Meet Mint Creek Farm - Raya Carr, CSA Coordinator
Philosophy: “Our business is built on inspirations of health and healing for people, animals, and our ecosystems. We want to be a model of how a farm, through the organic raising of animals on perennial pastures, can help restore and bring vitality the land we live on and people we share it with. The delicious, nutrition packed organic-grassfed meat & eggs our farm animals provide us with in their life-cycle offers our customers and ourselves a valuable trade for offering the farm animals a fairly wild, roaming existence with the added offerings of shelter/care/food.”
List one or two "resolutions" or goals for 2015:
We want to have enough eggs and meats to sell to all our farmers' market customers! As nice as it is to sell out of what we bring, we've taken note of what people do and do not want and are going to do our best to expand as needed. This is an ambitious, but more thorough record keeping and planning--around the growing seasons for livestock and financially--will help us be more gracefully in sync with our customers' demands in 2015. Perhaps yet more ambitious, but something that would be really cool, would be to offer more newsletters, recipes, stories, and other educational materials about our farm and the benefits of organic & grassfed livestock farming in general.
Your favorite comfort food:
Our family all love lamb stew, and we all love slow cooked ribs, from whatever animal.
Your dream vacation spot:
Well, my dad, Harry, the visionary behind Mint Creek, has always spoke longingly of going to see the sheep and cattle farms and countryside in New Zealand. I really hope he can somehow figure out a way to visit there. A few recovery days should be planned though, as the first thing that needs to happen when taking a vacation from the farm is a couple days of good sleep and heavy eating. Days on Mint Creek are often as long and as rugged (especially in winter and when the livestock have their vulnerable little newborns) as in a cowboy's life, haha.
What you wish would change about food, food systems, or food access?
I wish that American culture had already built a value system that placed eating nutritious, quality food in high importance, which I see as inseparable from valuing sustainable, organic farming, because it's the source of such food. Change is coming the hard way, from experiencing the troubles produced by our current system of disturbing and polluting natural ecosystems/their creatures and eating the resulting chemically-tainted, genetically modified, over-processed, and otherwise disrespected foods. The culture guiding us in our cooking and food-buying habits is directly important in supporting sustainable farms but also can go as far as swaying food and agricultural politics/policy. If higher value were placed on food by American culture as a whole, the ethical, sustainable farms (which are also usually more expensive to buy from) might have an easier time selling their goods, and the bigger farms with practices that damage and disrespect the consumer and the environment wouldn't be able to survive. Pricing wouldn't always be the deciding factor, because getting more wouldn't be the priority, but getting something better would be the priority. In all other countries, rich and poor alike, people spend a bigger percentage of their income on food, so why can't we, especially when we have so much at stake?
Do You Have A Secret Talent?
Everyone involved with Mint Creek Farm has a secret talent, but it wouldn't still be secret if we told you!
Any go-to recipe you would like to share?
My master meat braising recipe is more of a generally technique than a recipe. I'm more into experimentation than exact duplication, and this isn't for everyone, but it's all I can personally offer as far as recipes. Preheat your oven to around 275-300 degrees. Dice up a quarter to a half cup of garlic, onions, ginger, and/or peppers. Put a tablespoon or two of your favorite fat (butter, ghee, coconut oil, walnut oil, etc.) into a cast-iron or other skillet and put heat on medium and make sure it doesn't overheat while you do the following. Evenly spread out any braising cut, smaller or large, bone-in or boneless, (lamb, beef, goat, pork, or poultry legs, backs, shoulders, ribs, or necks) in a separate baking pan or cast-iron pan and put garlic, ginger, onions, and/or peppers you just diced onto the meat. Speckle the meat with these flavorful morsels of root and spice, then sprinkle salt and your favorite spices (mine are various ground peppers, garlic, coriander, nutmeg, cumin) on the meat. If you don't know which spices to choose, smell the spice, this helps you decide if it would be a good combination. Sear the spiced meat in the 1-2 tablespoons of your oil of choice for 2-4 minutes per side in the pan you already have pre-heated on medium heat. Then transfer meat back to baking dish or cast iron dish and immerse in the braising liquid of your choice. You could just use water, but I like combinations of water and EITHER wine, beer, unsweetened juice, barbecue sauce, or coconut milk. You could add potatoes into the pan, too, at this point if you want them with the meat. Cook in oven at 275-300 degrees for 1.5 hours, then add sections of any other vegetables you might be craving or have on hand and put back in oven at that same heat for another hour. Pull out of oven, let cool enough to taste, add a little more salt/seasonings/and/or another 15-20 minutes in oven if the meat is not falling off the bone or falling apart easily when you stick a fork into it. Then serve on prepared rice, more exotic grains such as millet or quinoa, pasta, or aforementioned potatoes.
Shout outs to 61st Street Farmers Market:
I love the laid-back, community atmosphere at 61st Street Market: it's truly unparalleled in Chicago, and I know it happens that way because of of the hard work of such a dedicated team orchestrating the market, rather than by accident.