Free tours and tastings! May 27th

After the runaway success of our open barn day we are following up with a smaller event on May 27th. We will feature one of our favorite vendors on site to answer your questions and sample their delicious products. We will also be giving FREE tours in conjunction with their free tastings so if you’ve been meaning to come by and take a tour, this is your day! The tours are limited to the number of slots we have available on our calendar so it’s first come, first serve.

So what is going to be featured? Palace Green freezer jams will be on site. What are freezer jams you ask?

Palace Green freezer jams are really really good. They are, quite simply, worse than crack cocaine. No wait, that’s sounds bad. That’s a terrible description. I need something better than that….

Our freezer jams are in jars too small in size even though you opened an entire jar, hid in the corner and ate it all by yourself while looking over your shoulder, hoping nobody sees you and asks for some. Darn, that sounds worse too. Hmm…

My favorite indulgence in the world is vanilla ice cream. Not vanilla and chocolate syrup. Not vanilla and sprinkles. Plain. Old. Vanilla. The planer the better. Homemade with about 3 ingredients is perfect. Simply Natural vanilla is second place.

Palace Green freezer jam on vanilla ice cream
Palace Green freezer jam on vanilla ice cream

Palace Green freezer jams are so good, that the best thing I can think of to do with them is to put them on ice cream. Palace Green freezer jams actually make my favorite thing ever, better. I’m sure they are good on toast or biscuits or whatever. Who knows. I’ll never find out unless you folks tell me about it. For me, it’s ice cream and freezer jam.

There, that sounds positive. Much better. (Really, it’s crack. You can’t stop once you open the jar. Run away!)

As for the free tours, we have opened up double the normal number of tours for a Saturday to try and accommodate everyone. The store will be open as normal so if you just want to pop in and get samples without a tour, do some shopping, etc. you are welcome to come by. Tours will be by appointment. For our regulars, don’t shy away. We will NOT have 2000 people here on the 27th. It’s tours only.

To book a tour, you simply need to go to our scheduling page and book a tour at a time that is convenient for you. All available times will be shown. If no times show up, then we are full for the day. You can still stop by the store to shop.

Because of the nature of the event, we will honor Groupons but only at their normal stated rate, which includes a free tour. In other words, if you are a Groupon customer, the 27th is not your day.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Finally, someone talking sense about grass fed beef part 1

One of our customers (Hi Bill!) sent me this article in, of all places, the Wall Street Journal’s website. It’s all about grass fed beef and what makes it actually not just good, but far superior to grain fed beef. This article isn’t about all the health benefits, but about flavor!

Usually when I see something about grass fed beef in the mainstream press I roll my eyes and prepare to give it little attention. Most articles are either written for mainstream beef production or are woefully misinformed. However it is obvious that the author in this article has been chasing a perfect grass fed steak for some time.

In the U.S., nearly all cattle spend their first months consuming predominantly grass and mother’s milk. It’s during what’s known as finishing that grain-fed and grass-fed cattle part ways. About 97% of our beef cattle consume at least some grain to speed weight gain, allowing them to be slaughtered at 18-20 months. The remaining, grass-fed 3% graze throughout their lives and are typically slaughtered at 20-28 months, and sometimes older.

I’ve been involved with cattle since I was 7 years old. However I’ve been finishing cattle, as discussed above, since I was in my late 30s. The rest of the time we sent off the six month old calves to the market to be grain finished, or we buried the cows here from old age. Those were the two choices.

Cows walking out into the pasture
Cows walking out into the pasture

When I first started finishing cattle, I just took a decent looking cow, kept him till he looked big, and then hauled him to the processor. What’s the big deal? Any fool can do this.

The big deal was when I received back my 380 lbs of meat from my 1100 lb cow that actually only weighed 900 once he hit the scales. the meat tasted like shoe leather. Or it had a metallic taste, or tasted like onions, or any one of 20 different bad tastes you can have with grass fed cattle. Apparently whatever we were doing we were doing WRONG! The old timers, trying to be helpful to a young upstart advised me, “Son, you do all that hippie crap you want. But before you take that cow to the processor you better put him in the corral for a couple of months and put him on grain if you want any decent meat.”  I heard this time and time again. But that’s just a grain fed cow. I wanted grass fed AND grass finished!

The meat tasted goodish, if you could chew it long enough and got over the off tastes that were at the forefront of your palette. The hamburger was good and we frankly ground more of the cow than we cut. We also hosted a lot of parties where beef was on the menu. We gave away a LOT of beef just to clean the freezers and try again.

The sub-par grass-fed beef I tried in the past likely came from inexperienced farmers. “I think some of the early stabs at finishing cattle on all grass didn’t go so well,” said Dan Barber, the chef and sustainable-agriculture crusader behind Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns outside the city.

We spent five years not selling a single ounce of beef, trying to learn how to finish cattle properly. Most grass farmers would not be able to spend 5 years with no revenue. Luckily I was working full time so the farm was not my source of income. However when I went to other farms, I found young, excited farmers who thought what they were doing was correct. But their way was not our way. We had to improve.

But did it work? That’s part of the next post.

 

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Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

1st grazing notes from 2017

On April 21st we grazed the first grazing stake paddock of the season. This is the one by the golf course.  The cows were in their winter sacrificial paddock until April 16th as we let the grass get established from winter dormancy. We had an unusually dry and pleasant spring so although the grass has certainly greened up, it wasn’t really jumping in height due to the lack of water.

Prior to grazing
Prior to grazing

The grass is just coming up and showing signs of life. It hasn’t had a chance to thicken, or to start covering areas that were cleared during the winter or late fall. Basically the seed heads are tall, but the grass itself is still rather short.

One really great thing to see this spring was that the thatch from last years grazing is still somewhat present. In previous years, the thatch layer decomposed into nothing by spring. Thatch is what makes topsoil so the soil was able to use more than we could provide. This past winter, there was enough thatch to cover the ground, be food for all the little critters, and still have some left over.

The grass itself was only about 6-8″ tall whereas the seed heads were the normal 15-18″ tall. We had about 85% ground coverage and the beginnings of solid coverage for this season.

We are flash grazing the cattle across the pastures for this first grazing. They are getting triple sized paddocks each day allowing them to only browse and not really graze the grass back. By the time we finish the first rotation, the grass should be well into growing and we’ll shorten up our paddock sizes so that they graze more heavily and more importantly, they trample grass into contact with the ground building more thatch.

After grazing the first paddock
After grazing

Here you can see the bare areas still recovering into grass. The grass was about 50% eaten leaving plenty to continue to grow. We mowed the pastures post grazing to bring all the missed grass down into contact with the ground and prompt the next round of growing.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Bacon is back in stock

I had a few inquiries this week from folks asking, “Are you open? Is there anything there to buy after last weekend?”

The answer is Yes! We are open. While we had thousands of people through here, we only ran out of a handful of items. Most things, except the never ending struggle for ribeyes and our pending restock on squeaky cheese are back in stock.

On Friday, I went to the processor and picked up three hogs worth of products, including an order of bacon so we even have bacon back on hand.

Large pile of uncured bacon
Stocked to the gills with bacon

There is even a possibility that our latest cow will be ready today so I hope to run over to Siler City and pick that up, which means we’d have ribeyes later this afternoon. No promises! But it’s possible.

The girls are working 8-5 today so pop in and stock up on fresh goodies. We look forward to see you.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

The results are in…

In my earlier post I guessed at how many people we’d have here for our event on Saturday. The math was based on what we knew, which wasn’t very much at all. In the end, I guessed 800 people would show. I actually felt pretty good about my guess. Maybe we’d, <gasp!>, hit 1000 but based on the buzz around our event, I felt pretty good we wouldn’t see just 50 people and have a total bust.

To put this in perspective, I think the most we’ve ever had here at the farm at once is about 75 people.

Saturday we had over 100 people  before we even officially opened at 10am.

About 9:40, cars started showing up. And….They…..Never…..Stopped.

Here is a bit of what it looked like. Thanks Dustin for the drone footage.

 

Before we started, I grabbed our head of parking, Joseph, and walked him through the plan for how to park cars. We had a plan A for parking that involved using the yard all the way from the barn to the back of the house. That was blown by about 10:10. Plan B went into effect, which was to park cars behind the house in the orchard. That lasted another 15 – 20 minutes maybe.  Plan C was to park right behind the house between the grape vines and the house. That petered out by about 11am. At that point, we went into our emergency planning mode, which was to shift our parking people to the bottom of the hill and start parking in Dustin’s yard. We made that transition, which was definitely under duress.

Luckily shortly after that plan went into effect, Miguel made it back to the farm and asked about parking in the big pasture. We didn’t want people parking in the pasture because it messed up the flow of people to the tours. Basically it had people coming from all sorts of directions and people wouldn’t be able to work their way through out stations without getting lost and/or confused about what was going on but at this point we didn’t have a choice. With his help we quickly shifted to parking cars in our main pasture. This plan, frankly, wasn’t part of the plan. At this point we were making things up and the cars kept coming.

Luckily about noon the rush was over. Our initial visitors were starting to clear out and we were able to start making progress towards parking in our normal areas. However it was well into the afternoon before we cleared the parking in the big pasture. All other spots were swamped all day.

I mention the parking because it really is our Achilles heel. We can only park so many people here on the farm. We have a one way road on and off the farm, and we had a stead stream of people pouring in.

I spent most of my time either giving tours, checking on our vendors, or bouncing from hotspot to hotspot. There was no such thing as stopping, for me, or anyone else all day.

We had everyone from our farm working, including their children and our children. We also had folks from our leased farm, friends from school, customers who pitched in, and pretty much anyone else we could think of. Despite all that, we were simply swamped. When we started this, we hoped we’d get maybe 100 people.

We did 207 transactions in the store on Saturday. A normal Saturday is 30-50. If you figure each transaction represents a family of 5 that means we had 1035 “people” through the store. One of our vendors told us about noon he’d already counted 1000 people who’d come past him. This was two hours in! So that number seems legit.

The never ending line out of the door to the store.
The never ending line out of the door to the store.

Except we had a line out the door ALL DAY. We only have one point of sale system.

The girls, manning the store and handling the crowd.
The girls, manning the store and handling the crowd.

We can only ring people out so fast. (We are already working on this for next time.) Many people didn’t want to wait 30-45 minutes to go into the store and I don’t blame them. People said they’d come back another time.

It’s not a big stretch to assume that if 1035 people were represented in our store, that at least that many decided not to wait in line. That puts us over 2000 people for our barn day. Two THOUSAND people at our little farm. We only have 1300 likes on Facebook currently and we had over 2000 physically present! So this is what it means to “go viral.”

And now, some pics from our day.

Grandma and the baby piglet. There was a steady line all day to see and hold the piglet.
Grandma and the baby piglet. There was a steady line all day to see and hold the piglet.
The baby goats were equally popular.
The baby goats were equally popular.
Tamryn with her goats
Tamryn with her goats
Boys unloading a baby piglet
The boys were everywhere, doing anything that needed to be done.
Mark had a steady stream talking about bees and honey
Mark had a steady stream talking about bees and honey
Mark with bee hives
Of course we had the view windows open on the hives
SWMBO restocking from the stock room freezer
We are out of everything! Restock the store!
Produce from Lee's farm
You’ve been asking for it. We had produce to compliment our store offerings
Jayden and her chickens, letting people have a chance to hold them.
Jadyn and her chickens, letting people have a chance to hold them.

I’ve never seen a chicken on a leash before. Even I learned something.

Aunt Ruby's peanuts
Aunt Ruby’s peanuts were here giving out samples. The chocolate clusters sold out in no time!
Celebrity Goat Dairy setup
Our friends from Celebrity Goat Dairy were here, and ran out of product half way through, but Mary saved the day, as usual!
Spork giving a large tour
Spork giving a tour. This was an average group for the day

We gave tours every half hour, alternating between Spork and I. I’d say we had an average of 50 people per tour. Everyone seemed to enjoy their walk through the farm and we had lots of good questions.

Buh's grilling at Open Barn day
Buh’s BBQ was here and grilling

Buh not only grilled samples all day, he also made our dinner for the after party!

Rosemary playing music at open barn day
We even had live music! Thank you Rosemary!

2000+ people, no accidents, no fights, no police called, nothing caught on fire.

Dan after barn day
The day is over and everyone is safe. Time to enjoy it.

It was pretty much impossible to really be prepared for an event to get this big this quickly. But with the hard work and help of the Clarks, the Deatons, our friends from school, all of our suppliers, Tamryn, our own family, the guys who work here on the farm every day, and of course Grandma we pulled it off with no major blowups. I’m still torn on the propriety of doing this type of an event. I know people got lost in the crowd. I know people will overcook their steaks because I didn’t get to give them one on one instructions. But we had so many positive comments and people who stopped by for the first time because of the event that we definitely did some good as well.

We’ll see. Till then, thank you everyone who worked, attended, or told your friends about us. We had an awesome day.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

It’s going to be a good day

This morning at first light I received a text from Dustin. Have you seen this rainbow? I looked out the window and the most beautiful rainbow I’ve ever seen was crossing the sky. The sun had not even come up yet so it was just false dawn. However the rainbow was catching the brighter light that was still not hitting the farm. This made for a deep colored, brightly lit rainbow against a relatively dark world. It was stunning. I ran outside and snapped this picture. A minute later, it was gone. Just a transient beauty, which made it all the more special.

I think it’s going to be a good day.

Rainbow on the day of the Open Barn Day
Our start to the morning at first light

Update from one of the families on the farm. Better picture.

Full rainbow on open barn day
Wow. Just wow.

SWMBO and Lucy were in the store till late last night, receiving in new products, restocks, entering items into the system, and pricing everything so we don’t hear “How much is this?” 200 times today.

The store just before barn day
The store, just before our big event

This is the first time we’ve had the store fully stocked since we expanded it this winter. It’s starting to look pretty nice.

The new display refridgerator
Our new display fridge is finally put together and stocked

The new display fridge has already been worth it’s weight in gold. Now instead of everything being crammed into one little fridge we can space things out and have it more organized.

Stocked shelves in the store
The shelves are fully stocked.

We have lots of new products I haven’t blogged about yet. All are on display and available for sale.

More shelves stocked in the store.
The other side of those shelves
Display cabinet stocked
One of our display cabinets
Our old fridge, now properly stocked instead of being crammed together
Our old fridge, now properly stocked instead of being crammed together

We are as ready as we can be for today. We’ve already had a great start with our rainbow. He have lots of friends coming to help. Now we’ll see who shows up to visit.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Let’s have an open house they said…

It’ll be fun they said.

Open barn day flyer on Facebook
Open barn day as seen on Facebook

10 years ago, if you wandered onto our farm you’d be looking at the wrong end of a gun. This is private property. GET OUT!

5 years ago you had an appointment with me to take a personal tour. I did maybe 2 a week. We had no store, no store hours. We sold beef. That was it. The gate was closed all day and to take your tour I met you at the gate to let you in. You received your tour, then you went out and the gate closed behind you.

1 year ago we agreed to be part of the CFSA farm tour and had almost 300 people come through here over the course of two days. At some points, we had as many of 50-70 people walking around. Some of the time we had nobody here. Everyone on staff had their tongue hanging out after the event but it was a good tired.

Tomorrow is our open barn day here at the farm. We have 1600 people saying they are interested in coming on Facebook and 200 saying they are actually stopping by.

Plus we have signs up at Angie’s in Garner, where about a million people eat breakfast and lunch every day.

We are featured in Carolina Parent Magazine’s website. In fact when I clicked on their web page just now to grab the link, our farm is front and center on the main page.

And then WRAL picked up our story and has run it. That would be the same WRAL that has been my news source since I was knee high to a duck.

So we have experience with 300 people, over the span of 8 hours spread over two days. That’s roughly 38 people per hour. No big deal.

If we take the 200 people who are saying they are coming on Facebook, subtract the 100 who won’t actually show, add in the 150 who didn’t say they were coming but actually show, that’s 250 people.

Then we add the 50 people who show from Angies.

Then we add the 100 people who show from Carolina Parent that gives us 400 people who will be coming to the farm tomorrow.

Then heck, lets just multiply that x2 for the WRAL exposure. That would be 800 people coming to the farm. But instead of two days, we’ll have part of one day to see all these fine folks. That’s 133 people per hour instead of 38. Um, that’s 3.5 times the AVERAGE number of people. That means we could have several hundred here at one time with the lulls tomorrow being what our average was for the last event.

So…. There have been tears already. A great amount of angst, and some mad dashes for preparation. It’s been interesting and entertaining.

Today I’m picking up a truck load of meat. Lucy is heading to Celebrity Goat Dairy to pick up cheese. We’ve been stocking the store with new products like mad. We brought in a new display fridge and piled it with goodies. We’ve also invited a number of our vendors to be here for samples and we even have live music through a gracious customer. I’m going to give the Sheriff’s office a call to talk about traffic control and we have a gaggle of teenagers coming to handle traffic and parking on farm. All the girls will be in the store along with adult help al day. Tonight it’s all hands on deck in the store putting prices on items and doing final prep for tomorrow.

This will either be epic, or we will never do it again. Since the weather looks stunningly perfect, I’m guessing epic.

However if you are looking for us after 5 tomorrow, you’ll find us behind the bar telling stories and seeing who won the betting pool on how the event would go. If the day isn’t epic. I’m sure the night will be.

Dan Moore on EmailDan Moore on FacebookDan Moore on GoogleDan Moore on Twitter
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a gunsmith, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

7125 Old Stage Road Raleigh NC