Monday, February 10, 2014

West Ridge Farms - Premium Beef Farm Tour

Yum
  In my continuing quest to find local farms "doing it right," a group of us set out on a partly sunny Sunday in February, to West Ridge Farms - Premium Beef to meet with farmer Adam Frick, and have a tour of the farm.  After our exit from the interstate, and a few long and winding country roads, we pulled into the farm to an area with a few old out buildings, a large barn and pastures as far as we could see.


old farmstead outbuildings
  We were in an area of old pecan trees, where Adam explained to us "West Ridge Farms began in 1982, when John Frick bought the land our cows now call home. Although the land had been used as pasture once before, years of neglect and vacancy had allowed trees and brush to grow up. John Frick cleared all of it himself and began planting and plotting out pastures." As he talked he explained "there are still tulips that come up every year along this fence and in another area over there more flowers and even a few asparagus."
Jinny trying to tempt them closer
  Following along, we were led into the first pasture where cows and calves were enjoying the February sunshine munching on hay, some calves nursing on their mothers, some calves laying down, and others wandering into a near-by pond for a drink of water.  While they allowed us to get fairly close, none of them would get close enough to be patted, not for lack of trying by a few in the group who tempted them with arms outstretched holding hay.


One of many ponds supplying water to the cows
Adam Frick with his cows
  As we were admiring all the cows and their calves, Adam talked about their farming practices by explaining  "In 2009, with the soaring price of corn, we at West Ridge Farms decided to transition to a grass by saying-fed herd and eliminate commercial cow production. However, not all breeds of cattle are ideally suited to exclusive grass-feeding, so we researched and experimented until we settled on Red Angus bulls with some Continental heritage (Charlais, Simmental, and Limosin) from our existing brood stock. Our Registered Red Angus bulls provide the strong marbling characteristics that beef-lovers crave. In 2013, by paying diligent attention to the cows’ needs and with a little help from the weather, we successfully raised our first group of grass-fed calves from birth to slaughter."

Ear tags are used for identification
  
round bale silage
  Next we wandered over to another pasture where all the steers were hanging out. Here Adam explained all about the hay 
silage, which I found fascinating.  I guess it shouldn't surprise you this young farmer is also a chemist.  Imagine that!  "During the winter months, we feed a combination of dry grass hay and round bale silage (commonly called haylage). Since the baling process is rather violent, the leaves on dried grass (where the sugars are made via photosynthesis) tend to shatter. By baling the grass while it is still wet or wilted, the leaves are more flexible and tend not to 
the steers
break or shatter. This allows us to store a higher quality forage and eliminates the need for using grain supplementation to meet the growing calves' dietary needs. With that being said, their rumen still has to adjust somewhat to the change in digesting cellulose for energy to digesting fatty acids and plant-based sugars. The haylage is fed predominately to our growing steers and heifers."

  Wandering around the farm, it is evident in Adam's expressions and enthusiasm, just how much he cares about his herd, and how well they are cared for.  For many of us, this is extremely important as we are looking for a great product, raised humanely on pasture with no added hormones or antibiotics.  It speaks volumes when the entire herd
Eating some hay
is under their direct supervision, and so much attention is paid to the welfare of the livestock they are raising. This is a young farmer who definitely knows his product!  While most of their herd is grass-fed, there are some who are fed a corn-free grain mix.  "
Most of our herd is 100 percent grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Our cows eat a combination of Fescue, Bermuda, and Johnson grasses, which they graze upon or are fed as hay or round bale silage. We carefully monitor our cows’ intake to ensure proper nutrition while
Well, hello there!
providing the variety that keeps them content. Through selective breeding, we are able to offer meat that is leaner than grain-fed beef but marbled well enough to yield tender, flavorful cuts. 
If you prefer the taste and texture of grain-fed beef, West Ridge Farms can serve you, too! With the grain-fed consumer in mind, we feed some of our cows a special corn-free grain mix that won't compromise their health. Their beautifully marbled meat is a result of substituting up to five percent of their diet with this high-fiber grain formula, which includes wheat and soybean co-products. Due to its high
Cute calf
fiber content, this feed is digested much like grass, allowing the cows to spend less time adjusting to a higher-starch diet, yet the meat has the savor and composition that grain-fed consumers are 
seeking. Whether selecting grass-fed or grain-fed, all of our beef is dry-aged for a minimum of two weeks to enhance tenderness and imparts a smooth, nutty flavor that is unlike any beef you have ever tried."  And what exactly are the nutritional benefits of grass-fed beef you ask? Read all about it here.  

  After 2 hours of wandering around the farm, and an education in the proper care and feeding of a herd of cattle, it was time for us to get going, but not before we all purchased some awesome beef products. There were all-beef hot dogs I've been told by another foodie friend taste like a German Nuremberger Wurst (can't wait to eat one), tenderloin fillets, soup bones, sirloin tip roasts, chuck roasts and 
Boneless sirloin tip roast
stew beef, so we loaded up our coolers and headed 
out.

All-beef hot dogs




Tenderloin Fillet
 Our next stop which was lunch at Vella's Restaurant and Tavern in Chapin, S.C. The lunch was awesome and they had the absolutely best fresh asparagus I've ever tasted, dusted with aged Parmesan cheese! 

  After lunch we continued our trek home, talking about the farm tour and all the delicious beef we had purchased.  Once again I am thankful we have an abundance of local farms doing it "right" for you and me right here in South Carolina.  It's tireless hard work, but without our support, they wouldn't be able to continue to do what is their passion, producing a great product for you and me.  Does it cost more? Maybe. Is it worth it. Yes!  The way to really save money on grass-fed beef is to buy it in larger amounts, such as a side or 1/4 side of beef.  While that does mean more initial outlay, the total cost is around $3.90 per lb., which includes all cuts of beef from tenderloins to ground beef and everything in-between. Don't have the freezer space yourself for that much beef? Consider what we are doing and going in on it together with other friends or family members, dividing it up between all participants.  The BEST thing you can do for yourself and your family is just EAT REAL FOOD!  Buy it from your local farm, get to know your farmer, and support your local Farmer's market.  I think you'll be happy you did!

Enjoy,
Mary



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