Lone Mountain Cattle Company

 

Lone Mountain Wagyu Ranch

Lone Mountain Wagyu Ranch

What do the film The River Runs Through It and a heritage breed of Japanese cattle, prized for the marbling and flavor of its meat, have in common? That would be Robert “Bob” Estrin, who edited the former and now breeds the later. It’s the kind of career trajectory––from the editing rooms of Hollywood to a ranch in the rolling hills of Golden, New Mexico—that Bob never planned on. And yet, in a state known both for its frontier ranching heritage and a thriving television and film production industry, where the landscapes become setting for countless Western-themed narratives, the transition has a subtle and intuitive logic. It makes sense in New Mexico.

Lone Mountain Ranch has been in the family for over 50 years, purchased in 1965 by Marion and Glen Lloyd, parents of Bob’s wife Mary. After running the ranch for 20 years, Marion passed the reins to Bob; it was the right of passage of a family-run farm, as the next generation steps in to steer. That was 1995, and at the time, they were raising “regular” beef cattle.

Then Bob ate the steak that changed his life. It was his first Wagyu steak, and he was bowled over by the balance of rich umami and the tenderness that is characteristic of the meat. At the time, the ranch was recovering from a devastating drought in the early aughts that forced them to sell off much of the herd. He was searching for a way to keep the ranch sustainable. After tasting Wagyu, and seeing the premium price it commands, it occurred to Bob: “If they drank the same water and ate the same grass as my other cattle, why not raise Wagyu?” Continue reading

Hispano Homesteaders of Las Golondrinas

2015 Golondrinas Spring Festival

2015 Golondrinas Spring Festival

Welcome to El Rancho de las Golondrinas, where a journey through time takes you back to New Mexico’s Spanish Colonial and Territorial eras, revealing what life was like during the 18th and 19th centuries for Hispano homesteaders. You’ll meet farmers and millers, bakers and blacksmiths, along with spinners, sheep shearers, weavers, carpinteros and candle makers, all happy to demonstrate their work and wares as you stroll past and through historic buildings.

Learn how to string chiles for ristras, craft candles from bees wax, and card, spin and dye wool for weaving. Watch a blacksmith demonstrate the art of making nails, and a miller grind grain. Explore a farm filled with corn, beans and squash—or the “The Three Sisters,” as the Puebloans call them, because they help each other grow. You can also learn to grind corn and how to make tortillas and calabicitas, a dish that would have been on many kitchen tables back in the days.

Occupying 200 acres in a fertile farming valley, El Rancho de Las Golondrinas, or “Ranch of the Swallows,” preserves the heritage of Hispano homesteaders as a living historical farm, providing a bridge that links the past with the present. The site itself  dates to the early 1700s, when it served as a pajarete, or “resting place,” for weary travelers on El Camino Real, The Royal Road, connecting Mexico to Santa Fe. With its tall grasses and water, this oasis was the final stop before Santa Fe, and a welcome site for all, including New Mexico Governor Juan Bautista de Anza, who camped here with a military expedition of 150 men searching for a route into in Mexico in 1778. Today, descendants of the original Spanish settlers still live in the area. Continue reading

The Local Flavor Pantry

LocalFlavorPantry-title
Learn more about Northern New Mexico’s local food growers, artisans, and vendors. Milk and honey, herbs and spices: New Mexico’s got it all! These businesses offer packaged local products, and they keep our farmers’ markets robust in every season.

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Local Flavor Pantry - Local Food New MexicoBEES

Buckin’ Bee Honey
505.989.1197
buckinbee.com
Buckin’ Bee is celebrating 14 years of keeping bees in Santa Fe! They sell honey, bee pollen, beeswax, candles, and lip balm. x Get healthy with their immune-boosting propolis tincture, a product of bee-collected resin from tree buds.

La Entrada Farms
laentradafarms.com
La Entrada keeps a small number of hives in Corrales and North Valley. This is their third year selling honey and beeswax; they also supply bee cake. They look forward to beginning their harvest in mid-June.

Papa Bear’s Honey
papabearshoney.com
Providing delicious, high-quality raw honey. Papa Bear’s Honey retains some of the pollen, which is rumored to reduce allergies locally. In Edgewood.

Zia Queen Bee Co.
ziaqueenbees.com/honey
Offering many varieties of honey based on the season and the diverse flora of the Rio Grande Valley. Zia Queen Bee Co. honey is pure, raw, and unfiltered. This farm in Truchas has creamed honey, beeswax, and lotions, salves, and lip balms augmented with native medicinal herbs. Continue reading

All Local All the Time

CSA egg, cabbage, carrotOn a bright Thursday morning, a group of six people have set up a temporary camp of sorts at the Hillside Market in Santa Fe, packing produce into boxes and reusable grocery bags. It’s member pickup day for Beneficial Farms CSA, Steve and Colleen Warshawer’s family business. The couple is joined by three volunteers (as well as some of the volunteers’ tiny, adorable children) and Colleen’s son Thomas Swendson, who moved to Albuquerque from Denver three years ago to work for MoGro, a nonprofit mobile grocery store that supports sustainable local food distribution. “I’ve been doing more of the technical side parttime for Beneficial Farms,” he says, “but in the past month, it’s been more handson.” Despite everyone working to a tight deadline, the collective vibe is laidback and friendly. But laidback does not mean slack, as any conversation with Steve quickly demonstrates.

Though not from a farming family himself, Steve knew he wanted to go into agriculture after spending time as a teenager working on a co-op farm located in Georgia. He came to New Mexico in the late 1970s as a junior at St. John’s College; when he finished up that academic year, his path took a different turn. “The land that we live on was purchased with my senior year tuition savings, and I didn’t return to school after,” he says. Thus began the long road to creating a working farm, which didn’t come into full existence until 1993. Initially the land, about 25 miles southeast of Santa Fe, was vacant unmanaged ranch land, and all infrastructure had to be put in place. There was, says Steve, “no water, fences, roads, anything.” Continue reading

Sourdough Starter

The smell of bread baking is legendary. Just the memory of it is an olfactory arrow straight to the heart—and then the stomach. Before there was such a thing as a bread aisle, bread was baked at home. As with laundry and ironing, our great-grandmas used to devote a whole day every week to bread baking. Not just white bread but all kinds: whole wheat, potato, pumpernickel, soda, whatever was at hand. And this was bread that had heft and character and integrity, none of this limp cardboard-tasting stuff that tears when you try to spread butter on it. Plus crust! Dense, yeasty crust, crust you could really sink your teeth into.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 1.15.19 PM     To produce even one such loaf involves making the starter by mixing yeast with other ingredients and letting it rise, adding flour to make the dough, letting it rise again, then punching it down, pulling, pushing, slamming, spanking, patting it and repeat. It’s meditative and laborious, both. And it all starts with this magical rising agent, yeast. Continue reading

Erda Gardens

Erda Gardens

Erda Gardens

I head over to the Blake location of Erda Gardens and Learning Center, just a few miles away, to meet with Outreach and Education Coordinator, Amanda Rich. Like La Orilla, this is not a manicured showplace. It is a working farm. Arriving there, I am greeted by kids with kids—that is, one of Erda’s nanny goats gave birth to three kids the day before, and Amanda is conducting a farm camp with a group of children, who are having a great time petting and holding the kids. Amazing how ready to go they are, at one day old.

Amanda and I sit at a picnic table by one of the fields. Again, we’re near the Rio, so there’s the sounds of the cranes, and there are more low flying aircraft. We are smack-dab in the middle of the big picture.

Erda, whose name comes from the German word for “earth”, was, says Amanda, “started in 1996 by a Franciscan nun, Marie Nord, a peace and anti-poverty activist for many years.” Frustrated with activism as a reaction, Nord decided to create something positive, something that would help her community, heal her community. “This is the first CSA project [Community Supported Agriculture] in Albuquerque,” says Amanda. People invest in Erda either as a paying or work-trade member and share in the produce of the farm. “We are also a learning center with a free lecture series,” she says. “Work parties in the gardens are an opportunity for hands-on learning, and we have farm camp for kids, giving them access to the outdoors.”

A crew is harvesting carrots, which will be sold through the Agri-Cultura Network to local restaurants. We pause as Amanda takes a carrot, wipes off the dirt, snaps it in half and hands a piece to me. It is sweet and crunchy, earthy and good. “There’s something about tilling a bed, or planting or weeding—you feel that you’ve accomplished something,” she says. “You’ve contributed in a meaningful way.” I mention to Amanda we’ve been digging in the earth longer than we’ve been fooling around with computers. “Amen to that,” she says.

Erda now has six growing sites around Albuquerque and is more than halfway into a capital campaign toward buying the Blake location. “The last five or six years, I’ve watched the exponential growth of the local food movement and the local farming movement,” says Amanda. “Many people are thinking about this; many people are wanting to learn these skills. Our workshop series is overwhelmed with participants. People want the knowledge. Ultimately, we really need this.” It’s great to see Erda’s success. “The more people who can learn how to grow food, the better—for everyone,” says Amanda. We peer into a cold frame brimming with new little green things sprouting up. How can you not be optimistic looking at this?

 Story by Gordon Bunker