Thursday, August 26, 2010
Again, pricing and order info can be found here
Monday, August 23, 2010
The olive trees are tall, in the last stages of being tied to the trellis (the major pruning is yet to come next year). The Marconas are tall enough now to need tying and sucker pruning. The weeds are a never ending saga. The sheep are about to be moved into pasture for the fall/winter season (they've earned a spot in the major leagues). And, we've taken a baby step into beef production.
Yes, beef. Let me explain.
We have a friend here that raises beef in the foothills. He is considering selling out and going to work as a ranch manager on a large ranch up in Oregon. We approached him with our idea of pastured lamb, and that it would benefit us to diversify into beef. It would take years for us to build a healthy and financially viable herd of cattle, so we wondered if he'd be interested in a partnership/marketing experiment before he flew the California coop. The idea is that he ranges the steers as he's always done on the land (pictured here), and we 'finish' the animals on wheat grass for a couple of months on our family's place here in the flats of the San Joaquin Valley. Grass gets dry on the range in the late summer & fall, before the rains come.
He agreed to an experiment. We're starting out slowly, with just two of his steers. One is a 950 lb Hereford, taken off the range (born & raised), then finished for less than 60 days on wheat hay. The other is a 7o0 lb Limousin/Angus cross, 100% range fed, born & raised. Both animals were raised until weaning with their mothers in a herd that our friend controlled grazes over the foothills and under oak trees, until 5 months. Then they are separated out and put into a herd with other animals their own age for more grazing time. What would ordinarily happen after that is what many of us are trying to short circuit. The only option for small cattlemen like our friend has been to sell his steers by the pound at a live weight auction. He feels lucky to make 90 cents per lb (85 cents breaks even, $1.15 starts to put a little money in the bank). The steer then goes off to a Harris Ranch feedlot and gets fed too much grain in order to gain weight quickly, and too many antibiotics to deal with the crowded feedlot conditions, until it hits that magic 1,150 lb mark. Then this steer is slaughtered, the meat is mixed in with thousands of other pounds of meat of various grades and provenance, and sold as a commodity. In a pack of feed lot finished steaks, which you pay $6.00 to $8.50 a pound for, you may have one steak from this steer, and the other two may be from a steer slaughtered in another country, then shipped all the way here - from less humane regulations, plus, the added transport carbon footprint, and no benefit to our rural economy.
As we see it, there are two big problems with this system: first, there are lots of people like you that want meat more locally raised and healthier to eat. You don't need it finished up on needless antibiotics due to crowded conditions, and you are willing to spend more time and attention to purchase meat that you know to be healthier and more nutritious. You just may not have easy access to this meat other than going to a natural foods store or a Whole Foods Market and paying top price. The second problem is that our friend, a man who has been raising cattle commercially for 25 years, who is an expert, an artist at what he does, cannot make a living doing what he is good at because he doesn't have access to people like you. And he is being told by the middle men that to sell his beef he needs proper "marbling," "mouth feel" and a bunch of other adjectives that don't feed his family or keep him in business when they hand him a few hundred bucks for an animal fresh off the range. You can see where this is going. Where's the beef? With the middle man.
Here's where you guys come in. We've looked into comparable pricing for grass fed beef, sold direct from a grower here in California. It seems 20 lbs of mixed cuts are going for about $8.00 per lb. We want to offer this beef at $7.00 per 20 lbs of mixed cuts, with no hamburger in the mix. We're happy to announce that we have two customers already. But we're not only looking for buyers in this venture. We're offering mixed cuts from both steers, with the hope that we can get feedback on the differences in taste and texture, between the two different raising methods - the wheat hay finished steer, and the younger, smaller 100% range fed steer- so that we can decide what the best management plan is for the future, if this was to succeed.
Both steers are born and raised on grazing land in the Sierra Nevada foothills. One is finished here on our place, in its own pasture. Remember, if 20 lbs is too much for your freezer, consider a split with a friend of 10 lbs each. If you're a Vegetarian, consider your meat eating friends. This is meat raised the way it should be. I am working on a future Blog piece, showing the benefits of proper grazing to native habitat, as well as the yearly cost of fire control to our State's budget due to non-grazed range country. I've learned so much researching this over the past few months, and have made online friends of many folks that I consider far more knowledgeable and experienced on this particular subject. Stay tuned.
Please click here to see a list of the cuts that will be in your 20 lb sampler pack, delivery information and instructions on how to pay. We thank you for your support!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Well, it’s time for us to fess up: Rachel & I have a secret. We planted some very special trees this year. As well as high density olives for oil, we are now growing Marcona almonds. Marconas are those extravagant blanched, roasted, and lightly salted nuts that one can find often next to a gourmet cheese section at the grocery store. Up until now, they have always been imported from Spain, and can rarely be found as Certified Organic. Not any more. Although we had to hold back planting them for almost a year because we were busy with the olives, they are now happily sending out roots into our orchard soil.
(We Like The Sound Of That)
We had originally assumed that we would have access to some extra acreage so that the Marconas could be planted as a normal almond orchard with regular wide spacing. Out of necessity however, we’ve planted them with the same trellis system the olives are planted to. That means we’ll be the originators of two more ‘firsts’: the first in California to ever try to espalier almond trees, and, the first to plant almonds to a high density planting system.
For those wondering what that is, in a high density system, semi-dwarf or dwarf varieties of a tree are planted very close together (a lot like a grape vineyard), and pruned back hard to compensate for the smaller space. Yields can often equal those produced by standard planting, but from less land.
Will this work? Well… I’m reaching for a piece of wood to knock on as I write.We expect our first harvest to be August of 2012. We can’t wait!