Monday, July 29, 2013

The 'Stock' in Elmwood Stock Farm

Elmwood Stock Farm has been in the cattle business as long as it has been a farm. Virtually all farms in Central Kentucky raised beef cattle as a means of converting the grass on the hillsides into a salable product or for their own consumption. The ridge tops and creek bottoms were cultivated for tobacco and cattle grazed the rest. For decades the tobacco quota system developed by Wendell Berry’s dad took into account the amount of land that could be cultivated on a given farm without causing erosion problems, and that determined how much tobacco each farm was allowed to grow. Now that the tobacco support program has ended, we raise vegetables on the land previously designated for tobacco with the same fundamental strategy not to cultivate more acres than should be in a given year.

For several decades, Angus cattle were bred, born, and raised on Elmwood Stock Farm’s rolling hills. As a breeder of purebred bloodlines, each cow, and bull, has their family tree tracked back for several generations as part of their registration with the American Angus Association. The growth and performance of each of these animals, along with their confirmation, was taken into consideration when deciding which bull to mate with which cows to produce the best offspring. The factors to consider go way beyond how fast they might grow and how big they will be when mature. In order to develop a herd of high quality animals, knowing the best females born on the farm will be kept for breeding stock, we look at birth weight of the calves, birthing ease, mothering ability, udder confirmation and milking ability, strong bone structure, temperament, and overall confirmation. Male offspring are evaluated on growth characteristics along with temperament, scrotal circumference, and muscle confirmation. Since each bull services 20-25 cows each year it is important that the sire be properly selected. With the advent of artificial insemination, we are able to select semen from the best breeding stock around the country to further develop superior performance in our herd.   Farmers from all over Central Kentucky purchase bulls from us to breed the cows on their farm knowing they are bringing superior genetics and performance into their herd, hence the name Elmwood Stock Farm.  The top rated females are kept for our own use while some are sold to neighboring farms. 

As vegetables have replaced tobacco, the tradition of livestock being a key component of the fertility of the farm continues. Since a particular field is only cultivated for three years out of eight, the other five years the cattle are helping us re-build the soil and its fertility that was harvested away with the crop. Commercial vegetable farmers simply haul in salt generating fertilizers like 10-10-10, which means 10% nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium respectively. These fertilizer products kill the microbes in the soil much like putting salt on an earthworm, which is why they are not allowed in organic production, but it is a short term solution to force a crop from the field, albeit a bit short sighted when developing a sustainable system. The manure from cattle replenishes the nutrients in the soil since the microbes in their digestive systems are designed to breakdown plant tissue, and are deposited on the fields, which is the part the animal does not need. It takes time, but most good things do. 

As the customer relationships grew with our vegetable marketing business, many began to ask about obtaining beef for their family. We have been stocking our freezer for generations, so it seemed like a logical progression of the business. In fact, Elmwood is the only place anywhere around to obtain certified organic, USDA Choice Grade, 100% grass fed and finished, dry aged, Angus beef that we know of. We still sell top quality breeding stock to our neighbors, but we can also make that same superior quality we have been developing for generations available to you.

In Your Share

Green Beans – organic

Beets – organic
Blackberries - organic

Potatoes – organic

Yellow Squash and Green Zucchini

Tomatoes - organic

Swiss Chard - organic

Garlic – organic


Recipes to Enjoy

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous Serves 6, thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe!

For the spice mixture, use 6 teaspoons ras-el-hanout or make your own blend:
1/2 tsp saffron

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

To finish the dish:

1 T olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and diced

1 potato, peeled and diced

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with their juice, chopped

1 zucchini, diced

1 15-ounce can chick peas

1 C couscous, cooked

Mix the spices in a small bowl with a whisk. Heat a large skilled over medium heat and add the spices. Toast them just until they are fragrant, probably less than a minute. Pour the spices back into a bowl and set them aside.

Add the oil to the skillet, turn the heat up to medium high. Add the onion and sauté until it softens, about 7 minutes.

Add the garlic, carrots, and potato and sauté for a couple of minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices (or simply add a quart or so of home-canned tomato juice) and the spice mixture. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the potatoes and carrots soften, about 20 minutes.

Add the zucchini and chickpeas and heat until the zucchini has cooked and the beans have heated through, about 5 minutes.

When the vegetables have finished cooking, taste them and add more salt and pepper if you like. Heap the couscous in the middle of a large shallow bowl. Spoon the vegetable mixture over the top.

Pasta-Free Summer Lasagna Thanks to a CSA member for sharing this yummy summer recipe.
3-4 small yellow summer squash or zucchini (about 8 inches long)

1C ricotta cheese

1 large egg, beaten

1/2 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2 T finely chopped basil

2 C shredded mozzarella

1 slicing tomato

2 C pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim ends off squash and slice each lengthwise into about 4 pieces, depending on thickness. Salt both sides and let squash sit in a colander set over a sink or bowl for 10 minutes.
Mix together ricotta, egg, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, and basil. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Rinse salt off squash and pat dry.

Spread 1/3 C pasta sauce on the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish. Arrange one layer of squash on top, covering as much of the sauce as possible. Spread on half the ricotta, then sprinkle on 3/4 C mozzarella. Top with 1/2 C pasta sauce. Repeat layers. Add a final squash layer and spread on remaining sauce.

Slice the tomato into approximately six thick slices and arrange on top. Sprinkle on any remaining mozzarella.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until cheese is browned and sauce is bubbly. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Zucchini Grinders, our thanks to a CSA member for sharing this recipe she found online.

1 T butter

2 medium zucchini, cubed

1 pinch red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

1C marinara sauce

1 1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese

4 (6 inch) sub sandwich or ciabatta rolls, split

Note:  Zucchini cubes can be larger for softer rolls, which will tend to adapt to the size and shape of the zucchini; if using ciabatta or similar “hard” rolls, make cubes smaller.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Fry the zucchini in butter until browned and slightly tender. Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and stir in the marinara sauce. Cook and stir until sauce is heated.

Spoon a generous amount of the zucchini mixture into each sandwich roll. Top with a handful of shredded mozzarella. Close the rolls, and wrap individually in aluminum foil.

Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until bread is heated through, and cheese is melted.      

Sesame-Ginger Green Beans, makes 4 servings, recipe adapted from Country Living.

1 C vegetable oil

3 small shallots, thinly sliced (if not available, use a small onion)

1 pound fresh green beans, stem ends trimmed

1 T olive oil

1 T grated fresh ginger

1 tsp salt

2 T sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Meanwhile, in a small pan over medium-high heat, heat vegetable oil.  Add shallots (or onion) and fry, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Meanwhile, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss green beans with olive oil, sesame oil, ginger, and salt to coat.  Roast beans until tender but still green, 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer beans to a serving dish and toss with sesame seeds.  Top with reserved shallots, or onions.