5 Things to Bring to the Farmers Market

Aren’t farmers the ones who bring stuff to the market? Shoppers come to buy stuff, not bring stuff, right?

Well, here’s the deal: Brent and I weren’t always farmers.

Our journey into growing our own food began several years ago when we, like a lot of people, started looking outside of supermarkets for fresh vegetables, clean meat, raw dairy, and pastured eggs.

One of our goals was to eat more nutrients, but we were also very interested in finding out for ourselves, and teaching our children, where our food came from. This involved heading to the farmers markets and sometimes to the actual farms flung out all over creation down backroads and up mountain paths. Having a relationship with those farmers ended up being way more rewarding (and inspirational) than we ever thought.

Now that I’m on the other side of the market booth, I thought it might be helpful to give you some ideas for how to be prepared as you head out to the market. Maybe you’ve been going for years and, like me, you forget your reusable bags every single time. Or maybe you’ve never been to the market before and you’re not sure what to expect. Either way, here’s a concise list of things to remember, because we could all use a reminder.

  1. Reusable grocery bags. This is the easiest to do, and the easiest to forget. I know, because I still struggle. Everyone has one or two of these lying around. If not, there are a plethora of options at the thrift store, often for a quarter. Take them with you everywhere, always. Keep several in your car. Your farmer will appreciate your thoughtfulness and your effort.
  2. Reusable produce bags. These are also a really great help, especially for produce sellers. Giant rolls of produce bags eat into a farmer’s profits quickly, and they just send more plastic out into the world. Just throw a bunch of reusable net bags into your grocery bags (that you keep in your car) so you always have them with you as well. These are the ones I use and really like: https://www.motherearthnews.com/store/product/natural-home-produce-bags-2-for-1
  3. Cash. A lot of people don’t even think about carrying cash anymore because of the convenience of plastic. Some farmers will only take cash or market tokens, but many now offer the convenience of a card reader right at their stall. The only downside is that someone will have to pay for the convenience. Credit card companies charge a 2 – 4% fee for every transaction. That means that a $7 pack of sausage will cost someone $.14-$.17 to pay by card. At this point, the farmer has a choice. She can either make transactions clunkier and slower by adding a fee for using a card, or she can just absorb the cost. By using cash, transactions are so much simpler and it cuts out the middle man (banks/financial institutions).
  4. Jars and/or cups. Bringing back your own jars for milk, kombucha, and lemonade and/or your own cups for coffee and tea save farmers the expense of the container plus it saves the earth from more waste. Just make sure they are super clean! Throw them in your grocery bag before you head out and you’re all set.
  5. Cooler. Remember to put a cooler in the back of your car (or on your bike) with icepacks to keep your meats, dairy, and eggs cool – especially in the summer. Often when you head downtown for groceries, you will want to stop at other shops or you might want to take your time at the market and have a bite to eat. This will ensure that you don’t have to rush, but you can enjoy your trip to town without worry.

So, there you have it – grocery bags, produce bags, cash, jars, and cooler. Write out this little list and tape it to your door so you can see it before you leave on market days. If you can remember these 5 things, your trip will be even more fulfilling, and your farmer will be even more delighted to see you.

 

Sparkle Milk!

Friends, meet Sparkle.

IMG_9206

Two weeks ago, we welcomed this sweet, gorgeous Jersey to the farm, along with two baby lambs and some breeding rabbits. We have all fallen in love with her and she has become a wonderful asset to our farm. With an output of 3-4 gallons of delicious, high-butterfat milk per day we are overwhelmed with so much dairy for just 4 people!

Since it is illegal for us to sell raw milk in Virginia, we are forced to give it away at the Blacksburg Farmers Market on Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. If you would like to donate to the farm to help us care for Sparkle the cow, we will have a donation jar set up at our booth, so look for us under the structure!

 

If you have questions about raw milk, we have collected some helpful resources for you to check out here:

 

Mother Earth News – How Do I Pasteurize Milk at Home?

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/pasteurize-raw-milk-at-home

Real Raw Milk Facts – How to Pasteurize Raw Milk at Home

http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/raw-milk-news/story/how-to-pasteurize-raw-milk-at-home/

A Campaign for Real Milk – Raw Milk vs. Pasteurized Milk

http://www.realmilk.com/health/raw-milk-vs-pasteurized-milk/

Huffington Post – 10 Things You Should Know About Raw Milk

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/05/10-things-you-should-know_n_211715.html

Weston A. Price Foundation – Real Milk Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DA_vbX_T1I&feature=youtu.be

 

So, come by and see us on Saturdays and try some Sparkle milk! It’s a magical experience! 🙂

6 Things for our End-of-Summer Update

Wow! It’s been a great summer, but it has flown by! I’m already watching the leaves fall a little bit and it’s not even September yet. I want to put the brakes on and enjoy the season just a little more before that first frost comes (all too soon). But hot cider and pumpkin spice everything sounds really nice too.

IMG_6001

You might have been wondering where we’ve been all summer! Truth is, we waaaay underestimated the demand for GMO-free pork and chicken! We sold out of everything so quickly that we had to call it a season in July and turn our attention to some other things happening on the farm.

IMG_5015

Here are six things to bring you up-to-date:

1. The first is that the high tunnel is finally complete. It was a huge project but it will be a great asset to our future growing seasons. We are busy building raised beds for winter crops and getting ready for pre-spring planting.

IMG_5446

2. Predators have been our biggest obstacle this year. We have had bears (4 of them!), coyotes, raccoons, foxes, and hawks destroy our laying flock (and even a few of our meat birds). We are trying to find a good balance between free-range and predator protection. We’ve decided NOT to run any more poultry until we can protect them properly. Which leads us to #3.

3. We are in the midst of our next big construction project: a house! This will require all of our attention until the end of autumn when we plan to move in. We have been driving back and forth from our rental to the land every day for two years, which has made it easier for predators to come around and also we’ve been unable to have dogs to guard the livestock. Being on the land full-time will allow us to take better care of our livestock, crops, and soil, and will also allow us to conserve energy and time as we continue to grow the business. We can’t wait!

IMG_5914

IMG_6242

4. We have goats again! We have acquired three milk goats from friends so that when we move into our new house we can get guard dogs that will learn to guard the goats right away, and then the other livestock in the future. And as a bonus, we have our own milk again!

IMG_6236

5. Another new addition to our operation is a double-barrel apple press. We’ve already enjoyed the first round of cider fresh from the very first crushing. So, so good!

IMG_5975

6. The bees are back! We tried to overwinter several hives of bees last year, but we lost all of them. So, we’re trying again. So far, three hives are going strong. They’re just so beautiful, and busy as, well, bees.

IMG_3384

IMG_5788

And that’s all I have for now. In between all the new projects this summer, we’ve celebrated 3 birthdays and 2 anniversaries (18 years of marriage and 2 years of business); we’ve visited Abingdon, VA, Asheville, NC and Washington, D.C.; we’ve canned tomatoes, peach jam, salsa, and blackberry syrup; and as a family we’ve learned A LOT about farming, construction, and community.

IMG_5570

It’s been an outstanding summer for us. Now, here’s to back-to-school excitement, crisp mornings, hot cider, spiced-up coffee, Friday night football, and leaves ablaze. HERE WE GO!

Don’t forget to hop on over to Instagram and follow us @reliantfarm for almost-daily updates from the farm. Hope to see you there!

With Love,

IMG_4681

The Strange Family

Breakfast Casserole

My mama’s super-awesome recipe for Breakfast Casserole will make you want to invite overnight guests because it’s just too delicious to keep to yourself. It’s so simple with just 6 ingredients.

For a local twist, I would suggest heading to the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market and trying out our sausage and eggs with Blacksburg Bagels bread and then heading to Annie Kay’s or Eats for some Curtin’s Dairy Goat Gouda.

1 lb. Reliant Farm ground breakfast sausage

6 slices bread, cubed

6 Reliant Farm pasture-raised eggs

2 c. milk

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook, drain, and crumble sausage. Spread cubed bread into the bottom of a buttered 9×13 inch baking dish; place a layer of sausage and then cheese on top. Beat eggs, milk, and salt together; pour over layer of bread, sausage, and cheese. May be refrigerated overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.

It’s Market Season!

Exciting news, friends! We’ll be at the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market Wednesdays AND Saturdays with our delicious pork and eggs starting this week! Both our pigs and our chickens are raised outside on pasture and are fed a GMO-free mix that is grown locally just over the mountain from us.

IMG_3310
The market hours are Wednesdays 2-7 and Saturdays 8-2. We are looking forward to being a part of the Blacksburg community this summer.

IMG_1594

We will also continue to participate in the Pearisburg Farmer’s Market one Thursday night a month for their summer concert series with music, food, and activities. Those dates are May 12, June 16, July 21, August 18, September 15, and October 20.

IMG_0157

You can follow both of these markets on Facebook and Instagram for updates and more special events!

 

Rendering Lard

Did you know that lard is actually classified as a monosaturated fat? It’s also high in Vitamin D. But not any old package o’ lard will do. Nope. It has to be from pasture-raised pigs to truly benefit from this new (old) health food. Our lard is one of the most economical cuts on our price list. And it’s so versatile, too! What other ingredient tastes just as good in fried potatoes as it does in cherry pie?

Here’s how you can render your own snow-white lard at home – and then start cooking the old-fashioned way!

IMG_4066

  1. Buy a package of lard from Reliant Farm.
  2. Cut lard up into the smallest pieces possible – 1/2 inch cubes would suffice.
  3. Throw it into your crockpot with 1/4 cup water. This will prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Set crock pot on high.
  5. Don’t leave your house for the day! Sorry, stay close by because a pot of boiling oil makes even me nervous.
  6. Watch for the fat to melt and the cracklings (bits of meat and other non-fat stuff) to come to the top.
  7. When the cracklings start to turn brown and then sink, it should be ready.
  8. Watch out when you lift the lid – the liquid may pop on you. You may want to turn it off for a little bit before the next step.
  9. CAREFULLY filter out cracklings with a metal strainer lined with a paper towel. (This will ensure you get a pure white lard.) I like to filter it into something not-too-tall with a wide opening like a wide-mouth jar or even a small baking dish with a lid. I hate trying to dig into the lard at the bottom of a jar with a spoon that’s too short.
  10. Store in the refrigerator.
  11. Use for pie crusts, biscuits, fried potatoes, eggs, sautéed veggies, etc.

IMG_1696

Pork Chops with Herb-Mustard Butter

New pork chops are coming this week in time for the Saturday market! Here is one of our family’s favorite pork chop recipes from Southern Living. It only takes about 20 minutes start to finish and serves 4.  I like to pair it with buttered noodles or mashed potatoes and broccoli or green beans.

 

Pork Chops with Herb-Mustard Butter

Ingredients:

4 bone-in pork chops (3/4-1″ thick)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons honey mustard

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

IMG_0055

Preparations:

1.  Sprinkle chops evenly with salt and pepper, and place on a wire rack in an aluminum foil-lined pan.

IMG_0058

2.  Stir together butter and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl until blended. Top each chop with 1 rounded Tbsp. butter mixture.

3.  Broil 5 inches from heat 8 to 10 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 155 degrees.

IMG_0065

 

NC Style Crock Pot Pulled Pork

Vinegar-based pulled pork is the only way we will eat pulled pork. Period. We don’t do “barbecue sauce” for this. It’s vinegar all the way for us.

That being said, here is the recipe that we use for both boston butts and ham roasts. Both work well for this recipe. The only difference between the cuts is that our boston butts are boneless and more marbled while the ham roasts are bone-in with more of the fat on the outside edge of the roast. Either way, once you cook them thoroughly they pull apart easily and you can add as much or as little of the liquid fat as you want back in.

Start with a 3-4 lb boston butt or ham roast.

For the roast:

1.  Quarter 2 onions and place in the bottom of the crock pot.

2.  Combine 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp smoke paprika, and 2 tsp salt in a small bowl.

3. Rub mixture all over roast and place in crock pot on top of onions.

IMG_1782

For the sauce:

1. Combine 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp dry mustard, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp chipotle chile pepper into a small bowl.

2.  Pour 1/2 of this mixture over the roast in the crock pot.

IMG_1783

3.  Cook roast on high for 6 hours or low for 12 hours.

4.  Remove roast to serving dish. With two forks, pull meat apart into shreds. Add fat from crock pot to taste. Pour remaining sauce over shredded meat. If you want, you can shred the cooked onions in with the meat as well.

IMG_1784

We enjoy this topped with vinegar-based cole slaw (not mayo-based!) and sometimes with and sometimes without buns. This goes well with potato salad and baked beans as a deliciously relaxed summer-time meal!

Enjoy!

Balsamic Pork Chops

I love simple pork chops with just a touch of olive oil, sea salt, and a charcoal grill. But sometimes it’s great to spice it up a bit and our pork chops work great for this recipe. I use a large cast iron skillet for these. I’ve adapted this recipe from Southern Living.

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 (3/4-inch-thick) boneless pork chops
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

Combine flour, 1 teaspoon rosemary, salt, and pepper. Dredge pork chops in flour mixture.

Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Add pork chops, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove pork chops.

Add broth and vinegar, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Cook 6 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Add pork chops, and cook 5 minutes or until done.

We like it with a side of rice or mashed potatoes and maybe some bacon-wrapped green beans.

Enjoy!