James Ranch, Durango CO

james ranch market durango

Last Friday we were driving from Durango to Silverton and Ouray (on an incredibly scenic road–if you are in the area, do it), and just north of Durango we saw a sign for James Ranch Market: Open Saturday. It being mid-April, farmers market-type places are in short supply, so we happily returned the next day to check out the James Ranch offerings. It’s a gorgeous property, with rolling green fields dotted with cows, a mobile chicken coop, picnic tables, and a little burger hut serving their own beef and cheese, in addition to the shop selling the farm’s products. We were disappointed that we’d already had breakfast so didn’t get to try a burger, but we did buy some ground beef, flank steak, and eggs, and strolled the grounds hoping to spot some baby animals.

james ranch food cart durango james ranch durango cheese james ranch durango meat cooler

James Ranch raises beef cows on a 100% grass diet with no chemicals or hormones. The beeves (a new word to me since spending time out West and I love it) spend their entire lives with the family herd in a stress-free atmosphere. The dairy cows and goats also live on grass, or rather leaves, bark, and shrubs for the goats. Pigs are new to the farm, living in herds on pasture, able to root and wallow like pigs do. Chickens are pastured too, happily eating fly larvae from cow pies to keep the fly population in check–and they have a guard donkey to protect them from predators!

james ranch durango picnic area james ranch durango pasturesjames ranch durango pastures james ranch durango

The James family practices sustainable agriculture in preserving soil and water quality, and believes in transparency in farming: they encourage consumers to visit the farm to see where the meat, eggs, and milk come from and how the animals are treated, and if you have questions about the animals or the meat, they are happy to answer them. It’s how a farm should be!

james ranch durango james ranch durango grass fed beef

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The Farm Bistro in Cortez, CO

the farm bistro cortez

It’s always exciting to pull into a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and find a bustling restaurant focused on local and sustainable food and drink sources. We stopped for lunch in Cortez, CO on the way to Durango and chanced upon The Farm Bistro, a charming little equine-themed (decor, not food) restaurant with a small retail area full of local meats, eggs, produce, grains, prepared foods, and body products. We picked up some local pastured eggs, steak, sausage, and a phenomenal (local) honey dill mustard. Lunch was lovely, and a few days later when we spent a couple nights in Cortez, we were happy to return for dinner.

the farm bistro cortez local goodsthe farm bistro cortez

The Farm Bistro sources much of its produce from its own organic farm in the next town, and the owners are dedicated to purchasing as many ingredients as possible from local farmers. The bar serves local beer, wine, and spirits, and the service and food are great!

the farm bistro cortez principlesthe farm bistro cortez local meat

(Note the yak ranch meat in the photo above–how often does an East Coaster see that?) We were in Cortez to visit Mesa Verde National Park to see the large, well-preserved Native American cliff dwelling ruins. The Cortez/Dolores/Mancos area is also home to fantastic hiking and mountain biking. All three towns have breweries too, if you like local beer as much as you like local food!

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Hell’s Backbone Grill, Boulder, Utah

What a surprise to find, in the middle of nothing but glorious hiking, hiking, and more hiking: an upscale farm-to-table restaurant in Boulder, Utah. Hell’s Backbone Grill is committed to sustainability and sources ingredients from their own organic farm a few miles away and from local grass-fed lamb and beef raised in Boulder. We went for dinner and had such a great experience from service to cocktails to food that we made another slightly harrowing trek over the Hogback on Scenic Highway 12 for breakfast. If your travels take you anywhere near Boulder, Utah, you owe yourself a visit to Hell’s Backbone Grill.hells backbone grill menu hells backbone cocktails hells backbone trout pate hells backbone salad hells backbone dessert menuhells backbone grill breakfast

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Sharing the cricket love in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

A few weeks ago we visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park in northwest Texas, just south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. While there, we went for a spectacular hike with the guys from 59in59. They travel with a truck loaded with quick energy food, but were happy to fuel up for our hike with some cricket power in the form of Exo protein bars from my stash. Reviews were positive!

hiking with cricket bars and 59in59

The 59in59 guys, Darius and Trevor, quit their jobs last June and began a mission to visit 59 National Parks in 59 weeks to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Learn more about their adventures, and get inspired to get outdoors, on their site, 59in59.com.

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Diablo Burger, Flagstaff AZ

HP has been quiet lately because we’ve been on the road, searching the country for the best examples of sustainable meats and animal products! Last week, we had the pleasure of eating dinner at Diablo Burger, in Flagstaff, Arizona.

diablo burger flagstaff

Diablo’s burgers are made from local, grass-fed, pasture-raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free cows from their partner ranches. All the beef they serve comes from the Diablo Trust, a collaborative land management group that focuses on sustainable agriculture, watershed improvements, wildlife protection, land conservation, and education.

Diablo Burger sources as much as they can from “local farmers, ranchers, bakers, cheese-makers, brewers, vintners, and other producers… from within a 250-mile radius.” A Diablo Burger is especially good paired with a local beer!

Diablo Burger also has a location in Tuscon, and is coming soon to Phoenix. Go eat a happy burger if you’re near a Diablo in Arizona!

diablo burger

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A day of local hiking, eating, and drinking in Roanoke, VA

We’re trying to hasten the passing of winter by doing little road trips to explore the local food and beer in some towns near home, including Fredericksburg, VA, and now Roanoke, VA. The Roanoke area is home to several breweries, has a growing local food scene, and with its location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is close to some fantastic hiking. Here are our picks for hiking, beer, and food in Roanoke.

Hiking near Roanoke

McAfee Knob

The excellent site for Virginia hiking, HikingUpward, shows a few great options for hiking a short drive from Roanoke, but I knew I wanted to do McAfee Knob. The photo op at the top is incredible: a rocky ledge overhanging wide views of the Catawba Valley far below framed by ridge after ridge of blue mountains. The downside of this hike is its popularity: because it’s a killer view so close to Roanoke, it’s very busy. Our solution: hike it on a day that’s so cold, nobody else would want to go. We got up early on a blustery below-zero morning and saw only a few other hardy/crazy groups on the trail. It’s an easy 8-ish mile out-and-back.

mcafee knob

Breweries in and near Roanoke

We loved Soaring Ridge Brewery near downtown Roanoke. The tasting room is in a big warehouse, but the raised bar and cornhole area in the middle makes the space feel less cold and industrial. There was a BBQ food truck outside when we were there and a stage for live music. The garage doors lining the side of the tasting room can open for nice weather (not the case when we were there) and YOU CAN BRING YOUR DOG INSIDE. Oh, and the beer is great. They offer 6 beer flights, and their beers range from a white ale up to a porter; our favorite was a delicious grapefruit IPA.

roanoke - 13 soaring ridge beer list roanoke soaring ridge brewing

The feel at Big Lick Brewery, across from the newspaper building downtown (where you can see the presses running in the window if your timing is right), is dark and cozy, with limited open hours, and now that I’m exploring their website I see that THEY ARE ALSO DOG-FRIENDLY. Get with it, Charlottesville breweries! Anyway, for such a small operation, they have an impressive array of beers. Our only complaint was paying $10 for a teeny tiny crabcake from the food purveyor of the day.

big lick brewing company big lick brewing company big lick beer list

Can you believe it–Parkway Brewing Co also ALLOWS DOGS. The tasting room is big and bright, with a stage for live music, and the best assortment of branded clothing I’ve seen at a brewery. A taco truck was parked outside when we were there. We got flights and were not surprised (since we’d had them before) that our favorites were the Majestic Mullet Krispy Kolsch, Get Bent IPA and Factory Girl Session IPA.

roanoke parkway brewing roanoke parkway brewing roanoke parkway brewing

Local Food in Roanoke

We had lunch at Local Roots farm-to-table restaurant, which I found by googling “roanoke local food.” It’s in Grandin Village, a cool little collection of shops and restaurants that from May to October has a community market featuring local, sustainable food, and live music. The restaurant sources ingredients from neighboring communities along the Blue Ridge; the list of farms they work with is impressive, but unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of it. The staff was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and we both really enjoyed our dishes.

roanoke local roots restaurant roanoke local roots restaurant

Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op is across the street from Local Roots; there’s also one in downtown Roanoke. Anytime I see a food co-op I have to check it out. (See what I mean?) They sell local, organic, seasonal produce; local dairy items including milk and butter from our favorite Homestead Creamery in Wirtz, VA; pastured beef from Polyface Farms in Swoope, VA, and organic enriched-environment (NOT free range/pasture raised) chicken from Red Wheelbarrow in Harrisonburg, VA; local and regional beer; and all the natural body products, bulk foods, pet foods, etc you’d expect to see at a natural foods store.

roanoke co-op natural foods roanoke co-op produce section roanoke co-op red wheelbarrow roanoke co-op polyface farms meat

We have a couple more breweries on the list to hit for next visit, including Flying Mouse Brewery in Troutville, and Roanoke Railhouse Brewery in downtown Roanoke. What other breweries, local food spots, and hikes near Roanoke should we check out?

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A local running, eating, and drinking afternoon in Fredericksburg, VA

Happy New Year!

Today we spent the afternoon in Fredericksburg, VA, going for a run, stopping at a couple local beer establishments, and walking the dog along the downtown shopping corridor. Many shops were open, and people were out and about enjoying the sunshine, but the restaurant I really wanted to try, Foode, closed at 2, so we didn’t get to try it. Here’s what Foode is all about, from their website:

We have fantastic, organically- grown vegetables from Washington’s Birthplace, heirloom produce from Spotsylvania County, organic beef, free-range chickens, and hormone free eggs from Gladys, VA, along with other great ingredients from across Virginia that we proudly serve every day at our restaurant. We’re happy to report that, on any given day, we source between 85% to 90% of the food we serve at FOODE from the local farms and merchants we are honored to work with.

I hope to try it next time I’m in Fredericksburg! We had a good food afternoon regardless, and got in a little local beer tour. If you have a few hours to kill in Fredericksburg, consider this as a possible itinerary:

  1. Go for a run to work up a calorie deficit. We did a four-mile out-and-back on the Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail just north of downtown. The paved path features a couple decent climbs (we are used to running in Charlottesville, after all), a river view, and a stretch of dirt/crushed gravel surface.
  2. Refuel with lunch and craft beer at Spencer Devon Brewing, just off the main downtown shopping avenue, Caroline St. Both food and beer are made with local and seasonal ingredients. After enjoying our sandwiches, a Pale Ale, and a Pilsner, we got a growler to take home for later. eating local tastes better
  3. Continue the beer tour with a stop at Adventure Brewing. It’s a big, open space with sports on TV and board games along the wall, and when we were there a food truck was parked outside. We had flights of seasonals and standards of the wheat, IPA, and Pale Ale varieties… but I really want to try this one coming out in just a few days! adventure brewing flight

Let us know in the comments if there are special local spots we should hit next time we’re in town!

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Why Entomophagy Matters

What is entomophagy? 

I get that question a lot (with the implied “why do you (and should I) care?”), and have worked to reduce my spiel down to an elevator pitch. My goal is to not just define the word, but tell why I care about entomophagy – give a convincing, but simple, explanation of why bugs are the best protein source for ethical and environmental reasons.

So I didn’t quite succeed at creating a quick pitch–there are too many important points to make! I’ll keep working on cutting it down into something that closer resembles an elevator pitch, but for now, here’s my… essay, really, with statistics help from Chapul, Exo, Crik Nutrition, Bitty FoodsBig Cricket Farms, the journal Science, Stanford, and the Coursera course from Johns Hopkins on the US Food system I took a couple years ago (see here, here, and here for relevant notes).


Most meat produced in the US is raised on factory farms, where animals are crammed together in cramped and dirty housing–a hardship for both animals and workers–and which pollute water, air, and soil, and drive down neighboring property values. *

Factory farmed animals are pumped full of antibiotics, chemicals, and hormones, and some farms feed industrial waste containing heavy metals to the animals. The sketchy things fed to food animals are later absorbed by human consumers. Remember, “you are what what you eat eats.” (Michael Pollan) Antibiotic misuse on factory farms breeds resistant strains of bacteria, which are transported off the farm via trucks, workers, meat, fertilizer, and even birds, and cause difficult-to-treat infections in humans. **

feedlot

(credit: wongaboo; license)

Raising animals in industrial systems is extremely water- and land-intensive. ***

As the global need for protein continues to rise, the industrial farming system becomes less and less sustainable. Insects, specifically crickets, can be a nutritionally, ethically, and environmentally superior protein source to conventional meat.

Crickets are an excellent source of protein and nutrients. They are lower in fat, and higher in iron and magnesium than beef, and are a complete protein source: they contain all nine amino acids essential to human and animal diets.

The environmental footprint of a cricket farm is minuscule compared to an industrial farm system. Pound for pound, crickets produce 1% as many greenhouse gases as cows and three times less waste. Crickets need 8% of the feed and water as cows to produce the same amount of protein, and are much more efficient as a protein source than cows: 100 lbs of feed produces 50-60 lbs of edible cricket protein, vs 5 lbs of edible beef. **** A cricket farm requires 2000x less land than a cow farm.

Crickets have a much shorter life span, and can be harvested at 6 weeks, which is much faster than cows at 18 months. North American farms raising crickets for human consumption feed organic diets without hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides (of course). Crickets are harvested humanely by dropping the ambient temperature to put them into a dormant hibernation-like state, and from there they’re deep-frozen. *****

People in poor countries need access to iron- and protein-rich meat sources, and a resilient system for growing it. Cricket farming could help solve that problem. According to the UN, if edible insects become a part of the mainstream global diet, we can reduce greenhouse gases by 18%, and lower the average cost of food globally by 33%. Other cultures all over the world eat bugs, and Americans are already eating bug parts at some levels in processed foods. Insect protein is the future, so you might as well start embracing it now!

fried insects

(credit: shankar slicense)

For easy entry into the world of eating bugs, try cricket energy and meal replacement bars, cricket baked goods, and cricket protein powder from Exo, Chapul, Bitty Foods, and Crik Nutrition. For 10% off Exo bars, use code HAUTEPASTURE at checkout!


I had a lot of trouble limiting myself to a length that would make for a somewhat effective elevator pitch; hence, the asterisks above, for the following elaborations:

* Most people are aware of the terrible conditions for animals on factory farms, but the conditions can be horrible for workers too: exposure to chemicals, waste gases, particulates, hard labor, and illegals with no rights often must endure abusive hiring practices.

** Factory farms pollute water with waste storage failures and illegal dumping directly into waterways; air pollution comes from gases, particulates, and animal dander, and soil is polluted when waste is applied to land as fertilizer. For industrially produced meat products, the ratio of fossil fuel energy input to food energy produced out can be as high as 35:1, with beef produced in feedlots generally having the most unfavorable ratio.

*** 7% of global water is used to grow grain for livestock, and meat production uses 70% of farmland, 30% of Earth’s surface, and 40% grain grown globally. Meat production is an inefficient use of grain, water, and land: it takes 1000 kg water to produce 1 kg of grain. The grain required to produce 100 kg of beef, pork, and poultry is 700 kg, 650 kg, and 260 kg respectively. So, for beef, it takes 7000 kg of water to make 1 kg of beef.

**** Crickets require about one gallon of water per pound, about 2000x less than cows, 800x less than pigs, 500x less than chickens, 350x less than eggs, even 200x less than vegetables.

***** Usually then they’re boiled to clean them and remove wings and legs, and dried and pulverized into powder. Cricket powder alone is not very tasty, so it’s combined with other powders for cricket flour for baking, or protein powder for supplements.

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Don’t chuck that shuck!

Did you know oyster shells can, and should be, recycled? I recently learned that the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program is active in Charlottesville. Why is this a thing, you ask? Read on…

The wild Eastern Oyster, or Virginia Oyster, in the Chesapeake Bay is in trouble, due to pollution, over-harvesting, and loss of habitat. The population is estimated to be 2% of the historical peak; that not only hurts the local coastal economies, but impacts the Bay ecosystem.

Why are oysters good for the Bay?

Oysters serve two important functions in the Bay. They are little water filters, straining particulates and nutrients from up to 60 gallons of water a day. Removing particulates, such as suspended sediment and algae, clears cloudy water and aids the growth of aquatic grasses, a habitat of young fish and crabs. Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizers are washed from farmland into waterways and eventually into the Bay, where they can cause algal blooms or dead zones, blocking sunlight and sucking oxygen out of the water. Secondly, oysters tend to grow in stacks, creating reef habitats for fish, crabs, grasses, and the oysters themselves: young oysters attach to the oyster shell reefs to grow and mature. Offshore reefs help buffer the shore from waves, limiting erosion, and as the shells decompose their calcium carbonate helps to regulate the pH of the water.

oysters cleaning water

image source

How does recycling oyster shells help?

To help revive the oyster population in the Bay, the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program (VOSRP) collects shucked oyster shells from participating restaurants around the state, cleans them, seeds them with baby oysters, and returns them to oyster sanctuaries in the Bay to help build up the important reef habitats. The program was started by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rice Rivers Center in 2013 with the help of several Richmond government and environmental groups and a few local restaurants. It’s now active in Charlottesville, Hampton, and Newport News, and is working to expand into other Virginia cities.

Instead of sending oyster shells to the landfill, restaurants dump shells into VOSRP-provided buckets, which are picked up by volunteers and emptied into a central receptacle, where they await transport east.

oyster shells

buckets of oyster shells

oyster shell container dumpster full of oyster shells

Which restaurants in Charlottesville are recycling oyster shells?

Currently in Charlottesville, Rocksalt, Public Fish and Oyster HouseFossett’s at Keswick Hall, Boar’s Head Inn, and Blue Light Grill are participating in the VSORP. Patronize those restaurants to show your support for oyster shell recycling! And if you visit another local restaurant serving oysters, ask them if they know about the VSORP.

oyster facts

Read more about Bay oysters and the VSORP:

http://www.vcu.edu/rice/education/vosrp.html

http://www.vmn-rivanna.org/2015/10/19/call-for-volunteers-virginia-oyster-shell-recycling-program/

http://cbf.typepad.com/bay_daily/2014/01/saving-shells-saving-the-bay.html

http://www.bayjournal.com/blog/post/moving_12000_pounds_of_oyster_shells

http://www.richmondoutside.com/2014/01/six-tons-of-oyster-shells-moved-for-chesapeake-bay-restoration/

http://www.bayjournal.com/article/large_scale_oyster_restoration_under_way_in_6_tributaries

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Boston Public Market

Lucky Boston: earlier this year the city got an indoor, year-round farmer’s market housing local and regional vendors of food and farm products in the North End, right next door to the Friday-Saturday Haymarket produce market. HP hit the road a few weeks ago to visit Boston Public Market and we wanted to share a little tour with you here.

Boston Public Market

At the Boston Public Market, farmers, fishermen, and food producers from Massachusetts and throughout New England offer the public a year-round source of fresh, local food and an opportunity to taste, buy, and understand what our region has to offer.

http://bostonpublicmarket.org/about

Chestnut Farms raises grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, pork, lamb, goat, poultry, and eggs, in Central MA.

Meat counter at Boston Public Market

Inside Boston Public Market

Stillman Quality Meats is unique in that they have their own meat processing and butchering facility on-site, which spares the animals a stressful truck ride to the slaughterhouse. That translates to more ethical meat, obviously, but also more nutritious meat: the stress of transport and rough handling before slaughter cause the animals to release fear-induced adrenaline, cortisol, and steroids into their bloodstream, which humans then ingest. Yum!

Happy poultry at Boston Public Market

Happy farm at Boston Public Market

More happy beef, pork, lamb, and poultry from Lilac Hedge Farm, also in Central MA.

Happy meats at Boston Public Market

There’s much more than meat at Boston Public Market: produce, nuts, flowers, cheeses, honey, ice cream, doughnuts, beverages, chocolate…

Boston Public Market

Boston Public Market

Boston Public Market

The Kitchen at the market hosts cooking demonstrations and discussions, and non-food health offerings such as yoga and a run club.

We’d already had lunch (lobster rolls at Warren Tavern in Charlestown, a required stop when we’re in Boston), so did not try any of the prepared meals also sold at the Market, but we had a doughnut from Union Square Donuts and it was so good that it was gone before I could take a picture.

Boston Public Market is a phenomenal addition to the community and I look forward to visiting again with an empty stomach!

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