New meat CSA, delivering to Melrose
Houde Family Farm of St. Johnsbury, VT, is going to start deliveries next week to Melrose. This is his first year trying this, and he wasnt sure if he'd get enough people signed up to make it economically feasible, but he just emailed everyone who was interested and said it's a go. Yay!
The shares are available in 10 or 20 lb amounts. A 10 lb share is $6.50 per pound ($455 for a share) and a 20 lb share is $6.25 per pound ($875 for a share.) The meats consist of pork, veal and beef. Each share will get approximately 1/2 hamburger and stew meat, the other half the better cuts. Sometimes there would be more burger, sometimes mostly better cuts. The meats are humanely raised, antibiotic/growth hormone-free.
The meats will be delivered, frozen, on seven Thursdays, between 4 and 6:30pm to the Knoll field in Melrose (across from the middle school). Delivery dates are June 28, July 26, August 23, September 20, October 18, November 15, December TBA.
He's got a website but it's a work in progress. It's currently at http://pageproducer.wildblue.net/houde/index.html but he says it will be redone by the end of the month and will be at www.houdefamilyfarm.com
The info on the CSA isn't on the website but it's not too late to sign up, and you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call David Houde at 802 748 2835 if you are interested.
I'm excited about this! It's a bit of a crapshoot since it's his first year, but I've talked to him and he seems like a really sincere guy who believes in organic farming. Depending on the cuts, I'm paying about that, on average, at Wild Oats anyway. I already belong to a produce CSA, so I'm used to the "you get what you get" mentality. I like the challenge of being presented with raw ingredients and having to figure out what to do with it. I'll be sure to post back here with a few reports, if anyone is interested.
I wanted to follow this up since this season is about to draw to a close and the new season is going to begin in January.
We've just been so pleased with the meat we've received. I've rediscovered hamburgers and I've converted quite a few friends to at least look at grass-fed beef. The pork is just out of this world and when I found myself disappointed with the pork at a recent dinner at L'Espalier (not the preparation, but the flavor) I knew I was spoiled for good. Even my father, a real meat snob, is being swayed to grass-fed beef and speaks wistfully of the veal cutlets he had here once, declaring them the best meat he's had in 20 years.
The 20 lb share has been a bit of a challenge- it's a LOT of meat and I need to get serious this winter about doing more cooking to clear out some of the backlog of meat in my freezer. (Friends who have tried the meat are eager to help!) I have had to change the way I cook in a few ways. First, the "you get what you get" nature of a co-op means that my menu planning is driven by what I have rather than what I might like to make. But I've adapted. I also have realized that I usually want to prepare these meats very simply to let the taste shine through, so some of the more elaborate preparations I might have done in the past seem like they aren't the best ways to prepare this meat. However, the braised brisket I recently made was absolutely stellar. I've made that dish at least 5 times before and served it to the same friends at least twice and we all agreed that it was significantly better than it's been in the past. So although simple preparations are best, I'm getting more confidence to go back to some of my slow-braised recipes for the winter months. Since I wasn't used to cooking veal, I've had to find some new recipes and preparations, which I've actually enjoyed- I like to stretch my repertoire. It hasn't been all hits- veal meatballs tonight were blah. Which is probably what I should have expected, but it was a last minute plan. Sometimes it's felt a bit like a chore, to plan and defrost the meat far enough in advance, and then to feel pressure to use it creatively. While I think 10lbs wouldn't be enough, I am hoping he'll consider a 15lb share next season, which would allow me to still get roasts and larger cuts for company meals while still having enough smaller cuts around for a few different meals per week (including my sausage and bacon!)
It's changed my eating habits in restaurants- I very rarely order beef, pork or veal when I'm out because I just know that it's not going to be as good as what I can make at home. Which is fine- plenty of other things to try on restaurant menus!
Logistically, the last couple of months have been a bit different because there have been some local issues with permits/licenses which are slowly and steadily being worked out. Personally I know I am not willing to let bureaucracy stand in the way between me and the food I want, and luckily a few of us members feel that same way so we've been doing what we can to help our town realize that this is a good thing which should be supported. David has mentioned that they are also now going to have a depot in Arlington- I suppose starting in January, but you'd want to contact him to be sure and to find out where/when, if you're interested.
Overall I'd recommend anyone who is looking to have a closer connection with the farmers who produce their meals and get away from CAFO meat take a look at any of the CSAs/farms that are available in our area. If customers start demanding meat that's raised responsibly, but more importantly, TASTES superior, then hopefully more farmers will be willing to take the risk and start up operations like these.
Houde Family Farm
St. Johnsbury, VT 05819, St Johnsbury, VT 05819
re: Chris VR
Thanks so much, Chris, for your report and insight. I've been wanting to buy into just such a meat CSA but DH thinks it would be too much for us to manage, being just the two of us. Plus, we don't eat beef. Is it possible to pick and choose among the various meats and cuts offered, or does one have to take what the farm offers?
Also, does all the meat get delivered at once or is it delivered over the space of a few weeks?
The meat is delivered all 10lbs. at once (frozen) about every 4 weeks.
He only provides beef, pork and veal, and the pork isn't available every month, so while I know he's got some flexbility (I have a friend who doesn't eat veal and I believe he said they could work something out), if you'd only be eating pork, I don't know exactly what, if anything he could do. He does sell half/whole pigs as well as whole lambs so maybe you could get a friend or two to share with you?
Most of the CSAs I've seen (Chestnut Farm, Stillman Farm) do seem to be structured with people who eat beef in mind, because about half the cuts are the "cheaper" cuts like ground beef and stew beef. I'd think if any CSA were to offer a no-beef share, it would have to be pricier. Given that, maybe a CSA isn't for you. You might be better off buying what you want as you need from local farms like Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds or Blood Farm. I haven't been to either but both have been well-spoken of here. Chestnut and Stillman might also sell non-CSA meat- maybe someone here who knows more about them could chime in. In season, Chestnut and Stillman are available at local farmer's markets. I asked David if he'd consider doing the Melrose Farmer's MArket (and/or maybe Arlington now) and he's mulling it over- they really are a small operation and they don't want to risk running out of meat for their CSA customers.
re: Chris VR
Thank you very much! We eat everything except the beef... veal, lamb, poultry. The red meat we do eat is bison. I know, picky, picky, picky. But it's something we decided on a long time ago. In fact we only have about 3 meals with meat a week. I guess we'll continue to buy from the farms.
re: Chris VR
re: Chris VR
We are a small ranch in Upstate NY and we do just about the same thing as the Houde Family Farm. We raise lamb as well as beef and pork and are working on chicken eggs, goats milk cheeses and lots of other fun stuff! I thought it was great on the posting that you don't go out to eat meat anymore, so true... it has been years since I have eaten any meat that we haven't raised ourselves - it just not as good!
We upgraded to the 20lb share this month, because we went through the 10lb share pretty quickly. A meatloaf and a few friends over for a BBQ and the ground meat was wiped out! And after the trancendent Tamworth pork last month, I just have to have more. More, I tell you!
In the 20lb share we got:
Ground beef (8 packages, about 1 lb per package)
Pork loin chops (2)
Steaks (3/4 lb and 1/2 lb)
Veal cutlets (3/4 lb)
Pork Breakfast Sausage (1 1/4 lb)
Stew beef (2 packages, about 1 lb per package)
Veal chops (4)
Ground veal (2 packages about 1&1/4 lb each)
Veal tenderloin (3/4 lb)
We had the veal tenderloin tonight. I'm not the best judge of veal because I have not been in the habit of eating it but this was lovely- so tender and luscious.
We served the burgers this weekend at a BBQ and all agreed it was very good. One friend had also had some of the burger from our share last month and she told me she's starting to obsess over it :-)
re: Chris VR
We're still on the 10lb share but will upgrade before the next one. Our share this month:
Ground beef 4 packages, 1lb per pkg
Ground veal 1 1lb pkg
Veal cutlets 1lb
Veal soup bones
Pork Country ribs
We also opted for some of the free stuff:
1 beef livers
1 veal liver
1 package of veal sweetbreads
Looking forward to the larger share next month!
I had the pork sausage for breakfast today. Wow, really REALLY great stuff. More burgers for dinner (had company over) which were again, very good, and now I've gone through all 4 lbs. of my ground meat. Also had the country pork ribs which unfortunately got overcooked but even so they were pretty tasty.
I suggested to David that they look into selling retail at the Melrose Farmer's Market, since that's also on Thursdays (10-3) right before they do the CSA pickup hours. I'm not sure if the market would want a vendor that would only do one day a month though. I suggested that if he does that, he pick up some local cheese, maple syrup etc. from his neighbors to sell as well. He's not sure that would happen this year but he sounded open to looking into it for next year. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that works out-- I was having cheese envy at the Burlington VT Farmer's Market last week! He's also interested in seeing if he can find a way to distribute through the winter as well... it would be great if we could keep this going year-round, especially since I use more meat in the winter with braises, stews, etc.
Heather, he said the veal wasn't ready yet, so that's why there was none in this share. Dad's not hiding it on you ;-)
He's still taking orders for shares- I'm going to increase mine to 20lbs. We also talked about letting people opt-in to larger sized cuts of meat (for roasts and the like). He knows not everybody would be interested, but I know I would be, especially if I've got a larger share.
re: Chris VR
The pork chops. Oh lord. The porkchops. This is what pork has been developed away from? God these brought out the carnivore in me, as I sucked and chewed every last tiny bit of meat from the bones. The pig breed is "Tamworth" and I don't know if I can go back to supermarket pork now. Seriously. Good. Wow.
Picked up our first 10lb share this week. Included:
ground beef (4 lbs)
pork bfast sausage (1 lb)
pork country ribs (2 lb)
Beef for stew (1.5 lbs)
Pork chops (1.5 lbs)
If there was any veal included in the share my father hid it before I could get over to their freezer!
My parents and sister made burgers last night with some of the ground beef and proclaimed it delicious. I'm planning to try the ribs and some burgers this week. Pretty excited about this whole program...will continue to report on future shares.
My share included:
4lbs ground beef
1.33 lbs loose pork breakfast sausage
1 lb stew beef
1/2 lb beef tenderloin
1.84 ln pork country ribs (3)
1.31 lb pork loin chops (2)
I get the sense that we'll be seeing a lot of these little inconsistencies between shares, but I am sure it'll all even out in the end. David told me that, for example, we'd see more burger now and more better cuts later because of his butchering cycle.
We made burgers as well and it was delicious. I'm starting to think I might want to consider upping to a 20 lb. share.
Thanks for the update. I am glad this worked out- and hope to be able to participate next year- have bookmarked this thread. Unfortunately, I am away for all of the summer pickups, as well as the November pickup!! Hate to ask someone to get most of the deliveries! Look forward to hearing how it works out.
Chris, please do post back here - I'd like to hear about it and potentially do this next year!
I was wondering about the frequency of delivery - I suspect that even the 10 lb. delivery, once a month, would be a bit more than I could deal with as a single person, as I don't always eat meat - but then again, I *do* have a chest freezer in the basement. And family and friends might also want to buy into my 10 lb. share as well.
I've actually done something like this a long time ago - I bought a 1/4 side of beef from my mother/stepfather back in the mid-80s when they raised a steer while living in central PA. My sister couldn't understand how I could eat something that had had a name (they named him Sir Charles - Sir for "sirloin" and Charles for "chuck"). I said at about $1.50/lb., I got everything from soup bones to sirloin, I had no problem with it. :-)
Looking forward to hearing about it!