Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wateroak Farms - A Brazos Locavore Field Trip

The Brazos Locavores, a group whose mission is to connect with local producers and support a lifestyle of mindful eating in Bryan-College Station TX, gathered this past Saturday for our monthly field trip - this time to Wateroak Farms, a local goat dairy. 

In December, our field trip corralled 12 interested locavores. So when I issued the announcement about the January field trip and received RSVPs for more than 40 people... well, saying I was thrilled would be an understatement. That's right. More than 40 locavores (including a number of well-behaved children) gathered at Brazos Natural Foods, our rendez-vous point, and car-pooled out to Wateroak Farms, a less than 20-mile trip into neighboring Robertson County.

Owners Mark and Pam Burrow, met our cars at the end of a long, bumpy dirt road where their home rests beside the small dairy building. Although the farm claims less than 40 acres, neighbors have generously allowed Burrows' more than 70 goats to roam on an additional 150 acres. Always in attendance is one of the 3 large dogs that serve to both protect and direct the herd as they graze. As we witnessed their passing, both Mark and Pam answered our many questions and swelled with well-deserved pride in reporting that their ice cream has twice been named one of the "Top 10 Desserts" by the Austin Chronicle Food Editor and Wateroak's selection of cheeses are used by some of Austin's top chefs. What a reputation!

But for those of us looking for supplies a little closer to home, Wateroaks sells at our very own Brazos Natural Foods as well as Specs. And their products grace many a plate at local restaurants such the Village Cafe, Veritas Wine and Bistro, and Messina Hof. Want to order direct? Feel free to drive on out to the farm or have it delivered to Brazos Natural Foods just for you. It just doesn't get any easier to bring fresh local dairy home.

After a period of questions and answers, groups of 10 at a time were given a tour of the dairy where all the magic happens. Would you believe that Pam has personally created over 200 flavors of ice cream? All I want to know is where do I apply to be a taste tester? Ok, maybe not, but what an amazing achievement! And everything from yogurt to cheese to ice cream is made right there in that small building (check out that KitchenAid mixer!). Although milk production is low this time of year, there was plenty of ice cream for sale, and just about every one of us indulged.

By 4:30, the kids were growing weary from their adventures wandering the farm, petting the dogs, and personally admiring every goat, chicken, and of course the resident turkey (Mrs. T). Slowly but surely we trickled out - car by car, with memories to share and a little ice cream too. Dave remarked to me later how amazing it is that these small farms can do what the larger farms cannot - provide a superb product to a wide audience and yet still live in harmony with the land, support sustainable practices, and make a comfortable living. It can be done. It is being done. And what a beautiful life to live. A special thanks to Mark and Pam Burrows for hosting a wonderful afternoon. 
Interested in being a part of the Brazos Locavores? Look for upcoming field trip announcements here at SGF, or email me to be contacted directly. Happy (and mindful) eating!


Green Resolutions said...

What a great turnout! And the field trip thing is great concept. This must be so interesting for everyone -- and so exciting for the kids! How do you come up with ideas for places to visit?

greeen sheeep said...

Very cool!

Heather @ SGF said...

Green Resolutions - It was a fabulous turnout! I was thrilled that so many were interested!

Greeen Sheeep -Thanks! I'm really looking forward to our next trip. I made the arrangements today.

Heather @ SGF said...

Green Resolutions - Oops. My hubby just pointed out that I didn't answer your question. Sorry about that. I kinda spaced it :)

For some of the field trips, I already know the farmers. Both the February and March trips are scheduled with vendors from our farmers market. I'll probably do more of that next fall too. Once April hits, our local pick-your-own farms will be blooming with berries so we'll hit a few of those over the later spring and summer months.

Otherwise, I have done several searches on Local Harvest to see what all is in the area. Then I just start emailing farms to see what they have to offer and what time of year would be best to visit. I wanted to do an olive orchard, but the two near us are too far for a day trip. I also contacted a bee keeper, but that was too dangerous. I'm hoping to hit a pecan orchard late this fall.

Having gone local for 15 months, I guess I've just learned more and more about local producers in the area. I've not met everyone yet, but I'm working towards it. Everyone seems happy to give tours of their facilities and it's loads of fun.

A little free advertising on mailing lists, and a couple blogs... and we went from 12 to 40 attendees in one month! And really, it's something every community could do.

Beany said...

If you ride your bike there to be a taste tester, it might actually work out (hee!).

I was wondering how this turned out (I'm backlogged on blog reading, and read the post this weekend announcing this trip).

By the way, is that a kitchen aid in that one picture? Or is it some industrial type thing that looks alot like it?

Heather @ SGF said...

Beany - the farm is REALLY far out there. By they time I got there on a bike, I'd HAVE to eat ice cream. Hmm. Maybe that's not so bad :)

I'm not for sure that it was a kitchenaid. It looks just like ours only more humongous. Powerful equipment either way!