There’s a new pig in town!
The Co-op has a new source for pork from a wonderful family farm in Lancaster County, Sweet Stem Farm (AKA Meadow Run Farm), run by Philip and Dee Horst-Landis. The Sweet Stem pork products are for sale on an ongoing basis, so come on by, learn a bit more about the farm and the meat, and consider purchasing some for dinner (or breakfast or lunch!).
It was not a quick decision to use this local supplier, which happened only as a result of three visits to the farm, each of which was enjoyable and instructive. Such “field trips” allow us to get to know our suppliers well and to better understand their approach to raising animals, growing food and managing their operations. And they help the Co-op live up to its mission of providing you with healthy and delicious foods and support locally grown products.
We want to be sure that the Co-op continues to be worthy of our 2010 award as “Locavores’ Heaven on Earth” from Main Line Today! And we think it’s important that you, our members and customers, have a clearer sense of where your food comes from, so you can make more informed choices about what you buy and eat.
On our most recent trip, we started out at the farm with Philip, Dee, their accounting manager, Jane Shull, and, of course, their dog, Friska, who was the “greeter.” In this role, she was intent on showing us how loud she could bark and was highly skilled at this!. Once we went into their combined office/home, Friska realized we were good people and was very happy to have her ears scratched continuously. Dee told us that Friska often steps on people’s toes if they are not solicitous enough, but we were savvy enough to avoid that!
If you ask Philip and Dee for their philosophy of farming, they will tell you, “At Sweet Stem Farm, we raise pigs, lambs, and cattle on our small, 60 acre family farm. Respect for life is the basis for everything we do. Livestock comfort is a top priority, and seeing the animals healthy, content, and productive is one of our greatest sources of satisfaction. We raise them with plenty of green grass, fresh air, sunshine, and whole grains. We never implant hormones, and we never use sub-therapeutic antibiotics. We believe our high-touch approach to animal care is responsible for the superb eating quality of our products.”
Dee will also tell you that she has lived on a farm all her life (actually on the same land with her parents) and loves farming, the main reason being that she loves being around and working with animals. The Horst-Landises work their 60 acres intensively and raise beef, pork, and lamb in their well-managed fields, barns and hoop houses. Their passion for their hard work, their knowledge of all aspects of farming, and their commitment to treating their animals well and to delivering the highest quality food products are evident in everything Philip and Dee say and do.
The second stop of the trip was at Hi-Way Meats, a small, nearby USDA certified facility that slaughtered the pig initially. The purpose of this visit was to allow the Co-op and the Sweet Stem owners to observe the butchering process and, especially, to give Marc BrownGold, our Interim General Manager, the opportunity to let the Hi-Way staff know what cuts of meat the Co-op needed.
The experience at the butcher shop was incredibly interesting and instructive. The staff there was highly experienced, the primary butcher having worked in the profession for over fifty years. There was a wonderful give-and-take between the butchers, Philip and Dee, and Marc, who has a great deal of experience and expertise working with meat. Marc instructed them as to what cuts the Co-op wanted, and they proceeded to trim the animal per those instructions. The possibilities, while not quite endless, might include baby back ribs, spare ribs, pork belly, loin chops (bone-in and boneless), and loin roast, among others. Most of these are at the Co-op now as Marc and his staff take care of the next-step butchering process.
Items that will take longer to get ready for prime time, because of the need for aging and curing, include delicacies such as bacon, pancetta, and prosciutto. Again, the meat experts at the Co-op will handle the transformation of the meat grown by Sweet Stem and butchered by Hi-Way into these mouth-watering foods. Just be patient for these items, as the aging and curing can take anywhere from a week or two up to a year, depending on the cut.