The Barry Farm

Pastured Heritage Breed Hogs, Grassfed Lamb, Pastured Chicken, Raw Honey, Citrus and Blackberries


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Up to speed with The Barry Farm. ( I’m writing this in a rainstorm)

                  

 

 

          

As we continue the weather pattern that has become the norm around here, I has provided me a forced break.   I have neglected keeping those that only interact with the farm via this blog so let me catch you up with what has happened this month around The Barry Farm and the near term happenings.

 

Let’s start from the beginning shall we.  The first of April was a lamb butcher class followed by a 6 course dinner served al fresco right here at the farm.  Every time we do an event like this it feels more rewarding all the time.  So many times I hear farm to table this, or local that, or “real” farm to table used and every time I hear it, it feels like sand in my britches.  Call this experience at the farm whatever you like but make no mistake this is the real deal.  For this dinner all the protein was sourced from our farm.  In addition to the proteins herbs, vegetables and spices too.  All this prepared at a chef led dinner and butcher class.   Our goal is not to have a category for this kind of meeting, but simply to blow the doors off of the other categories and make them seem like a simplified version of what we do at the farm.  The target is world class products with world class experience and service.

 

The very next day was Easter Sunday.  The readers and followers of this blog will remember that we had big plans for easter sunday.   Your farmers have been attempting to have a regular and meaningful interaction on the kids at Parks Youth Ranch.  The youth ranch happens to be Ft. Bend County’s only shelter for homeless teenagers and it also happens to be about 3 miles from our home and farm.  Renee and I have been seriously convicted that we need to use the potential of the farm to give the kids some sense of family events even while their lives are upside down.  I remember very fondly what my Easter sunday meals we like.  Surrounded by the hope of spring, chocolate bunnies, my mothers over the top meals and dress up clothes were the norm.  Easter was one of the culinary hi lights to my child hood and even though it wasn’t a fancy meal it was very satisfying.  I can’t imagine letting this pass as an opportunity to share this feeling knowing that just around the corner from our house were 20 kids whose future was never more up in the air.  And on a personal note, I can’t imagine telling people that I am a christian man celebrating Easter and not doing what Jesus would do to those less fortunate than me.  This is where faith should meet action right.  If the Easter story is the most important narrative in my life what a shame to keep it quiet.  I want to know love and hope and to the best of my ability I intend to reflect that to those that may be forgotten in my community.

Easter is not just about the Smith family sharing these emotions, but the regular supporters and members of the barry farm community came out en masse to help pull off this event for the kids.  We put a watch for each kid inside a “golden egg” for their easter egg hunt and each watch was sponsored by a member of our community.   Chef Chris and Boudreaux’s Cajun Kitchen provided the meal, while others made the pies and homemade ice cream, all of which were a hit.   The kids were served on real plates with real silverware (which doesn’t happen at the shelter) on a table set glamorously by dedicated volunteers.  They egg hunted, ate a hearty meal, toured the farm and heard from more than one new friend “we love you and are thinking of you”  To say Easter was a big deal would be an understatement.

 

Now as to the farm work:   Our ambitious plans never seem to end.  We are continuing work on the blackberry orchard as the rain allows.   80 yards of mulch is being put around the blackberries 6″ deep then the trellis will be installed.   The sheep have been battling hard this winter and spring as standing water, continuous rains and now warm day are a recipe for ruminant trouble and grass based farmers.   True the grass is growing well this spring, but it has been a battle to get them out on it through the mud.   I keep saying that this pattern has to end soon, and I’m sure it will but since thanksgiving basically we have had steady rain and have yet to not have standing water at the farm this year.

The pigs mind a lot less.  Tomorrow the next 1000 lbs of barry farm pork returns from Lad’s Smokehouse and will be available for purchase at the farm or at Forever Fulshear Farmers Market on Saturday mornings along with pastured chicken and lamb.    We are days away from beginning to fill our share orders that have been hampered by the rains, with more pigs taking that short ride to meet the butcher.

So what’s next?   Well Renee and Layla are off to Duncan Oklahoma for the mid american dorper show and sale.  They will be attending a 2 1/2 day breeders course taught by breeders from Australia and the rest of the US.  The weekend they return we have a butcher class and dinner for 6 people led by Chef Chris.  Then in May we have a lamb dinner with at a local Houston  restaurant (stay tuned for more details)


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Pork over knives at West U fitness.

Pork over Knives was delicious and fun.  Just wanted to say a big thank for coming out to join us and listen to this farmer’s thoughts.  Renee and I sincerely hope that a connection was made to a family, chef and place as to where food comes from. We strongly believe that people will make better choices when given the option to do so.  Part of that is making the option both known and accessible. Pork over Knives put all the ingredients together:   the best pork in Houston, a chef that knows his way around a farm and real ingredients, interaction with the farmers to talk about why process matters and enthusiastic facilitators that are working to create an environment of lasting change.   Here’s a few pictures of the event.

 

 

            


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A farmers biggest asset is failure

 

Plenty of it to go around:

We have had a hell of a winter even though we live in the sunny mid gulf coast.  The cold has come and lingered and the drought that has persisted over the last few years has received it’s karmic shift.   As soon as the standing water thinks of receding we have another large rainfall event that ensures my rubber boots become the staple of my wardrobe.  But as much as it is disheartening for the farm family our empathy for our animals is enough to make us do whatever it take to care for them.  They have had a relentless slog through muck for months now still doing their best to maintain condition and be productive.  Despite the odds being against us each day we do our best to be gracious, thankful and optimistic that this too will pass.   For sure I am not the first farmer to lament the weather.

If anything though I try to see the lessons in life that are revealed through the daily routine.  Not so much the anvil falling from the sky stuff that makes a man change his course, but more so the repetitious mundane appearing things.  After all I believe that this is where the battle for the heart is won and lost.   What I have come to conclude this winter is something that the Smith family has been all along I just never gave it much of a name or credence so far.  It is something that can be both learned and modeled and it turns out that it has an official academic name: Grit.    This is apparently an objective quality and if you don’t believe me take the test from the University of Pennsylvania here and get a 1 to 5 score of grittiness.  I’ve had the privileged of being raised in a family that has know it’s share of obstacles and as it turns out the key to grittiness is seeing goals as a marathon and not a sprint and accepting that failure is essential to the process.    Instead of the tendency to grade our day as pass/ fail I was lucky enough to have an environment where growth and effort were more important than short sighted “successes”.    Ask a kindergartner what they want to be when they grow up and you will get every answer under the sun.  They aren’t aware of limits yet and see everything as possible.    Mary Cay Ricci author of “mindsets in the classroom ” concluded that the change in fixed vs growth mindsets in kindergartners vs 3 graders is a 60% decrease in growth minded children, meaning the third grader is not likely to aspire to be a princess anymore and is learning that some goals “can’t ” be reached and fixes on lower goals.   In 3rd grade we have already institutionalized the reduction of ‘grit’ as a tenancy for our children.  Before I read that I was under the assumption that a child’s world naturally got bigger through this time of exploration, but to my chagrin what kids actually seem to be learning is how to grow up and be realistic.

 

Here is my point and why I mention it.  The lessons our kids see in us as a family farm are slowly taught and hard won.  They are learning something more valuable than being educated and what they learn will last them a lifetime.  They learn grit: they see daddy going out in the rain when it’s cold and mommy up late preparing them and our home for the next day.  They’ve seen me use tools to craft things for the farm and home and helped as Renee bakes homemade bread and cans our produce for later use.   They say thank you to me for ‘working so hard’ for them and help mommy pull weeds in the garden.  They are seeing and learning how to have Grit…..just like I did.     Now if you are a person that has Grit, please don’t hide it our world is suffering from this lack of diligence.  If you are not a gritty person and want to be,  find one and for God’s sake don’t talk to him about it but rather lend him a hand with what he is working on.   And when you feel like quitting and he keeps working then ask him “why he does this”.

 

 

 

 


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Pork over Knives event at West U Fitness March 28th

If you are free, join us at West U fitness on the 28th of March for Pork over Knives.  In this farmers opinion one of the area’s where we often miss the mark in the local food scene is making the excellence that comes from farms unreachable when paired with restaurants.  Ever have been to a restaurant that supports a local farm and the meal is delicious but you thought to yourself “I could never do that at home”.   yeah it happens to me a lot actually.  There is a place for restaurants using exceptional local products and us as eaters just enjoying the experience but lets face it most of us eat every day and there is no chef preparing most of our meals.  As a farm we want you to be able to take whole, excellent, nutritious foods from our farms and not be afraid of making restaurant quality meals at home.   This is the goal of this event and part of the mission that West U and The Barry Farm share, which is encouraging authentic community around healthy foods.  Pork over knives will feature pork from the farm with chef Chris Zettlemoyer breaking down the mystery that makes it taste so good.  Come eat with us then go home and feed your friends and family real food.


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Easter Is On!

   Thank you all so much for playing a part in making Easter happen for the kids of Parks Youth Ranch.  We have reached the limit of pledges that we needed to pull it off including the golden egg gifts.  The generosity of the community that the barry farm is becoming never ceases to amaze me.  Our goal at the barry farm has never been as small as what the farm looks like.  It looks like eggs, baby lambs, kumquats, awesome pigs, chicken and one wild family but that is not where it stops for us.  The farm is a vehicle or tool to build an authentic community of people that are not only willing to care about one another but to most importantly act on those convictions. Supporting us while providing a family meal for kids that may never have had one at Easter is just the latest installment of where this farm community is going.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for seeing this as valuable and worthy of your time money effort and thoughts.

 

I do want to take just a moment and say thank you to Chef Chris and Boudreaux’s Cajun Kitchen for their support and generosity.  Chef Chris will be handling the majority of the execution for the meal and we are greatful for him and Boudreaux’s willingness to jump right in on this.

 

We also want to acknowledge Chef Skinner from Eculent in Kemah for his support of local agriculture and its higher mission.


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Pre announcement for Easter: We have big big plans and need help.

We are 6 weeks out until Easter weekend and we are working on a big big plan.  My Easters as a kid and teenager were ‘normal’ enough.  Church in the morning, Easter egg hunt, a basket or hidden chocolate bunny and then a feast.  My mother was used to cooking for a large group and worked hard at it as far back as I can remember.  She would cook for the family, our foster brothers and sisters and often enough for others that wen’t to church with us.  The meal was always the hi light of the day for me filled with comfort foods, family around the table and pie for dessert.  Maybe it was ushering in spring, the religious symbolism or just a full belly but Easter has a way of filling me with hope and optimism for what lay ahead of us.

 

This brings me to my big big plan for Easter.   If you have been following along to our journey you may already know that we have been working with the incredible young men and women of Parks Youth Ranch.  Fort Bend county’s only shelter for teens that do not have a home to call their own.  For one reason or another these young men and women do not have a safe place that they call home so they live at Parks youth ranch 24/7 where they are safe, fed, warm and certainly loved.  Renee and I have invited them to come have Sunday supper at the farm and strongly desire to create a memory of love and optimism by recreating what we remember and loved about this time of year.  We are going to eat out on the lawn, have a meal with all the fixin’s and want throw and easter egg hunt for them.

 

This is where I need your help.  The Easter Egg hunt will be more than just candy as I want to have a “golden egg” for each kid with a larger prize in it.  After talking with the Staff and friends of the ranch we think this gift is appropriate.

So we have 16 kids to buy watches for in the next 6 weeks and of course I can’t wait until the last minute so this is what I’m asking for.  Please consider sponsoring the cost of a golden egg and our Easter meal.  Renee and I would love to be able to front the entire cost but we just don’t have that ability so we are taking a leap of confidence in our community to make this happen.  All the funds raised will go to the watches, their meal and making an Easter memory for kids that need now more than ever to know the love that a community can provide and hope that Easter can bring.

 

If you believe that these kids deserve our best and want to help sponsor this event, email us at  thebarryfarm@yahoo.com and we can have a conversation about where we go from there.  Thank you and you will hear a lot more about this from me for the next few week.

 


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A win for all at Cochon 555 in Houston

 

 

 

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  I promise this is the last you will hear from us about Cochon 555 until June when Mark Decker takes another Barry Farm Red Wattle Hog to Aspen, CO.  In June he competes at the Grand Cochon against the other winners across the country from 9 other cities.  A big congratulations from Renee and I goes out to Mark and the entire Treadsack team that is comprised of some pretty talented men and women.   It was very easy to get swept up in the excitement of being the underdog that pulled off a surprise win but it is difficult to call hard work, talent and effort underdog qualities.

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Absolutely the best part about Cochon 555 from our perspective was not pigs or food it was hands down people.  We have been working with the Treadsack crew a bunch lately between the Kipper Club Misery Loves Company dinner and in preparation for Cochon.  It has been a pleasure to work with this crew for many reasons but above all they are so thorough and respectful to not only us farmers but to products we strive to provide.   It may seem like a hard lined approach but we insist that potential chef’s and restaurants that think they may want to work with our farm come visit the farm and go for a walk with us.  It can be difficult for chefs to break away from their busy kitchens and honestly most feel this is a high requirement and therefore don’t come out, but we have always felt it was the only way to know your ingredient, your farmers and match expectations.  These chefs were the first to insist, before I even told them our requirement, to visit the farm and see our process.   Before Cochon 555 Mark Decker, Renee and I sat by the fire in our living room discussing all things food and farm.  He is hands down the most farm knowledgeable chef I had ever met.  In his spare time he has read the likes of Greg Judy and Ian Mitchell Innes and is well versed in the conversation of rotational grazing and animal performance issues.  In my book you can always trust a chef that knows to bring his own boots!  They definitely pass the farmer seal of approval.  Benjy, whose official title is Director of Restaurant Operations, did a terrific job of taking the barry farm brand and promoting it through their work.  Behind their station were glossy hi resolution pictures of our pigs and farm, he was kind and sensitive enough to ask if it was alright to use Seamus and Layla’s names on the menu, and was always one step ahead of the process in facilitating all the moving parts.   He did a much better job of promoting the link between farm/farmer and chef than the organizers did and certainly put more visible effort showing diners the farms role in the event.  Thank you so much Benjy.  One example of just how much the recognized the farm process and reflected it in their offering at Cochon was Leslie Ross’s beverage pairing.  The short of it was a Barley soda (we feed our pigs mostly barley), valencia oranges from the farm which she dehydrated and rehydrated, and whiskey that was infused with the jowl from the hog all dubbed the Red Wattle Ricky.   It not only takes talent to put that together but also hard work and a willingness to learn our farm and our process.  And that was just one example as the list for these guys go on and on.

 

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IMG_5448With so many people that we have connections to in one room it was nice to put faces to names and have deeper conversations than just social media can facilitate.  Connecting to other farmers that share our passion for family farms certainly can make us feel more ‘normal’ than the average population can.  Spending a little time with chefs that always are working when we happen to be with them to talk about things other than food and restaurants is always a win for us both.  The men and women of D&T, Hunky Dory, Foreign Correspondents, Down House and the Kipper Club are long on both talent and generosity.  It was a pleasure to work with them and we look forward to furthering a long lasting relationship.

 

 

The mission of Cochon 555 is to hi light heritage breed hogs, farms and the restaurants that use them.  In our area we have a rapidly growing restaurant scene and very few number of farms that serve them.  All together making us a young food scene.  There were things that we thought could have been better, more transparent and emphasized differently but it is a natural outcome of a process in the beginning of it’s journey.  Renee and I are please to be part of the process that will make Houston a great city when it comes to food and quality ingredients and preparation.

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