Early Summer Greer Farm Newsletter

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Summer on the Farm
It is only the end of May, but the hot afternoons have convinced us that summer has arrived on the farm.  It is not hot all the time. We can still have our coffee in the cool of the morning on the front porch as the sun comes up and a glass of tea after dinner outside as the evening cools.  The summer birds and butterflies are everywhere to be seen.  Our display gardens have been beautiful since early spring.  Our seasonal work is only beginning.  We have finished the first cutting of hay and the summer vegetable garden is trying to get started.  Breeding season for spring 2011 calves has begun.  We have not finished plowing and planting summer pasture.  It has been a good year already for our lakeside log cabin rental business.  Many weekends and some week days are fully booked.  Kids are running all over the farm unaware it is hot.  Most important is that much anticipated opening of the berry patch which occurred May 29. Yes, summer has arrived at Greer Farm and the circle of life continues. 
The Berry Patch
This past year has been good to our berry plants for the most part.  Most of the time there was more than adequate moisture from Mother Nature and we had no killing late frosts like last year.  The blackberries are now being picked and I believe they are the tastiest we have ever raised.  They are very large and very sweet.  The bushes are loaded and there will be plenty for everyone.  The blueberries are not yet ready.  The cooler nights we have had delayed the crop.  We anticipate the first blueberries will be ready in 5-10 days.  Please call before coming if you are driving far so we can update you on availability of blackberries and blueberries. Check out photos taken in the last few days.
Both blackberries and blueberries are $3 per pound pick-your-own.  This is the same price as last year.  Pre-Picked are available for $38 per flat of 12 pints or individual pints for $3.75 each.  Pre-picked must be ordered in advance.
We planted a row of different table grapes and raspberries this winter.  We shall see how they do in our climate.  One row of raspberry froze just after being planted in January, so if the others live we will re-plant next winter.  The variety we planted is supposed to take the Texas heat and produce July berries. 
Farm to Fork Cooking Classes
Chef Eva's cooking classes have been a great success this year.  Only a couple of spaces remain for June 12 and July 10.  Due to demand, a special class has been scheduled June 5.  It is "Sweet & Savory:  Cooking with Greer Farm Blackberries and Blueberries".  This class will feature black and blue lemonade (destined to be a family favorite once you learn to make it), a blueberry pesto appetizer, blackberry salsa, goat cheese with wonton salad served with blueberry dressing, pork tenderloin with curried blueberry sauce, sauteed portabella mushrooms and a treat from heaven.... fried blueberry pies.
I am not sure which of her next classes are going to be my favorite. August 7 is a traditional "Too Hot to Cook" class that takes advantage of all the fresh vegetables and fruit available in late summer featuring blackberry sorbet in chocolate wafer cups.  During Labor Day Weekend September 4 it's "Picnic Fare for Labor Day".  The extensive menu for this class will be a holiday feast including chili spiked grilled corn with cotija cheese.  October 9 is a time when things are cooler and the menu is "Fall Fest with Winter Squash".  Six different menu items all feature different kinds of hard winter squash.  A basic cooking class October 23 gets everyone ready for winter; "Prepping for Winter: Savory Stocks and healthy Breads".  November 13 is a different kind of class and offers six different items that you can use to entertain during the holidays.  They all sound so good and I know they will be. Enrollment in all classes is limited.  Please sign up early. We still have cabins available for some of the cooking class weekends (two nights minimum). 
Private classes have been very popular this year thus far, with a combination of groups attending. Some family, some friends or couples and some corporate.  One of the most interesting was preparing a menu from the recipes in Julia Child's first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  That class went through a lot of butter and cream!
In April, Texas Co-Op Power magazine had an article on learning vacations.  Our farm and Chef Eva's cooking classes were featured. Her hands on classes are a lot of fun as demonstrated in a few of these class photos.
Life on the Farm: Lakeside Log Cabin Rentals
We are so pleased with the number of nice folks that pick our farm as a place to get away from their normal life.  The June issue of D Magazine has a rather special article called Calling all City Slickers: Get out to the Farm.  We hope you enjoy it.
We made a few changes this year.  We added some nice cedar yard swings outside each cabin.  The sand in the beach was replaced.  Once again we added Tilapia to the lake to eat the moss on the edges, mosquitoes and to provide forage fish for the bass.  Very soon we will add recycle bins as Daingerfield now has a recycling center.  The landscape was improved with a few more crape myrtles and various plants that will require little to no water once established. 
Hopefully we will soon have enough eggs from our  free range hens to provide a few eggs for each party as they arrive.  We raised 50 chickens from day old chicks and in July they should start to lay eggs.  They are five different types of brown egg laying heritage breeds. We moved most of the pigmy goats out of the old barn by the house to the pasture for summer grazing.  Remaining in the barn area area new mama and baby (Sammy), our oldest pigmy goat Dijon and "Miss Fancy" that is bottle fed for chidren to pet. We also have three cuddly kittens that are quite tame and love to be held.
If you wish to stay on the farm this summer we encourage you to make your reservations soon.  Many weekends are fully booked.  We have maintained the same prices since opening in 2008. The most consistent comment we get from our guests is how relaxing and pleasant it is to be on the farm. These photos were taken this week.
Cattle, All Natural Beef and a Beef CSA
A lot continues to be written regarding the virtues of grass finished beef versus grain finished beef. I believe  that grass finished has to be more healthy for you. The reason being that, the cattle themselves are healthier on grass only versus those on a diet with a lot of grain.  The greatest difference in buying our beef is not so much what they eat, but how they are raised.  Our cattle are on large clean paddocks and rotated to fresh grass often.  We raise special grasses for them.  This year we planted Red River Crab Grass which is extremely high in protein. They get plenty of sunshine, fresh clean water and a lot of TLC.  We do not feed antibiotics in their feed; we use no growth hormones or any artificial supplements.  There is absolutely no comparison in how our cattle are raised versus those raised in feed lots.  This continues through the harvest and packaging process. Our cattle go to Mineola Packing (full time USDA inspected) where only a few cattle are harvested daily versus the tens of thousands harvested daily in commercial slaughter plants.  There is a great difference in our cattle versus others.
As you can see from these photos, our cattle are enjoying a lot of fresh green grass. We appreciate all of you that have purchased beef from us.  We continue to strive to provide the very best beef you have ever had.  Giving you what you want, we continue to have a mix of grain finished cattle and those that are finished on grass.  We will have our next set of cattle ready for harvest in a few months.  Details are on our website regarding this.  Basically, our beef averages about $4.90 per pound packaged.  This is about $700 for a split quarter (2-1/2 normal freezer shelves). 
We realize that this is more than many families can store in a freezer or afford at one time.  We are considering selling beef through CSA shares if there is enough interest to justify the expense to build a state certified storage facility.  There have been CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) for vegetables for years, but recently some have started for beef.  The basic concept is you sign an agreement to take a given portion of beef (for example a split quarter) for a fixed price over a given period of time (6-12 months).  You pick-up or have delivered to you the beef you have agreed to take monthly.  This allows you to pay as you take delivery and not need as much room to store the beef.  You would get to make your own cutting and packaging decisions.  This beef would be like all our beef from cattle that are raised naturally.  We would be able to  furnish grain finished for those that like this or all grass finished for those that want this type of beef.  IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, please email (info@greerfarm.com) us so we can get more details to you.  This will only work if we obtain enough customers to justify the expense.
In the meantime, we have beef available at the farm or for purchase by the split quarter or half. 
From Our House To Yours
The days are hot, the nights are cool and our berries are the best in Texas.  Isn't it time to visit The Greer Farm again?
From our family to yours we wish you a wonderful summer. Thank you for supporting our family farm.
Sid, Eva and all of us at the farm
Please feel free to forward this to any of your family or friends that may be interested in our family farm.