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home delivered farmers market - open house

Home delivered local food: How it works

Take a tour of the Hub!

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

When we hosted an Open House at our Hub in Richmond, more than a hundred people stopped by check out the place where we pack up your weekly orders. They got to talk about local food, sample it, and peek behind the scenes at how our home delivered local food gets from the farm to you. You can scroll down for a photo tour that shows you how it works! But first…

The Open House

home delivered farmers market - open house

We sure appreciated the farmers who took a break from their chores to come hang out with us! They included Jack from Sion House Farm

home delivered farmers market - g flores produce

…and Enrique and Cristian from the Flores family farm, G. Flores Produce.

home delivered farmers market - cattle run farm

Ralph from Cattle Run Farm was there, too, and brought grassfed beef for the sliders.

home delivered farmers market - farmer connector sam

Your Farmer Connector, Sam, grilled up the beef, along with grassfed chicken from Harmony Hill Farm.

home delivered farmers market - corn pool 1

The smaller ones among us dove into a corn-filled kiddie pool, which hid a whole herd of plastic animals.

home delivered farmers market - corn pool 2

Apparently there was a lot of corn splashing going on. After the last cutie crawled out, the corn was donated to Ralph’s pigs, who pronounced it delicious.

home delivered farmers market - fosters catering zee

Zee of Foster’s Catering is a local food artisan — her muffin tops in our home-delivered farmers market have many, many fans. She’s also a member of the Seasonal Roots team, leading the neighborhood Market Managers on Richmond’s Southside.

home delivered farmers market - fosters catering muffins & child

For the Open House, Zee baked up 265 mini muffin samples and gave them all away. Quote of the day: “These are so addictive!”

home delivered farmers market - fosters catering SR cake

Seconds after this photo was taken of the biggest cake Zee brought, the crowd descended… and this cake was GONE.

home delivered farmers market - fosters catering cakes

Zee also raffled off four mini animal cakes — a pig, a kitty, a cow, and a… dragon?

home delivered farmers market - fosters catering winners

A couple of the lucky winners!

home delivered farmers market - happy team

A lot of members of the Seasonal Roots team were there, too. Jamila, in the middle taking the selfie, is our Veggie Fairy Godmother, the one who helps us veggie fairies on our appointed rounds as we take care of members and support local farmers. Zee is on the far left, and between them is Duane, our founder and Head Veggie Fairy. On the other side of Jamila is Sam, your Farmer Connector who vets each farmer and food artisan and chooses what goes in the market every weekend.

And now for…

The Hub tour

Our local farmers and food artisans deliver their local food to the Hub on Monday. As soon as the food arrives, it goes straight into our two big coolers.

tomatoes beefsteak sion housen cropped

One is kept at 50 degrees for tomatoes, which don’t like to be too cold in order to max out their flavor… as well as hardy vegetables and fruits that don’t need to be too cold, like potatoes, apples, and winter squashes. The other cooler is kept at 41 degrees for greens, berries, and the like.

hub outside cooler

People who take the tour in person are always amazed at how big the Hub is. You can see the entrance to the coolers on the right, there. Through that door, the refrigerated areas alone add up to 3,500 square feet — bigger than a lot of our houses.

hub 2

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we set up the conveyor, get out the boxes, pull on our woolen undies, and line up along the conveyor to pack the orders right there in the coolers. Everyone who takes the Hub tour in person says, “Wow, it’s so cold in here!” Especially if they walk in from a hot summer day. But since the food never leaves the cooler until delivery day, it stays cool and fresh until it comes to you.

hub 1

Okay, so most of us don’t wear woolen undies. Or even own them. But hoodies, wool caps, and scarves, definitely.

box and packing slip

Since most of our members customize their basket and order Extras, every order is different. So a packing slip is generated for each order, and we follow that packing slip as we pack each box.

hub 3

It takes about 12 of us to pack up the orders with 8 others helping.

down the line

When the line gets going, a packed box comes off the end of the conveyor every 30 seconds.

quality control

At the end we do quality control, checking to make sure that each order has everything it’s supposed to have.

seasonal roots truck

At dawn on delivery day (Wednesday in Northern Virginia, Thursday everywhere else), we load up the boxes in our trucks and head out to the party stops.

veggie fairy at party stop

That’s where the neighborhood Market Managers in each area meet up to collect their neighbors’ orders.

loading car

They load up their personal vehicles with the boxes and place perishable items like meat and dairy in a cooler in their vehicle. When they make their rounds, they take the perishables out of the cooler and add them to your order when they arrive at your place — keeping your food cool, fresh, and safe from the farm to your door!

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

veteran-owned grassfed farm Cattle Run Farm

Veteran-owned grassfed farm is good for America

From the Army to the farm, this veteran continues to serve

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

When Seasonal Roots’ Farmer Connector, Sam, recently visited Cattle Run Farm, LLC, he quickly observed happy, grassfed beef cows grazing the rolling pastures in central Virginia. You can count on Sam to find the best producers we can all feel good about. Cattle Run Farm, LLC, is a third generation family farm and veteran-owned, with the best grassfed beef.

After five deployments and 21 years in the Army, 1st Sergeant Ralph T. Morton retired in 2017, to his family farm in Ruckersville, Va., to help his father and sister with the 175-acre family farm. But his dad’s health was failing, and just two months later he passed away. Through his legacy and commitment to educating the future, Ralph is excited about continuing the family’s farming tradition with innovation and strategic initiatives. Not only does the farm provide grassfed beef, but they produce thornless blackberries, herbs, and vegetables.

Cattle Run Farm teaching 2

In between his daily farm chores, this veteran continues to serve others as he welcomes school groups, 4-H groups, community members, and other veterans to the farm, to engage in non-formal learning opportunities.

Ralph, a 4-H alum himself, and Cattle Run Farm, LLC, are designing an Agricultural Innovation Learning Lab (AILL) to innovate, motivate, and educate youth and families about science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and math (STEAM) using agriculture. The primary focus of the AILL is to provide hands-on, real-life application experiential learning opportunities that support social-emotional learning and community development. Additionally, programs are designed to develop curiosity and stimulate critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills, while linking key concepts to prior knowledge and practice.

The program will run from July 8, 2019, to August 1, 2019. Start your planning early as they only have 60 slots available. We will keep you posted about the registration process!

Cattle Run Farm teaching

Obviously, Ralph is committed to teaching the next generation, and the Veggie Fairy wanted to find out why.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Why teach children who aren’t growing up on farms about good farming practices?

RALPH:

If we don’t preserve the family farm way of life, we’ll be a dying breed. All our food will come from big corporations, who don’t have the same commitment to good animal husbandry and land stewardship as small farmers do. Therefore, we wonder why we have unhealthy communities. Good agrarian practices lead to good health.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How did you learn about farming?

RALPH:

Farming has been a part of me since I was a little boy. I have been around farming my whole life. I was born and raised here on the farm. I grew up learning from my father and grandfather, and participating in 4-H youth development activities.

My vision is to do the same thing with my children that my father and grandfather did with me. I have four kids — the oldest is in college at the University of Arizona, while the younger three enjoy being out on the farm. As a parent, it’s important to expose and engage children at an early age to help them develop skills, a work ethic, and to have a greater appreciation for agriculture and natural resources.

Cattle Run Farm Ralph & his kids 1

I give our kids animals to be responsible for and they look forward to coming out every day to feed and care for them. Kids are sponges. You show them something one time and they’re saying, “I want do it! I want to do it!”

Cattle Run Farm Ralph & his kids 2

VEGGIE FAIRY:

Why did you choose to stick with grassfed?

RALPH:

For us, it makes raising cattle economically feasible. We have a lot of grass and living outside on pasture is low stress for them. Grassfed means cattle are allowed to forage and graze for their own fresh food. I use a rotational grazing system, using best practices gleaned from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). We took our pastureland and divided it into ten paddocks. Every seven days the cows rotate to a new paddock of fresh grass. This allows the grass to grow back for the next rotation. We do supplement the grass with a little bit of non-GMO grain, that is purchased from our local co-op. Maintaining good animal health requires giving them proper grasses, forages, and legumes which requires good soil health.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How do you keep the soil healthy?

RALPH:

Soil management is a key part of rotational grazing. We use both commercial and organic fertilizers. We are constantly monitoring the health of the soil by taking soil samples twice a year and adding the proper nutrients as needed. We plant legumes such as different types of clovers that naturally release nutrients into the soil through their roots.

Clover is a legume crop, belonging to the bean and pea family of plants. Legumes perform a unique service among the plant world. They fix nitrogen in the soil, transforming nitrogen gas found in air pockets of soil into organic compounds that can be used by plants. They do this by partnering with beneficial bacteria in the soil called Rhizobia, which grows in rounded nodules along the plant’s roots. Once legumes fix nitrogen, surrounding plants can use the nitrogen compounds to fuel growth.

If you just take, take, take from the land and don’t put back, the animals and the grasses won’t get the nutrients they need to grow and produce.

Cattle Run Farm winter

VEGGIE FAIRY:

We see you caring for your cows in the snow. How much do your cows stay outside in their natural environment?

RALPH:

Our cattle stay outside the entire time. Every once in a while, one might get a runny nose which can lead to transmittable respiratory problems – that’s the only time we administer antibiotics. Confinement, once you start confining them into feed lots, they get crowded and hot and it turns into a muddy muck hole. Not to mention a high-stress environment, which causes sickness and impacts the quality of the beef. Cattle turned out on pastures stay healthier and less stressed.

Another health practice for our herd is we fenced off our streams, as cattle like to stand in the water when it’s hot to stay cool. But then they develop foot problems and the streams become polluted, which is not environmentally friendly. So we have natural tree canopies for shade and put in an automatic watering system to ensure they’re consuming fresh water daily.

(VEGGIE FAIRY NOTE: Animals on farms that never give antibiotics may suffer unnecessarily if they do get sick and can’t be properly treated. The opposite problem occurs in conventional feed lots that crowd animals together in an unhealthy environment – often, all the animals have to be given antibiotics all the time just to prevent them from getting sick. As a result, some bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, which is making it harder to fight bacterial infections in humans, too.)

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How many cattle to you have at one time?

RALPH:

We run a cow-calf operation, a grow-your-own concept, so we’re not just buying someone else’s calves and fattening them up. We run anywhere from 40-45 head. We “background” all our calves, meaning when they’re ready we wean them off their mothers and condition them for 45 days. This prepares them to be turned out to pasture for grazing. Calves on a good forage program can gain anywhere from two to three pounds per day, which is good basic animal husbandry. The management is very methodical.

VEGGIE FAIRY:

How does that compare with feed lot farming?

RALPH:

Finishing cattle is a very methodical process. It takes a great deal of planning and crunching numbers. The farmers who are in the cattle feeding business, operating a feed lot, don’t have much time to get their cattle to a certain weight to meet the packer’s request. They only have a window of anywhere from 120 to 240 days to get a 500- to 700-pound steer to a market weight of 1200 to 1300 pounds. Growth implants are delivered through a pellet under the skin in the animal’s ear. They enhance the reproductive hormones that occur naturally in the animal. In steers implants replace some of the hormones that were removed when the animal was castrated. Implants generally encourage protein deposition and discourage fat deposition. This improves both weight gain and feeds conversion. Fat deposition requires more than twice as much feed energy as protein deposition does. At Cattle Run Farm, we don’t foster these practices.

*

So those are just some of the facts that back up what we always say here at Seasonal Roots: Humane farming is good for the animals, good for us, and good for the planet!

Read about another grassfed farm that’s also part of the Seasonal Roots family.

Here are tips for cooking grassfed beef, which is different from grainfed because it has less saturated fat, more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and more antioxidants like vitamin E.

ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

vegan home delivery

Seasonal Roots to the rescue!

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / April 18,2018

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

A NEW MEMBER TELLS HER STORY
By Faye D, Seasonal Roots member

On February 9, I broke my leg. For two weeks I couldn’t put any weight on it at all and for eight weeks I was dependent on a wheel chair, a walker, crutches and finally a cane. Needless to say I couldn’t cook or buy groceries. Although my husband is not comfortable in the kitchen and only a little more comfortable in a grocery store, he did pitch in to do his best at cooking and the shopping. Still, it was a very difficult time for us both.

The best thing ever was that just before the accident I had signed up for Seasonal Roots...

Read the rest of the newsletter below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

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Magnolia Farm mushroom health benefits

Secret mushroom health benefits

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / April 11,2018

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

PLUS SURPRISING NEW THINGS THEY'RE MAKING OUT OF MUSHROOMS

In American culture, there’s a stigma attached to mushrooms. They are, after all, a funny looking fungus. And when it comes to wild mushrooms, most parents tell their kids, “Don’t touch them, you’ll die!”

So it takes a certain sense of adventure to move beyond those white button mushrooms you find in every grocery store and try a mushroom that looks like, say, an oyster. Mike M’s oyster mushrooms come to us through Schuyler Greens, the company his brother...

The Veggie Fairy Blog has a Q&A with Mike about how he grows his oyster mushrooms (including a photo), links to scientific studies, and more cool ‘shroom inventions.

Read the rest of the newsletter below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

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mobjack bay fair trade coffee

This is how fair trade coffee helps the Chesapeake Bay

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / April 4,2018

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

FAIR TRADE COFFEE'S GOOD FOR RAINFORESTS & PEOPLE, TOO!

Celeste was a professional ballet dancer. Jo was a corporate IT guy. But they had always dreamed of running their own business together. And they both loved the waters of the Chesapeake Bay near their Virginia home.

So in 2007, talking over their morning coffee, they decided to launch Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters.

The business com-bines their love of coffee...

Find out more about Celeste and Jo, how to visit their tasting room and what "Fair Trade" & "Rainforest Alliance" certified means below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

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humane farming

Humane farming is good for humans too. Here’s why.

EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / March 14,2018

Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

LOTS OF PASTURE AND NO PESTICIDES, ANTIBIOTICS, HORMONES, OR GMO'S AT THIS LOCAL FARM

Out of the six kids in the Avery’s Branch Farms family, Oliver is the one in charge of their pasture-raised chickens. The family also raises cows and pigs. With support from Seasonal Roots and other Virginia families and restaurants, their farm has really grown. Their chicken flock has grown from five hens and a rooster to 3,800 hens. The egg business is now big enough for 24-year-old Oliver to launch (cue the drumroll…) AUTHENTICITY FARMS!

Even as the flock has grown, Oliver’s commitment to his family’s humane farming practices has remained the same...

Learn the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised below, or view this issue as a printable PDF with clickable links.

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pasture-raised chickens authenticity farms

Humane farming is good for humans too. Here’s why.

Lots of pasture and NO pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or GMOs at this local farm

By the Veggie Fairy Team

There’s no such thing as a chill chicken. Pigs may be laid back. But laying hens are in a constant state of panic, as if today could be their last. That’s what Oliver has observed since his parents started farming a dozen years ago when he was 12. Relying on humane farming practices, they raised cows, pigs, and chickens at Avery’s Branch Farms in Amelia, Va.

“Now and then we have some hens that like to be petted, but that’s just a random individual,” Oliver says. “I’ve never heard of a super chill chicken.”

So apparently, Chicken Little, who famously ran around crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” was a pretty typical chicken. But can you blame her? For a chicken, the world is full of imminent death and dismemberment by raccoons, possums, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, untrained dogs, and as if that weren’t enough, hawks from above. When you’re raising chickens, the temptation is to lock them away inside where it’s easier to raise them.

Easier. But not healthier. And the resulting flavor’s nothing to write home about, either. Being stuck inside doesn’t even make the chickens any less frantic.

The humane farming backstory

Avery’s Branch Farms has been supplying Seasonal Roots and other Virginia families for a long time. We love how the hens have access to pasture year-round. Grass makes up 50% of their diet. The rest of what they eat includes insects, worms (chickens are not naturally vegetarian, which is why those “100% vegetarian feed” claims are not necessarily a good thing), plus local, non-GMO grain. During the winter when the grass isn’t growing, the grass portion of their diet is supplemented with alfalfa, a high quality hay.

Even when it’s cold out the girls always have outdoor access. So they’re able to do all the natural things that make a chicken happy — grazing, pecking, scratching, and flying short distances out in the fresh air and sunshine. As a result, they naturally stay healthier.

According to Oliver, “We never use pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones. Our animals are kept healthy by their exceptional diet and environment. In return they give us the healthiest, tastiest products.” And the chickens are kept safe from predators under the watchful eye of trained, hen-loving dogs. The chickens are as naturally frantic as ever, but they’re happy and safe and truly pasture-raised.

That’s a much higher standard than “cage-free”, which means the birds are not confined in a tiny cage but are still kept indoors, roaming around inside long, low, crowded warehouses. Pasture-raised is better than “free-range” too, which usually just means the chickens have minimal access to an outside concrete pen while spending most of their lives stuck inside like the cage-free birds. For an excellent explanation of the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture-raised, read this.

A local farm success story

Out of the six kids in the Avery’s Branch family, Oliver is the one in charge of their pasture-raised chickens. He recalls, “I had always wanted to partner with restaurants to offer the same life-giving products to restaurant-goers we had always offered to our family customers. With the help of the nearby Amish community, we started delivering to restaurants and it was a big hit. Soon we had to increase our flocks to accommodate the demand.”

Seasonal Roots helped Oliver introduce more Virginia families to the goodness of his family’s pasture-raised eggs. Just like Virginia’s high-end restaurant chefs, we could all see and taste the difference that a grassfed diet makes (more on that in a minute). But the restaurants needed a consistent supply to make pasture-raised eggs a regular part of their menus, and so did we. A bigger flock made the small family farm in Amelia a more dependable supplier to everyone.

They started out with five hens and a rooster in 2005. Today their flock has grown to 3,800 and the egg business is big enough for Oliver, now 24, to make the flock his own and launch (cue the drumroll…) AUTHENTICITY FARMS!

Even as the flock has grown, Oliver’s commitment to his family’s humane farming practices has remained the same. So one local sustainable, humane family farm is now two. Seasonal Roots members can pat themselves on the back for being part of making that possible.

The health benefits of pasture-raised eggs

Humane farming practices aren’t just good for the animals. They’re good for the humans, too. A pasture-raised egg looks different from an industrial farmed egg, even if it’s cage-free or free-range. A pasture-raised yolk is deep orange surrounded by a thick, milky white. The flavor is richer. And it offers higher amounts of vitamin A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, beta carotene, choline, and tons of omega 3 fatty acids, including DHA, EPA, ALA, and AA.

A pasture-raised egg offers the highest quality protein, second only to the lactalbumin protein in a human mother’s milk. It is a true superfood. A study found that compared to industrial farmed eggs, the benefits of pasture-raised include:

  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene
  • 3-6 times more vitamin D (thanks to hanging out in all that sunshine!)
  • We’re proud to support the humane, healthful, life-giving work of the newest addition to our market, Authenticity Farms!

    Visit the Authenticity Farms website for more on Oliver’s goals and mission.
    Visit the Avery’s Branch Farms website to get to know the family and their principled approach to farming.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    local produce

    New & improved baskets of fresh local produce

    New & improved baskets of fresh local produce

    By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairy Team:

    When our online farmers market opens this weekend, our new updated basket options will make their debut. It’s part of our never-ending effort to better support local farmers while helping local families eat better, live better!

    The first thing you’ll notice are new names for the baskets. The new names make it easier to figure out which one is the best fit for the way you eat. As Goldilocks would say, one of them will be juuuuust right.

    EASY BASKET: This is the smallest basket, offering 5 choices for $22.50. It’s an easy choice if you don’t want to commit to too much food. It’s easy to complete only five choices, and easy to use them up if you’re a household of one or two people or don’t cook much.

    FAMILY BASKET: This is the middle-sized basket, offering 8 choices for $34 just like the old medium basket. It’s perfect for a family of four that eats at home several nights a week. It’s also a good option for smaller vegetarian households.

    VEGGIE LOVER BASKET: The biggest basket offers 11 choices for $38.50. This is the one for you if your family is bigger, or eats in all the time, or if you just love your veggies – like the name says!

    So why make these changes? Like we said, we’re always working to better support local farmers while we help local families eat better. The new baskets are designed to help us all eat more fresh local produce. That’s better for farmers because vegetables and fruits are the foundation of family farming. They’re also the foundation of a healthy diet. So it’s good for our farmers AND good for us — especially since our local fruits and veggies are super fresh and sustainably grown, making them more nutritious and delicious.

    As always, you can still pick a different basket size each week, customize what’s in your basket, and order Extras as well. Or you can leave it on automatic default, sit back, and watch the veggies roll in.

    To make the update easy on you, your current basket will automatically update to a new basket. The current Small Basket will become an EASY BASKET. The Medium Basket will become a FAMILY BASKET. And the Large Basket will become a VEGGIE LOVER BASKET. If you’re happy with your default, you don’t have to do a thing.

    If you want to change you default basket, you an still change it just like before. Here’s how to do it:
    1. Log into your account at SeasonalRoots.com.
    2. You’ll see a purple icon in the upper righthand corner. Hover over the icon and select “Delivery Preferences”.
    3. At the top, click on the “Delivery Preferences” tab and then make your selection.

    One thing won’t change at all: Every basket will still be filled with the freshest, most nutritious and flavorful local produce you can buy!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    grassfed local food from family farmers

    Grassfed: Why these “ka-razy” local farmers made the switch

    EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER NEWSLETTER / May 3-4, 2017

    Tips, hacks, recipes, stories, and the weekly special all help you eat better live better with fresh local food!

    Meet our newest farmer partners! When Brooks and Jil Davis decided to switch from conventional farming and go grassfed and sustainable, they were pretty much alone. Many of their fellow farmers didn’t like the idea. The couple’s decision cost them one friendship and affected their farm networking. They were labeled, “Ka-razy!” So why switch…?

    Continue reading below or view this issue as a PDF with clickable links.

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    grassfed local food from family farmers

    Grassfed and sustainable Thornebook Farms

    Grassfed: Why these “ka-razy” local farmers made the switch

    Grassfed: Why these “ka-razy” local farmers made the switch


    By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

    When Brooks and Jil Davis decided to switch from conventional farming and go grassfed and sustainable, they were pretty much alone. Many of their fellow farmers didn’t like the idea. The couple’s decision cost them one friendship and affected their farm networking. They were labeled, “Ka-razy!”

    So why make the switch? Research. Like everything else with their farm, Jil and Brooks did the research and went where the facts led them.

    In our last post, we explored organic vs sustainable vs local, and explained why the best way to ensure your food is nutritious and eco-friendly is to know the farmer. So in this post we’d like you to get to know one of our newest farmer partners.

    Starting out


    Jil and Brooks built ThorneBrook Farms from the ground up. They’re first generation farmers. They didn’t inherit their farm. Jil grew up on a small hobby farm with horses, goats, and chickens that, along with the dogs, were pets, not food. Brooks didn’t grow up on a farm at all.

    Still, he had the farming bug. He studied agricultural business at Virginia Tech, while Jil studied accounting and business at a local college. In 2006, they got married and started planning their cattle, sheep, and chicken farm.

    “We researched, researched, researched,” Jil recalls. They bought some land near Goochland, Va., prepared it, saved money, and got their financial ducks in a row for the initial herd purchase. They bought their first herd in 2007.

    At the time, they were conventional farmers and called themselves “grass-based”. That means they raised their cattle on pasture but still used medicines, vaccines, conventional feeds, and hay grown with fertilizers and sprays. “We were far from organic and definitely not sustainable,” according to Jil.

    They were also working really long hours and running a landscaping business on the side. They wanted to do more than just break even financially. They needed their farm to be self-sufficient and were eager to find ways to streamline their operation and reduce their costs.

    Their research turned up a sustainable farming practice called intensive and rotational grazing where the animals are moved from pasture to pasture. They were intrigued by both the business end of things and the science that showed how this model supported the health of the land and animals, while also improving the meat quality. Studies show that a truly grassfed process results in more nutritional and tasty meat.

    They’d done their research and they had their answer. Sustainable farming practices, including rotational grazing, were the way to go.

    Making the switch


    In 2009, they shifted their business model 180 degrees: They switched from conventional practices to a sustainable, natural approach. Grass-based herd management not only fit their lifestyle and goals, it had the potential to maximize their profits — the natural grassfed movement was gaining momentum and they were ready to meet the demand.

    Today, their sustainable practices extend throughout their farm operation. They even rely on solar power for the water and electric fencing in their pastures. Watch how well it works!

    At first, after they went sustainable, they continued to sell through wholesalers and middlemen. But it wasn’t long before they saw that selling direct to local consumers was a great opportunity. Their sustainable practices were making their farm more financially sustainable, too.

    Jil and Brooks sacrificed the comfortable old conventional way of doing things. But by going sustainable, Jil explains, “Our business increased and our foundation grew stronger. We also grew as a couple and business partners. I can say that we are 100% at peace with our model and the quality it produces.”

    Here at Seasonal Roots, we love supporting local, sustainable farmers like Jil and Brooks of ThorneBrook Farms! Our members are helping ensure they have an economically viable way to feed us all delicious, nutritious food. We’re excited to make their grassfed lamb sausage the first item we offer to our members. There’s more to come from this farming couple whom we’re getting to know so well!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS


    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.