Last Saturday, Pete and I spent all day in farm country.
The University of Minnesota Extension – Scott County had selected the Glisczinski Dairy and two other farms as part of its annual City to Country Tour. The Tour is held to demonstrate the importance of agriculture and leave a lasting impression on visitors through demonstrations, hands-on activities and educational displays.
Glisczinski Dairy is home to our daughter Robin’s boyfriend, Scott, and his family. You might remember we wrote about purchasing a local, farm raised pig from Scott here: Locavores, More and More. This was a great way to obtain a cost-efficient supply of the best-tasting bacon and pork we’ve ever eaten. In our discussion, Unincorporating Food, Inc., we noted that we would be purchasing a steer from Scott as part of our commitment to knowing where our food comes from and ensuring it is naturally and humanely raised.
Several of our friends have gone in with us on the steer, who grew to about 1300 pounds under Scott’s care. Before we headed to the farms on the tour, our first stop last Saturday was Odenthal Meats in Heidelberg, MN to go over the cuts of meat we all want, and other particulars.
Randy Odenthal and his wife, Laura, have grown their operation from start-up in 1999 to what many consider to be one of the best markets in Minnesota Czech country. Over 130 products come fresh from the farm to your table. Their service profile includes humane slaughter, custom processing, wholesale processing, custom smoking, wild game processing, custom blending and products and special events.
Pete is very particular about what comes into his kitchen, and he had also consulted with my brother, who is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, about what we should be ordering. While Pete placed our order, I snapped these photos with my Android phone in the Odenthal retail area. Yes, that’s a bison head on the wall!
Odenthal Meats also sells retail to the consumer who doesn’t have a direct farm connection, or who can’t buy large quantities at a time. You can pick up a few chops or purchase sausages or bacon made from their own recipes. Now that we know how good their products are, it’s worth the drive down from Minneapolis.
We also were invited into the back room for a visit. The first thing I noticed is that it was spotlessly clean, like a hospital surgery. Odenthal Meats has a “MN State Equal To” license which allows Randy to operate the same as a federal meat processor within the State of Minnesota. This means their operation is subject to equivalent and continuous inspection as well.
Here’s Pete at the meat locker door. Our steer’s hanging weight is around 800 lbs. Additional processing will lose about 35% to 40%, and we’ll wind up with around 500 lbs of meat total to be divided amongst our group. As near as I can figure, our cost is going to be between $5.00 and $5.50 per pound. This includes what we paid Scott initially and the processing. Not bad!
Odenthal Meats will cut, grind, wrap, and freeze everything for pickup, divided into quarters for our group. In the overall mix, we’ll be getting roasts, filets, tenderloin, stew meat, hamburger, Kansas City steak (which is like a T-bone), rib steak, and a little liver in our friend Mary’s portion. 🙂
With that finished, we headed over to the Glisczinski farm. We were pleased to see many visitors, with lots of children, on the tour. Volunteers in red t-shirts handed out plastic booties to save our footwear from the effects of tromping around the farmyard. Knowledgeable young people led tours and provided lots of fun facts about the dairy herd and farm operations. And Dairy Princesses and 4-H volunteers like these two cutie-pies were busy giving out free milkshakes and selling hot dogs and snacks. We even ran into our friends and co-steer purchasers, Judy and John, in the dairy barn! Judy reported their volunteer tour guide, who had competed in the Dairy Quiz Bowl, was full of interesting facts and information.
Scott’s parents, Ken and Linda, have been farming for over 25 years. Today they milk more than 140 Holstein and Jersey cows in a step-up parlor set-up. Each cow produces up to 8 gallons of milk every day! The Glisczinski herd is comfortably housed in a compost barn, with bedding that is always fresh. The cows choose where they relax, sleep and socialize within their herd. Happier cows are higher quality cows. The gorgeous Jersey in the middle of this photo is a County Fair champion.
The children visiting on tour day were enamored of the calves, and it appeared the feeling was mutual. Young calves will suck on anything: fingers, sleeves, coat buttons, pony tails, you name it, as this little girl found out!
The Glisczinskis keep their newer calves in separate shelters to ensure they thrive. Each calf has a buddy with whom they bunk, and then they will graduate to the heifer barn when they are big enough where they can range more freely. Calves are curious and generally quite friendly. They can be trained to come when called and have distinct personalities.
The Glisczinskis farm more than 350 acres to produce feed for their herd. Different types of feed mixtures are provided, consisting of alfalfa, grass hay, corn, oats and soybeans – all of which are grown on the farm. Here Scott is explaining the differences in the types of feed from sample buckets and taking questions. You can see the plastic boots everyone is wearing, too!
One of the most fun things Robin and Scott have going is their new business venture: giving hayrides and sleigh rides with their pair of Percheron draft horses. The Glisczinski Percherons are a time-honored family tradition which began with Scott’s grandfather. Scott and Robin recently took delivery of a brand new hand-carved wooden carriage for weddings, as well. The Percherons, Lacie and Gracie, are gentle giants with calm dispositions. “The Girls” love their “job” pulling clients around to the sound of sleighbells. We think it’s great that the kids are so entrepreneurial!
Percherons were bred in France for use as war horses and farm draft animals. They began to be imported in this country in the 19th century, and by the 1920’s about 70% of farm horses were Percherons. These horses are born black, and as they get older their color changes from gray to near white. Gracie and Lacie are very large, but extremely docile and friendly.
Having grown up in a small town surrounded by farm country, I often take for granted the advantages associated with an agrarian way of life. I was a 4-H member and had many friends who lived on farms. Our high school’s chapter of Future Farmers of America was one of the more popular after-school clubs. Even now, though Pete and I live in the Twin Cities, it doesn’t take long to get out to the farm, and we’re glad about that. We’re equally glad the kids have chosen a profession that will keep them in this world and provide so much satisfaction, accomplishment, and independence.
Yet, we realize, many city folk have no familiarity whatsoever with the hard work that farming entails, nor do they understand where their food products come from. Recent trends in consumption are changing this, however. Scott plans to grow his meat production into a CSA venture to bring quality meat and poultry products to subscribers, in the way that many are already getting vegetables and other produce. And the sustainability aspect of doing business with and as local growers is changing the way more of us think about and obtain our food.
Getting back to the land is a worthwhile endeavor, whether we choose to do it on a day tour, or as a way of life. We hope if any opportunity presents itself for you to experience the farm, whether it’s a visit or eliminating any of the degrees of separation you have with where your food originates, you’ll take advantage of it!