I'm a pescatarian, which means for me that I'm largely vegetarian but occasionally I'll eat fish. So it's a bit ironic that the farm that has had the biggest influence on me as I became increasingly committed to the local food movement was River Rock Farm, a beef farm, owned and managed by Charlie and Lindsay Sayer.
I found the Sayers several years ago at the Hingham Farmers Market and they are quite simply some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Talking to them over the years, I learned how you can raise an animal for food and while treating it with compassion and respect.
The Sayers were kind enough to give me a tour of their farm last Spring. It is in bucolic Brimfield Massachusetts, set amid rolling hills with a river running along one of the farm's boundaries. The cattle were roaming throughout the pastures. I can't read a cow's mind, but they looked about as happy as an animal could be. When we hopped in Charlie's truck to see a bit more of the farm, they ran along the fence trying to keep up with us. These cattle galavanting in the sunshine contrasted sharply with the images of penned up, miserable animals I have come to equate with industrial farming.
It is no surprise that if you provide a healthy life for an animal, one free from stress, with good food, and no hormonal or antibiotic injections, it will make a difference in their body. The rest of my family eats meat so we've bought a lot of beef from River Rock Farm over the years, My family members tell me that the taste of River Rock beef is in a different league than what you'll find in a grocery store. Their burgers are the star of all of our barbecues. People ask us: "What did you put in the burgers?" and we answer "happy cows".
For me River Rock Farm is a perfect illustration of the importance of respecting your food, including its source. Whether it comes from an animal or a plant, life is ended so we can eat in order to sustain our own life. We can't change that. But we can treat the source with the respect it deserves.
Every year when Charlie gives us our Christmas roast, he thanks us for the honor of being part of our family's celebration. There is a special intimacy created between those who give food and those who receive it. All the more reason to get your food from good people, people like the Sayers.