Rarely do we stop and think about where the food we buy in the grocery store actually comes from. In recent years, as the Slow Food and Buy Local movements have taken hold, people have begun to take the time to consider this concept. When you live in a major metropolitan area, it’s easy to take something like food for granted. You have gourmet grocery stores in your midst that tell you were your food comes from. You have farmers markets where you can buy locally and regionally produced food products. And that is fantastic. But how frequently do you go to the source of your food?
A couple of months ago, I bought some locally raised ground beef at our farmers market. It was grass fed Highlander beef from Miles Smith Farm, a farm not 7 miles from my house, and I had never tasted anything quite like it. It was gamey, almost like lamb or venison, but very beefy and very succulent. I made burgers and put them on the grill and the preparation was the most pure way to really taste this local beef. When I bought the beef, the woman gave me a flier for their farm day and it’s been posted on our fridge all summer. This morning, we drove 7 miles to Miles Smith Farm for their annual farm day.
Miles Smith Farm has been in operation for about 150 years and the Smith family, along with a couple of other families who lived on the land, are buried in a cemetery right on the farm. It is nestled in the hills of rural Loudon, NH. They have 36 acres and in the last decade they imported this beautiful herd of Scottish Highlander cattle, who roam free and enjoy a bucolic life. They are sent to St. Johnsbury, VT for processing, where the slaughterhouse is small and humane and these cattle end their lives in a relatively stress free environment.
Yes, it’s true. These beautiful animals must die in order for us to eat their bounty. It’s a reality we don’t stop to consider when we buy ground beef in the supermarket. But when you walk right up to one of these impressive beasts, it becomes very real. And you know what? I’m OK with that.
We bought several pounds of ground beef and some tenderloins, beef that was born and raised right where we stood admiring the fall foliage. There were other local farmers there selling their products and we also bought a chicken and some unbelievable lamb chorizo and lamb greek sausage from Kelly Corner Farm in Chichester, just a few miles away.
Of course, eating locally like this isn’t cheap. As you might imagine, these products had a higher price tag than you’d find in the store. The ground beef was about $6 a pound, the chicken about $4 a pound and the lamb sausage almost $10 a pound. But it was worth every penny and I have no remorse for buying from the local producers I met today. We purchased that chicken and the lamb sausages from the man who raised those animals and I was happy to support him and his efforts. They were lovely people and I’m sure I’ll meet them again, for I plan to become a regular customer of these local farms.
I kept a pound of the ground beef aside and we grilled it tonight for dinner. It was so tasty and rich and soft and almost fluffy. It had an amazing mouth feel, so unlike any ground beef I’ve ever bought off the shelf. As I ate this incredible burger, I took a moment to think about my long-haired bovine friends that I’d met this morning at Miles Smith Farm. I suddenly had a reverent and profound appreciation for the food I was eating that I can only describe as cathartic. Thank you, Mr. Highlander, for giving your life so I could enjoy you so much. My heart is filled with gratitude beyond measure.
Eating locally isn’t just about buying produce in season. It takes us back to our history, to a time when we didn’t have grocery stores or freezers or cars or the modern conveniences that have separated us from our food sources, a time when neighbors relied on each other’s resourcefulness to survive. This experience brought me face to face with my dinner and my history. Huge thanks to Miles Smith, his progeny and the wonderful Scottish Highlander cattle herd I met today.