Category Archives: Delicious Tidbits

A Few Questions with Marina & John Backes of Circle B Ranch

Local Harvest’s Featured Vendor
September 2013
Marina & John Backes of Circle B Ranch
Seymour, MO

Circle B Ranch 02LH: You moved to Circle B Ranch in 2009, where you and your husband started your first commercial farm. What led you to this choice?

CBR: We are passionate about the food we produce and the welfare of our animals. We firmly believe that an animal’s welfare and humane treatment of the animal is vital to the taste and appearance of the meat. We are on the same page with the Slow Food movement.

We considered other species for raising, but felt Berkshire hogs were a better return on investment. They are also hardy, nearly self-sufficient, and not prone to diseases when pasture raised. The Berkshire in particular is a docile hog, well-equipped for pasture-raising. They produce large litters and have good mothering instincts. Their carcass quality and taste are legendary. Red Wattle is also highly compatible to pasture-raising and has good maternal instincts. When crossed with the Berkshire, a whole new dimension of taste is added.

Circle B Ranch 01LH: Why is it important to your family and business to raise certified-humane, heritage pigs in a natural, free-range environment? Generally, what do these practices entail?

CBR: Since the animals are free-ranged on pasture land, they do what hogs do best—root and graze for the majority of their food. The hogs have freedom to graze on the lush pastures and roam the woods, foraging for nuts and acorns. Naturally-raised pork is rich in Omega 3 fat, Vitamin D, and free from any additional hormones and antibiotics. Circle B Ranch adds natural corn & soybean-based food with mineral and vitamin supplements to the animal’s diet. Since we manage the process from pasture to plate, the customer will immediately taste the difference.

Circle B Ranch provides a clean and 100% natural environment to breed, farrow, and raise heritage Berkshire/Kurabota and Red Wattle hogs for both restaurant use and consumer consumption. We accomplish our mission by raising the hogs using sustainable and humane production methods that adhere to the Certified Humane Raised and Handled standards of operation.

LH: Describe your farm’s unique aspects. How does the landscape aid your mission?

CBR: The landscape of SW Missouri is very hilly and heavily wooded. The Berkshire hogs are given free access to the pasture, wooded areas, and the natural streams that run through the property. The hogs have a basic diet of pasture grass and legumes, roots, nuts (such as acorns, black walnuts, hickory), and even occasional wild persimmon. This is how hogs were raised long ago. There are only a handful of farmers nationwide who truly pasture-raise hogs. Their diet is also supplemented with discarded market fruits and vegetables collected from local food banks and markets. We feel this broad spectrum diet produces the quality product our customers enjoy.

Not only does the varied terrain provide quality forage, the deep wooded hollows provide cool and shade and shelter from wind and cold, which prevents stress to the animals and thereby enhances consistent growth.

LH: You raise a few different breeds of heritage hogs. What are the differences between the breeds? Do they lend themselves to different types of pork product?

CBR: We raise two type of heritage hogs. Berkshire and Red Wattle. We also produce a crossbreed. The Berkshire has a very buttery nut like flavor and light “marbling’ in the loins. The Red Wattle has a longer muscle structure, very dark meat, and a “nearer to steak” taste. They have heavier marbling in the loins. The Red Wattle is also a longer and taller hog so the sides of the cross for bacon use are a little larger. The cross of Berkshire/Red Wattle produces a Berkshire taste and marbling but with a rich dark Red Wattle meat.

one week oldLH: Describe a day in the life of your farm. What’s it like being an independent hog farmer in Missouri?

CBR: John handles the everyday nuts and bolts of the farm, with help from our farm foreman Darrell. He also controls the animal husbandry, feeding of the hogs, rotation of the different age groups of hogs to different pastures and fields. He handles the health and welfare of the entire herd while maintaining our pasture (over seeding) and infrastructure (such as waterlines and fencing).

Marina is in charge of bookkeeping, marketing, and sale of the hogs and sauces. John, Marina, and Erin work the Greater Springfield Farmers Market and the Clayton Farmers Market in St. Louis. Delivery responsibilities are shared by all. Erin and Marina handle social media such as blogging and Facebook.

It is very challenging to be an independent hog farmer in Missouri. As product demand increases, we need to maintain our high standards and not jeopardize the end product. Our mission is to bring to market the best product we can, humanely and sustainably.

LH: You have a beautiful, accessible website and online store. As a local farm business, how do you manage the site and what benefits does it lend you?

CBR: It took a very long time and many revisions to come up with a beautiful website. Our online store remains a work in progress. We manage our site, but a website developer does the actual design of the website. The website is a great place for people to go for information on our farm and raising practices. We use Facebook and blogs to keep our customer up-to-date on weekly happenings on the farm. We are transparent with everything we do.

LH: You also have a line of gourmet sauces. What’s available? Do they complement your pork products?

CBR: While we were waiting for our hogs to grow, we decided to develop a line of gourmet sauces. We have Marina’s Italian Tomato Sauce, Marina’s Cranberry Chutney, and Big John’s Barbecue. They were all made to complement our pork products. The cranberry chutney is fantastic on pork chops, or you can use it on baked brie, goat cheese, or with yogurt and granola. Marina’s Italian Tomato Sauce goes hand-and-hand with Marina’s Italian meatballs.
In the meatballs, the pork is from our hogs and the beef is from Missouri Beef Growers—a coop in SW Missouri.

LH: What is your favorite local product?

CBR: Terrill Creek Goat Cheese, Springfield Dairy Yogurt, Baetje Goat Cheese, Billy Goat Potato Chips

LH: Why should people buy local?

CBR: As we all know, our food–both quality and supply—is in crisis. Patronizing an authentic local farmer will ensure a steady supply and growth of a healthy food source.

Commercial providers have begun to employ clever wording and packaging to confuse consumers into a sense of trust in their claims when their growing practices have not changed. The words “Natural Raised” and “Organic practices” are being misused. We all know how pleased we are to read or hear the word “organic” when in actuality it means very little regarding an animal’s raising and treatment. Patronizing your local farmer is push back against false marketing schemes of substandard food and will serve to raise the quality standard.

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The Local Harvest Community Seed Library

Part of Local Harvest’s mission is to build a local food community. All of the food we eat- from fresh produce, to grains, meat, and even dairy- can eventually be traced back to seeds.  So what better way to promote our St. Louis food community than to save and share seeds? We are excited to announce the opening of the Local Harvest Community Seed Library.

Seed libraries are popping up all over the country. They act as local seed banks, saving seeds from plants that thrive in their own communities and promoting biodiversity. You may have heard of seed banks like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which preserve vast amounts of seeds in case of future calamities. A noble cause! But instead of locking our seeds away, the Local Harvest Community Seed Library will allow us to continue to cultivate and develop strong plants that produce well in the St. Louis area and pass them along to future gardeners.  Saving our seeds as a community frees us from the grips of powerful commercial interests, allows us to truly personalize our crops to our climate, and promotes biodiversity on a large scale.

So how does it work? The seed library is a completely free community resource. Anyone can “borrow” seeds from the library, with the promise that they will return as many seeds (or more) for the next season. The library is broadly organized in three sections: edibles, herbs, and ornamental plants. The edibles section is the largest and is categorized by plant family. Don’t worry, we have a guide to some common plant families posted, as well as a comprehensive index of all seeds available in the library.  Complete directions for checking out seeds will be posted for your use.

Through generous donations from Gateway Greening and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, the Local Harvest Community Seed Library is chock full of seeds that will thrive in our area. Of course we welcome any seeds you may wish to donate, too! Seed donation directions will also be posted.

The Local Harvest Community Seed Library will debut at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market this Saturday, June 8. Stop by the Local Harvest booth to learn more about it and check out some seeds! After the market, the Library will be based at Local Harvest Grocery on Morganford, with plans to expand to our Kirkwood store as well.

Feel free to contact us with any questions, comments, or suggestions you may have here on the blog, at the market this Saturday, or in person at our Tower Grove store. Thanks, and happy seed saving!

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In dutiful service of the carrot

I’m just now getting around to writing the home office, mostly out of vacation laziness. It’s the fifth day in Germany, and boy am I worn out.  I’m worn out because in lieu of a bike or a gym I had to resort to jogging with Hannah and Becky.  I’m not made for jogging. At least the weather is so far removed from the St. Louis July that working up a sweat jogging is a nice way to stay warm.  Anyway, as you would expect, I’ve had my fair share of beer and pork products.  I don’t know which is more exciting for me, the variety of good cheap beer or the various wursts, cold cuts, and miscellaneous meat products avaliable.  I would love for Todd Geisert to try the mett, ground salted raw pork and see about getting that in the store.  No really, I’ve had it twice already and I’m fine.  Getting back to the beer, what a revelation.  The variety and price is what impresses me.  Half litres of good beer for the same price of Stag, and you can drink on the street. The concept of limited release, 20$ single beers people buy to hoard and resell on ebay is a foreign concept, however the local grocery store just introduced and imported beer section featuring among others, The Brooklyn Brewery and Firestone Walker.
I guess I didn’t mention it earlier, but we’re here in Dortmund, in the northwest part of Germany, in the state of Nordrhine-Westfalia the most populated state in the nation.  We’re very close to Cologne, Dusseldorf, Essen, Munster, and you can travel easily between the cities by train. Yesterday we were able to travel for free to Dusseldorf to drink some altbeer at the Uerige brewery. Anyway, Dortmund is supposedly the beer capital of Germany according to our native host Andy and there is certainly no shortage of beers and places to drink them.  The most familiar to Americans would be DAB which is sold at Local Harvest.  Others include Kronen, Brinkhoffs, Hovels, Stifts, Ritter, Dortmunder Union, Bergman, Hansa, and some more I haven’t tried.  They all fall within the “Dortmunder” style, a variation of pilsener.  But, if you go up the road to Cologne or Dusseldorf, you will get a city specific different style that I will go into later.  Today we leave for Brussels where we’re going to get a completely different perspective on beer.
Depending on the communication technology situation, I will update from Belgium.
In dutiful service to the carrot;

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George Travels to Germany

Well I’ve been lazy again, or rather my time has been linked to the whims of others, so I haven’t written for a while.  So I will review the last week.  We spent three nights in Brussels, staying at a lovely bed and breakfast, or rather a couple of spare rooms in a lovely house, in a lovely part of town.  So many beautiful buildings in Brussels: see what happens when you don’t start a world war and people don’t have to bomb all your lovely old buildings.  But let’s get to the important part, the beer.

The first bar we went to was the Moeder Lambic.  Despite the initial uncertainty about communication we managed to get right into Belgian beer, sampling draft lambics and paging through the giant bottle menu.  Next, walking and walking and walking; a lot of walking, a museum or two, and then the Cantillon brewery.  Cantillon, which also calls itself the geueze museum, is an unassuming place in the middle of a somewhat less than touristy part of town,is one of the few traditional producers of geueze and lambic.  Just walk inside and you’ll see that this is no modern brewery.  It smells like old wood and yeast and there are cobwebs everywhere, but they make some world famous beer.  Gueuze and lambic are spontaneously fermented beers that age for years in wooden barrels and are sour, deliciously sour.

The next stop of interest in Brussels was the Delirium Cafe.  They hold the Guiness record for most beers for sale at one time 2004, and the beer list is like a phone book.  I won’t go into detail, but I had some cellared beer you’ll never find in the U.S.: oh, and I got good and saucy. The next day we drove to the town of Beersel just outside of Brussels to go to the Drie Fontinen Brewery, another famous maker of geueze and lambic.  They were on vacation and the Oud Beersel Brewery had just closed an hour before we got there.  Oh well, we met some really nice locals at a bar and they directed us to a grocery store with a great selection.  We stocked up and drove to Aachen, Germany.

Aachen is nice border town which houses Charlemane’s cathedral and Germans.  Nice place.
We got back to Dortmund Saturday and now we are focusing on wedding plans.  Last night was the poulterabend, a prewedding party with both families.  We drank, we ate and we all took turns smashing plates and various ceramics at the Cafe Banana.  Good times.

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Week of March 19th – Dinner Specials at Local Harvest

Our weekly dinner specials:

GREEN PLATE: Carrundos – Vegan tamales wrapped in rainbow chard over pickled red cabbage & carrot salad. – topped with a pecan arugula salsa verde.

TROUT: Panseared Missouri trout over a bed of greens with toasted black walnuts & red onions – topped with a blueberry dressing.

BEEF: Missouri Kobe sirloin Kabobs served with a sweet potato German salad with a green tomato relish

SOUP: Beef & Vegetable

*Menu items subject to change throughout the week

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Rock The Vote: Local Harvest Cafe For Best Vegetarian!

Local Harvest Cafe has been nominated by St. Louis Magazine for their annual A-List Reader’s Choice Poll 2012.  LHC is in the category for Best Vegetarian!  Let’s get the vote out and show St. Louis what’s up!

STLMAG’s A-List Reader’s Choice Poll 2012

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Maddie Earnest Featured In This Month’s Issue of FEAST

Photography by Jonathan Gayman

Local Harvest Co-founder, Maddie Earnest, is featured in this month’s issue of FEAST Magazine as part of a discussion on the “current state of the culinary industry and its future.”  Go Local Harvest!

Tastemakers Interview: Maddie Earnest

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