Direct to the source
What you’re not likely to find at the farmers’ market
If you’re like most people, when you think of buying food, you likely think of the grocery store or the occasional farmers’ market. And when you think of “farm fresh,” fruits and vegetables probably come to mind. But by going direct to the source—the farms themselves—there are entire food groups you could be getting that are fresh, local and raised in conditions you can see for yourself.
You like free-range eggs? Find them at Mayberry Farm in Reno, Sod Buster Farm in Palomino Valley, Shaw Family Farm in Truckee, or at dozens of other regional farms. How about humanely raised, grass-fed beef? Go in with some friends to stock your freezer with a quarter, half, or whole cow from Home Grown Nevada in Smith Valley, or Mills Ranch in Fallon. Or maybe you’d like to celebrate Thanksgiving with a locally raised bird: You can be put on a waiting list now at Rise & Shine Farms in Fallon for a heritage turkey by November. (They’ll know this weekend if enough eggs hatch to fill all orders.) Perhaps you’re part of the subculture of raw milk fans? Find it legally by adopting a cow—and its “byproduct”—from Grow For Me Sustainable Farm and Stone House Ranch, both near Bordertown. Pork, duck eggs and lamb can also be added to the buy-direct shopping list, as can non-food items like garden-loving manure, and sheeps wool for knitting.
Buying from a farm usually involves visiting a farm, which can be reward enough. A recent day at Stone House Ranch finds Trish Fredrich scratching the neck of her doe-eyed dairy cow, Star, who gave her more than five gallons of milk that morning. Visitors get to hear about her plans to turn the farm into a place for seniors to live and enjoy the outdoors. They also get to see her vegetable patch, orchard, meet her happily grunting pigs, 30 freely roaming chickens across the property, and potentially buy some eggs.
“My philosophy is the animals have to have the absolute best life,” says Fredrich, standing beside the pig pen. “It has to be a clean kill. But they have to have the best life.”
Buying straight from the farm is often cheaper than buying comparable products (free-range organic ones, for instance) at the store. A whole, free-range chicken can be found for less than $15. And at Lattin Farms, during an upcoming free farm tour with Mewaldt Organics in Fallon (see column note), certified organic tomatoes are being offered as an on-farm special for $1 per pound. However, getting some of these products may take longer than a quick jaunt to the supermarket, and they won’t be available all of the time. You’ll likely need to put in an order for livestock and poultry, then wait until it’s mature to pick it up (or sometimes get it delivered). Some places clean and package it for you, others send you to a butcher. Many farms have an email list that can notify you when the chickens are laying, when the turkeys should be ordered, etc. Your best bet is to call ahead to see what’s available, when, and where to get it.
“People have become very disconnected with their food,” says Wendy Baroli of Grow for Me. “They don’t really understand where it comes from. … When you actually visit a farm and see how it works, you also see how someone manages their soil, how animals are integrated in soil management. You get a picture of what’s really happening.”