A reader writes: “I've got a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker/Smoker. Where do you recommend I go for “clean” pasture pork? I used to hit up Farm in the Market at the Midtown Global Market. Is the new farmer's market in there still the best spot? I'm up on the North side.”
This question suddenly has great urgency for me, since I got my husband a Smokey Mountain Cooker/Smoker for Father’s Day (or as my editor calls it, “a Smokey Mountain Smoky Cooker Smoky Smoker,” given how many times Weber likes to stick some derivation of the word smoke in the description).
Now that I too have a smokey smoker, where shall I get great, good, and well-priced meat to smoke? I like the new place at Midtown Global Market, but I was too very much in love with the pork they used to carry at Farm in the Market. That pork was from Pastures A Plenty in Kerkhoven, Minnesota (just west of Wilmar). Pastures A Plenty is a sustainably run, grass-pastured, small family farm that raises about 60 free-roaming hogs, which make the sweetest, most delicious pork. This pork is available at some local co-ops, like the one in Linden Hills, but did you know you can also buy direct from the farm?
I had no idea. Here’s how it works. You send an e-mail to Cindy at: email@example.com asking to be added to their e-mail list. Then, once a month in the summer, or once every five or six weeks in winter, they send out an e-mail giving prices on what they’ve got available, everything from multi-cut packs (like a “grill pack” of chops, ribs, sausages, and more that averages 11 to 15 pounds and costs $3.39 a pound) to individual cuts like ribs, chops, and whatnot. (Don’t miss their cheddar bratwursts.) This e-mail also offers beef, from nearby Red Poll farms, and chickens, from Lori Callister. You e-mail back what you want. Once Cindy hears what to pack the truck with, the truck is driven into town, making stops at a series of locations on a specified date, the next of which is July 2. You, north side Smokey Mountain owner, for instance, would probably prefer the Roseville/County Road D location, while I would go to the South Minneapolis one, near Hiawatha and Lake St. And that’s it! You pull up, you say “hi” to your farmer, you load up your vehicle with meat, and you rush on home to have a smokey smoke smokerrific smoketime.
But is that your only option for farm-fresh meat? Heck no! Of course there are the wonderful farmers’ markets and co-ops, but I suspect you know about those. Here’s one you might not know: Local D’Lish, the North-Loop-Warehouse-District-whatever-we-call-that-neighborhood-in-Minneapolis grocery store has lots and lots of farm-fresh meat options. On Wednesdays, for instance, they get fresh (never frozen!) bison steaks from Eichten’s. On Thursdays, they get fresh chickens from Lori Callister. Next week, they’re going to start working with a fresh, never frozen local beef producer. And pork? Heck yeah! Ann Yin, Local D’Lish’s owner, told me she’s getting fresh pork from a small family farm with the big-sounding name of Minnesota Valley Organics. “We do big orders all the time,” Yin told me, “and if you’ve got a big order we try to make the prices a little more accomodating, since we’re not worrying about all the extra packaging.” When I told Yin that I was calling around on behalf of a northsider she got very excited. “I’m a northsider! I live in North Minneapolis. I hosted a CSA this year and we sold out in less than 24 hours, and the vast majority of our customers are from North Minneapolis.”
Is that enough fresh, local meat for you? I’ve got more! I found at least two local meat CSAs—Community Supported Agriculture shares, that is—where you buy from the farmer directly, except instead of getting a box of vegetables every week (like most CSAs), you get a box of meat every month. Braucher’s Sunshine Harvest Farm delivers meat and eggs to a number of metro locations, and Grassrun Farm delivers beef and pork boxes to the Seward Co-Op. Finally, we conclude this week’s edition of meat-fest ’09 by noting that the Mill City Farmer’s Market will be hosting “Grazefest” this weekend, celebrating pasture-based farming and the tasty, tasty results.
I recently had a conversation with someone on the vast difference in taste between pasture-raised chicken eggs and commodity eggs. “It’s like eating a photocopy of an egg, I don’t know why people do it.” And I don’t know what I’m going to do once we wrestle that smoker out of its enormous box: Eat even better?
And Happy Father’s Day to all you dads. It ain’t easy to be a dad in today’s crazy, busy, mixed-up world, but you are greatly appreciated.