Wednesday, April 6, 2011

eating locally

I've posted here before about how much we enjoy the food we get from the great people at Hasselmann Family Farm here in Illinois. We recently cut into one of Scott's incredible uncured hams, the product that we first fell in love with from his farm last year.

I tell you, these hams are like no other ham we've had before. The texture and flavor are far superior to the often rubbery hams you get from the store (even the commercial nitrite-free varieties).

We've made our way through quite a few of his pork products without disappointment; hams, bacon, sausages, tenderloins, fresh pork belly and pork shoulder steaks among them. We recently cooked up a few of his grass-fed ribeyes, alongside a grain-fed steak from Whole Foods. The pasture-raised beef was tender, juicy and delicious; the store-bought meat seemed dull and flavorless in comparison.

It's hard to explain just how ecstatic we are about the food that comes from this place. Buying our food from a local farmer who uses sustainable practices and works alongside his family just plain feels good.

Scott just gave us the spring update -- 300 new chicks that will be ready come June, 450 hens laying eggs, spring lambs and more. You can find Scott at upcoming farmer's markets or schedule a delivery if you live in the area. Visit his website for upcoming dates and locations.

I'm hoping we can help spread our love of Hasselmann Family Farm, so I was excited that Scott was willing to share a bit about his family and his work here on this blog. Here's what Scott had to say in his own words:

On what brought him to farming:
My grandparents on both sides were farmers so I guess you can say it’s in the blood. I was born and raised in Elk Grove Village, Illinois where my grandfather and dad had a very popular mushroom farm. Growing up I dreamed of being a farmer and spent my free time raising goats, chickens, rabbits, pigs and sheep at my grandparents’ farm.

(Scott studied agriculture in college, served in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, attended grad school, returned to Nicaragua where he married his wife and welcomed their son before returning to Illinois.)

In December of 2004 all three of us and our dog moved back from Nicaragua. No job, no money and living with my parents with a new baby. The Elk Grove farm was being used as RV storage, but it still had the same small barn I used growing up and room for a few animals.

I started working at the storage business and raising animals on the side. I dreamed of making a living on the farm and providing clean, healthy food for my family. The idea of working together as a family and watching my children grow up on a farm was very appealing. I invested everything I had (which was not much at the time) into animals and equipment, gates, waters, etc. I tried to sell directly to the consumer; it was really rough at first.

On the start of Hasselmann Family Farm:
In 2006 Nena, George and I moved to another farm my grandfather owned in Illinois. While the crop land was being rented out to a big grain farmer, there was still about 5 acres of pasture and two old dilapidated barns that to any big commodity farmer would have been useless. To me it was a dream come true. For the next 4 years I really learned by trial and error all about raising livestock and direct marketing. In 2010 we sold that farm and bought our current farm in Marengo, and everything has taken off since then. It's still really hard and we have a long way to go, do not get me wrong, but we have come a long way.

On working as a family:
I could not have done this without Nena's and my parents' support. They have also been an integral part in keeping the farm going. Nena washes and packs all the eggs, hundreds of dozens at peak time. My dad George keeps all the tractors and hay equipment maintained; my mom Barbara also works with marketing by helping with orders. And yes, our 6 year old George even has his own flock of 16 ducks, and our 3 year old daughter Alexia loves to try and help pack eggs. So it truly is a family run farm.


PinkCatJo said...

The meat looks exceptional and it is always great to know how it's been farmed. We always try to buy from local butchers as they usually know the origins of their meat but it's not always easy. x

Anonymous said...

I remember going to the mushroom farm as a kid! I will tell my parents that the family is still farming.

L. said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! We were just talking about finding a good local source for meats. Looks like we've found it!