Your farmers at The Barry Farm are always looking for ways to connect people to their kitchens and their food. People are seldom intimidated with vegetables for a myriad of reasons but it is not as expensive or personal if you screw up blanching green beans. Proteins on the other hand people take the preparation and cooking more serious as they can imagine the animal and connect to their own humanity through the animals eyes. As far as this farm is concerned we think a lot of the issues that face the american family are caused because we have abandoned long held rhythms of a more agrarian life. One of those traditions and rhythms that we have thrown aside en mass in America is cooking and eating together.
Less and less we are even home at the same regular time of day let alone be able to eat together. Our family is not exempt from this as my off farm job has odd hours that keeps me away during the evenings, but i cherish a real sit down home cooked meal with good conversation around the dining room table. So we, as part of our mission as a farm, have included facilitating not just purchasing clean foods but also rediscovery of butchery, cooking and preservation of these precious products of the farm.
This past week we had the distinct privilege of hosting a small group who was interested in learning to butcher their own pork and to learn where cuts come from. We teamed up with Chris Zettlemoyer who is now affectionately called the Barry Farm Executive Chef to put on a demonstration of butchery techniques.
Together we successfully broke down an entire hog, discussed muscle groups, options for cuts and even suggested ways to cook each piece.
One of my most proud parts of this whole time we spent together was that the day started off with a tour. They got to see how the animals they were about to work with lived, meet the family that cared for them and then prepare them for their kitchens. We throw the term ” Farm to Table” around so much but in this case it can be used with pride.
For their efforts these families went home with 140 pounds of clean, gourmet and wholesome red wattle pork cut by themselves and wrapped by the farmers wife. They snacked on cheese and olives and share in some local libations, we paused for breaks to talk life, food and all things pork.
This probably looks like a lot of work but rest assured it is more fun than work. A real pig butchery party. If you are interested in joining in the next demonstration or having one in your home email us at email@example.com
All Food Comes From Farms
We have a good friend who told me that one time when I was extolling the benefits of real farms to him one day. If you are anything like me sometimes I can get so wrapped up in what I think is doing the right thing, that I can lose a little bit of perspective. It is virtuous of us to dive head first into thing we feel are correct, moral and that have captured our passion. Pushing the farm forward often requires that I put on earphones and sunglasses to tune out the detractors. Just like anything that requires what Americans would deem hard work we get a steady voice in our ear that repeats: “this is too hard” “It won’t work” “you can’t win” and “nobody cares”. Call me what you will but I have found that pessimistic voice to be a little motivating. How proud are we to be able to put that voice back where it belongs not with a home run but with daily diligence and victory in the small things. The sunglasses and earphones that I find sometimes necessary can also have the unwanted side effect of drowning out other voices that I need to be listening to. Sometimes the negativism still is valid and can open our eyes and hearts to another point of view. The comment that “all food comes from farms” was made a little tongue in cheek as he was saying the farm to table concept could be claimed by anyone. We both had a good laugh.
Not all Farms make Food
All farms make things that they would claim are eatable and people buy them to serve to their families but are we really going to argue that cheese in a spray can and powered non dairy creamer are food? Let me be even a little bolder and claim that we should not be eating things that have poop on them as that is not food either. This very topic is the focus of the big processing plants as the speed of the slaughter line is directly related to “contamination” of beef and the dunk tank that poultry goes through is to rinse of the same contaminant. The reason that our mainstream average work a day guy doesn’t know about this is that he never ever in his whole life can or will see this in action. In your master planned community there is no packing house, slaughter facility , feed lot or even a farm yet in every refrigerator exists animal protein. Without Googling it, quickly name where your closest butcher shop is. Now how bout a harder one? Where was the last piece of chicken you ate “grown”? Can you even pick which state it was from? We could play this game for every and most of us would fail miserably, but why is that true? The truth is two fold: first you don’t really care to know those answers and secondly if you knew you wouldn’t eat it. Follow me here as I know I have taken you way down so far but I promise that we will come back up to the optimistic farm and farmer that you know. Hang in there with me.
There is Hope and it’s worth the work
Using the word alternative can imply weird or even cast judgment on the other side. I don’t want this to be the case and even though you won’t believe me when I admit this but: I am fully aware that our farm can’t feed the world by itself so until the curve catches up you can enjoy you cheese in a spray can with a smile. The hope I have is that we can break down that iron curtain of we don’t care about where our meat comes from and instead introduce a real alternative. The alternative however requires just a little effort and more importantly a desire to care. Truth is often something that intimidates us because we feel compelled to change given what we have just learned and that change can seem arduous. In this case though the change is not hard and it involves holding baby lambs, taking pictures of your kids with chickens and feeding your apple core to cute pigs. I wrote this blog because of late most of our pictures have been of the joys of lambing time. Newborn lambs make great subjects to connect people to farms especially through pictures. It can be really hard to resist saying “ahhhhh” to cute snow white lamb pictures. But we also get many many question of “don’t you grow attached” or “how could you eat them after caring for them” (paraphrased of course). This process for us is not without emotion as we aren’t robots and care for them deeply. We set our alarms for every 4 hour bottle feedings for new lambs, gather the waste hay to make pigs a nest when it gets cold and stretch old trampolines for the chickens to keep them out of the hot sun. There is really almost no limit we would go through to make sure that they have the best life possible.
How do we eat them? How do you not want to?
Allowing the pigs to express the very things that make them unique is right to do, but it requires empathy. How else do you learn to know what a pig prefers? Ensuring that ruminant have both the time required and access to pasture is because they are cared for with a mind focused on allowing sheep to live like sheep are suppose to. This is what Joel Salatin meant when he coined the phrase “the chickness of the chicken and the pigness of the pig” The Barry Farm’s animals do have a good life and for that you should be supporting our farm. The way to ensure that animals are not treated poorly is to support farms like ours. Farms that you can see, smell and touch. Farms that aren’t hiding from you the truth and packaging it in cellophane on a big box store shelf. Are there other kinds of animals to eat other than family farms? Actually you may be saying to yourself “I prefer bleached tasteless pork raised on concrete floor in propane heated buildings in Iowa” than “gourmet heritage breed red wattle pork raised on pasture right here in Houston”. Wait….no one says that, but we act the contrary. Every meal we vote to keep farms in business, maybe this time I have convinced you that the next vote could be cast for The Barry Farm.
This is the little lamb Renee has affectionately named fuzz head. Growing so fast and broad. I think we are in for a good ram crop this year.
I took a day off work yesterday to attend Houston Food policy Workgroup’s quarterly meeting. They meet monthly to formulate and implement a strategy to bring real food to the citizens of the Houston area. It has been a real privilege of ours to make some really good friends at these events and these meeting drag some really talented farmers off their farms for an afternoon. This meeting was at a restaurant in Houston and was formed to discuss and address some of the issues that can arise shed farmers and restaurants meet. Typically in these sessions the farmers are very polite and don’t say much publicly, but the guests speak their mind. This was the case at the meeting yesterday. We heard how expensive it is to start a bar and restaurant, how they don’t have any time to buy better product from local farms , how slim their margins are and how many hours a restauranteur works. The farmers to their credit didn’t defend themselves with the same complaints (because starting a farm is expensive, takes long hours and we have little time to be off the farm to deliver to restaurants either), instead the farmers were polite and gracious saying very little. Almost. 2 hours of hashing out the obstacles and barriers to just why Houston can’t get real food I’d had enough. I on behalf of the optimist addressed the 100 or so people in the room and said lets not forget the blessing and opportunity that we have here in this great city. Millions of people and 10 or so farms to feed them all and all we can see are the problems?
In the past 2 days I have had the opposite experience of what was represented in that room. I am truly exhausted as we are still in the throws of lambing and bottle babies wait for no shepherd. 3 am feedings happen no matter what. Yet my spirits are higher than ever because of what I’ve seen. What my farmer eyes have seen is the spark in people’s eyes and the grin on children’s faces when they are meet with the amazing. The sight and touch of a 3 day old lamb can change things. Countenance , outlook and renew hope are just the surface changes but in the long run we are better of for remembering that joy is worth fighting for. This is what this farm means to me. Fighting daily to renew joy to our world in an honest wholesome and pure way
We all have favorites right? This is my favorite ewe, 06. She still doesn’t have a name because that is too much even for a softie like me. She is the curious , nosey and affectionate one of the bunch. Most of the time with livestock we form a working relationship that is beneficial for everyone but not in this case. I really like this girl.
Last night we brought barry farm lamb and pork to a friend’s house and he helped me make merguez (a lamb sausage) and some spicy italian pork sausage! Yum-o! They turned out great and i’m looking forward to eating some yummy meals with them. I mean look at that meat and those fresh herbs and veggies… Too bad you can’t smell the spices!
Now i (renee) want a good meat grinder and a sausage stuffer like below.
Delicious merguez links are now in the freezer!
Making the sausage was quite a process but we really like having it in the freezer as it helps make quick tasty meals. Looking forward to making more. If you happen to have recipes please share.
The truth behind the Barry farm is that it takes both of us doing uniquely different things at the same time to make our dream a reality. More days than we would like I work at the emergency room while renee runs the day to day workings of the farm. Never more than a text away we stay in contact if changes or issues arise. We only continue to grow as a farm because we continue to grow as a couple and family.
The farm has blessed our marriage and teaches us daily to see each other’s strengths and weaknesses and to touch places in our hearts that could not have been reached otherwise. Seeing my wife at lambing time is a thing of beauty. Lambing time is busy, cute, stressful and full of promise at the same time. Never very far from tragedy my wife mothers both the ewe and the lamb toward independence. Her maternal instinct is never wrong and while the sheep benefit from it I am the real winner in this equation. I melt seeing her effortlessly put her heart into her work. She works for them and for us and also for you. Our whole community is stronger for the quiet work of this woman.