A few years ago, Sally Fallon Morell and her husband Geoffrey bought a 95-acre farm near the village of Aquasco, near Brandywine, Maryland. After a tremendous amount of work on the land and the old farmhouse, parts of which date to the 1700s, they are harvesting the fruits of their labor. Their brand new farm store is open for business! Sally gave me a tour this weekend so I have lots to tell and lots of photos to share.
(View of the Farm Store from the farmhouse in the early morning light. Photo by Jill Nienhiser for Farm Food Blog.)
I arrived a little before 5pm Saturday and popped into the farm store where I met the farm managers Mike and Barb Haigwood and their children Aleesha and Lee. The bright, clean, spacious new store has fridge and freezer cases full of soy-free, pastured animal foods including many cuts of beef, humanely raised veal, pork, and chicken, including a variety of organ meats. (In the fall they also have turkeys for Thanksgiving.) Bring a cooler so you can stock up. There are also soy-free eggs and raw milk cheese made on site. There’s a display of New Trends Publishing books and Weston A. Price Foundation literature, as well as a variety of handicrafts by Maryland artisans. My favorites were the beautiful, vibrantly colored, silky soft Alpaca scarves and blankets from Villa de Alpaca. I bought some veal liver and cheese, took leave of the Haigwoods, and then headed to the house where I was due for dinner.
Sally greeted me at the door and invited me to set my things down so she could give me a tour of the house. I love historic old houses, and I always enjoy seeing how people have updated them for modern comfort. The original part of the house was built in the 1700s and then added onto over the years, giving it a somewhat maze-like and sprawling feel. Yet it was bright, clean, cozy, and beautifully decorated, too. I love to see a house with lots of books and built-in bookshelves. Even after giving most of her health and nutrition collection to the Weston A. Price Foundation library, Sally still has so many books, reflecting her many other interests. There was a very large set of pocket doors between dining room and parlor…the old farmhouse I grew up in had these and my sister and I loved to open and close them. My room was on the second floor and had a second door leading to a back staircase into the kitchen–another similarity to the house I grew up in.
And what a wonderful kitchen! Everything was updated, yet still had a quaint old farmhouse feel, with plenty of counter and cabinet and drawer space with simple white wood and rustic-looking drawer pulls and knobs. Windows on three sides let in plenty of light and gave rejuvenating views of the farm.
Sally’s husband Geoffrey and his granddaughter Emma, visiting from New Zealand, joined us for dinner. First course was prosciutto with melon, drizzled with lime juice. Next was succulent chicken from their farm, roasted with herbs and vegetables, well buttered. Finally there was
stewed rhubarb over ice cream with maple-toasted coconut. Of course, everything was delicious!
It was still early so we all retired to the basement (where there were many more books, I could have browsed for days!) to watch an old movie (The Caine Mutiny, which I hadn’t seen) before it was time for bed. I had a lovely full moon shining in my window, illuminating the quiet countryside. It was a nice respite from my Alexandria townhouse, where I can always hear the traffic from both the road and nearby National Airport.
Sunday morning began bright and early with a visit to the milk barn to observe the milking of the cows. Sally Fallon Morell led the way for Emma and me. We watched Lee and dairy manager Santos Towar drive the cows up from the lower pastures. They were late coming up–apparently one of the cows had slipped on ice and fell, and this spooked the others and they scattered and had to be rounded up again. But finally they came strolling up the cow lane; a lovely small herd of eight Jerseys in tawny, red, and black.
After watching the milking, Emma and I left Santos and Lee to finish up and then we headed back to the house, anticipating our breakfast. Sally had made pancakes and sausage. The sausage was made from their hogs, and the pancakes were made from the recipe in Nourishing Traditions. The night before, she ground wheat berries for flour in her Jupiter Mill, and then mixed that with raw milk yogurt to soak overnight. In the morning, she added eggs, baking soda, and a touch of maple syrup to the batter, and cooked the pancakes in butter on the griddle. I got a nice big plate of them with butter and warm maple syrup on the side.
After cleaning up the breakfast dishes, it was time for a tour of the cheese making facilities, and then the rest of the farm.
After seeing the cheese making facilities we went out to see the different animals on their pastures. First were the chickens and their mobile chicken house. They’re safe inside at night, and are let out each morning on fresh pasture surrounded by portable electrified netting (called feathernet). These were the layer birds; they’d processed the last of their meat birds recently and wouldn’t have more for a while (although there is still plenty of chicken for sale in the Farm Store including livers, feet, and heads). The layers were a mixture of beautiful breeds with a number of handsome roosters strutting among them. The chickens are on pasture with a supplement of the same soaked grain mixture of field peas, corn, and wheat that the cows get during milking, but soaked in leftover whey from the cheese making, rather than vinegar water, for extra protein.
In response to a reader’s comment on my post about Sally’s milking parlor, who said that he thought WAPF promoted only grass-feeding, not grain, I asked Sally specifically for comment. She said:
“In all of our suggestions on dairy farming, we have allowed some grain to be given to dairy cows–up to 0.5% of body weight per day (we are giving about 0.2% of body weight, thus the cows are getting about two pounds of grain during milking).* There are two reasons for this. First is that in a natural setting, ruminants would be getting some grain in the seed heads of mature grasses. And second, dairy cows are more stressed than cows in the wild, producing more milk than a natural cow would–even low-production cows like our own. If we did not give the grain, the cows would be very very thin. By soaking in vinegar water, we make the grains very digestible for the cows.The vast majority of raw milk producers are giving some grain to their cows. Those who don’t are obliged to charge $12-13 per gallon in order for the farm to be economically viable.”
*Sentence corrected 12/31/11. Previously it said 5% and 2%.
(Proud rooster guarding the henhouse. Photo by Jill Nienhiser for Farm Food Blog.)
Next were the pigs, mostly Tamworths, who had been moved to a new wooded area and were happily at work rooting up all the vines and undergrowth. Besides what they can
find in the undergrowth, the pigs are given kitchen scraps and the grain mix soaked in whey. (Like the chickens, pigs need more protein than ruminants like cows.) Some of the grain comes out the back end and sprouts, seeding the newly cleared area under the trees with oat grass. Sally said the goal is to have quite a bit of savannah–trees with pasture beneath that the cows can graze, rather than the tangled undergrowth of vines and brambles that they have now. Savannah is good for the cows in the summer; much cooler than cleared pasture.
We then saw the Jersey cows again where they were back out under the trees. In the winter when there isn’t green grass to eat, the cows get hay. Most of this comes from 20 acres of neighbors’ land; with a goal of being able to get all the hay they need locally like this within a few years. The neighbors are delighted to get the free mowing on land they are not using, and the promise of having their driveways cleared when it snows. Win-win for everyone!
So, the farm store has been open about a month. Sally says their biggest challenge right now is marketing. She wanted me to mention that they will welcome buying clubs and accommodate them in every way possible!
Hopefully this blog post will encourage some of my local readers to make a trip…don’t forget your cooler. All the animal foods are pastured and free of soy, which sadly is uncommon in the local foods movement. The Morells’ farm is a model for other farmers. Check it out!
P.A. Bowen Farmstead*
15701 Doctor Bowen Road
Brandywine, MD 20613
Website: PABowenFarmstead.com (coming soon; you can sign up for email updates)
*The farm is named after Dr. Philander A. Bowen, who owned the farm in the late 1800s and served the community for many years. (And by the way, if you don’t know, Sally is the author of my favorite cookbook–and encyclopedia of food and nutrition wisdom– Nourishing Traditions. Click at right to buy it!)
Store Hours & Farm Tours
- The Farm Store is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10am to 6pm, or to groups by appointment.
- Farm Tours are given on Saturday mornings at 11am. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children 10-18.
Go Like them on Facebook right now so you can get farm updates special event info in your newsfeed!
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This post is linked to:
- Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday 12/14/2011 Blog Carnival
- The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania 12/12/2011 Blog Carnival
- Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday Blog Carnival, December 9th, 2011
Filed under: The Farmers by Jill