Our family from the Philippines came out to visit us
for 12 days at the end of May.I
emailed Riza, who was bringing her 4 kids with her, to ask what the kids
liked to eat, since, the last time they were out here the brown rice I served
wasn't a big hit (it's dirty! one of the kids exclaimed to her privately, I
found out later).We had 7 people
to feed for 12 days, so I decided I needed to start stockpiling food.
"The kids only like the regular white rice, chicken and
vegetables. Eggs, bacon or pancakes for
breakfast," she responded to my email.So I went to Basha's and bought a large bag of white rice (this pained
me, I admit) and went in search of bacon and chicken.Just so you know, I'm on a mission in this life to be able to
have wholesome, natural foods and pastured, grass-fed meats.Since Young's Farm left the Verde Valley, I
haven't been able to find pastured chicken, even at the health food stores,
where they sell "Smart Chicken" which is neither pastured nor local,
and which describes the chicken's diet as "100% organic grain diet
certified free of chemical agents."
I bought our Thanksgiving turkey from A bar H Farm in
southeastern Arizona last year—I had contacted the Flagstaff CSA asking where they
got their turkeys, and they directed me to them.So, last November, my friend, Denise, from Camp Verde met their
delivery truck down at Orme Road and I-17 to pick up our turkeys.Sounds like a drug deal, doesn't it?
Serendipitously, Josh from A bar H called me to
set up our chicken delivery for the CSA for May, so I had extra
chickens from him for our extravaganza of food.I had the chickens covered.
I looked on localharvest.org for the bacon.There's a place called "Pork on a
Fork" out of Phoenix that advertised natural pork.I emailed them about their bacon.Turns out it’s "fresh from
Nebraska."I then asked if it was
pastured.His response was this:"Our happy hogs are grain fed with no
added junk. It is very hard to raise hogs on pasture only. But, they come from
our farm, without the pharm! :)."
Then I asked David Heininger, the goat cheese guy up in
Black Mesa Ranch, from whom we've purchased goat cheese for the CSA, if they
had pork.Here is his response:"We
don’t sell cuts of pork, only whole or half hogs on the hoof (or delivered
locally for custom processing). This year’s hogs are all pre-sold.
I then did a google search for "pastured pork
Arizona" and found a listing on eatwild.com for The M Triangle Ranch.This was the ONLY listing for grass-fed pork
I emailed Mark Michaels, the owner of the ranch, asking if
he went to any farmer's markets in the Phoenix area, thinking I could go down
there on a Saturday morning or something. He said:"I am sorry
but we don't make the markets in Phoenix. However, I do work with a CSA in
Queen Creek and there will be delivery this Friday or Saturday. We're not sure
which day as of yet but I would be glad to meet you in that area if that works for
you. Let me know if you can do that and what you would like and then we can
make it work out."OK, I think,
this sounds all right—I could make a Costco and Trader Joe's run and meet him
in Queen Creek.I've been wanting to
visit the Queen Creek Olive Mill anyway, so I could make a day of it.
I planned my Friday food foray and left the house at 12:00
noon on the dot.Since I don't have a cell
phone, I nabbed my husband, Paul's, and was in communication with Mark
throughout the day about when and where to meet.I went to Costco, then went to where there used to be a Trader
Joe's in the Metro Center, and found they were closed.This alarms me, as there was also one in Sun
City that recently closed.I had lunch
at Sweet Tomatoes salad buffet and forged on to Mesa where there was still a
Trader Joe's open.
I arrived at the parking lot of the Fry's Supermarket 25
miles off the 60 freeway in bum**** Egypt at 8:30 that night to meet Mark.I called my pregnant daughter while I was
waiting; she was on a women's weekend in Palm Springs sitting by the pool."Guess where I am!" I say!"I'm in a parking lot in bum**** Egypt
waiting for the guy who raises pastured bacon.""Of course, you are," she says."It's Friday night—where else would you
be?"I love my daughter.
So, finally he arrived in his pickup with his ice chests and
we completed the transaction.We agreed
that it was like we were doing something illegal (my last drug deal was back in
1970 when I procured a "four finger lid" of pot for $10).
After driving down the wrong road for 10 miles out in the
sticks, I corrected my course and make the 2 ½ hour drive back home, arriving
around 11:30 PM.
The next morning I asked Paul if he thinks I'm off my rocker
for going to such lengths to procure real food.
"You have a mission.I think it's good that you have a mission, and I support you in
that.It's not my mission, but I'm glad
you have a mission."We must
remember that Paul is not into food in the least, and would be eating Basha's
roasted chicken and Oscar Meyer bacon if not for me.
Willowbrook Farm hosted its first annual Harvest Festival on November 1, and what a great success it was! Tamales, salsa, pesto, veggies and herbs, drinks, local art and ceramics were just a few of the luscious items available to purchase. It was a great way to celebrate the end of our season!