Our little piggie is going to market!

Got a call this weekend from the man who may become my #1 most favorite here in the next few months… my pig man! He does have a name, (it’s Lee) and he is wonderful. I found his farm listing (ION Farm.. short for “It’s Only Natural”, isn’t that CUTE?) on Eat Wild. Lee and Tasha raise Heritage Tamworth hogs, letting them forage through the woods and finishing them on acorns. Tamworth is known as “the bacon hog” because of its’ long body.

Bacon. More bacon than normal. Let THAT sink in for a moment. Are you smiling? It’s BACON.

So because our hog is going to the butcher tomorrow, the spouse and I filled out our cut sheet, so that the butcher knows what cuts we are requesting. We are splitting the hog with another family, so each of us will end up with about 85 pounds of pork. With any luck, a third of that will be bacon. I kid! I kid! But really… bacon.

Having never done this before, Lee was amazing helping me through the process. When buying entire animals, you are quoted a price per pound. In this case, we are paying $4.75 per pound of pork. Hogs are sent to the butcher once they reach 250 pounds or so. The price to be paid however is on hanging weight. This is the weight of the animal after the butcher does his deal, removing the head and internal organs, etc. On average the hanging weight for a 250 pound hog will be about 164 pounds. So splitting with another family, each one of us gets about 82 pounds of pork. Paying $4.75 a pound for pasture raised, organically grown, no antibiotics, acorn finished pork is a STEAL. At my local Whole Foods I priced pork at well over $10 a pound.

Now do you see why Lee is at the top of my list?

We have also ordered a grass fed cow from a different farm. That is due to come in around the November time frame. SO glad we got another freezer! With our planning ahead, we should be set for the winter with the produce I’ve frozen and the fabulous meat we’ve ordered. Maybe I should host a dinner party and let some of my friends do a taste test on the “good” meat?

A lot of folks have asked, so here are my local sources for steroid free, antibiotic free, pasture raised, grass fed meat:
Pork: It’s Only Natural (ION) Farm, Lee and Tasha Anthony in Nanjemoy Maryland
Beef: Glen Mary Grass-fed Beef, Johnathan Schmidt in Park Hall Maryland
Chicken: Zekiah FarmI, David and Cindy Thorne in Bryantown Maryland

Visit these merchants, or order online from my non-local suppliers: US Wellness Meats, and TX Bar Organics. I guarantee that once you taste the flavor of organic pasture raised meats, you’ll NEVER want to buy from the grocery store again.

And until next time… BACON!

By request

I got a request via a Facebook friend who has recently been diagnosed with both corn and soy allergies (YIKES!) to list where I shop and get my vegetables and meats. You may be surprised to find out that Whole Foods isn’t even on my top ten … no offense to Whole Foods, I’m sure they’re lovely people, but I’d rather shop locally from farmers I have built a relationship with. I feel they are far more likely to give me the straight scoop on the food they grow and sell. With allergies being such a concern, that type of relationship and honesty really can be a matter of life and death for some!

My Saturday morning “go to” place is the Home Grown Farm Market in Lexington Park Maryland. Do yourselves a favor and “like” them on Facebook here. They post when they are open, and when new products are available. I get my eggs from Farrah and Brandon (They’re the first produce vendor on the left as you walk in), and whatever is fresh produce-wise from Even’Star Organic (across from Farrah and Brian) Trossbach’s produce (next to Even’Star) and Shlagel Farms. I also shop from WAG meats (all the way in the back, just past Shlagel Farms). I know these vendors, they know me and I enjoy spending my Saturday mornings saying hello to them.

WAG meats DOES grain finish their meats, meaning the cattle are pasture (grass) -fed for the majority of their lives, and then given grain for a short time at the very end. What this does is add a little fat to the beef (purely grass-fed animals are VERY lean). This is a good thing when it comes to hamburger since you need some fat to make luscious burgers. If corn is a problem for you, this amount of grain finishing shouldn’t be an issue since the cow processes the grain… but in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to make sure to mention it. I also get bacon here, since it’s uncured (no nitrites!) and deliciously thick cut. This bacon tastes more like MEAT without the artificial sweet/salty flavors you can get from the stuff bought in the store. Seasonally, I can also get dairy products (cheese, yogurt, butter) from the Home Grown Market too. Yum.

I shop ALL the vendors at the market, in fact there’s a cupcake lady at the back who is working on a gluten-free cupcake. When she perfects it, and decides to sell it, I will DEFINITELY be purchasing from her.

I usually then head to the farmer’s market in the BAE parking lot on Rt 235 across from Wal-Mart. There, I always purchase from David and Jennifer at Sassafras Creek Organic Farm. Be sure to sign up for their weekly newsletter! Every week, they send out an email letting us know what’s for sale at the market (I am addicted to their arugula) and usually giving a recipe on how to use them. YAY! Trossbach’s also has another stand here and if I’ve missed out on peaches at my first stop, I’ll get them here.

If I have time, I then head north to Charlotte Hall, to the Amish Farmer’s Market on the southbound side of Rt 5 (corner of Rt 5 and Rt 6 in front of the library). The Amish and Mennonite farmers always have not only fresh produce, but baked goods, noodles, canned preserves, eggs, flowers, herbs, etc. Or I’ll stop at Russell’s in Clements or Rt. 4 across from Fairgrounds road.

PLENTY of places to get produce in St. Mary’s County. Let’s talk about meat though shall we? This year, the spouse and I have decided to go all in and order half a pasture raised cow, and a half of pasture raised pig. The beef is going to cost us about 4.50 a pound, and we’ve ordered it from Glen Mary Farm, in Park Hall, MD. Our pig is going to cost only slightly more a pound and is coming from It’s Only Natural Farm in Nanjemoy, MD. You can find information about both of these wonderful farms at Eat Wild. We will get our meat in late October or early November from each of these farms. Chickens are a different matter, since chickens are a lot of work for not a tremendous amount of return, especially free range chickens! Luckily for me, while on my visit to the Loveville Produce Auction I met David from Zekiah Farms and he has the best prices on free range, antibiotic free chickens. David is a great guy, he was VERY helpful, and I’ve owed him this shout out for a couple of weeks now. PLEASE visit his website, and go visit HIM at the farm store.

When I’m in beautiful Calvert County, my go-to place is Chesapeake’s Bounty off of Rt. 4 in St. Leonard. I swear my car automatically knows when we are in Calvert and it leads me to their door. I ALWAYS find something delicious here. Produce, seafood, locally produced meats, and dairy… this shop is enough to make me want to move to St. Leonard so they can be my grocery store. All of the produce is grown organically, the meats sold are all raised humanely without antibiotics, and the dairy animals do not receive hormones! All great things.

For those pantry staples that I want to be gluten-free, I USUALLY order online due to price, but I’m finding that my grocery stores in the area are doing really great things expanding their gluten-free and other special diet departments. Plus there’s always the wonderful folks at The Good Earth Natural Food Company in Leonardtown. Be sure to stop there on the weekends when they are trying out new recipes in the kitchen!

So there’s my list of where I do my shopping. Some weeks (like this week) I don’t get to go to the market on Saturday mornings, so I’ll shop during the week. If I’m up in the big city, I HAVE to go to Trader Joe’s, since I love their Persian cucumbers. I’ll go to Whole Foods or Wegman’s on a special occasion, and I haven’t found enough time to make my own detergents and cleansers, so I still hit up Target, or Giant, or Shoppers, or whatever store I happen to be close to in order to do those supplemental grocery runs.

Hope this helps out, for those of you who are wondering WHERE to purchase. Here’s the secret…whenever possible, buy what is LOCAL and in season. You get a ton of food at wonderful prices. I (and my family) eat BETTER for LESS money by purchasing seasonally.

Hope you all had a delicious weekend… here’s to a very produce-tive (see what I did there?) week!

Her lessons start before school begins…

Stretch has gone back to college and the two youngest will begin another year at public school starting tomorrow. The cheer you will hear from Southern Maryland tomorrow morning will be all those moms as their babies get on the buses to school!

Tonight, I had to make a grocery store run for some supplemental ingredients. I can’t get EVERYTHING at the farmer’s market, as much as I’d like to. So I needed carrots, celery, kosher salt, stevia sweetener, peanut butter, and a few other things for the kiddos to pack in their lunches. While perusing the produce aisle for fruits that are lunchbox-friendly, I introduced MG to “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean Fifteen”. MG knows how much I enjoy buying delicious locally produced food, and she’s heard the word “organic” in our household pretty regularly, but tonight I decided to teach her how to look for organic produce, the difference between organic and non-organic; and when faced with a choice (and a limited budget) what decisions to make to stretch the food dollar AND eat as safely and cleanly as possible.

If you aren’t familiar with “The Dirty Dozen” of food, the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) publishes a list of the conventional fruits and vegetables that are found to be contaminated with pesticide residue. They publish a list yearly based on the previous year’s testing (2012 list is based on the 2011 test findings) and come up with the twelve foods that test HIGHEST in pesticide residues. The recommendation is that when buying these twelve foods, consumers should buy organic if at all possible in order to limit exposure to pesticides. This year’s list in order includes:

Sweet bell peppers
Nectarines – imported
Blueberries – domestic

PLUS Green Beans and Kale/Greens

MG loves apples, so we searched out the organic apples. Her first comment was “they’re so much SMALLER than the ‘regular’ apples!” And while that was true, I explained to her that those bigger apples were bathed in chemicals to give them resistance to pests, and fertilizers to grow larger, and probably sprayed with chemicals to keep them from spoiling while they were trucked in to the supermarket. Whereas the smaller, less beautiful apples looked like they were pulled straight from the tree, and even smelled more like apple. We added organic celery, carrots, and spinach to our cart.

I needed a few other things as well, and MG was in charge of ensuring we stayed on the right side of our Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen food lists. The “Clean Fifteen” are the foods with the least amount of pesticide residue, so if you have to make a decision on purchasing organic or not based on your food budget, these are the foods that are the most “ok” to purchase conventionally:

Sweet Corn
Sweet peas
Cantaloupe – domestic
Sweet potatoes

I did get mushrooms, as well as some lemons. I have melon and cantaloupe from my local growers, as well as eggplant, onions, and sweet potatoes. I have my food list printed out into a handy card I keep in my wallet. You can get yours here. It makes remembering a no-brainer, and while I perused the store for other lunchtime staples (chocolate almond milk? Yes please!), my daughter was able to take the card and do her own comparison on organic vs. conventional. She spent the rest of the grocery trip seeking out the organic labels on everything from produce, to ketchup, to her peanut butter! She came out of the trip knowing that her body will be well fed, and I came out of it knowing her mind got some feeding too.

When shopping for anything, we DO watch our pennies, so knowing where I can save when I need to is important. We are not 100% organic in our home, but we are far closer to it than ever before. Up until tonight I have been the only member of the household who has cared enough to be educated, and to take responsibility for feeding the family the best quality possible. Now I’ve enlisted my 14-year old daughter’s help, I’m looking forward to many more organic opportunities with her.

I hope she is too.

Have a great first day at school, MG…and ENJOY that organic apple at lunchtime.