Tag archives for “Summer”
On The Farm
Calving Season 2018
The Highland breed has lived for centuries in the rugged, remote highlands of Scotland, where extremely harsh conditions led to natural selection. Only the fittest, most adaptable animals survived. We’re proud owners of one of the largest herds of this fine animal in California. Several hundred strong, these pasture-raised cattle are at home on our more than 800-acre Tomales Station (owned and leased). Our Highlands are grass-fed and grass-finished and are raised employing a protocol that is entirely hormone- and antibiotic-free. We have acquired some of the oldest bloodlines in the country, which represent the very best attributes of this classic breed. We rotate our fold to fresh pasture seasonally, allowing them to gain weight healthily while maintaining the grassland ecosystem. These are all factors that contribute to beef that has outstanding flavor and palatability.
A chat with Joseph Hardin, Long Meadow Ranch Director of Agricultural Operations
Why do we breed Highland cattle?
There are many advantages but, mainly, this breed was developed for performance on the traditional grasses from the northern British Isles as well as to produce tasty, highly palatable beef. As exclusively grass-fed and grass-finished cattle, we produce beef with lower levels of fat (i.e., higher protein per serving), higher beta carotene, omega-3, and higher iron content compared to cattle finished on grain. Importantly, beef from Highland cattle is genetically more tender than conventional beef. The muscle contains less connective tissue and the fibers are longer and larger, which are more readily separated during cooking, making the beef even more tender than other breeds raised on grass.Additionally Highlands have a longer productive life than most cattle breeds, typically 3-4 more years for a mother cow. Highland mothers have really strong maternal instincts, resulting in a very high percentage of healthy calves. Lastly, the cattle are aggressive browsers, meaning that they will happily graze just about any grass varietal, and even woody brush.
How long is the gestation period for a cow?
How many calves will a cow produce in a lifetime?
12. We have had a few cows that have produced as many as 16 calves.
How long will cows feed their calves before they are weaned?
Around 7-8 months. Our minimum standard is 200 days.
Are there any methods LMR uses when growing the herd that differs from traditional cattle practice?
One point of distinction is that we operate a full circle cattle operation. We raise animals from birth through harvest. Typical cattle companies pursue only one part of the life cycle and operation. There are three phases in the production of beef cattle. “Cow-calf” is a ranch that has a mother cow herd and raises calves to sell. Next is a “stocker” operation where cattle are raised from 8 months to 18 months (or 550 lbs to 1000 lbs). The third and final phase is “finishing.” We schedule our harvests based on peak grass conditions from each site. Usually April - June in Tomales, and year-round in Ferndale.
How many pastures does Long Meadow Ranch have for their cattle operation?
We have cattle at three separate properties, Tomales Station in west Marin County, Ferndale in Humboldt County, and a summer lease in Carneros in Napa County. Our property at Tomales Station is mainly for our “cow-calf” and “stocker” programs, with some finishing in early spring. Our main finishing property is in Ferndale.
How does Long Meadow Ranch utilize the beef?
We serve only our grass-fed beef at the restaurant at Farmstead, and we also sell directly to consumers at our Farmers’ Market at Farmstead, as well as the St. Helena Farmers’ Market and Napa Farmers’ Market. In keeping with our sustainable farming practices, we utilize the whole animal. The restaurant won’t always have steak on the menu, but we will have other creative menu items to help utilize the whole carcass, such as our grass-fed beef tartare and our grass-fed beef chili. Of course, it’s also featured in our grass-fed beef burger. Our grass-fed beef program is evolving as we grow. In fact, our herd has roughly doubled in the last two years. With that growth, we have also expanded into grass-fed beef jerky that we sell in our General Store at Farmstead and right here on this website.
FROM THE FARM
Napa Valley starts to get very busy in August as grape harvest sneaks up on us and is in full swing by September. But, before we tackle grape harvest, we are fortunate to experience a fruitful tomato season!
This year we planted 14 tomato varietals, both heirlooms and hybrids, and they are all finally ripening with the heat we’ve had in Napa Valley the last few weeks.
Here’s a little plant 101, in case you need some brushing up…
Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated, unlike hybrids, and are often passed down from generation to generation. When the plants of an open-pollinated variety self-pollinate or are pollinated by another representative of the same variety, the resulting seeds will produce plants roughly identical to their parents.
Hybrids are created when plant breeders cross-pollinate two different varieties of a plant with the goal of producing a plant with the best traits from each of the parents. Cross-pollination is a natural process that can occur within members of the same plant species. Sungolds are, for example, a hybrid and prove that hybrids can have tons of flavor.
Now for a guide to what is growing on our farm and what you can find in our restaurant and farmer’s market:
The Pink Brandywine gets its name from its hometown Brandywine, PA. This heirloom is one of the most well-known. It has a potato leaf shape that can look like a heart. These tomatoes are super sweet and really meaty.
AUNT RUBY’S GERMAN GREEN
A family heirloom from Ruby Arnold of Greeneville, TN, Aunt Ruby’s German Green is slightly acidic and really sweet with a hint of spiciness.
This heirloom tomato is originally from Krim, Russia and is also known as Black Crimea. Sweet, smoky, and a little bit salty, when the Black Krim gets a lot of heat it turns a violet-brown/purple-red (almost black) color. This year these are thriving in Napa Valley!
A predecessor of the “mortgage lifter” tomato, the heirloom German Johnson has a deep, acidic tomato flavor and a rich, creamy texture.
The Indigo Rose is commonly referred to as a blue tomato and was bred by Wild Boar farms in Napa for high levels of anthocyanins. These small tomatoes are high in antioxidants.
Sun golds are an exceptionally sweet, bright tangerine-orange cherry tomato. They are like candy with a tropical fruit flavor and are great right off the vine directly into your mouth.
The heirloom Black Pineapple, also known as Ananas Noire, is sweet with low acid and a hearty smoky flavor.
There are several white tomatoes, but we like the heirloom Great White. It is meaty with few seeds, and has a mild non-acid flavor and a creamy texture.
Gold Medal, an heirloom from Ohio, is an overwhelmingly sweet and meaty yellow tomato with red stripes.
PINK BERKELEY TIE DYE
The Pink Berkeley Tie Dye tomato was developed by Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms. It’s a psychedelic dark pink tomato with green stripes and the flavor is sweet, rich and complex.
Early Girl tomatoes are named as such because they bear fruit earlier than most other tomato varietals. These tomatoes are extremely popular in the US and are often found in backyard gardens.
Another Wild Boar Farms hybrid, the Solar Flare is luscious and meaty with a slightly sweet full tomato flavor.
This Russian heirloom tomato has an almost cult following for its distinctive, sweet and smoky flavor. It was lovingly named in honor of Paul Robeson, the famous opera singer and equal rights advocate.
A small cherry variety from Wild Boar Farms, a ripe blue berry tomato is dark purple where it received the most sunlight and deep red where the fruit was shaded. These tomatoes are super-rich in anthocyanins and the flavor is intensely fruity and sugar-sweet.
BLUE GOLD BERRIES
Blue Gold Berry tomatoes are incredibly beautiful purple and yellow cherry tomatoes. These little tomatoes are bursting with loads of antioxidants and the flavor is very sweet and rich.
These port wine colored cherry tomatoes have metallic silver green stripes with an outrageous rich, sweet flavor.
As you can see, there are so many wonderful tomatoes out there right now and there are 101 ways to use them - from a juicy BLT to a luscious sauce to a easy snack. Check out our restaurant, chef’s table or farmer’s market for inspiration!