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Goodbye Hay

That’s a bad pun and one that’s not entirely appropriate as we haven’t grown or cut hay at Hickory Nut Gap for several years now. For some reason I can’t seem to begin these blog posts without some sort of joke or catchphrase, even if they’re terrible.

When most cattle farmers find out that we don’t cut hay, they are incredulous. “What, how do you feed the cows during the winter? You must spend a lot of money buying bales”, is a pretty common response when someone finds out we don’t raise our own hay or make corn silage. The fact is though, we don’t need to. What’s the secret?

Strip grazing.

Though you may begin to fantasize of shirtless young farm hands moving cows through languid green pastures, this is not an ag. version of strip poker . Strip grazing and related terms like mob or intensive grazing are gaining ground among agricultural as well as foodie communities around the country. If it’s new to you, strip grazing is a simple idea with extraordinary consequences in the pasture. Basically, our cows are not permitted to graze on an entire pasture all at once. If they were, they would eat only the choicest morsels of grass, leaving or trampling everything that is less desirable. This is not only an inefficient system in terms of food availability, it also depletes pastures of vital nutrients and encourages the growth of those plants and grasses that the animals don’t find particularly pleasant.

The cows run out of food faster, and when things grow back, there is less good stuff to eat.

Instead, we divide our fields into narrow strips with plastic posts and wire reels. The cows are permitted to graze on one strip of pasture for an allotted amount of time depending on the time of year, number of cows, and size of the pasture. When they have consumed all the grass in one strip, we remove the reel and posts separating them from the next strip, and then put up a back fence to keep them off the part of the pasture that has already been grazed.

This method forces the cows to do several things. First, it gives the animals less choice of grasses to eat, thereby forcing them to consume all of the existing forage rather than just the best parts. The hungry animals also eat more of the available grass before needing to move to a new strip. Finally, the manure, which is a vital part of the cow-pasture relationship, is evenly distributed throughout the pasture instead of being concentrated around the richest parts of the pasture with the best grass: fertility distribution made easy.

Strip grazing allows us to utilize pasture space more effectively and draw out our forage through the winter. We stockpile grass instead of cutting it all down and stockpiling hay.  Strip grazing also helps to maintain healthy pastures and keeps us from needing to feed hay, even in the winter when the grass is no longer growing.

This is a long post, but I hope that the material is at least interesting, if not revelatory. Explaining the things I learn on the farm helps me to better understand the concepts myself and see the gaps in my own understanding.

best,

Sweetbread

Open House and Farmers Markets

Sorry for any confusion about the April date that appeared here earlier. May 18th is the new official date for the Open House.  If you’ve been telling yourself for months that you need to make it out the farm but you just haven’t had the time or found the right occasion, look no further. We are having an Open House on May 18th at the farm, which is located at 57 Sugar Hollow Rd. in Fairview. The event also includes a  Farm Tour at 3pm and free samples! 

Come check out our farmstore where you can buy fresh 100% grassfed beef, pastured pork and poultry, plus tons of other local food and craft items. Go on the Farm Tour with Jamie Ager and romp around the farm to see how we raise our animals and learn about our vision as a farm and local business. Try some of our cured pork and fresh cooked meats. No need to reserve a space or rsvp, just come on out and enjoy a little springtime on the farm. Hope to see you soon!

Just don’t have time to drive all the way out Fairview? Come visit us at our farmer’s market venues. We will be selling our products on Saturdays at the North Asheville Market on the campus of UNCA and at Asheville City Market, which is located at 161 South Charlotte Street in the parking lot of the Public Works Building. We’ll also be at the West Asheville Market on Tuesdays. Hope to see you there!

Flat Iron Steak with Simple Red Wine Sauce

The Flat Iron Steak is a wonderfully tender and affordable cut of our 100% grassfed beef. It comes from the shoulder of the cow and is an excellent stand alone steak as well as a stir fy or fajita companion. Giada De Laurentiis has done a great job allowing the flavor of the steak to shine through by cooking it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. The Red Wine sauce is a perfect addition to fancify the meal a bit and enhance the flavor! Try it out here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/flat-iron-steak-with-red-wine-sauce-recipe/index.html (courtesy of food network).