When I moved to Western Wisconsin over three years ago, Erin Link and her partner Bob at EB Ranch were some of the first “peer farmers” I met. Erin grew up in a farming family in beautiful Ridgeland, WI and now lives just up the road from her grandmother’s original homestead where she has crafted a unique goat milk soap business.
One of the things I admire most about Erin as a farmer is her commitment to rescuing and preserving the genetic integrity of San Clemente Island goats, a critically endangered breed named after the island off the coast of California they hail from. Just like our heirloom produce varieties, heritage breed livestock possessing unique qualities have become endangered due to drastic changes in food production. In the case of dairy, for example, certain “heavy producers” are often bred exclusively, while multi-purpose breeds that were useful on smaller farmsteads are no longer needed or wanted. Qualities like winter hardiness, good foraging instincts and excellent mothering skills are not as necessary on large dairies, but those characteristics on a diversified farm are invaluable. Thankfully, along with the Livestock Conservancy, a number of small family farmers and homesteaders are working to re-invigorate dwindling herds and flocks all over North America. The Livestock Conservancy has been critical to reviving endangered livestock breeds by collecting data, doing active research and providing resources to interested breeders. If you visit their website you will see five categories for each breed of livestock that is considered to be on the endangered list: “Critical”, “Threatened”, “Watch”, “Recovering”, and “Study”. This feature is great for anyone interested in watching the progress of specific breeds. Take for example the Clydesdale, a well-know horse breed made famous by the Budweiser beer commercials. Clydesdales nearly went extinct years ago, along with a number of other draft horse breeds. (Draft is the term used for large animals that are used primarily for pulling). Once tractors became the norm, there was less of a need for these large horses and so they were not bred at the level they once were. Thankfully, Clydesdales have recently moved from the “critical” list to the “threatened” list. Similarly, while San Clemente Island goats are still on the critical list, their numbers are rising, and EB Ranch is helping to push that success along!
Erin’s San Clemente Island goats provide her with quality milk for making lovely soaps which she sells to a number of small businesses in Wisconsin. She also offers a soap share and attends seasonal and special event markets, particularly in winter.
Here is what Erin has to say about her farm:
“Diverse, valuable, sustainable. Steward to the critically endangered and rare San Clemente Island Goats.
There are about 750 of these beautiful multipurpose goats left, and I feel fortunate to have a small herd of 50 or so purebred SCI goats on EB Ranch. I make luscious goat milk soap using specifically THEIR milk in these soap bars. I also offer goat meat shares, as well as chicken, turkey and garlic shares.
We need to keep a diverse genetic pool in our livestock to help promote vitality and hardiness. While these goats might not be the biggest goats, or the world’s greatest milkers, they do have a happy balance of being a little bit of everything, plus being very independent.
I incorporate good land management practices and use rotational grazing techniques. This will help fertilize the open pasture lands and stimulate a wide range of new plant growth.”
You can find EB Ranch goat milk soap at these stores: Menomonie Market Food Co-op and Hive & Hollow, (Menomonie, WI), Whole Heart, (Alma, WI), Crimson Heart Designs and Tattoo (Turtle Lake, WI), Synergy Hardware Store, (Ridgeland, WI), The Grain Bin, (Boyceville, WI), Farm Table Foundation, (Amery, WI) and Natural Alternative Food Co-op, (Luck, WI). Local Choice CSA shareholders also have the option to purchase EB Ranch soaps as add-ons throughout the season.
This week in Local Choice CSA
|Towering Heights Farm||Beef Brats|
|Valley Pasture Farm||Whole 9-Piece Cut Chicken|
|Valley Pasture Farm||New Potatoes|
|Valley Pasture Farm||Eggs|
|Essence Homestead||Snap Peas|
|Winnowburrow Farm||Rhubarb simple syrup|
|Bifrost Farms||Chevre – Plain|
|Essence Homestead||head lettuce|
Week 5 meal plans are provided by Meg Wittenmyer of Bifrost Farms
Meal Plan #1 – Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
2 T. melted butter
Thyme, Rosemary, Salt & Pepper to taste
Plain goat cheese
Toss half the rosemary and thyme along with everything but chicken in vegetable or olive oil and spread out in a single layer on sheet pan. Mix rest of rosemary and thyme, a little salt and pepper into melted butter.
Pat Chicken parts dry and season with salt and pepper. Lay pieces, skin side up, on top of vegetables, arranging the breasts in the center and thighs and drumsticks around outer edge. Brush with herb butter and roast in 475 oven for 35-40 minutes, or until thickest part of thigh measures 175 on thermometer.
Remove chicken to platter and arrange vegetables, dribbling with pan juices. Crumble goat cheese Chevre over vegetables and serve.
Meal Plan #2 – Brats with Potato Salad
Cook brats preferred method, either on a grill or braised in beer.
6-8 new potatoes
1 tsp. chopped fresh Dill
1-2 T. chopped Scallions
2 T. Mayo
4 Boiled eggs, chopped
Parboil new potatoes until just fork tender. Cut larger potatoes into pieces if desired. Drain and let cool slightly.
Mix potatoes with all ingredients and chill before serving.
Diving deeper with nutrition by Johnne Smalley of Towering Heights Farm
The Beef Brats from Local Choice are made from grass-fed beef and have less fat than conventional Brats. The fat that is present contains more omega-3 fatty acids (an essential fatty acid that lowers the risk of mental disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer), so is healthier. It also contains more conjugated linoleic acid or CLA (blocks tumor growth and breaks down fat in cells to be used as fuel by nearby muscle cells).
These Brats are also made without added nitrates, nitrites, or preservatives and contain only organic herbs and spices.
I like them best when they are simmered in beer or water until almost done and then finished off on the grill.
Garlic scapes are the flower bud stalks that grow from the bulbs of hardneck garlic plants. You can eat the scapes raw, grill them, fry them, or use them as a salad vegetable. If you haven’t cooked with garlic scapes, you are missing out on a simple and mildly flavorful part of the garlic plant that is only available for a limited time each year. The easiest way to think about cooking with garlic scapes is to use them the way you would use garlic or scallions, although there’s hardly a wrong way to enjoy them.
Scapes taste mild and sweet, like chives or scallions, but with a hit of unmistakable garlicky flavor that’s softer than its bulbous counterpart. They can be used just like garlic in recipes and are very versatile. The most tender tops of the stem and the buds are delicious chopped up raw.
Here are some of the many ways people enjoy garlic scapes.
- Cut garlic scapes into 6-inch pieces and pickle them. (Think pickled green beans or thin kosher dill pickles.)
- Sauté scapes and use them as a pizza topping.
- Fold chopped and sautéed garlic scapes into frittatas or scrambled eggs.
- Mix chopped scapes with a stick of butter to make a garlicky compound butter for grilled or pan-fried fish.
- Finely dice a couple of garlic scapes and and mix into a vinaigrette. (They also make a tasty addition to green goddess dressing.)
- Add them to soups and stews.
- Garlic lovers can roast or grill entire scapes to serve as a side dish. To do so, lay the scapes (you may have to cut them up just to get them to lay flat on the cookie sheet) on an oiled cookie sheet and roast at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes, or toss the scapes in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place on a med-hot grill, turn occasionally until they are slightly browned in areas.
Vegetables of the Allium genus, which includes garlic scapes, are known to have several disease-preventing qualities. There are many active ingredients in garlic scapes that have anticancer abilities, but specifically, diallyl sulfides are found in good concentrations in these stalks. These are directly linked to apoptosis, the programmed cell death of cancerous cells, preventing the spread of these cells.
Research has also found that regular consumption of garlic scapes can help to flush out the liver and kidneys, thus detoxifying the body. There are also diuretic properties of this vegetable, which will help the body eliminate waste and toxins rapidly.
We Americans eat an average of 130 lbs. of potatoes each year—twice as much as we ate in the 1960’s. As you can probably guess, fast food chains and french fries sparked this increase in potato consumption.
The commonly known Irish potato that we eat is actually native to Peru and Chile—not Ireland or the U.S. Our native apios or “Indian potato” harvested by the Sioux in this area is now classified as an invasive and noxious weed. Although having three times as much protein as our modern potato and containing nutrients known to fight certain types of cancer, they are too slow-growing and too irregular in shape and size to appeal to today’s consumer.
The first farmers in Peru started growing potatoes in their terraced, irrigated gardens about eight thousand years ago. Unlike our potato farmers today, the Peruvian farmers would grow dozens of the five thousand varieties of potato in a single season insuring survival of at least some of the types planted. Genetic variation was the first form of crop insurance.
New and improved varieties of potatoes are now grown in hundreds of countries around the world. Local Choice provides several varieties of various colors. The potatoes with blue skins and flesh have the most nutrients, followed by those with red. And unlike the conventionally raised potatoes available in the supermarket that claim the fame of one of the most contaminated foods in the US food supply, our potatoes are not sprayed with fungicides and pesticides and are not treated with sprout inhibitors.
Potatoes are naturally gluten-free and they have the following nutritional benefits:
- No fat, sodium or cholesterol.
- Nearly half your daily value of vitamin C.
- More potassium than a banana.
- A good source of vitamins B2, B3, B6 and folic acid.
- Fiber, magnesium and antioxidants.
- Resistant starch.
The potato’s fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health. However, the most popular white potatoes also have a high glycemic index which means that their sugars are digested so rapidly that they give us a sharp rise in blood glucose and can cause diabetic problems.
Thanks for following and don’t forget to check back next week for more fun farm news, meal plans and nutritional information!