Author Archives: Lucia

More than grass

“Exclusively Grassfed”  and “Grassfed Goodness” are slogans we use to describe out meat. But as I gaze down while walking our pastures I am amazed at the diversity of plants our animals are eating. In one square foot are a myriad of plants, all offering different nutrients and minerals. Plantains, dandelions, burdock, shepherd’s purse, ajuga, chickweed. violets and a vast variety of clovers thrive in the field. All of these contribute to healthier soils and healthier animals. And speaking of clovers, very often I’ll find the four leaf variety!

 

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Winter Market Announcement

Winter Market! Located at the West Windsor Athletic Club
99 Clarksville Road, West Windsor, 10pm- 1 pm
Always the second Saturday of every month.
Dec. 12, Jan 9, Feb. 13; Mar 12; Apr 9

Beechtree Farm approaches 30 years. Reflections from an Eclectic Artist Farmer

The first time Charlie and I walked into our farmhouse that Spring of 1986, we owned it. It didn’t occur to me until years later that this was somewhat unusual as most people would like to see the inside of a house before they commit to buying it. But at the time it seemed the most natural thing in the world.

 

We knew the house had running water, no termites, four walls and a roof to protect us. What we saw was a beautiful piece of land with the house and barn located far away from the road – a perfect place to raise children and animals, in short, heaven on earth. I had admired the farm from the road for years driving between Princeton and Lambertville What surprised me is how many people had viewed the farm and not snapped it up already.

 

We learned about the opportunity to buy this farm only hours after we had decided to marry. It felt like providence had opened her arms and welcomed our new union. Charlie had worked hard in his door and window business, already owned a home and had decided to find a farm before we had met. I had grown up on my parents working dairy farm in Columbia County, New York. So the prospect of managing 58 acres of land didn’t scare me a bit. We will forever be grateful to the person who sold us the property, Mike Plescher, who liked our plan to keep the farm a farm and not to cut it up for more houses.

It didn’t even occur to us at the time that we might make our living on the land. My idealistic, Wendell Berry-reading, parents had fallen in love with rural life and thrown themselves headlong into farming. My siblings and I came away with great stories and unique memories. But my parents came away with a severely depleted bank account after the debacle of drought in the early 60’s. Marriage almost broken, they moved to exurban Rowayton, Connecticut in 1965 to finish raising us. In retrospect, Rowayton is a great place on the waterfront but it was a tough adjustment for a girl of ten to get used to a quarter acre after having the freedom and a pony to explore 365 acres. When we moved to Crusher Road, it never occurred to us that we might make with only 58 acres.

 

Looking back, the assumption we made years ago, that we couldn’t farm for real, often stops me in my present day tracks. How could this be? We all have to eat. Eating is central and even sacred to our lives Why, when and how did farming become such a non-option, so unattractive as a profession, unless you own vast tracts of land and humongous machines and a dependence on chemical companies? Think of all those families who did once make a good middle class living on their farms, who were forced out of business in the post World War era. To my mind, this is not only sad, but also tragic. And it just doesn’t make good economic sense in a country that has a declining middle class, a dangerous dependence on fossil fuel and an unhealthy, increasingly obese population due to poor diets. From an artist’s point of view, my heart aches to see beautiful farmland gobbled up by development, the final crop – houses.

 

Charlie and I continued our respective businesses, selling and installing doors and windows, marketing communications for architects and publishing door posters. At the start, we were fortunate to have two farmers lease our land, Toby Laughlin and Miguel Garces who kept a small herd of Polled Herefords. Their livestock grazed on our fenced 20-acre pasture and we learned from them. Then one day Toby offered to sell us two pregnant polled Hereford dams. They were registered and very fine animals. And that was our start as beef farmers.

 

In short order, our beautiful children Kate and Gus were born in 1988 and 1989. We kept a great vegetable farm for ourselves. Each year we would borrow a bull and our dams would have a few calves and we’d sell them at auction, fulfilling the income requirements for farm assessment which until recently. We were running a “gentlemen farm.” Cats, dogs, horses all came along and greatly enriched our lives and still do.

 

One day the phone rang and John Hart, owner of Rosedale Mills and Hopewell Township Committeeman called to ask if I’d consider joining an Agricultural Advisory Committee in Hopewell Township, which was starting up in order to apply for farmland preservation grant money. “It’ll only be a couple of hours a month Lucia, I’m sure you can find the time to do that.” So I agreed. This small decision to volunteer time for the Township led me to many good things. One of them was meeting the Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, NOFA NJ, and Karen Andersen who nominated me to attend a conference of the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture, PASA. There, in 2007, I encountered almost a thousand people all doing, of all things – farming. The conference lifted a box off my mind that had limited my ideas of what Charlie and I could do with our land and opened up a vast of array of possibilities. What I heard and learned that weekend started a “fire in the belly” about the difference between agro industrial farming versus organic and sustainable farming. The issue of how our food is raised and is grown touches everything – our health, the climate change, diversity of species, the economy, dependence on foreign oil and how we relate to each other in our communities. Agriculture is at the very center of the whole big debate.

 

Returning from PASA, I practically accosted Charlie. “We have an unrealized asset with our 58 acres. We aren’t too small at all. Let’s get more serious about farming!!!” After talking and planning, happily he agreed and in many ways, this is when our real adventure as grassfed livestock farmers began.

 

 

Fresh, delicious water

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We often hear comments like, why does your meat taste so much better? One of the secrets is our fresh and delicious well water. Whenever we come home after a vacation we are always eager to return to our tap water. We have friends who bring empty gallon jugs to fill and take home with them because they too love the taste of the water. The same is true for our animals who have 24/7 access to water. Here is one of our katadin ewe sheep, Mrs. White with one of her lambs, enjoying a drink from our automatic Nelson waterer. We have many of these waterers situated around the farm so animals can access water easily. In the winter they stay unfrozen because underneath the canister is an eight foot pit which allows geothermal heat to rise. There is an electric heating element just under the bowl for very cold weather. This is a huge labor saver and the animals really appreciate fresh flowing water whenever they wish.

Rotating pasture

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This photo is a good illustration of how we manage our pastures by rotating them. On the left the cattle have recently grazed while on the right the grass is allowed to grow. This time of year we will use our temporary fences with step in posts and wire on spools to have the cattle mow our yard rather than use the gas gussling lawn mower . Meanwhile, the cattle are fertilizing the fields with their manure and the fields themselves act as large solar panels. The grass and other forages act as carbon sinks which are important in this age of global warming. So this system is a win, win, win, for the cattle, for the environment and for our taste buds.

Winter Time

winter time image of Beechtree FarmMany of you have asked how the animals are doing in this winter weather.

We have a lot more work this time of year to make sure our herds are warm and happy. It’s partcularly difficult when we have a bout of wet weather and then freezing temperature. You can imagine what it’s like to get soaked and then to stand in cold wind. So we get all the animals inside to keep them dry and give them plenty of hay and fresh water. It ‘s enjoyable to have an opportunity  to be in close proximity with the animals and get to know each other better. One of my favorite times is after all the chores are done and before heading back to the house, pausing and listening to the contented sounds of animals crunching contentedly on hay. They always seem so appreciative.

The other great part about winter is the incomparable beauty of the skies and trees. Though short, the light this time of year is amazing.

Meanwhile, our meat room continues to be as busy as ever. We really enjoy your visits and get such a kick out of hearing of the dishes you are making with our meats. We really appreciate the rave reviews.

Welcome to Beechtree Farm (click here…

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Celebrating 35 years! 1986-2021
Our store is open all week through the weekend. Please call ahead to let us know you are coming.
This is what we have available now:https://thefarmboard.com/beechtreefarmllc
Farm market season is here.Preorders are welcomed. You can find us at these markets…
West Windsor Community Farmers Market,  Every Saturday to Thanksgiving, 9am-1pm. Princeton Junction Train Station, Vaughn Drive Lot, Entrance at 877 Alexander Road. https://www.westwindsorfarmersmarket.org/
Hopewell Farmers Market, Every Sunday through Thanksgiving, 9 – 2pm. 62 East Broad Street, Hopewell.
https://fairgrownfarm.com/hopewell-farmers-market/
Pennington Farmers Market, Every Saturday 9-1 starting May 29th
The markets are outside and follow strict protective practices for COVID.
https://penningtonfarmersmarket.org/

At the farm, we are doing curbside pickups. Call or text what you want and we’ll prepare your order. Or you can drive up and request what you want. Keeping our 6′ distance we can fill the order. We prefer checks but can also take Venmo or Apple payments.

As you drive down our driveway, our farm store is in the garage to the left, midway down the driveway.

We also carry Charlie’s hand crafted tallow soap, delicious Sweet Sourland maple syrup and local honey.

Note: Please call or text our cell phone when you arrive so we can put our two dogs, Robbie, a Springer Spaniel and Phoebe, an Australian Cattle Dog on a leash or, if you are uncomfortable with dogs, in the kennel. Our dogs help us keep predators away from our animals and are much beloved members of our family. We’d like to make your visit peaceful, ie less barking. So do let us know you are hear or about to get here.
Ask about our CSA. We are taking names for a waiting list for purchasing a whole, half or a quarter. The butchers are booked up right now so will be at least late summer or early fall before we can get more dates.
The West
  Lucia: cell: 468-4145; Charlie cell: (609) 468-4144 Our Landline is: (609) 466-0277;
grassfedbeef@gmail.com