While most people are familiar with the CSA (community sponsored agriculture) model for vegetables, where you essentially pre-pay for your summer’s produce, the same idea for meat is just starting to catch on. Leanna Mulvihill of Four Legs Farm is betting the farm that you’ll soon be looking to buy your rack of lamb or pork chops the same way.
The Accidental Locavore had a chance to tour the farm recently. You drive through the hustle of New Paltz and suddenly find yourself in the middle of fields of sunflowers with mountains and rock formations in the background. The farm is part of an interesting and much needed incubator program for Hudson Valley Farm Businesses sponsored by Glynwood, whose mission is to “ensure that farming thrives in the Hudson Valley”. There are 330 acres available to the participants, of which Leanna has about 63 of them.
The 23 pigs, “mutts” according to Leanna, are on a hill behind one of the barns. They’re a mix of breeds but, covered in their favorite mud, it was a bit hard to distinguish one from another. They were very happy to see us, bearing food, having eaten most of the weeds and brush on their hill and even happier when she turned on the water so they could really splash around in the mud! What was interesting was that it’s not quite as easy as ordering a few piglets; “buying piglets is really hard, you have to have connections.” And before you even work your piglet connections, you have to book a slaughterhouse. Because there are so few in the area that work humanely, they get booked up six months to a year ahead of time. She “was booking dates for animals that hadn’t been born yet.”
We left the pigs, fatter and muddier, and went down to the sheep pastures. She’s got them segregated by sex so that there’s no distraction from the business of grazing in the flower-strewn pastures. Each flock is watched over by a large cow (or two) and these ladies take their duties seriously! They’re there to protect the sheep from coyotes and on occasion, from Leanna. She told me that one day when she was trimming the hooves of one of the sheep, something happened and the hoof was bleeding. Sylvia, the 18 year old watch-cow, came over to see what was up and ended up licking the sheep’s bleeding hoof clean!
If you had a chance to see her operation, you’d be cleaning out your freezer and sending a check for your share of lamb or pork or even an “Adventure” share (odd bits for sausages and stocks etc.), but do it quickly or you’ll miss out on this great opportunity. If there’s enough response from people in Manhattan, she’ll arrange a group drop-off point in the fall. And, while this is still in the planning stages, Leanna might be doing a special offering for the holidays with roasts and racks and all that fancy stuff to impress your friends and family. In the meantime, do it because we need to support local farms and especially women like Leanna who are striving to be the “best stewards of the land and animals possible.”