Going to the Source

June 4, 2012

Photos by Ted Holladay, courtesy of edible Monterey Bay

       The first time I visited my then-fiancé in San Benito County I sped right by the road that led to his family’s ranch and ended up in Hollister, Calif. I called him from a Round Table pay phone (yes, we still used those back then) at a strip mall, trying to hide the panic in my voice that this was my new home. Fast forward 21 years and I can say that I have adjusted to life outside of The City and learned to appreciate living in a rural place. We are surrounded by breathtaking views, interesting people, a rich ranching heritage, and amazing, locally grown foods and wine. This month’s feature Reimagining San Benito County, by Deborah Luhrman in edible Monterey Bay features the foodie businesses that make up this amazing place, including our own Morris Grassfed Beef. Thanks to Luhrman and edible Editor Sarah Wood for their keen sense of style and appreciation of places off the beaten path. Hope you’ll click on the link and read the whole article … and then come and enjoy the fruits of San Benito County!


Building Relationships

April 17, 2011

Local food is about more than place and ingredients. It’s about building relationships. Relationships between people, land, plants, and animals. We had our annual Field Day this weekend and, as always, I came home exhausted but so happy that we do this each year. It takes some planning: menu, tables & chairs rental, prayers for good weather, etc. We hand formed 180 Morris Grassfed hamburgers Friday night, chopped a couple of pounds of fresh onions, dug up all my mismatched tablecloths from the linen closet, and arranged flowers for the tables. My mother-in-law, Anne, uses old cowboy boots as vases.

This year we were thrilled to host 160 guests who drove from as far away as San Diego. Lots of kids, which always makes it more fun, and several families who brought grandparents and out-of-town guests to see a “real California ranch.”  We call it “First Person Certified” food. Thanks to the Morris Grassfed Team: Liz, Ev, Anne, Rich, and our chef Tim Fowles – for all your help!  

Thanks for visiting! ~ JFM  … Here are some photos of the day:

Family style tables create a casual space for conversation.

Circle P - our host ranch for the day - ranch brand

Field Day Checklist ... lots to plan!

Circle P Ranch is a classic working cattle ranch ... signage on barn wall

Darren Huckle led an herbal walk and identified all sorts of medicinal plants in our midst. (Thats his adorable son, Jackson, peeking at me.)

Ev, Ellie and Liz Sparling

Our partner, Everett Sparling, and his future cowgirl daughter, Ellie

After our walk on the ranch, guests relaxed over Morris Grassfed burgers, salad, and good conversation

Angela and Tim at the BBQ - grilled those 180 burgers to perfection.

Joe and me, ready to kick back and enjoy the day!

Guests listen as Joe described holistic land management and how they are an important part of the process ...

Future ranch hand, Charlie Moore

Such a fun surprise when old friends show up! Beautiful Valerie, our niece Didi Petkiewicz, Jack, and Alan Gianotti, a friend of Joes from Notre Dame!

This is an excerpt from our Spring Newsletter, written by Joe:

Jack an Joe grilling up some grassfed burgers

Jack and Joe grilling up some grassfed burgers

The rains have finally come, and everything is a beautiful green.  What a blessing!  We still haven’t heard the mating calls of the frogs in the ponds on the ranch, though, so it is still pretty droughty, but the grass is growing well.  Drought is not a pleasant thing, but it seems to make more sense to be grateful for the rain we do have rather than bemoaning whatever we might not have.  I recently was told that “Attitude is the only thing we can actually control.”  Makes sense to me.


Our new ordering process is going very well.  The orders are arriving fast and furious, and yet the processing of them is not overwhelming.  Thank you, all of you who have ordered already.  It makes life a lot easier, if we can fill in our planning sheets earlier rather than later.  Please get your orders in, if you haven’t done so already, for we would hate to have you miss out.  You may either go to our website order form or just click here http://www.morrisgrassfed.com/order.php .


I was reading the e-newsletter from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza market, and found something I thought warranted a comment.  The idea of eating less meat to save the earth seems to crop up weekly at least, and kind of sounds like it might make sense, for it is bandied about by some authoritative voices, but it doesn’t.  This is what I read:


“Mark Bittman wants you to eat less meat. In his typically disarming way, The Minimalist as he’s referred to in his New York Times column, as well as online, where he writes a blog and appears in short cooking videos will dish it to you straight.


His new book, Food Matters expands on his idea that “if you buy your own food and cook your own food, you tend to put much better things in your mouth than if you don’t.” Thanks in part to a realization he had after reading the UN report called Livestock’s Long Shadow, and to his decision to tackle some of his own health issues head on, The Minimalist is now advocating an even larger shift.”


Many of Mr. Bittman’s observations on food make sense, but his arguments about the ecological soundness of meat do not.  Let’s take a look at the assumptions behind the UN report he cites, that livestock production imperils the health of the earth.  The premise that livestock production is responsible for so many greenhouse gasses is totally dependent upon the belief that beef animals require confinement and grain feeding.  It further assumes that the land that cattle are raised on could be used for production, in a sustainable way, of vegetables or grains that people could eat directly. These premises are not true, even in any remote sense.  Therefore, the rest of the argument is not worth much.


The carbon footprint of the meat you eat is directly related to whether the animals from which it comes harvested the plants they ate; whether or not the plants they ate grew upon soils that were fertilized by their dung and urine; and whether or not the grazing and animal impact of the cows occurred in a way that added carbon and nitrogen to the soil and nourished other members of the rangeland community.  Furthermore, beef animals should be raised, and mostly are, either on lands that are not suitable for the production of other human foods or in a way that replenishes the fertility of the soils used to produce these other foods.  Neither Mr. Bittman’s nor the UN’s argument recognize these essential differences, and, therefore, their advice is actually counter-productive. 


It is very difficult for a vegan diet to be sustainable, for the production process of such a diet excludes the use of animals in the mix of crops that a sustainable farm needs.  Beef animals and other ruminants can digest much of the residue from the other crops grown on the farm, and as they do so they will happily provide labor for the farm, protein and energy for the farmer and fertility for the soils. 


Mr. Pollan’s advice is wiser: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”   But strive to know the source—both place and process–of all of it.  If you are eating Morris Grassfed beef, you are actually reducing your carbon footprint and enhancing your health and pleasure with every delicious bite.  Now that’s a pretty picture!

New Year’s Resolutions

January 3, 2009

Just received my latest copy of Bon Appetit magazine, which I habitually put aside to read alone later with a glass of wine. This month’s (February 2009) special feature is “50 Easy Ways to Eat Green.” I was pleasantly surprised to see that No. 8 was “Buy a Side of Beef.”

Reporter Hugh Garvey sums it up better than any other I’ve seen in the past 17 years in this business:

“An increasing number of foodie carnivores are ordering grass-fed beef straight from the local farmers. Here’s why: The practice directly supports local farmers with a vested interest in taking care of the environment. Unlike grain and corn feed, grass requires no fossil fuel for transport. The regrowth of grazed grass removes carbon monoxide from the air.”

Garvey gets it. Grassfed beef is not only about good – and healthy – food;  it’s about supporting your local rural community (family farms and ranches and all the businesses that go with them), economical food purchases, humane treatment of animals, and environmental stewardship. Eating the grassfed beef burger I had for dinner tonight (with a melted slice of Swiss cheese, served on a fresh Ciabatta role) will also accomplish the other benefits I mention. Why would people do anything else? To find a your local grassfed beef producer, go to www.eatwild.com and have a Happy New Year!

Bella Italia

August 5, 2008

We had a party this weekend. It was more like a two day meal. It was a 20-year reunion of friends from my Junior Year abroad, in Italy.  Together, we are an eclectic group of artists, architects, teachers, chefs, florists, gardeners, scientists and – of course – writers.

Friends from Italy enjoying a meal on the ranch

Friends from Italy enjoying a meal on the ranch

Since we graduated from the program, all of us have gone our separate ways, but stayed in touch. Coming togther on the ranch was a celebration of food, wine and good laughs. My friend and roommate in Florence, also named Julie, still lives in Italy and brought her two sons who speak only Italian. Joe barbecued hangar steaks of Morris Grassfed Beef, seasoned in a dry rub for 24 hours before they touched the grill. So delicious, with a glass of Chianti. We had heirloom tomatoes from my friend Kristen’s L.A. garden (she’s a pastry chef at the W Hotel), wrapped prociutto and melon, made by Tai, (gardener for the City of San Francisco), and a colorful summer salad from Joanne (a Berkeley architect).

The hills in San Juan Bautista are not unlike Tuscany: rolling and studded with trees. As the evening turned to night, our candles shed a mellow glow on the party. My friend Reka pulled out the Limoncella from our freezer and we started getting silly. I don’t remember what time we finally called it a night, but we awoke to warm croissants and Peet’s coffee (thanks Joe!) Bella Italia.

As we move through our delivery season we are fortunate to be the recipients of our customers’ many talents. In the world of food, there is a lot of sharing.  On this Fourth of July, it is a fitting tribute to celebrate not only our country’s independence from Great Britian, but the independence that comes with sourcing your food from local producers, as our forefathers did. Because we are part of a growing coalition of local food makers, we are indeed indpendent from factors industrial food is linked to: high fuel costs (transporation) and high corn prices (processing), to name two.

Morris Grassfed Beef customers are foodies, and they know good, real food when they see it. Many of them make their own, gourmet items. Although food items are probably the most traded, we’ve been known to trade beef for piano lessons, artwork and even construction projects. Foodies are inherently talented people!

This week Joe brought home all sorts of goodies from our delivieries: a pound of Kenya Wango Estate Peaberry Barefoot Coffee, www.barefootcoffee.com, 8 oz. of Bravo Farms Handmade Cheese, Original Chipolte Cheddar, www.bravofarms.com, and a small bottle of 100% organic Avocadomolina extra virgin avocado oil.

I’m sipping a cup of the Kenya Wango coffee as a I write and it is – to quote their label – “a roller coaster of savory & syrupy flavors from sweet, V8 juice, cumin, and sweet snow peas.” Wow, definately a welcomed deviation from the vanilla latte at Starbucks!

Rhonda Gruber’s Bravo Farms Handmade Cheese is the most delicous cheddar I have ever tasted. I’ve been cutting a slice to enjoy with a glass of white wine each evening while I cook. I’ve also melted it into my favorite brown butter rice recipe to make a soupy risotto that’s out of this world. The flavor is smoked, but not dry. It has a chipolte kick that makes my taste buds dance.

We received a whole case of Good Earth teas from our friend and loyal customer Billy Healy. Our talented customer, Farrell, who loves to cook, gave us her own blend of Farrell’s Spicy Rub  that makes a wonderful dry rub for beef, poultry or even just seasonings for grilled vegetables. Lucas Moen, who is doing deliveries for us now, brings us raw milk and cream in glass bottles from Claravale Farm in Watsonville, Calif.  Not only is this as fresh as it gets, but it is thick, creamy and healthy. If you’ve never tasted the real thing, you should contact Lucas: lucamoen34@yahoo.com.

The beauty of all of these products is that they are made by hand, and with attention to detail. Each product is a tribute to the passion of its creator and a celebration of the indpendence of local food.

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