A herd of Black Angus cattle grazes around a classic white farm house. In the heat of the afternoon sun, they come in from the the 100 hilly acres of pasture where they range, to take advantage of the shade under enormous old trees. This Madison County farm is where Carolyn Bradley grew up and where, today, she and her husband Mike operate Farm House Beef.
It's also a new addition to this year's Family Farm Tour — one of the 37 farms and gardens open to the public during the tour on the weekend of Saturday, June 26, and Sunday, June 27. The Bradleys are working to produce grass-fed beef — and to keep the family farm alive. They've chosen to continue to use the land for agriculture to preserve its beauty and its heritage.
"This country's got to maintain farms," Carolyn says. "I understand that there will be growth, but we can't make all our land into developments. You can get the suburban experience in lots of places;our farmland here is special."
In addition to continuing the family legacy, Carolyn — a fitness teacher for 30 years — hopes Farm House Beef will encourage healthier eating. "I wanted to use the family farm in a way that would help people," she explains. So, she chose to raise grass-fed beef, which is lower in harmful fats, and higher in nutrients and beneficial omega-3 fats than conventional beef. Adding to the health benefits, no antibiotics or hormones are used on Farm House Beef, and the Bradleys never spray. The cattle spend their entire lives on the farm grazing. "People don't have to worry about eating our meat," says Carolyn. "They know exactly who produced it, and how."
Farm House Beef has been added to the Family Farm Tour because Carolyn wants to connect with her customers (also, the scenic appeal of the farm is enough to make it a destination in itself). "Grass-fed beef takes a lot of commitment. After you work for two years to raise an animal, it's nice to be able to sell the meat to someone face to face," she says.
During the tour, guests can see how the farm operates by taking a hay ride and walking tour, learning about rotational grazing and gentle cattle handling practices, seeing pastures and corrals or participating in movable-fence building. Visitors can also hike to the hilltops for views of Asheville, enjoy lunch on the farm and find out how to prepare grass-fed beef. The Bradleys will be selling hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pulled beef brisket sandwiches, local vegetables and drinks. Visitors who want to cook their own beef at home can buy a wide variety, and take home free recipes, beef charts and other information.
If you want to visit Farm House Beef, go to FamilyFarmTour.org for more information, to plan your trip and to buy admission. Of course, Farm House Beef is only one example of the 36 outstanding farms featured on the tour. You can also read about other farms in six counties throughout Western North Carolina, each of which is has its own specialties and plans for hosting guests. Find the farms that suit your interests or operate in your community. Each farm provides, as Carolyn points out, a unique experience, which only Western North Carolina with its farming heritage and thriving food culture, can offer. RECIPES AND TIPS BOX:Take full advantage of the flavor and texture of grass fed meats by cooking them differently from conventional meats. Try these tips and recipes from Farm House Beef:
Cook grass-fed meat slowly. Do not overcook. Sear steaks on each side, then lower the heat to finish cooking.
This recipe is a little fancier than burgers, but still simple enough for beginning cooks.
Ingredients: 1 pound ground beef1/2 tsp pepper1/2 tsp salt1 tsp seasoning such as cayenne pepper, oregano or your favorite mix2 medium garlic cloves, minced cup egg white Method:Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the ground beef in a large bowl and mix all the dry ingredients and garlic into the ground beef.Place the egg white mixture in a small bowl.Dampen your hands with the egg white mixture. Using your hands, form the meat into balls.Place the formed meat balls on a foil lined baking pan 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes.
Stuffed Beef Heart
Foodies looking for adventurous dishes and people interested in sustainable eating make use of all parts of the animal. You can too, with this recipe.Ingredients:1 large beef heart (about 3 pounds, split lengthwise)Salt and ground black pepper to taste2 cups bread or cracker crumbs (seasoned, optional)1/4 pound pork sausage1/4 cup minced onion1/2 cup all purpose flour4 tbsp. vegetable oil 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper 1/2 tsp. sage1 tbsp. minced parsley2 cups water1 teaspoon beef base Method:Wash heart. Trim fat and remove arteries.Soak in cold, salted water for half an hour. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Brush outside with 2 tbsp. oil. Sprinkle inside cavity and outside with salt and pepper. Set aside. Combine bread crumbs, sausage, sage and parsley. Fill inside cavity with dressing. Skewer or tie the heart together. Dredge with flour.Brown in remaining oil, turning to cook all sides. Remove from pan and place in a roasting pan. Make a thin gravy by adding the remaining flour (from dredging) to drippings in pan. Add the water and beef base. Pour gravy over the beef heart. Bake in slow oven at 250 degrees for 8 hours.