I don’t know where to begin! I could not post last night because I could not gather my thoughts in an organized way. There was entirely too much to process. The Farm to Table event was unbelievably successful! Tejas Rodeo Company was a perfect location for the event. If you have never been there you should go. It is an experience for the whole family. The Chefs were and are absolutely amazing. You have again out done yourselves. Every course was perfect. The plating was beautiful, the flavor was beyond words, and the pairing of beverages to food was perfect. We are humbled by the support of the Chef Cooperatives, Tejas Rodeo Company, Dorćol Distilling Company, Karbach Brewing Company, Chisholm Trail Winery, participating Farms, and the guests that attended this event. Understanding where your food comes from is important to us all. The events, coordinated by the very talented Chefs, bring the farm and the public together in an amazing setting to truly understand each other. The public has the ability to ask questions regarding the production of the farm products while the Farm has the ability to explain what is required to produce the products. It is truly an amazing experience. Thank you again Chefs
Tomorrow is the day! It is our first Farm to Table dinner. We are quite excited. There will be press and food critics at our table for dinner. It will be great to see the Chefs of the Chefs Cooperative perform their magic with all of the ingredients from each of the farms, wineries, and distilleries. We really appreciate Tejas Steak House Saloon and Rodeo Company for allowing us to utilize their facility for this event. We will post photos tomorrow.
Tejas Steak House Saloon and Rodeo Company
Chef Cooperative Dinner
Saturday March 22nd 2014
Benefiting “Mesquite Field Farm”
“Cattle Drive Chili” with Smoked Jalapeno Cornbread, Crème Fraiche and Pickled Texas Onions
Chef Stephen Paprocki and Chef Alex Altamirano
Beer: Weekend Warrior, Weisse Versa Wheat, Rodeo Clown
Open Flame Roasted Goat Porchetta with Natural Jus
Accompanied by Salt and Pepper Rolled Mushrooms
Chef Jeff White and Chef Tobias Soto
Beer: Barn Burner Saison
Beeman Ranch BBQ Beef Tongue and Hilltop Place Goat Sausage
Chef Chris Cook and Chef Heather Nanez
Wine: 2011 Blanc du Bois
Chisholm Trail Winery
“Devils on a Horseback”
Grilled Texas Gulf Jumbo Shrimp and Oyster Wrapped in Mesquite Smoked Bacon Home-Grown Tart and Spiced Greens
Chef Michelada Gel, Chef Isaac Cantu and Chef James Canter
Wine: 2012 Blanc Du Bois
Chisholm Trail Winery
Pomegranate Glazed Grilled Bandera Quail, Griddled Naan and Assorted Mouneh
Chef Zach Lutton and Chef Laurent Rae
Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon
Chisholm Trail Winery
Drink Master Jeret Pena
Rebecca Creek Whiskey
Rebecca Creek Distillery
Double Smoked Beef Shank, Green Chili Polenta and Drunken Rattlesnake
Chef Tyler Horstmann and Chef Kathy Pullin
Wine: Lone Wolf, Lenoir
Chisholm Trail Winery
Dutch Oven Texas Peach Cobbler, Peach Vodka, Ginger Cinnamon Gelato
Chef Melissa Beverage and Chef James Whitson
Dessert Cocktail: “Serbian Cowboy Coffee”
Drink Master Christopher Ware
Dorchol Distillery Rakia and Farro Coffee
Karbach Brewery’s background is in the beer biz. Everything from distribution and importing to German training and brewery operations. One reason they named the brewery Karbach Brewing Co. is because we’re located on Karbach Street. Even more important to us, though, is the fact that the Karbach Street warehouse was the site Ken and Chuck started their beer distribution company decades ago. Lots of great beer has moved through the warehouse over the years, and now it is time to add our own to that list. Karbach is also a village in Bavaria. We hear they drink a lot of great beer there.
Chisholm Trail Winery will be pairing the wines with menu items coursed. Chisholm Trails Winery, a Home of The Texas Size Tastings in a Texas Size tasting room in Fredericksburg, Texas. Chisholm Trails Winery Reflects the Spirit and Embodies the Code of the Old West.
At Rebecca Creek Distillery, we believe that creating fine spirits is truly an art form. And like any art form, it takes time and craftsmanship to produce a masterpiece. That’s why we handcraft our spirits in small batches with pure copper components to ensure the ultimate in quality and taste. Sure, it may take us a little longer to make each batch, but every bottle that comes out of Rebecca Creek Distillery has been produced with true Texas pride.
Dorcol Distilling Company is Texas’ first urban boutique craft-distillery committed to meticulously handcrafting beautifully smooth spirits using only the finest and purest ingredients.
Grenwelge, C., Peterson, R., Pilosi, E., Schattenberg, P., 2/26/2014. “Texas AgrAbility helping military veterans, agricultural producers with disabilities”. Excerpt from http://today.agrilife.org/2014/02/26/texas-agrability/.
Another military veteran who has benefited from Texas AgrAbility is Doug Havemann, a former Army and Army National Guard member who served in Desert Storm. Havemann and wife Melissa operate Mesquite Field Farm, which they describe as “a small off-grid cottage farm located southeast of San Antonio.”
“We produce rotationally grazed grass-fed beef on about 20 acres in Nixon,” said Havemann, who left the service in 1998. “We don’t use any chemicals on our cattle or the farm for that matter, nor do we feed them grain. Our cattle eat grass. After ensuring we had adequate grass for the cattle, we began operations in earnest in 2013.
“We made good decisions and last year we were able to increase the number of livestock on the property. And 2014 looks to be a great year. In fact, we’ve already sold out of our grass-fed beef to date.”
Havemann said he learned about and attended the Battleground to Breaking Ground program while attending a farm and ranch show last year on the San Antonio Livestock Exposition grounds.
“At the program I got a lot of good information about business planning,” he said. “I only regret that I didn’t find out about Texas AgrAbility sooner — and about possible funding through the Young Farmers Grant. At 46, I’m just one year too old for that. I guess the main thing I took away from the program was that I was delighted that people were finally talking about the ways current and former military could get involved in production agriculture.”
Mesquite Field Farm Takes Local and Sustainable to New Heights
What does a Gulf War vet have in common with fresh water mussels, solar panels and wormwood? They’re all about to find their home just a few miles southeast of San Antonio in Wilson County, where an up-and-coming ranch by the name of Mesquite Field Farm will take the word “sustainability” to the next level.
The concept: a 20-acre cattle and chicken ranch totally powered by solar, wind and water that can sustain 20 head of cattle, chickens, a family and gardens.
“We’re off the grid here,” Mr. Doug Havemann said proudly. “Go look at our meter, it’s at zero.”
Mr. Havemann, a U.S. Army veteran-turned-computer-architect for Panasonic, is the mastermind behind the ambitious project. Together with his wife, Melissa, the San Antonio resident has literally been sowing the seeds for what he believes will be a farm unlike any other.
“There’s no book for this. That’s the fun of it,” he said.
But the initial inspiration and some guidance did start with a book Mrs. Havemann picked up at the Las Vegas Airport, Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food.”
“That’s what got us started on this journey,” she said.
The Havemann’s plan is to produce 24 kilowatts of power — all the energy needed to independently run their home and farm operations.
At 25 feet, a constant 15-mile per hour wind will keep the three wind turbines the Havemanns are installing spinning and producing energy. Already, two green 10-foot wide, 9-foot-tall recycled shipping containers serve as mother ship to Mesquite Field Farm’s solar power, as well as a temporary place for the Havemanns to hang their hats on weekends. One container is fitted with a wood stove, which will be moved into the house they plan to build on the property.
For now at least, the containers look more like small trailers. The Havemanns cut windows into them and run lights with energy from the solar panels that line the rooftop.
Water, fish and mussels
Energy also comes from hydrodynamic water flow as it runs down from one pump in the farm’s valley to a second and third one downstream from small waterways the Havemanns dredged on the property.
That’s where the freshwater mussels come in.
Mr. Havemann realized the river width is the perfect size for freshwater mussel cages. In a perfect symbiotic relationship, the mussels filter and cool the water as it flows through the cages while they get ideal nutrients to eat.
“I can’t wait to taste them,” Mr. Havemann said about the mussels. In the meantime, birds that visit the ponds bring another food source: fish.
“We have bass thanks to the birds — we never saw birds out here when we bought the land. That’s what I’m most proud of right now, seeing the birds return,” he said, explaining he also enjoys fishing at the property.
Besides raising cattle and chickens, the Havemanns are already dedicating an acre of land to grow wormwood for local chef Stephen Paprocki who will use the plant (technically a weed) to make Texas absinthe, a distilled, high-proof alcoholic beverage. You’ll also find two-row Barley on the land, which Mr. Havemann is growing for a local microbrewer.
Getting back to their roots
The farming lifestyle isn’t foreign to the Havemanns, who have been living in San Antonio proper for 22 years. Mrs. Havemann, who Mr. Havemann calls the Chief Executive Officer, Marketing Department, Ways and Means Committee, Chief Financial Officer and the love of his life, spent time as a child visiting her grandparents’ horse farm in San Benito. Mr. Havemann grew up on his family’s farm in Orange Grove. Though it never went to full production, they had a half-acre garden, and Mr. Havemann raised his own Future Farmers of America rabbits and pigs.
And while Mr. Havemann will be producing cows and chickens now, don’t call him a rancher, because he’ll insist he’s a grass farmer. It took the couple six years to nurture the grass growing across the property. Looking at the land now, you would never know cacti and mesquite overran it just a few seasons ago. The Havemanns cleared the land, planting 26 native grasses on 16 acres of the land. They even dug stock tanks to ensure that Mesquite Field Farm would always have a water source, regardless of the climate.
“We want to be completely self-sustaining,” Mr. Havemann said. “I don’t want to buy power from anyone. I don’t want to buy water from anyone. I’ve been a lot of places where they didn’t have water. I saw what that did to the people and the animals and the land.”
One of those places Mr. Havemann is referring to is Iraq, where his 11-year Army and Army National guard career included serving in Operation Desert Storm. There, the Iraqi military called his battalion “Steel Rain.”
His war experiences now motivate his desire to create a self-sustaining — or rather self-reliant — solution for rural living, which is an integral part of Mr. Havemann’s objectives for the farm he is building from scratch. His 6-foot-4-inch stature and booming voice are hard to miss, but you see a soft side of Mr. Havemann when he’s at the farm.
Havemann’s happy cattle
“Babe, stop it,” he said to a cow veering off from the herd. He had a bucket of food pellets in one hand, while hand feeding a second cow with the other.
“We hand feed exclusively,” Mr. Havemann said. “We want our cows to have the best life possible from the moment they set foot here to the moment they leave.”
The cattle are rotationally grazed. No chemicals are used on the cattle or on the farmland. And if you’re wondering about those food pellets, Mr. Havemann will tell you their cattle eat grass “like herbivores were created to eat.”
Mrs. Havemann said caring for the animals and the land that is like therapy to her husband, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his time serving overseas.
“This is the best place for him. War is life or death — and when you’re out on this farm, it’s life or death,” Mrs. Havemann said. “You either care for the animals and they live or they don’t. It’s about teamwork.”
The Havemanns plan to have veterans work on the land, saying it will help others who also suffer from PTSD.
“Veterans are always looking for a way to get away from stress. What stress do you have here?” Mr. Havemann said with a smile.
With the country breeze, happy cattle, and fresh water mussels on the way — Mr. Havemann’s point is well made.
We are seeing more and more of this in the news. The following link is to a beef recall that is millions of pounds. We started raising beef because we really want to know what our food is, where it came from and how it was handled. To read the story click on the link below.
Soil Amendments with cover Crops Creates Revenue
We are currently planning what additional cover crops we want to plant in our paddocks. We planted oats in several paddocks to supplement the dormant grasses during winter. This provides small farmers additional opportunities they may not have realized. While we plant as a supplemental green feed for cattle, the oats plant themselves fix nitrogen in the soil which is needed to improve the grasses during the Spring.
To plant cover crops does not require that the native grasses be removed. The cover crops can be planted on top of the grasses that currently exist. For example, during the Spring we will have all 26 of our native grasses growing in the paddocks. At the same time we will plant 2-row Barley in several paddocks. The Barley also fixes Nitrogen in the soil which is needed by the native grasses. Once the Barley produces its seed, we will harvest the Barley for sale to local Micro-Brewers. Once harvested we will allow the cattle to eat the rest of the plants and the native grasses.
This model provides the small farmer an additional revenue stream, Nitrogen for the soil and native grasses, and additional food for the cattle. Careful planning can create nutrient fixation other than Nitrogen and additional revenue. For example, Quinoa, Barley, and Oats fix Nitrogen. Each of those three plants has a market in the grass-fed communities. What plants provide Potassium and Phosphorus?
We had a lot to be thankful for at Christmas. We committed to host Christmas lunch at the farm this year. Considering this will be our first year of production we thought it would be fitting to gather everyone together and share a meal. We also had two new editions to the herd to be quite thankful for. It is going to be a great year for Mesquite Field Farm.