This morning I drove up to Alachua to meet Jesse Green, the farmer we’re buying our next “cow pool” cow from.
What a beautiful farm. Mr. Green calls himself “a grass farmer who happens to have cows”. He uses a large rotation grazing system for more than 50 cows, moving the herd from one field to another every 7 days. This way the cows get grass at each field at an optimum age for their nutritional value and the pasture has plenty of time to rest and recover. The cows mainly act as mowers and fertilizers for the grass. No bagged feed is used at this farm, the cows aren’t wormed or sprayed, and no insecticides are used on the pasture.
In addition to beef cattle, the farm is starting two new ventures for commercial production; flint corn for cornmeal and grits, and Seminole pumpkins. Mr. Green built a mill to mill his own corn, which impressed me all over the place. The mill was small- it takes 2 hours to grind a 5-gallon bucket of corn. This should give you all an idea of why small farmers price their products the way they do. Whatever he charges for the end product, the cornmeal, has to pay for not only his two hours of labor, but also the seed for the corn, four months of labor to grow it, the price of building the mill, the electricity to grind the corn, and the materials to package the meal once it’s ground.
Mr. Green is also running an interesting long-term project with his cattle. Flies are a problem on every farm, no less on an organic farm. Since Greenway Farm doesn’t use insecticides, his cows are not treated with fly spray. When we went and saw the largest part of the herd it was obvious that some of the cows had many flies and some had very few or none. Apparently some breeds of cattle are naturally fly-resistant, and Mr. Green is introducing several new cattle breeds to his majority Angus-and-Hereford herd to try and breed a more fly-resistant cow for this area.
Mr. Green’s theory is that fly-resistance has something to do with the oils produced by the cow’s skin. It was an interesting discussion and taught me a lot about cattle breeds. Seeing the different breeds of cattle together in one herd was interesting, too. Cattle are marked more like horses than I realized, and some were quite beautifully marked, like the little red Cracker cow. We also got to visit the steer marked for our cow pool next month, though he would not submit to a photograph. He was a fine fat glossy steer!
After a tour of his lovely farm, we went back to his house (built by Mr. Green himself) to see his back garden. His wife Rosalinda grows grapes, tomatoes, oranges, figs, lemongrass, and sugarcane just in a patch behind the house, plus many gorgeous flower beds. The lemongrass tea she makes was delicious and I look forward to trying to make some tonight. We talked for a while about local food, sustainable meat production versus commodity meat production and the farm bill, and found many common ideals. I sincerely look forward to trying the ground beef he sent me home with.
I hope this turns into a long-term relationship.