Monday, July 14, 2014

Farm Outing to Carolina Bay Farms

James and Sharon Helms

So we were off again, a group of friends and I, who love to explore and learn about our small, local family farms in South Carolina.  On a sunny day in mid-July we found ourselves headed out to Carolina Bay Farms. We'd planned this trip for what seemed like months and months, so everyone was excited to visit this 1700's homestead, being lovingly restored to its former splendor. In a word, it is a true gem, well-worth visiting and didn't disappoint.

Hidden just off the road through some live oak and pecan trees, the road in opens up quickly to a large cleared area where we could see chickens, quail and turkeys.  We parked our cars, and were quickly met by our hosts, James and Sharon Helms. After introductions all around, and some "ohhhhhhs" and "awwws" from the group as we glanced around to see some ducks splashing in a small kiddie pool, turkeys, quails and chickens pecking for bugs, and some goats in the background, Sharon welcomed the group and began to explain their farming beliefs and practices to us.

"We started Carolina Bay Farms 3 years ago with the purpose of raising heritage breed animals and heirloom vegetables. We established our farm on a 5-acre tract of land that is part of our family property dating back to 1760. James says I have been the main catalyst for the goal of the farm since I have been a nurse for 30 years and have seen first-hand the decline of people's health as our food system has become more influenced by commercialization and chemicals. Our belief is that mother nature is in charge of our farm and we are simply there to assist her, so we do not use any antibiotics, added growth hormones, herbicides or pesticides on our farm."


Carolina Bay Farms raises heritage breed chickens, to include single comb Rhode Island Reds, Buckeyes, Jersey Giants, Russian Orloff, and Orpingtons. 

Other poultry include Standard Bronze Turkeys, Rouen Ducks
, Pharoah Quail, and Guinea Fowl. 

Standard Bronze Turkeys


Their pigs are American Guinea Hogs and they also have a pair of milking goats. 

The American Guinea Hog is the ideal sustainable heritage farm pig, known for its moderate size, excellent foraging abilities, friendly temperament, excellently flavored meat and indispensable lard.  While the American Guinea Hog is smaller than industrial hog breeds, it is a good-sized farm pig providing a nice, well-marbled carcass.
American Guinea Hogs

The American Guinea Hog is a true American heritage breed of domestic farm pig, perhaps over 200 years old. They developed as a landrace breed (landrace is a local variety of a domesticated animal or plant species which has developed over time, by adaptation to the natural and cultural environment in which it lives) throughout the southeastern states of the USA. Anecdotal evidence suggests a European ancestry with other possible influences. It has been determined though genetic testing that the American Guinea Hog is a distinct breed.
At six months, the American Guinea Hog may provide a nicely marbled carcass of up to 75 pounds hanging weight of gourmet-quality highly-flavored meat. (source: American Guinea Hog Association)
Carolina Bay

Their produce in production, or what they have seed stock for, includes Bradford watermelon, 3 varieties of okra found in the 19th century midlands area, peas from Senegal and Italy, as well as others. All of it is heritage or heirloom and contain no GMO's.
After a wonderful tour of this small farmstead, which included a walk back to a "Carolina Bay,"  and the reason for the name of the farm, (considered to be a freshwater wetland, most often isolated. The bay's depression fills with rainwater, usually in winter and spring, and dries in the summer months. This water level determines the plants and animals that inhabit the bay) past pastures, fields of sunflowers, turkeys and guinea hogs, and over a boardwalk, everyone was looking forward to shopping for some goodies.

Some bought pastured pork, others bought fresh garlic, and still others (including me) bought eggs, which included a choice of Quail, Guinea, Turkey, Duck and Chicken eggs, and everyone received a freshly cut sunflower to take home.

I bought a variety pack Sharon put together which included Guinea, Quail and Turkey Eggs and I traded one turkey egg for a duck egg another friend bought. I was anxious to get home and cook some up for a comparison of each. This was going to be fun since each egg has its own unique qualities as I quickly learned.  
Did you know?
Guinea, Quail and Turkey Eggs

Quail eggs: are packed with vitamins and minerals. Even with their small size, their nutritional value is three to four times greater than chicken eggs. Quail eggs contain 13 percent proteins compared to 11 percent in chicken eggs. Quail eggs also contain 140 percent of vitamin B-1 compared to 50 percent in chicken eggs. In addition, quail eggs provide five times as much iron and potassium. Unlike chicken eggs, quail eggs have not been know to cause allergies. Regular consumption of quail eggs helps fight against many diseases. They are a natural combatant against digestive tract disorders such as stomach ulcers. Quail eggs strengthen the immune system, promote memory health, increase brain activity and stabilize the nervous system. They help with anemia by increasing the level of hemoglobin in the body while removing toxins and heavy metals.
Guinea Eggs

Guinea eggs: are smaller (weighing about 45 g), but richer in content of dry matter, lipid, vitamin “A” and carotenoids. They are pear-shaped, with thick and strong light brown shell, large yolk has pleasant taste. Guinea fowl eggs are usually overlooked, but their eggs are full of protein and full of superior taste, They are ideal for baking, in salads and cooking. Their eggs are rich in protein and have a rich yellow yolk and quality white. 

Turkey eggs: contain 9.4 grams of total fat, which contributes 63 percent toward the eggs' total calorie content. This fat provides energy to fuel a healthy and active lifestyle, serves as a source of fatty acids needed for healthy cell membranes and also helps you absorb nutrients. Turkey eggs each contain 10.8 grams of protein, which accounts for 32 percent of their calorie content. Protein maintains your immune system, promotes new tissue growth and helps your body hold on to muscle mass. Turkey eggs are low in carbohydrates, at less than a gram of carbs per egg. The bad is they are high in cholesterol, so should only be eaten as an occasional treat.Turkey eggs used to be a menu staple in North America. Wild turkeys roamed the continent before the arrival of humans, and archaeologists have found turkey-egg shells at the encampments of pre-Columbian Americans. Hopi Indians consider the eggs a delicacy. (The Navajo ate only the flesh of turkeys, however, European settlers noted). Europeans took domesticated turkeys across the Atlantic in the 16th century, and turkey eggs were soon a part of Old-World cuisine, particularly in England. Americans also served them until fairly recently. Turkey egg omelettes were a regular offering at New York’s legendary Delmonico’s restaurant in the late 19th century.
Duck eggs:  boost your vitamin intake and provide considerable amounts of vitamins A and B-12. The vitamin A from your diet promotes new cell development to keep your tissues healthy and also maintains good eyesight. A duck egg contains 472 international units of vitamin A -- one-fifth of the recommended daily intake for women and 16 percent for men. The vitamin B-12 in duck eggs keeps your nerves healthy and promotes red blood cell function. Each duck egg boasts 3.8 micrograms of vitamin B-12, more than your entire daily recommended B-12 intake. It also contains small amounts of several B-complex vitamins, as well as vitamins D and E.

Guinea, Duck, Turkey and Quail Eggs

So which one did I like?  I liked them all!  

I was most surprised by the Turkey egg.  It had an awesome creamy yolk, very rich-tasting, smooth and delicious, but with the highest cholesterol, it's probably one I would only eat occasionally. 

The Guinea egg was also really good, with a dark, rich tasting yolk and the tiny Quail egg was equally delicious. 

The Duck egg has a slightly larger ratio of yolk to white and it too had a smooth, creamy taste. 

Really, all of them tasted very much like chicken eggs to me, with only some subtle differences and I would definitely buy them again, but I'll admit is was pretty cool cooking a turkey egg, which I had never eaten before.

In parting James and Sharon thanked us all for coming and James told me "when we get discouraged, it's people like you who are concerned about where their food comes from that keeps us motivated and for that we say thank you."  

Believe me when I say "it's small family farms like them doing so much for you and me I appreciate and THANK YOU for doing what you do every day."  

Please support your local farms, and help them continue to provide delicious eggs, fruit, produce, grains and pastured-meats for you and me. One bite of "fresh from the farm" products and you too will be convinced there's nothing better!

Visit Carolina Bay Farms on Facebook
Check them out on Local Harvest
Find them on Local Hens

Until next time...


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