By Jay Porter
ack Ford looks at me across a steel prep table strewn with lamb parts and jars of fresh milk. “Why do people think we can pasture beef,” he says, his voice rising in exasperation, “when grass doesn’t grow here!” At his TAJ Farms in Valley Center, Ford raises a multitude of livestock animals including outdoor chickens, lambs, goats and pigs. His customers are primarily interested in buying the most high-quality meat they can, from a local farmer they know. He feeds his beef cows a combination of farm scraps, local oat hay and spent grain from Poway’s Lightning Brewery.
Of course, getting the meat from Missouri to San Diego requires fuel—but it takes a lot less to ship a cow’s worth of meat than it does to ship a cow’s lifetime worth of hay. For that matter, shipping meat from Missouri to California costs less than it does for a San Diego farmer to take a live steer to the USDA-sanctioned processor in San
raises “100% Green-Fed™” beef on their Sage Mountain organic farm in Aguanga and Hemet. Phil says the most common comment he hears from people is that they are happy to learn that there is a source for local grass-fed beef. Of course, to raise grass-fed beef here, Noble not only dedicates substantial
And, in response to my question about his cattle’s feed, Jack is addressing San Diego’s core question in regards to sustainable, local beef: What do those ideas mean in a region without year-round pasture? On the phone, Will Kubitschek of GreenBeef is explaining to me why he raises cattle in Missouri to sell in San Diego, and he is sounding a similar note. “You cannot raise grass-fed beef sustainably in Southern California,” he says.
Will’s family has long roots in both San Diego County and in Missouri. They’ve set up their operation as a meat CSA in San Diego, with the beef arriving from their farm in Missouri. The farm is ideally located, Will tells me: “Missouri has the most grassfed cattle operations in the country because Missouri has the best grass.” GreenBeef farms all the grass their cows need. “Other operations have to buy a lot of hay and ship it in from hundreds and hundreds of miles away,” Will says. Meanwhile, the 350 acres of pasture maintained by GreenBeef can support 700 cows and 700 sheep, all without irrigation and without requiring any fossil fuels.
Cattle grazing on Palomar Mountain.
Photo: William Kubitschek
Jack Ford is addressing San Diego’s core question in regards to sustainable, local beef: What do those ideas mean in a region without year-round pasture?
Cattle grazing on Green Beef pasture in Missouri.
Luis Obispo. It costs GreenBeef about $230 to ship a thousand-pound pallet of grass-fed beef to San Diego, using refrigerated “lessthan-load” trucking services. While GreenBeef ’s Missouri-raised meat offers all the nutritional and ecological benefits of grass-fed beef, it doesn’t provide in full the key benefit of buying local: keeping your money circulating in your own community. That point is important to Phil Noble, who with his wife, Juany,
acreage to growing feed for his cattle, he also has to spend a lot of money to bring in adequate amounts of alfalfa. “We live in a desert,” he says, “and it’s part of the reality of raising cattle in Southern California.” Noble also feeds his cattle scraps and food from his organic vegetable farm, items such as broccoli stalks that have to come out of the field for seeding to proceed, or lettuces that have bolted due to the weather. “There’s obviously a lot of green feed on a certified organic farm,” he tells summer 2012
edible San Diego