ranch to table

by Tania Z. in , , , , , , ,

Riley's Ranch, of David + Melanie Riley in Carthage, North Carolina is about 15 minutes away from where we live in the Pinehurst area. It is one of the most peaceful places I've been to and I really enjoyed my visit. I think it is important that my kids know where their food comes from, and I sadly realize that many kids and people don't get the opportunity to eat like this or find ways to go out to a ranch or a farm to learn about ways people are doing it right, doing it sustainably. But there are tons of urban projects and farms, chefs, communities across the country that are doing this. taking food justice by the horns and really making dents in commercial, unconscious ways of growing, raising, cooking and serving food.

"We are dedicated to the use of sustainable farming practices which include rotational grazing on our fresh pastures and woodlands with access to natural spring water, the use of compost on our gardens and pastures instead of dangerous chemical fertilizers, and the use of goat whey from a local farm as a natural supplement for our hogs’ diet.  We strive to minimalize any land or water contamination on our farm by avoiding the use of pesticides and by using strategic fencing around our ponds.  We have selected animals that are good foragers and are planting crops that are indigenous to our area or do well in our climate, with no antibiotics, hormones, or chemicals added to our animal’s diets."
~ Riley's Ranch

happy pregnant sows, their piglets get respectful births that sadly, most women in this country never get to experience

Amaia giving the sows some water to wallow in, these pregnant sows need it since it's so humid out,
hogs are unable to perspire

My husband loves the brats and pork products that we get from Riley's Ranch. This stuff really tastes amazing, I don't think I've ever had a bratwurst or italian sausage taste this good. Not sure I can do much justice explaining every little thing about the heritage breeds of chickens and hogs so please go to their site even if you don't live in North Carolina, because there's a lot to learn about rare heritage breeds and the difference it makes to pastured eggs and meat products.

They have a mixture of large black hogs and tamworth hogs, and they've chosen breeds that do really well on pasture, don't require a lot of tending to and are hearty, homestead type hogs. they pasture mostly, get fed some leftover whey from a local dairy place that makes good goat cheese (i can't eat cheese so its all what i hear) that is unable to get rid of it on their farm due to regulations, and so the hogs get some good whey which is what makes them really hearty tasting as well. they graze on acorns and do very well in the seasons, with the owners planting some rye out for winter harvest and the hogs being able to graze on that.

My daughter had fun finding acorns and feeding it to the hogs. She also liked to rub their bellies, I was surprised how affectionate they were.

"Large black hogs are a rare heritage breed, and do very well for pasture raising, "The Large Black Hog is accurately named, as it is a very large swine breed and was the only British pig that was entirely black. It’s dark skin and black hair enable it to graze in full sunlight out on the pasture without sunburn. Their large ears cover their faces and protect their eyes when rooting and foraging. Although they don’t see well, they have excellent hearing, and will even come to you when called by their names." 

Melanie says she loves these hogs because they are  very loving and like human interaction. The tamsworth seem to like the separation between human and hog, they need their space! 

Riley Ranch also has chickens for eggs. They have about ten heritage breeds, Welsummers, Buckeyes, Rhode Island Reds, Golden Laced and Silver Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons,  Barred Plymouth Rocks, Cuckoo Marans, Jersey Giants, and Australorps. They are so beautiful, healthy, happy looking chickens. I loved learning about some of these breeds, and was able to get a lot of questions answered for when we build our own chicken coop and get some chicks so we can have some eggs as well. However I feel like the quality of these eggs surpass what my yard could give. The pasture is much nicer here!  and also that they live in a converted horse barn. A dozen free range eggs costs you $4. 

i love the patterns on this one's feathers, I think this is an Orpington.

Proud Rooster, looks like he belongs on the Kelloggs Cornflakes box, his name is Cornelius,
based on the actual rooster from the cereal boxes.
where they lay their eggs, some have liked to lay in a nice dark area where the hay is bailed!

showing veda how warm the eggs are

these chickens have the life!

FRESH, beautiful pastured eggs

all in a day's work
a beautiful horse barn converted into a chicken coop

One thing that I liked was Guineas. Guinea fowl, are chemical free pest control. They run around in a flock like a school of fish and Melanie's called them her organic pesticides. They forage and eat everything from ticks, bugs etc. Pretty cool!

Guinea Fowl

We learned so much about how a sustainable ranch should function. I spent alot of time naturally, talking about sows, piglets and the births. It is so simple, makes sense, and you can really tell they love everything about this. the hogs are taken to a animal welfare certified facility, where the butcher kills the animals as humanely as possible and then uses generations old recipes for sausage and other pork products. Riley's Ranch is animal welfare approved, and a really great place to learn about food. The have many affiliates, use the local resources to supplement their hogs with whey and also provide eggs and pork products to local restaurants with chefs that use local ingredients. it is so sustainable. its what we all need to be doing everywhere in this country. the benefits are immense.

In 2014, pasture raised beef will be available, with the rare red poll and shorthorn cattle. Unfortunately we will be in Washington state by then, but we'll stay local there as well!

"We welcome you and your family to visit the farm. Bring your kids, so they can see where their food comes from, where pigs can be pigs—roaming free on the grassy pastures or rooting up acorns in the woods, and where chickens can be chickens just like God intended—scratching and pecking to their hearts content out in the sunshine, where cows can be cows, grazing on chemical free grass and taking lazy naps under the pines."

i hope many parents out there take the time to go scout out a local awesome farm and get to know where their food comes from - buy it, take it home, cook with your kids, and feel good to know that your food was raised sustainably and as how it should be.