Tag Archives: Meat

Cooking for the hay crew

Came across this column in the Tacoma News Tribune about shortcake suppers.  She talks about her grandmother cooking for the farm crew and it struck a cord in me because I grew up helping my mother put on the big spread for farm workers and cooking for the hay crew happens at our house too!  When I was growing up my dad had 3-4 good farm friends he swapped labor with for things like haying and chopping silage.  Each farmer had a couple pieces of machinery (tractors, mowers, wagons, forage harvesters) and they would share machinery and help each other at crucial times of the year.  The really cool thing is that each farmer did slightly different things – one was a dairy farmer – another raised beef cattle – so their busy times were not at the SAME time!

As my Dad and the other farmers traveled from place to place doing the big, shared work projects like haying and silage, the wives would always put on the big spread for lunch.  In the 70s there wasn’t many arenas where women competed – except in the kitchen.  Title IX was a few years away and most women were relegated to pink collar jobs.  But, in the domestic domain it was full-contact homemaking!  Just like the Amish women at barn-raising events, the tables would be groaning under the weight of baked goods and breads, mashed potatoes, gravy, roast beef…and dessert!  Cobblers, cakes, and PIES!

Now, my Dad was a bit of a joker and he liked to egg people on.  So, when they were having lunch at Charlie’s and Marion was feeding them he would say things like, “Well, you know, at Hank’s last week we had apple and lemon meringue pie!”  Sure enough, the next day Marion would produce, apple, lemon meringue AND cherry (with ice cream!)  It is a wonder they ever got any work done given the amount they ate, but they were also doing hard physical labor and could justify the big meals.

At our house we typically feed the helpers who work with us on hay deliveries.  Sometimes we have 3-4 of them on busy days so dinner is a big, sit down affair.  On Saturday we do a big farm breakfast for everyone who shows up by 8:30 in the morning.  Last week we had eggs, sausage gravy, fried potatoes, toast and jam.  I do this as a carry-over from the tradition when I was growing up.  And the crew is always grateful which provides a reward for the work of cooking for them.  While I don’t have other farm wives to contend with in a contest of pie-baking skills I need to be careful because occasionally a mom will ask “So, what did you feed them this week?” in a my-kid-seems-to-like-your-cooking-a-bit-too-much tone of voice.  But the fact remains, I like to cook for an appreciative audience.  The other night we had one of our former helpers who was home to visit family for the 4th call and say that he was coming over to help us for a couple hours for old time’s sake and the last thing he told my husband was  “….and I will stay for supper!”  Game on!

Local meat for local meals!

Did you see the article featuring Joe Keehn from Farmer George Meats in today’s Sun?  Having USDA inspected slaughter in Kitsap is an important step in rebuilding the infrastructure necessary to revitalize farming in this county. 

Beginning in the 70s and even earlier, the mantra at the national and local level focused on the economies of scale for farmers – and for all other forms of production – so small, integrated farmers were either pushed our or chose to make the shift to larger scale, production agriculture.  There is a place for production ag – it feeds our nation very efficiently – but it comes at a cost that I don’t think anyone anticipated 50 or 60 years ago.  Our water ways, our topsoil and our communities have all been impacted by large scale, industrial farms.  As a result of conventional farms using fossil based fertilizers in the Midwest we have a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.  We are losing about 1% of our topsoil per year right now, mostly due to agriculture.  (read more about this in “Dirt” by David Montgomery.  For a review go to the Seattle Times) Small towns and communities have struggled to survive as farms have consolidated into larger and larger acreages farmed by fewer people.  Farm families often find themselves in the position of having one spouse working off the farm to afford medical benefits and health insurance because the farm fails to generate enough income to support the entire family.

This phenomen happened in Kitsap County just like it did across the country.  In the 1954 there were three creameries on the Kitsap Penisula processing milk from the 166 local dairy farms, every town had a butcher shop, and the Farm Co-op in Silverdale shipped eggs to Seattle and points east.  We had a green bean cannery and produced strawberries so famous the King and Queen of England requested them.  Time, consolidation and regulation gradually changed all of that. 

But, then interestingly enough in the last few years things started to change!  We had a couple of national food safety scares, fuel prices skyrocketed, farmer’s market sales exploded and suddenly local farmers were inundated by people looking for locally produced food.

The arrival of the Mobile Slaughter Unit in the Puget Sound signals an important step in rebuilding our local food system and with it our local farm economy.  You will soon be able to find locally grow beef, lamb and pork in local restaurants, grocery stores, and at farmer’s markets.  Initially, it will be small amounts as local farmers build capacity, but in a year or so perhaps instead of buying Iowa beef you will be able to purchase Puget Sound Fresh – Kitsap Select meats for your family!