TIERRA VERDE FARMS
After our first visits to their farm-located store to procure beef, chicken, pork, and eggs, we (meaning the Snarky Girlfriend since I’m not necessarily the most people-friendly person I’ve met) broached the subject of having Kent Food Not Lawns (our little chapter) come out to tour the farm. We promised those visiting would purchase some goodies, as that’s only fair after Mike Jones (the owner and operator) would spend several of his limited hours showing us around while teaching his farming methods and philosophies. Also, it’s only fair to meet the animals since we are the ones consuming them on a regular basis.
I grew up on a small four acre “gentleman’s farm” in Green (just north of the Akron-Canton Airport), so I do have an understanding of the farm experience. To supplement our caloric intake, we raised chickens, ducks, feeder beef, turkeys, and rabbits. The rabbits were mine as someone gifted us four New Zealand Whites (you know, white fur and pink eyes) which we kept together in the same cage until one gave birth to a litter. Turns out, we owned three does and a buck, and they just did what rabbits are known to do. Soon after, I joined 4-H and learned how to properly raise the rabbits, including care, husbandry, and sales of bunnies to magicians and snake owners. And I also ate a few of these cute little fuzzy creatures. People would ask us how we could eat animals we nurtured from infancy. The answer? “With a knife and fork.” Who knew snarkiness was hereditary?
PEOPLE TEND TO IDOLIZE THE FAMOUS, including movie stars, rock stars, reality stars, and sports stars. I’m a fanboy of famous authors in the organic food movement. I know this seems to be an oddly specific niche, but as someone who proudly calls himself “The Snarky Gardener”, it does make some sense. One of my favorite authors is Joel Salatin, a famous farmer (yes, they do exist) who I first saw in the film “Food, Inc.” On their Western Virginia farm, Joel and his family raise food animals in ways which “respect and honor the pigness of the pig and the chickeness of the chicken.” A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Joel speak at the Mother Earth News Fair held in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. I was nearly giddy as I listened to him read his audiobook “Folks, This Isn’t Normal” in my car as we drove the two and a half hours from Kent. After his speech the following day, I waited in line for an hour to have him sign the same book in physical form and have my picture taken with him. This was literally my first author-signed book and remains one of my most prized possessions to this day.
A year after meeting Joel Salatin, I stood in my primary care physician’s waiting room and noticed a brochure with two beautiful brown cows staring at me from the cover. I asked myself, “What are cows doing in my doctor’s office?” Picking up the pamphlet, I discovered it be an advertisement for Tierra Verde Farms, a grass-fed farm in Deerfield only seventeen miles away from my house. Not only did they sell beef, they also grew pasture-raised chickens (for both eggs and meat), turkeys, sheep, and pigs. The brochure stated their practices mimicked nature by rotating the cows on grass first and then bringing in chickens and turkeys days later to clean up. Thinking of poultry eating the bug larvae from cow manure immediately excited me as this was exactly what Joel Salatin discussed during his talk. I had been planning a ten-hour round trip trek to Virginia so I could see his farm in action and purchase some of Joel’s high-quality processed chicken, but now I could do so locally.
I know what you are thinking. “How can you still eat animals after meeting them face-to-face?” There are some who have changed their diets after such tours or even after giving the whole “eating living breathing creatures” concept some deeper thought. If you are one of those people, good for you. Just don’t send me any communications trying to convince me to change my evil ways. I understand your point-of-view, but I still won’t listen to you. I eat bunnies, for goodness sake. I’m way beyond saving.
On the flip side, there are many others who don’t want to know where their food comes from. In their minds, “the supermarket” is the only answer they will ever need, and their ignorance is bliss. I believe knowing your food is the best answer. Our grandparents and great-grandparents had no problem with all of this, as many grew up side-by-side with their farm animals. It was just the way life is. Our problem is that we have mechanized, commoditized, and economized our food to the point that it’s cheap but has no soul. Why not go out, get to know your farmer, and meet your meat? The best part is you can name your turkey anything you want (just not Melvin or Maynard, as those names are taken).
2212 Alliance Road
Deerfield, OH 44411
To find out more about Tierra Verde Farms, go to http://tierraverdefarms.com. If you want to order one of Mike’s Thanksgiving turkeys, the site is https://tierraverdefarms.wufoo.com/forms/turkey-reservation-form.
If you want to join us this fall for a tour of Tierra Verde Farms, we have one scheduled for October 15th at 3 pm. You can sign up through my website http://thesnarkygardener.com under the listing “Upcoming Events”. Just click that to RSVP via Kent Ohio Food Not Lawns.
And don’t forget, my book, “The Snarky Gardener’s Veggie Growing Guide” is available on Amazon. Remember, the more vegetables you grow, the less animals you’ll need to eat.
Touring Tierra Verde, I observed how much reverence Mike gives his animals. He genuinely cares for them while acknowledging that his pigs, cows, sheep, and poultry will someday “graduate” to the freezer. I also took note of how happy the animals were. Okay, the bees were not happy to see us, but it was hot that day and we had to move quickly out of their territory so we didn’t get stung. But the other animals were great. We went under the trees to commune with the pigs. Smart little buggers, they kept nipping at our heals. Of course, seeing cute pink little guys who reminded us of the movie “Babe” didn’t help us enjoy our normal bacon consumption, but it was definitely more honest. We also witnessed the herd of forty or so cows performing their daily move from one pasture to another. Mike explained that they knew what to do and where to go just as we would if outside of an all-you-caneat buffet. The cows know delicious green grass when they see and smell it. It was a little tragic when the calves got separated from their mothers because they didn’t know to move with the rest, but the reunion five minutes later made it all better. Even the turkeys were happy to see us. Mike said it was because they are naturally curious, though I thought it was because the turkeys recognized who feeds them daily.
During this first tour, I made a joke saying I wanted to pick out a specific still-alive Thanksgiving turkey and name it Malcolm. Since then, the Snarky Girlfriend and I purchase a turkey from Tierra Verde Farms every year. This inspired me to write the following poem (one of the first and possibly last of my life) while taking a creative writing course at Kent State University last fall.