I received a wonderful telephone call yesterday.
“Hello, I’m with White Feather Meats – I wanted to let you know that your order will be ready tomorrow.”
As you probably know, we recently ordered a side of grass-fed, 100% pastured beef. It took us at least a couple of weeks of research before we did, and I’m glad we did the research. A great many local farmers pasture their animals – until they reach a certain weight. Then they move them to a feedlot where the cattle are fed grains, which reverses most of the benefits of being grass-fed (conversely, you can remove an animal from a feedlot and pasture it, and the damage done by being grain-fed will be reversed). Many of these beef farmers will keep an animal pastured if you request it and we nearly went this route, since it was a tad cheaper than the option we ultimately chose.
There were two reasons we didn’t choose the less expensive option: First, these people are not experts at raising 100% pastured animals, and we simply weren’t willing to spend a large chunk of money on something we couldn’t be completely sure about. You can go into their bustling little retail store and purchase the meat (which is quite tasty), but I couldn’t get anyone to talk to us about visiting the farm or speaking with the people who actually raise the cattle.
The second reason was Jon Berger of Green Vista Farm. Jon is an expert at raising totally pastured animals; a half hour conversation with him is nothing short of enlightening. He is very passionate about what he does – you can tell he loves it, and understands exactly why his methods of cattle farming are so very important. And not only are his farming practices ethical, so are his business practices; when I initially called Jon to speak to him about purchasing a side of beef, he suggested I go to White Feather Meats – the small, family-owned business that processes his beef and sells it in their tiny retail store – and purchase some before we bought the entire side. He wanted us to make sure this meat is what we wanted before we made the kind of investment buying an entire side of beef at one time required.
So, we did – and the beef is absolutely delicious.
When I called Jon again to discuss how to go about purchasing our meat, I asked if it would be possible to visit his farm – his answer was a hearty “Of course! Just let me know when you want to come out!”
Then I asked him if I could bring my camera. Again, his answer was an enthusiastic, “Sure!”
So, days after placing our order and being given the “hanging weight” of our beef, we headed to Jon’s farm on our way to Cincinnati, camera and check for our purchase in hand.
This is Jon’s son, coming in from the fields on a large piece of esoteric (to me, anyway) farming equipment. That’s the farm’s bull in the foreground. Green Vista actually boasts three bulls, but only this one is allowed to breed for the time being; they are very careful about the breeding of their cattle.
This sweet little guy was in a pen outside of the barn – Jon told us he usually resides in the field with the bulls (that are kept separate from the steers that will eventually go to market), but he had put him in the pen while his son was in the field on the large and potentially dangerous farming machinery. He was also the only calf on the farm, and seemed far too young to be weaned. And he was; apparently, most calves stand moments after their birth – this baby did not. He didn’t stand for some time, and rather than leave him with his mother to see if he’d live or die, Jon took him to his farm and is raising him, which is quite a commitment for such a busy (but obviously compassionate) farmer.
There were quite a few chickens running about, doing the things chickens are supposed to be doing, and when I asked about the sale of them and/or their eggs, I was disappointed when Jon told me they were laying hens that provided his family with just enough eggs. “I’m no chicken farmer,” he said, grinning.
Jon himself, patiently answering our many questions with humor and a great deal of knowledge.
Oh, and one more thing – his prices, as well as those of the folks who are processing the beef, are very reasonable. I’ve been talking a lot about the investment this has required, but that’s simply because we had to pay for it all at once. Actually, after it’s all said and done, we paid just over $4 a pound for a supply of meat that will very likely last us at least a year. When was the last time you paid $4 a pound for a beef tenderloin or a porterhouse?
Live in or near northeast Ohio and are asking “Where’s the beef?” It’s here, at Jon Berger’s lovely Green Vista Farm.