Weekly Produce for Summer and Fall

Here’s our vegetable share box for regular customers, July 21-27. We’re hoping to continue and expand our weekly deliveries into the fall, offering various size shares.  We also have eggs, beef, and honey that can be added to your order.  Contact us if you’d like more information.

Top row, left to right; okra, garlic, scallop squash, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon
Bottom row; peppers, basil, red and white potatoes, golden cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard

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Grass Fed Beef – Discount 10 & 15 Pound Packs

We just got back new beef from our most recent calf and have a limited supply of ‘freezer-friendly’ packs of 100% grass fed beef that can be delivered in the greater Austin area.  These all natural beef packages include a variety of cuts plus ground beef. You have a choice of a steak pack and/or a roast pack.  Together, the two packs provide a convenient and cost effective sample of many of the typical beef cuts.

The steak pack is 10 pounds and the roast pack is 15 pounds.  Each is priced at $100, a 15% discount from our regular retail prices.  Both packs together are 25 pounds for $200 or $8/lb.  $8 is roughly the price of a pound of grass fed ground beef at supermarkets but for this price you get higher quality cuts than simply ground beef.  And you know our cattle are always 100% grass fed with no grain ever fed, nor any hormones, antibiotics, or implants. All beef is state inspected and vacuum sealed.  It should keep in your freezer for many months.

Here are the cuts you’ll receive with approximate weights of each.  We’ll make sure that every pack equals or exceeds the stated total weight.

Steak Pack:
1 package Fajita/Skirt/Flank Steak        0.8 lb
1 Sirloin Steak                                             2.1 lb
2 New York Strip Steaks                           1.1 lb
2 Tenderloin Steaks                                   0.5 lb
1 Ribeye Steak                                            0.8 lb
Total cuts weight = 5 to 6 lb
Add 4 or 5 pounds Ground Beef to bring total weight to 10 lb.

Roast Pack:
1 package Stew Meat                                 1.0 lb
1 Chuck Roast or Rump Roast                  3.0 lb
1 package Meaty Soup Bones*                  2.5 lb
1 package Tenderized Cutlets*                 1.0 lb
Total cuts weight = 7 to 8 lb
Add 7 or 8 pounds Ground Beef to bring total weight to 15 lb.

Contact us if you’re interested and we’ll reserve your order and work out a mutually convenient time and place for delivery in the greater Austin area.

*Several have asked about the soup bones and cutlets.  The soup bone packages have much more meat than bone.  All the meat is kept on the bones and they are sliced about an inch thick.  They fit easily into a stew pot or crock pot.  Each package has several cuts.  Cutlets are tenderized round steak suitable for chicken fried steak, slicing for stir fry, etc.  Here’s a photo of the front and back of both these packages.  (Soup bones on left, cutlets on right)Soup_Cutlets

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Grass Fed Beef: Grilling Steaks and Fajitas

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Grass Fed Beef Tenderloin (Filet Mignon) and Fajita, just about ready. These turned out perfect.

When grilling our steaks, the best strategy is ‘hot and quick’. Our grass fed beef is lean and there is no injected solution/water as in supermarket beef so it’s easy to overcook it.

For the 1″ steaks, grill on a very hot grill no more than 8 minutes total, 3 min. on each side then 1 minute on each side. This should bring them to medium rare. After grilling, put in a pan to collect the juices and cover with foil for at least 5 minutes to ‘rest’ the steaks.  Then serve and enjoy.

Some will say grass fed beef is tough so should be cooked ‘low and slow’ – not true for our steaks. Season them with any decent steak seasoning (we use Lawry’s Seasoned Salt) about 30 to 60 minutes before grilling and then grill like you normally would for medium rare.

For the skirt/fajita, we usually marinate several hours in an Italian dressing and grill hot and fast like the prime steaks. When you serve them, be sure to slice them against the grain if you make fajita strips. This is a tougher meat naturally, and slicing with the grain will make it chewy.

Some friends prefer a more well done steak and this beef is wonderfully suited for that as well.  The beef remains tender even though grilled past medium.  Whatever your taste, you should be pleased with our grass fed beef.  If you do prefer a more rare steak, just be sure to tend your grill carefully for the brief minutes the beef is over the heat.

Enjoy!

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North Austin Deliveries for July 2014

We have been blessed with a bountiful harvest this summer and we would love to share it with you!  We’re adding a North Austin weekly Tuesday afternoon delivery as a four week vegetable share program throughout July 2014.

What you would receive: Over $30 dollars worth of fresh produce each week for four weeks. The vegetables you receive will depend on our current harvest availability. We will always do our best to provide a good variety.  Vegetables/fruits we expect to have available for these shares:
Tomatoes – cherry, slicing and sauce varieties
Cucumbers
Yellow squash, Scallop squash, Zucchini, Tatume squash
Red Potatoes, White Potatoes
Swiss chard
Watermelon, Cantaloupe
Basil, cilantro, dill
Green beans
Onions, Leeks, Garlic
Jalapeño, Italian, and banana peppers
Okra
Eggplant

Many of the vegetables we grow are heirloom varieties, so you may get to try something you’ve never seen before!  Here’s a picture of a share you could receive. Top row, left to right; garlic, dill, lemon squash, yellow squash, Italian peppers
Bottom row; red cabbage, golden cherry tomatoes, green beans, Swiss chard, Armenian cucumbers, leeks

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Where/When: Tuesday afternoons between 1:45 and 2:15 in the Dave&Busters parking lot at the 183/Mopac intersection.  OR we will deliver to your home or office for an additional $5 per week, within 5 miles of the 183/Mopac intersection – an area shown approximately on this map.  Home deliveries would happen between 12 and 3 and you don’t need to be there.  Just leave an ice chest with a small freezer pack and let us know where to find it.  We’ll leave your produce and it will keep until evening.

(by the way, if Georgetown is more convenient for you, we offer the same shares there on Thursdays in July.  Details here.)

What you pay: $120 to cover the 4 weeks, payable at your first pick-up, or $140 for home/office delivery.

Flexibility: If you need to skip a week due to travel, etc. we will allow you to slide one week so you would still receive four weeks of vegetables over a five week period. Just give us 3 days notice that you will not be picking up your share.

Our eggs and grass fed beef can also be delivered with your produce.  Special discount beef packages are available to our regular customers – just ask us about it.

First delivery is Tuesday, July 1.  Contact us soon if you’re interested.

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Elgin Local Goods Store

Elgin Local Goods just opened in downtown Elgin.  It’s a new store affiliated with the farmers market and carries produce and meats from local farms, as well as crafts and other locally made wares.  We’re stocking some of our produce and grass fed beef at the store.  It’s open Monday-Friday 11-7 and Saturdays 9-3.  Products are still being added and some renovation is ongoing, but the store is open and has enough produce to make it worth your time.  Right now, you’ll find our green beans, potatoes, garlic, and ground steak at the store.

Several coolers hold a good selection of local prepared foods, fresh produce, and Ragtime Ranch's famous microgreens.

Several coolers hold a good selection of local prepared foods, fresh produce, and Ragtime Ranch’s famous microgreens.

Store manager Ryan Heneise poses by our potatoes he helped us find a good spot for

Store manager Ryan Heneise poses by our potatoes he helped us find a good spot for

Produce from several farms greet you as you enter the store.  Our garlic is on this table.

Produce from several farms greet you as you enter the store. Our garlic is on this table.

Our fresh heirloom green beans are waiting for you in the cooler.  Look for the  Blessing Falls logo and name!

Our fresh heirloom green beans are waiting for you in the cooler. Look for the Blessing Falls logo and name!

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Spring Harvest and Summer Planting

Harvest is coming into full production, while planting continues for middle and late summer vegetables.  Take a tour of our main garden… IMG_6377

Wider view of the producing rows, with newer green beans in the front, tomatoes in the background

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Speckled Lettuce – an heirloom variety

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Chinese (Napa) Cabbage

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Heads of ButterCrunch Lettuce, ready for the Elgin and Georgetown farmers markets

Broccoli ready for market

Broccoli ready for market

100 foot long rows of tomatoes – the first planted about a month ago and starting to bear.  The second being planted as the trellis is built.

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Garlic planted last fall is almost ready for harvest:IMG_6369

 

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Austin Area Farmers Markets – We’re at Two Locations Weekly

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Visit us weekly at two locations – Wednesday afternoons in Elgin and Thursday afternoons in Georgetown.

Visit us at Elgin’s River Valley Farmer’s Market.  May/June 2014 we’ll be just outside the Elgin HEB, Wednesdays 4pm-7pm.  Elgin is 20 miles east of central Austin on Highway 290.   The market is also open every Saturday from 9am-1pm in Elgin’s Veteran’s Square downtown.  In May/June we attend Saturdays depending on harvest abundance – our Facebook page will have the latest information.

We’re at the Georgetown Farmers Market Thursdays 3:30-6:30 in the Church of Christ parking lot.  Highway 29 west of I-35 at the DB Woods intersection.

Visit our public Facebook page for the latest updates on what we’re bringing to market and announcements of when we’ll miss the market due to illness or schedule conflicts.

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Fresh, Pastured and Non-GMO

Here is a little more information for you about our farm raised chickens and the tasty eggs they lay for you each week.

We feed our flock 100% organic, non-GMO, local feed from Coyote Creek Farm in Elgin TX. You can read about the difference between GMO and non-GMO feeds on their information page here. Though this special feed costs twice as much as typical feed, we believe it is worth it to know exactly what is going into our eggs. As a result of buying this premium feed, our eggs are priced higher than other eggs at our market, but we hope you will agree that the health benefits are worth the extra dollar or two.

As you can see in these pictures, our chickens also enjoy free ranging and foraging to their hearts content. This means they are much less likely to ever get and pass on diseases, so there is no need for them to be treated with antibiotics or vaccinations.

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Spring on the Farm

This is one of the busiest times of year around the farm! There’s so much to plant and prepare for. We are happy that the weather is finally warming up enough for our plants to really start growing! Here are some pictures of our garden springing into life!

Leek transplants ready to be planted tomorrow

Leek transplants ready to be planted tomorrow

Green Kale - planted in the fall and finally starting to take off

Green Kale – planted in the fall and finally starting to take off

Onions planted last fall - almost ready for harvest

Onions planted last fall – almost ready for harvest

Nine 100 foot rows of delicious nutrition!

Nine 100 foot rows of delicious nutrition!

Lettuce mix - should make a great salad in a couple more weeks!

Lettuce mix – should make a great salad in a couple more weeks!

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Broccoli and cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower

Broccoli - we planted about 500 plants, but unfortunately we are fighting the bugs to keep many of them alive.

Broccoli – we planted about 500 plants, but unfortunately we are fighting the bugs to keep many of them alive.

Chinese cabbage - our fastest crop

Chinese cabbage – our fastest crop

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Red Cabbage

Red Cabbage

Our potatoes are growing rapidly with the warmer weather

Our potatoes are growing rapidly with the warmer weather

Cover crop of oats and peas in the plot reserved for fall

Cover crop of oats and peas in the plot reserved for fall

Tiny blossom on one of our pear trees

Tiny blossom on one of our pear trees

Blackberry bushes starting to put out new growth

Blackberry bushes starting to put out new growth

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How to Fix Collard Greens

Collard greens grow well this time of year and we have a steady supply at the farmers market.   Did you know you can cook and use them in many different ways?  We didn’t, until we read this article:

Collards Are the New Kale, by Whole Foods Market

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Grass Fed Beef Hamburgers in Downtown Austin

Get on down to Svante’s Stuffed Burgers in downtown Austin for one of their delicious all grass fed beef hamburgers. For the next week these are made with our new ground steak. Svante’s normally has beef from their own ranch but the restaurant’s popularity grew faster than planned. So they bought a two week supply from us to hold them until beef from their cattle is available.

One of the owners of Svante’s said the cooks had this response to the Blessing Falls beef:

“They love the meat.  They had filled in with grass-fed from HEB one day last week and yours was much, much better.  Night and day they said.”

Thanks Svante’s!

From Svante's Facebook page - our beef on their grill along with fried eggs

From Svante’s Facebook page – our beef on their grill along with fried eggs

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Turkeys and Chickens

A family we know is moving out of the area so we acquired their flock of mature poultry – 10 turkeys and 7 chickens.  These are heritage turkey breeds of Spanish Black, Royal Palm, and Rio Grande.  Most were born last year and will be breeding and laying this year.  We hope they’ll hatch  several  healthy poults which we’ll raise for the holiday table.  Turkeys are a new experience for the farm so we’re looking forward to learning a lot this year.

We’ve had chickens in the past.  Since the last of our original flock died several months ago, we’re glad to have laying hens back on the farm.  There’s a rooster in the group so we may have some chicks hatched this year.

Currently the turkeys and chickens are together in the coop they’ve stayed in since birth.  We’re working on portable pens we can drag across pasture, giving them access to fresh grass everyday while keeping them safe.  The plan is to separate the turkeys into 2 smaller flocks before breeding season.  The chickens will have their own portable pen also.  Recent cold weather has slowed pen construction, but also gives the flock more time to get accustomed to their new surroundings and caretakers, while staying in the coop they’ve always called home.  The 6 chicken hens are laying 3 or 4 eggs a day.  And the turkey hens are starting to lay.  We’re getting 1 or 2 turkey eggs daily.

Flock arrives, ready for temporary quarters on one of our summer garden plots.

Flock arrives, ready for temporary quarters on one of our summer garden plots.

All coop'ed up and ready to get out!

All coop’ed up and ready to get out!

Out of the coop and enjoying the clover growing in the garden.

Out of the coop and enjoying the clover growing in the garden.

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The dominant tom wastes no time reasserting his presence at the new home.

The little ones welcoming the flock to their new home.

The little ones welcoming the flock to their new home.

Checking out the flock.  He'll have a big role in their daily care.

Checking out the flock. He’ll have a big role in their daily care.

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Seed Starts for 2014

We’ll have a series of seed starts this spring.  Every two weeks starting in mid January we’ll start seeds for transplants.  These will be replanted in the garden about 6 weeks after planting.  The first couple of seed starts will be strictly cold weather crops such as broccoli, cabbages, and leeks.  We’ll transition into warm weather seedlings in mid February – tomato, peppers, eggplant – and move these into the garden starting in late March.  Here’s a look at our first seed starts from about 3 weeks ago.

Organizing the seeds.  We plant only non-GMO seeds and almost all are heritage seeds.

Organizing the seeds. We plant only non-GMO seeds and almost all are heritage seeds.

 

Filling seed trays with our custom starter soil mix

Filling seed trays with our custom starter soil mix

 

Young men filling more trays!  We had 14 total on this first start.

Young men filling more trays! We had 14 total on this first start.

 

14 trays with about 50 cells average per tray - about 700 seedlings expected from this first of many seed starts for 2014.

14 trays with about 50 cells average per tray – about 700 seedlings expected from this first of many seed starts for 2014.

 

Team work in every facet of farming.

Team work in every facet of farming.

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Extending the Harvest

An early cold front brought near freezing temperatures last night and a low of 30 is forecast for tonight.  We’ve covered the tomatoes and some peppers and eggplant, hoping to extend the harvest.  Our average first freeze is early December, so hopefully we’ll have another 3 weeks before we’re forced to abandon these crops for the season.

Picking ripe eggplant and cutting basil, in case the cover strategy doesn't work.

Picking ripe eggplant and cutting basil, in case the cover strategy doesn’t work.

Eggplant and basil

Eggplant and basil

Peppers and eggplant covered.  Some bigger eggplant we are leaving uncovered, as it may survive 30 deg. OK.

Peppers and eggplant covered. Some bigger eggplant we are leaving uncovered, as it may survive 30 deg. OK.

Broccoli under cover with garlic sprouting on the right.

Broccoli under cover with garlic sprouting on the right.

Tomatoes on the covered trellises with covered peppers in front.

Tomatoes on the covered trellises with covered peppers in front.

 

 

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Health Benefits of Grass Fed Beef

IMG_4837A fairly recent article (2010) summarizes the last 30 years of health and nutrition research on grass fed beef. The article is technical and scholarly which can make for slow reading. But it’s a tremendous resource that combines the various health benefits into a single article. I’ve heard many claims over the years and never knew which were verified by research and which were simply anecdotal or ‘folk’ legend. This article shows all the science behind these claims and confirms that grass fed beef is indeed much healthier than typical grain fed beef you’ll find at major grocery stores, and by a wide margin. Here’s a short summary version of this report. Please read the whole article for the details.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Two fatty acids are essential to human health and are not produced by the body – they come only from food. One is an Omega-6 type fatty acid and the other Omega-3. All beef contain both but studies have found it is the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 that is important to overall health. A healthy diet has an overall ratio of one to four times more Omega-6 than Omega-3. In grass fed beef, the average ratio is about 2 to 1 – just what a healthy diet needs. Typical grain fed beef common to grocery stores have much less Omega 3 when compared to grass fed beef. This make the ratio for grain fed beef around 8 to 1 – far above the healthy range. The ratio is 4 times more favorable for grass fed over grain fed beef.

There are several important types of Omega-3 fatty acids. The article states that these:

“play a crucial role in the prevention of atherosclerosis, heart attack, depression and cancer. In addition, omega-3 consumption reduced the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis….Several studies have established a correlation between low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and depression. High consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is typically associated with a lower incidence of depression, a decreased prevalence of age-related memory loss and a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease”

The article cites studies confirming “cattle fed primarily grass significantly increased the omega-3 content of the meat and also produced a more favorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than grain-fed beef .”

Porterhouse and Ribeye Steaks from Blessing Falls' 100% Grass Fed Cattle

Porterhouse and Ribeye Steaks from Blessing Falls’ 100% Grass Fed Cattle

Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLA)

CLA is a group of fatty acids found in the meat and milk of ruminants such as cattle, sheep, etc. They are produced in the normal digestion of grass the animals eat. CLA declines as digestive pH decreases, and grain diets reduce digestive pH. So CLA in an animal raised on grass decreases when the animal begins to eat grain. The decline is significant over time, such that typical grain fed cattle produce less than half the CLA of grass fed animals. As a result, grass fed beef has more than double the CLA of grain-fed beef.

The article cites numerous studies showing significant health benefits attributed to CLA:

“actions to reduce atherosclerosis, and onset of diabetes … reduction of breast cancer in women… prevention of cancer in men and women…”

Vitamin A / Beta-Carotene

Carotenoids are synthesized in plants and pass into the milk and body fat of grass fed cattle. They are natural pigments that may give grass fed meat fat a yellowish color. Though some regard the yellow fat negatively, it is associated with a healthier fatty acid profile and higher antioxidant content. The article states beta-carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A which is:

“important for normal vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation … responsible for maintaining the surface lining of the eyes and also the lining of the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts. The overall integrity of skin and mucous membranes is maintained by Vitamin A, creating a barrier to bacterial and viral infection.  In addition, Vitamin A is involved in the regulation of immune function by supporting the production and function of white blood cells”

Grass fed cattle were found to have 7 times more beta-carotene compared to grain-fed cattle.

Cattle enjoy the variety of natural grasses and forages found in the meadows and woodlands of Blessing Falls Farm

Cattle enjoy the variety of natural grasses and forages found in the meadows and woodlands of Blessing Falls Farm

Vitamin E, another fat soluble vitamin, exists in eight different isoforms that have powerful antioxidant activity. The most active isoform is alpha-tocopherol. The article cites several studies showing grass fed cattle having average alpha-tocopherol levels 3 times higher than grain fed cattle.

“Antioxidants such as vitamin E protect cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are potentially damaging by-products of metabolism that may contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease…. Preliminary research shows vitamin E supplementation may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease…, block the formation of nitrosamines, which are carcinogens formed in the stomach from nitrates consumed in the diet…, enhance immune function… observational studies found lens clarity (a diagnostic tool for cataracts) was better in patients who regularly used vitamin E.”

The article further cites studies showing that increased Vitamin E extends the shelf-life and improves the red color of grass fed beef compared to grain fed.

Antioxidant Enzymes

Glutathione (GT) is a newly identified food protein.  Within cells,

“GT has the capability of quenching free radicals (like hydrogen peroxide), thus protecting the cell from oxidized lipids or proteins and preventing damage to DNA.”

GT is higher in green forages, so “grass-fed beef is particularly high in GT as compared to grain-fed”.  Grass fed beef is also higher in superoxide dismutase and catalase – coupled enzymes that work together as powerful cancer fighting antioxidants.

Conclusion

The article concludes:

“Research spanning three decades supports the argument that grass-fed beef has a more desirable cholesterol profile as compared to grain-fed beef. Grass-finished beef is also higher in total CLA … and Omega-3…. This results in a better Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio that is preferred by the nutritional community. Grass-fed beef is also higher in precursors for Vitamin A and E and cancer fighting antioxidants such as GT and SOD activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries.”

We encourage you to read the complete article and stop by the market or contact us with any questions or comments.

Reference: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/9/1/10

More on Health Benefits of Grass Fed Beef

EatWild: http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm
Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/grass-fed-beef/AN02053
Integrated Fitness: http://if-fit.com/the-benefits-of-grass-fed-beef/

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