 13-15 year olds starts on July 11th and the 16-18 year old camp starts on July 25th. There are a few slots still available for each camp, so there is still time to get your kids out to learn a little about farm life this summer. For more information on the camps or to register visit our camps page.
FARM STORE UPDATE
With the summer growing season in full swing we are getting quite a few locally grown greens and vegetables into the store now.
We have a good supply of broiler (meat) chickens in the store now from our June harvest dates. Whole chickens and 8-piece cutups as well as parts.. All raised on organic feed and pastures, including one batch of soy-free chickens. Corn Free/Soy Free chickens coming in a few weeks. Order chickens online for store pickup or local delivery.
Karolina is bringing us Napa cabbages, beets, herbs, radishes, and lettuce mixes from her organically-grown gardens on our farm.
We also have lettuce mixes from Broadview Farms and Gardens, fresh Garlic Scapes from Garlic eScape, and local hothouse tomatoes from Mighy Vine.
Coming next week (arriving sometime on the 5th) we will have fresh Michigan blueberries from Joes Blues. Never sprayed with any herbicides or pesticides.
We have a good selection of our own grass-fed lamb still available but supplies are dwindling. Once these lambs are gone we won't have any more until fall.
Pasture-raised duck eggs - their production is slowing down but you can still get them for another couple of months. The ducks do not lay any eggs during the winter.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH - RICK BAYLESS' PORK ACHIOTE TACOS
With an abundance of pasture-raised pork shoulder roasts right now, I was looking for a good recipe for pulled-pork tacos and came across this one from Rick Bayless, one of my favorite chefs. The achiote paste may be difficult to find but hopefully you have a good mexican grocery store nearby to source it.
2 ounces achiote paste
1 teaspoon New Mexico Chimayo Chile Powder or ancho chile powder
3/4 Cup lime juice
Banana leaves (nice but not required)
3 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast
1 large white onion sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 large red onion thinly sliced
1/2 Cup roasted fresh chile salsa
Place the achiote seasoning in a small bowl. Pour in 1/2 C. of the lime juice and 2 t. salt. Add the Chimayo or Ancho Chile powder. Use a fork to work the mixture into a smooth thickish marinade.
Line your slow cooker with banana leaves. Lay in the pork and pour the marinade over and around the meat.
Scatter the white onion over the meat.
Pour 1/2 C. water around the meat.
Fold banana leaves to roughly cover everything.
Cover and slow-cook on high for 6 hours, until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. If you roast this in the oven, 300 degrees for 3 hours.
While the meat is cooking, combine the red onion with remaining 1/4 cup lime juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and set aside to marinate, stirring from time to time..
Use tongs to transfer the meat and onions to a cutting board. With forks, shred pork. Spoon off any rendered fat that’s floating in the juices. Ladle brothy sauce into a saucepan and boil it down to about 1/2. Season with salt and add the shredded meat to the sauce and toss well. Top with the lime-marinated red onions and serve with the salsa and warm corn tortillas.
Notes I don’t always have banana leaves on hand, and have made this many times with simply slow roasting the pork in a Dutch oven or Slow Cooker.
Thats it for now. Enjoy the long holiday weekend and do a rain dance for us!
Cliff, Anna, and the Farm Team