Food security and safety become one of our family’s top priorities in 2012. We had been members of a local meat CSA for the past few years and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the farming family that raised our meat products: chicken, beef and pork. For us, it was satisfying to know our meat was humanely raised without added chemicals and hormones. The fact that our dollars were also staying in the community and supporting a small local farm were a huge plus too. Unfortunately they decided to end their CSA operation and that left us looking for other sustainable, bulk-meat buying options.
Here in the land of excess bulk (McDonalds located on every imaginable corner of our nationally ranked, unhealthy city) it’s not easy to find good local, fresh food buying options. I proudly learned to butcher our own organically raised “surprise” roosters this summer and then we also lucked upon a dairy farmer down on his luck. The extreme drought that gripped much of the Midwest was taking a toll on his raw, organic dairy herd. He had to make the difficult decision to cull some of his herd for meat in order to truck in the feed necessary to keep the rest of his dairy herd and family business alive.
We, along with several other families, each bought a half-share of one of his cows and consequently stocked our freezers full of organic ground beef, minute steaks, roasts and stew meat at prices unheard of in any organic grocery store. Six months later, half our freezer is still taken up by that beef but we knew we needed some more carniverous variety and began looking for some pork.
Word of mouth led us to an Amish farmer named Ben located near the town of Cadiz (just think of a thick Kentucky accent drawling out “kay-dizz”). We were told Ben prides himself on raising good quality, chemical-free meat and the pricing seemed just right. Because we live about 2 hours away from Ben, I was going to have to place a phone call to start the ordering process. If you’ve ever tried to contact an Amish family by way of their community telephone, you’ll know how much of a challenge this can be.
If you’ve never had this unique experience in communications, just think back to the days of telephoning before there was voicemail, answering machines, and cell phones. Ben happened to have one 30 minute window of reachability only two days out of the week. Any other time and you’re liable to get a constant ring or end up exchanging niceties with another Amish family who will eventually pass on word of your call to the recipient the next time they see them. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
Two weeks passed before I finally received a phone call back from farmer Ben, during his published phone hours of course. Ben meandered through my many questions about the process, returning slow and methodical answers that told me he’s done all of this before. I placed our pre-order for a whole hog and waited another month or two before Ben called me to let me know the time for slaughter was near.
You truly begin to look at the food that graces your plate differently when you know that one specific animal has a marked date for its death; a death that will carry on the life of you and your family. The date was set for early December. I clearly had more questions than answers but just knew the guidance of this wise Amish man would parlay any fears of the process.
I took a day off work, packed Homestead Hottie and the girls into the car and headed south through the driving rain to reach Ben’s farm. His 19th century Amish directions (based mainly on guidance by positions of water towers, number of hills crested and mailbox colors) were surprisingly far more accurate than our 21st century GPS. Locating Ben’s pale blue rural mailbox (yes, he is indeed the only farm in the area sporting a baby blue package receptacle) was easy, especially since it was sitting next to a large hand-painted sign advertising chemical-free meat. You don’t see one of those every day!
Pulling down a tiny gravel drive toward a cluster of barns, I questioned if we were in the right place. Stepping out of the car I could hear hushed voices coming from inside a long, quonset-style barn. Any notion that I might be in the wrong place quickly evaporated when out from the corner or the barn walked a pig’s face, skittering across the gravel path just steps in front of me.
Continue the rest of the story by clicking here: Going Amish for Pork part 2.
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