Rettland Farm

Rettland Farm

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Food as a Priority

Recently, I had a pretty nice article in our local newspaper, about our harvest of Thanksgiving turkeys, and some unique opportunities it offered to us and to the buyers of those turkeys.

The article was published on the papers webpage, and most of the comments posted about the article were extremely positive, and supportive of me and what I try to do for a living. There was, however, one naysayer who thought that the price that I charged for the turkeys was a little high, to put it lightly.

Let me say this right now: I don't give a damn about this guy, or his opinion of me. I live by Abe Lincoln's admonition about not being able to please all the people all the time, and that philosophy serves me well. In my mind, if I produce food that only one person in this whole wide world appreciates, then my life and my life's work has purpose. Period. I'm not running for Homecoming King, and popularity has never appeared on any list of my goals. Ever.

But as a result of this heckler, I've been thinking again about the stereotype that people who seek good food for themselves and their families are painted with: Elitists. Food snobs. Tree huggers. The Haves, not the Have-Nots.

I think the labels are bullshit.

I think that the desire and the willingness to seek out and pay for decent, honest, wholesome food boils down to nothing more than priorities.

People who buy from me, and other farmers like me, place a value in the role that food plays in their lives, beyond simply providing protein, fat, and carbohydrates in order to maintain their existence. They value the relationship and interaction that can be had with people who grow their food, or prepare it in a restaurant kitchen. They recognize the fact that, through their purchase and careful preparation of food, they can influence issues ranging from family cohesion to environmental protection, from foreign policy to public health. And they recognize that their influence can be positive.

Others don't hold food or it's producers in such high esteem. To them, every dollar spent on food is one that takes away from their entertainment budget, or their cigarette money, or the weekly bar tab, or the new car that they buy every two years, or the NFL channel, or whatever other IMPORTANT things exist in their lives, besides food. So therefore, food expense is something to be minimized, to be reduced to as close to zero as possible, and by default, food itself becomes a sterile, meaningless necessity, and those that are involved in food production are no longer professionals or artisans, but instead technicians or laborers.

I proudly consider myself a member of the first group, and I feel nothing but pity for those who are members of the second.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

First Annual Turkey Day

Another post where I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

As a brief background, I started raising turkeys in July. They were sold on a pre-ordered basis, and as part of the deal, I offered to let people come out and take part in the harvest of their Thanksgiving turkey. Sort of a hard core twist to the "pick your own pumpkin" or "choose your own Christmas tree" idea.

In reality, I wanted to offer people the chance to see one more step that their food must take from farm to table, to completely close the circle. I wanted it to be an educational opportunity for adults and children alike, and I wanted to recreate some of the experiences I had as a child at similar community butchering days.

In the end, the butchering day was everything I wanted it to be, and more. We had LOTS of interest from the turkey buyers, and they came with a lot of really valid questions about my small scale butchering techniques, and how they compared with large scale slaughterhouses. Many of these folks rolled up their sleeves and stepped in to harvest and clean THEIR turkey, and that gave me satisfaction that I can't put into words.

Thanks to all who participated for making this a great experience. The wheels are already turning for next year...

A handsome turkey. Oh yeah, and the bird about to be butchered...

Turkeys, 2010 edition.

Making the selection.

My butchering facility. Notice the window with the scenic view, and ample spectator room...

Turkey, knife, right hand, blue sky. Just thought it was a cool picture.

A customer, hands-on in the process. Awesome.

Finished product, just chillin'.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Autumn Splendor Sausage

So, it's back to the future here at Rettland Farm.

No, I'm not talking about a visit by Ol' Doc or Marty McFly, or the arrival of Flux Capacitors by UPS or Stainless Steel Doloreans in the barnyard.

I'm talking about the latest addition to the Rettland Farm Original Sausage line, called "Autumn Splendor." This apparent new kid on the block is actually the grandaddy of them all. A little over a year ago, when I started exploring the idea of producing original sausages using our own meats as a way of showcasing the "taste" of Rettland Farm, I knew that the sausages had to be unique in concept and flavor. So, I started to experiment with different ingredients that were unique to the season at the time, which happened to be autumn.

The result of hours (and I mean hours) of messing around in the kitchen more than a year ago, before I ever produced a sausage for retail sale, yielded the basic recipe for the sausage we rolled out today, affectionately called "Autumn Splendor." But poor little Autumn Splendor had to wait a whole year, while the rest of the RF line hit the streets.

So why wait a whole year to release this sausage for public enjoyment? Well, for a couple of reasons, the first being seasonality. The ingredients are very much FALL ingredients. I wanted to use fresh fruit in season, not fruit from cold storage and ABSOLUTELY not fruit imported from some foreign country, essentially driving another nail in the coffin of American fruitgrowers. In Adams County, PA, fruit is harvested in the fall.

In addition, the sausage has a sort of FALL taste to it--it's just not something you'd want to eat watching fireworks on July 4th, or something you'd whip up for your sweetie on Valentine's Day. It's just...autumnal.

What are these magical FALL ingredients? Besides the ever present, ever reliable Rettland Farm Pork, I used some pretty awesome Adams County Bosc Pears, the kind that have rich mahogany colored skins, so fresh that a few of them still have a leaf or two attached to the stems. Next comes dried cranberries, which obviously didn't come from Adams County, but I happen to like them very much, and what they added to the sausage overcame any pangs of guilt I felt for not using super local ingredients.

After that, we've got a few spices thrown in that will remind you of apple pies, and the smells around grandma's house on Thanksgiving.

One other thing--this sausage is packaged and labelled as a "Breakfast" sausage. It's been stuffed into smaller diameter casings, making it possible to cook the sausage in less time. But, Autumn Splendor will work in lots of different scenarios, so don't be afraid to try. And as usual, if you come up with a really cool way to use the sausage, I'd love to hear about it in the comment section.

Autumn Splendor is available exclusively at the Carriage House Market, 117 Frederick St. Rear, Hanover, PA. Please make plans now to stop in and get some, because it will only be available for a limited time, for reasons you probably understand by now.

Happy Autumn!