(But it always leads back to pizza eventually anyway because I’m putting these local cheeses, vegetables and Italian sausages on my pies so if you’re just here for the pizza, stick around for a while).
It’s ironic that after five years of being vegetarian, and finally getting a job in a vegetarian kitchen, I had decided to start eating meat again one year after beginning that job. I moved out to Barre, Ma. and found myself in much closer proximity to a whole new, up until then for me at least, way of buying food, especially high-quality meat and dairy products. Working in the kitchen of The Insight Meditation Society, my appreciation for wholesome and fresh food deepened as I got to know more intimately the vegetables brought to our kitchen door by Many Hands Farm and other nearby growers. I learned what “CSA”means, and also how it’s possible to skip the grocery store altogether: just drop some cash into a wooden box by the creaky freezer in the back of the barn and take what you want, via the honor system, just about any time of day. My short journey to omnivore started with a bowl of chicken broth to acclimate my system, and two nights later I was at a picnic table at nearby bbq with hamburger juices running down my chin.
Part of my reason for going vegetarian was revulsion towards the industrial-meat system which produces incredibly cruel and unsanitary conditions for the animals, mounds of environmental pollutants that are unable to be absorbed into the earth or atmosphere and the very mediocre and often unhealthy quality of the meat produced, due in part to the prevalence of antibiotics and growth hormones and the un-natural diet many of these animals are forced to eat.
Coming to Barre and seeing the abundance of quality meat and dairy products, I couldn’t not try them out. And although I’m not a purist by any stretch of the imagination, if I have the extra money to buy the local stuff, I will and usually do. Here in this feature I’ll write about some of the farms that I buy from or have visited. I’ll update this list as I discover new ones which I’m sure will be ongoing because there’s just so many of them out there once you start looking. I’ll mostly include here places to buy meats, cheeses, milk and grains or flours. If you’ve got some good suggestions you’d like to see included here, leave a comment and I’ll check the place out!
I’m starting this series with one farm that’s a no-brainer for me, one of my favorite all-around favorite establishments for summer food, beer, meat and entertainment right here in Barre. I guess I’m getting a little wistful because it’s 20° in March and their farm store will, hopefully, be back open again in just under a month.
Carter and Stevens Farm, Barre, Ma.
(beef, ice cream, raw milk, deli, occasional bakery products or breads, brewery, pumpkins and bbq with live music during July and August!)
Although the farm store is closed from November to mid-April, the brewery is open year-round and they have an annex at a separate location in Barre (between 181 and 281 Old Stage Rd.) where it’s possible to buy raw milk November through March. The farm store is a great place to buy their frozen beef, pork and raw milk, but I don’t tend to buy many other kinds of goods there because they’re a bit pricey for my budget. The ice cream is the best I’ve ever had and it’s made using milk from their own grass-fed cows, and with dozens of interesting flavors including soft-serve. The bbq, which takes place Friday and Saturday nights in July and August, is a busy yet relaxed place and often has live local bands, although they’ve started to move them into the brewery lately on the weekend nights. OH YEA. They’ve opened the Stone Cow Brewery there now too, just this past summer, selling beer on tap as well as growlers of different sizes to go.
I think they have begun to brew with their own barley and hops as well. You can buy a beer to go and hang out at the bbq until the sun goes down together with families with children, bikers, farmers, hippies and anybody else from varied walks of life that knows the value of a good local farm!
Also, don’t miss the pumpkin-throwing catapult, always seen in action during the fall Harvest Fest…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.