The Truth Behind Our Food: Scouting Out Local, Organic Meat
My favorite type of adventures are ones that are completely unplanned. I love when a friend is up for anything and interested in just exploring. We often find ourselves feeling like adventurers when we drive through Amish country; there's always a new surprise around every curve and corner. The other day, we were driving down a gravel road admiring the sunset and looking for goats when my dad said, "This is so fun! I wish we did this all of the time!" to which my mom and I were quick to say, "We do this all of the time!!!" It's just a relaxing and rejuvenating moment during that magic golden hour. I truly believe that living in the country has changed our lives to be the best they could ever be.
We went on an adventure a couple of days ago to seek out a little Amish herb shop we had passed by many times but never ventured in, and we ended up learning all about where we could purchase local, organic meats. It was not what was on our plan, but I am so glad that it happened! As you know, we've made some changes to our diet and lifestyle. We've been eating whole, organic, and non-processed food for about four weeks now, and it's been changing how my body operates completely! I love it. I love knowing where my food comes from, who's raising it, and creating a relationship with those farmers. I had that up close and personal experience on the day that we ventured out.
Today, I want to share with you the places we found so that if you live close in the area, you can more easily source local meats. Because the places are Amish-owned, they don't have websites, and they might have odd hours. I'll provide their addresses and the days they're most likely open. Some Amish shops are not open on Tuesdays (not sure why), but just a forewarning!
Our first stop was at the cutest little greenhouse where they also sell poultry. We've passed by the farm a few times in the past always exciting ourselves over the free range chickens and ducks wandering near the road. We had even stopped to say hello to them on a nice day and left without stopping. We had never had a need for a freshly butchered chicken or turkey, but it was something we had always wanted to try for a special occasion. Happily, we all got out of the car and entered the greenhouse, which was to die for. I was in plant heaven. There are a couple of Amish owned greenhouses in the country near us, and they are always filled to the brim with the most wonderful lush green.
Inside, an older woman greeted us and showed us how she was transplanting seedlings with a pencil to create a sturdier root stock in each individual plant and also creating even more plantings for the rest of the season. I was starry-eyed taking in every word! I purchased a couple of new succulents for my own greenhouse, and she told me I was welcome to come ask her any questions on gardening and keeping plants. I feel so one and at peace within this farming community. Any advice I can gain and then share with you is my favorite part of my job.
When she took us over to where they sell the frozen butchered meats, we were so surprised to discover how amazing the prices were. I asked her if the chickens were organic, to which she said, "They're not technically organic, but they are hormone and antibiotic free and fed non GMO chicken feed." After speaking with some friends, they explained to me what makes an animal able to be called organic vs. not organic. For an animal to be called organic, it must be raised on absolutely everything organic: feed, no added hormones/chemicals/antibiotics, even the bedding they live on has to be organic. After she explained how her chickens and other poultry were raised, I felt that they were good for us to eat. They weren't given anything additional to their normal feed, and they were definitely free range! The only thing was the bedding they lived on was probably conventionally acquired hay or straw. Well, I didn't really find that to be a game changer for me. This woman also sells pork in all different cuts, which are raised on her farm, sirloin, bacon, roast. It all looked delicious! I bought a whole hen for seven dollars.
This farm is called Southwest Valley Greenhouse and Poultry, and you can find them on 2710 560th St Sw, Kalona, IA 52247. They appear to be open all days of the week; we stopped a little after 9 AM on a Monday.
If you are wanting completely organic chickens, you can find them through my good friends Cara and Shawn Slaubaugh, who own Wild Farm! They are just about to order their broilers this year, and they come at $3.50 a pound. If you're interested and live in the area, I would be quick to let them know your order. They are hoping to receive orders by email by March 28th! You can also purchase pastured turkeys and pork, which are pure bred Berkshire hogs and raised outdoors, through them. That's where we plan to get our hog this year!
You can contact Cara and Shawn by email: carajoslaubaugh(at)gmail(dot)com
On we drove, wondering where to stop next. I had remembered that there was a sign off of the highway (it's still a country road, not really an interstate) that advertised "Grass Fed Beef" and had always wanted to stop. We pulled into the driveway and were greeted by the fluffiest, tumbly Bernese Mountain Dog puppies. They came tumbling out of their shed and to our feet, with licks and tiny chomps, hoping for cuddles and maybe some scraps. Tad was smitten, taking off to wrestle the dogs and then to chase all of chickens and ducks wandering around the property. It was a little while before we were greeted by the property's owners. They were out working the cattle.
After we were introduced, we learned how the beef process works. The owners, the Hochstedlers, grow organic, grass fed beef on their property. He is very proud of his cattle and of his microbiology tests. If you're curious, he is more than happy to share his tests with you. I really loved knowing that this farmer was passionate and concerned about how his beef were being raised, that they were safe for others to eat. It comforted me and let me know that I was going to be getting really amazing beef. But it was going to be a bit pricey. From what we learned, if you're hoping to purchase beef this way, this is how a lot of the processes work. I am sure price points vary, but most meat is divvied up by "hanging weight". That's the weight of the beef after it's been killed and hung, letting the blood drain. Mr. Hochstedler hangs his meat for two weeks, which is pretty typical, and charges $4 a pound. However, you have to go in on at least a quarter of the cow.
It would be a waste of his time to try and sell the cow by individual pounds, which is understandable. It kind of takes you a moment to realize the investment you would be putting in. This farmer is very kind and helpful; he let us know that we would need a deep freezer and the meat could last us the entire year. Let's put it this way; if you're going to just purchase processed, not-so-good, conventional beef from the store all year, then you'll probably end up paying a similar price and not be feeding yourself the best possible meat you could be. I'd rather pay a bit more for my entire year's supply of beef and get the best meat I could find then the other way around. We were told it would cost around $500 for our quarter and another $150 to get the meat processed from a local butcher. You'd get a quarter of all the cuts of meat (steak, ground, etc). I think that's a pretty reasonable price! And if you treat each time you eat the meat like a special occasion, then it's even more worth it.
I wasn't able to find the address for this farm, but it is off of Highway 1, on the right hand side, heading south into Kalona.
P.s. The Bernese Mountain pups are for sale! (;
I have a call-to-action for you, friends. Where do you live? Do you know of any local, organic farmers that sell their produce, meat, or dairy? Do they have a website? I really want to begin collecting local farms all over the United States to share on a special page on our website. This will make it easier for others who want to buy their food local but don't know where to begin. Feel free to leave a comment or send us an email (underatinroof2015(at)gmail(dot)com) letting us know the farm, or maybe you own it, and how people can find you! Eating local is so important, and knowing where your food came from is the most wonderful part of that. I hope you learned some new things!