The animals are very high quality, the beef is top notch, so much so that the organs are flavorful and tender. The kidneys, for example, had none of the strong flavors commonly expected with cow kidneys. The liver was also mild enough that even I, who truly can’t deal with liver’s texture or flavor was able to eat a little braised with a bit of cornmeal. No soaking in milk was needed either. It was pretty fabulous. The pork we got has been nice as well, not least of which are tender hams and good thick-cut bacon. This is a farm I would completely recommend as a place to get beef and pork by the quarter/half/whole for those in the Snohomish County area.
It’s a joy to support local farmers when they provide a quality product at excellent prices. Hagen Farm is about $3.50/lb or so for beef and about $4.50/lb or so for pork, including separate-pay cut and wrap fees to the butcher. Again, great farm, very local, highly recommend for anyone with enough storage for quarter/half/whole beef and/or half/whole hogs. She also has lamb, but we ran out of storage with the cow and the pig, so perhaps another year! Delicious! And I’m glad to see her getting some local notice as I noted above. It was so funny, I said to my husband “That farm is where we got our cow! and they’re in the paper!” and we both had a moment there.
Sustainable farming has many more successful, thriving farms than just Joel Salatin’s. There are lots of farms making enough profit to keep going and pay down or even pay off infrastructure, and some of them are local to me. Yes, even in the regulatory nightmare that is Puget Sound, there are farmers making it happen. One of them is a local pig farmer, Bruce King. He is on my blogroll, and writes the most fabulously cool posts about the nitty gritty details of farming and navigating the regulatory maze in Snohomish County. His latest post as of this writing is about wetland regulations and how they have placed local farmers in a Kafkaesque bind.
When he’s not writing about regulations, he’s writing about his very clever methods of squeezing revenue out of the unlikeliest places, like being able to make money off the pallets he uses to feed his pigs grocery store delights such as slightly bruised produce and excess dairy. That sort of round-the-corner thinking is pretty important for a farmer. A certain inventiveness tends to separate the successful small farmers from the ones who work hard but ultimately go out of business. It indicates adaptability, which is absolutely crucial for smaller-scale farming. By all accounts, his pork is good stuff and I hope to actually succeed in buying a pig from him one of these days. I tried while pregnant with my latest child, but pregnancy hormones, moving out here to the country and various other stuff conspired to have it not work out.
But dude has a lot of pigs to sell, as his operation has grown and matured over the years into a steady, going concern. I feel that one will turn up when we’re ready to get a pig or two for the year.
Cool farmer, awesome blog, happy animals. What more could a locavore need in a regional foodshed?
One thing I think sustainability advocates need to move away from is the false dichotomy of CAFO vs., say, “free-range”. In terms of sustainable farming, the focus should be on husbandry, and whether a given practice is good or bad. We need farming operations covering hundreds of acres (like, you know, beloved Joel Salatin’s operation) to actually feed everyone without resort to 100k acre industrial farms. And we also need to accept that confining animals is not necessarily harmful or unhealthy for them, *in the proper context*. For various reasons, many breeds of livestock are pulled from pasture into stalls in a barn to birth. This is not actually bad if done with an eye to good husbandry. There are good ways and bad ways to provide a birthing-place for an animal, and sometimes an operation with hundreds or thousands of animals can have excellent husbandry practices and an operation with a dozen animals can have absolutely awful husbandry practices.
But resorting to the term “CAFO” to mean “large farm operation, probably with bad husbandary” doesn’t allow customers and would-be farmers the opportunity to understand that you can have lots of animals and still treat them well. It instead paints the false picture that you have to have a micro-farm to offer good husbandry to your livestock. That’s not real and is a big obstacle to helping would-be farmers gain the tools they need to sort out good practice from poor practice. I am sticking with good and bad husbandry, and moving away from a reliance on terms like “CAFO” to represent farms with bad husbandry practices. I can only hope others will do the same.