Goodness is all around us. Sometimes it’s right in your face. Sometimes you have to look hard for it. Today was one of those glorious days when I found myself swallowed up in goodness, much like the days when Jackson and Ella come for a visit or when the family is gathered together for a special occasion. Today I visited with Jim and Krista Kuntzelman at Sunset Ranch. Along with all the splendor of the ranch, I got to meet sweet baby Emma. Her Mama had dressed her to the nines in the most adorable pink and brown outfit, matching hair bow and a bib that said “Shop now, sleep later”. Without being aware of just how much goodness is surrounding her, she’s already a happy pleasant baby.
Jim is passionate about pasture based farming. He describes his operation in scientific detail but always with an underlying tone of deep concern for his livestock and his land. When he’s around his animals, he’s touching them. He talks about their personalities. It doesn’t take long for you be consumed by Jim’s stories of how he cares for his land, his animals and his family. As I was visiting with Jim today and listening to him talk about his farm operation and his current and future plans, I was impressed, once again, by his passion, knowledge and commitment. And I kept thinking about sweet baby Emma and what an advantage she will have growing up in such a wholesome loving environment.
In order to have good quality grass fed meat, you have to have good grass. That’s the most important fact about pasture farming I learned from Jim. You take care of your grass and the grass will take care of your animals. Jim uses a daily pasture rotation system. They never are allowed to overeat a pasture.
The cattle are doing just what cattle are meant to do. Roaming and grazing. They lead stress free, happy and healthy lives.
They instinctively know what they need. Some days they feel like salt. Other days, they want to nosh on magnesium. A potassium treat just feels natural on a Sunday afternoon.
The breed of the cattle is South Poll which was developed by Teddy Gentry, of the group Alabama, whose goal was to develop a breed suited for southern climates and foraging without grain supplementation. They move around from pasture to pasture daily and their lunch wagon goes with them. And they let Jim know what they’re not getting from his grass. Jim responds by filling up the mineral bins. The cattle says, “Thank you”. Jim smiles.
The chickens play a big role in the whole show. A symbiotic relationship exists between cattle and chickens. The relationship goes deeper than I ever knew. Of course, they are both food sources for us and they are both barnyard animals. So it seems, the chickens forage for insects and worms that are harmful to the cattle but good for the chickens.
The chickens are rotated from pasture to pasture daily just like the cattle. The climate in Florida is favorable to growing chickens for the biggest part of the year.
Because the chickens eat the pests that are harmful to the cattle, you have healthier cattle which produce manure that feeds the grass that feeds the cattle! It’s the circle of life played out on the ranch. Jim knows this and appreciates the fact that Mother Nature is smarter than all of us. He is farming in a natural and ethical manner, just the way it used to be done.
All in a day’s work. The sheep escaped while we were there. Jim quickly herded them back to safety.
All’s well that ends well. The flock is back home.
Jim and his goats.
Sunset Ranch had their first beef offering this past summer. They sold every last bit of their beef. Jim’s assessment was that the ground beef was consistently great, some of the steaks were very good, some were okay and some were disappointing. Jim is as committed to producing quality meat as he is to providing a safe and stress free environment for his animals. A testimony to Jim’s ethics and high standards is the fact that he will only be offering ground beef, and no other cuts of beef, until he feels his land has healed enough to produce the quality grass the cattle need to produce the quality beef that Jim wants to offer. He is taking a step back in his farm operation because he feels it’s the right thing to do. Obviously, he would make more from prime rib than ground beef. Jim wants to keep trying until he is satisfied he can produce a consistent high quality and not compromise the care and health of his animals. You have to admire Jim’ s attitude. I know he will get it right.
Chickens and eggs will be ready soon. I will be waiting.
Sweet baby Emma will be walking before we know it. She and her Mama and will stroll under the shade of the big oak trees. Mama will say, “Listen, Emma. Do you hear the rooster? What does the rooster say? Where do we get eggs, Emma? We get eggs from the chickens. Do you see the cow? What color is the cow, Emma?” Her Daddy will teach her to respect the land and how to care properly for the animals. She will be taught to be a good steward. Her parents will listen to her goodnight prayers. I just know that Emma’s prayer will be, “Dear Lord, thank you for Mama and Daddy and goodness.”
Y’all come see us.
This is an oldie but goodie. Well, I think it’s a goodie. My children were never impressed with this like I wanted them to be. Maybe I didn’t do a good job of teaching them what a porcupine is. The rice sticking out was supposed to clue them that these balls looked like porcupines. They never got it. I have the next generation to work on now. But first, I’m buying a children’s book about porcupines from amazon.com. The ground beef came from Sunset Ranch.
Sunset Ranch grass fed ground beef in a bowl.
Add tomato soup, rice, parsley, egg, onions, salt and pepper.
Mix beef mixture well and make about 20 balls. Place them in a pan. Mix remaining soup, beef stock and Worcestershire sauce and pour over meatballs. Simmer for about 40 minutes until beef is done. Stir gently to keep meatballs from sticking.
1 lb Sunset Ranch grass fed ground beef
1/4 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 slightly beaten egg
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped onions
1/2 tsp salt
1 10 3/4 ounce can condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup beef stock
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Combine first 7 ingredients plus 1/4 cup tomato soup. Mix thoroughly and shape into about 20 small balls and place in skillet. Mix remaining soup, beef stock and Worcestershire sauce and pour over meatballs. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 40 minutes, stirring gently to keep meatballs from sticking.