Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wild Type Ranch - A Brazos Locavores Fieldtrip

When we left Bryan to head out to Wild Type Ranch, I was a little concerned about the weather. Apparently others were too because out of the 39 RSVPs, only 15 people came. I was a little disappointed in the numbers, having prepared the farm for around 40 people, but it made for a nice intimate group on what turned out to be a perfect afternoon - by the time we arrived at the ranch, the skies were clear blue and the air was warm. Absolutely beautiful!

After a brief introduction, owners Sara and Ralph piled us into the back of the farm pickup for a grand tour of the 333 acre ranch. Ester, their niece visiting from Australia, rode with us helping man the gates along the way. What a change of scenery for Ester who is studying fashion design back home, but in the states now 2 months, she was a pro around the farm.

Our first stop was to visit the baby calves - twins (named Comfort and Joy) born just two days ago. In fact, every calf born here has a name, not a number. And Sara and Ralph could name any of them on sight.

Cattle at Wild Type Ranch are fed both feed and grass, but the ranch operates on a philosphy that grass-fed is best as much as possible. In fact, the feed the cows are given is coated in fish oil to keep them from gaining much weight on it.

As Sara explained, there are other advantages to grass fed, namely fertilization of the pasture which was a problem when they first moved on site. Basically, they place the hay in dead spots, the cows eat and then deposit "organic matter" back onto the ground that fertilizes the land. In fact, Sara showed us, the greenest grass on the entire ranch is where they've fed hay.

Particularly special moments were petting Comfort (the 2-day old calf), feeding the momma cows "cow candy," which brought them running in for a nibble, and being there to witness one of the cow's prep for birth as her water broke. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the birth, but it couldn't have been long after we left. I'm sure Sara will pass along the good news before long.

Sara and Ralph have managed the ranch for 4 years now, sharing it with Sara's two boys, two horses, chickens, a dog, and (of course) a field full of cattle. All the cows are bred specifically for their genes and temperament through artificial insemination. When it comes time to slaughter, processing ranges roughly 4 cows a month in the summer down to 2 cows a month in the winter, all done in a USDA inspected facility.

After the tour, Sara and Ralph brought out a wonderful buffet of brisket, tortillas, fruit salad, brownies, and drinks - a full meal to share with us! We also had an opportunity to purchase beef on site and just as Sara promised, each container of meat had the name of the cow it came from so that if you wanted to know about the cow you bought, Sara and Ralph could tell you their life story. Try to get your grocery store butcher to do that!

Wild Type Ranch currently sells at 4 farmers market around the state. We've enjoyed having them at our very own Brazos Valley Farmers' Market once a month since October. In fact, we found out today, that our community has been so welcoming, that starting in January, Wild Type Ranch will be increasing their visits to our market to twice a month. That's twice the opportunities for local, sustainably raised beef and veal!

A big thanks to Sara, Ralph, and Ester for sharing your day with us and, of course, for the wonderful tour and meal!
For more information on Wild Type Ranch, or to sign up for their email list, visit their website. Or visit them at the Brazos Valley Farmers' Market.


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Darren Lanphere said...
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Darren Lanphere said...

“Each container of meat had the name of the cow it came from…” – My tummy hurt so much from laughing at this. I can't decide if the act is sweet or what. Well at least you have all kinds of meat available at anytime you like – that's the wonder of living in a farm ranch. =)

Darren Lanphere