Working the Land

By Judith Jones, "Working the Land," March/April 2011

Judith Jones writes about the rewards of connecting with the land and animals.

So we started with six pregnant Black Angus cows, which John nurtured, carrying out bales of hay he had harvested to feed them through the winter. In the spring the first calf was born when the temperature was more than 30 below. John found it almost frozen on the ground and he and his wife brought the creature home to warm up by the kitchen wood stove.

That was just the beginning. John has added a few Belted Galloways to the herd, primarily because they are friendlier (and they do make exceptionally good meat) and he has learned a lot about pasturage and winning the animals’ trust so they follow willingly when moved from one field to another.

As for me I am trying to figure out ways to break even in this venture by selling more directly to appreciative food lovers. Meanwhile the reward is in the lovely intense taste and the texture of the meat. It is what beef used to taste like.

But there is an added reward in watching our land, which our ancestors worked so hard to clear, now returning to pastureland. The encroaching second growth, which we witnessed in our first years here, has vanished and I can look out at our contented animals busily grazing, their young gamboling happily around them.

I find I don’t feel guilty raising them for slaughter, knowing that it is done in a benign way. After all, they wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for us carnivores. So instead I feel grateful for what these animals give us. It makes you realize that loving care does make a difference.

Judith Jones, senior editor and vice president at Alfred A. Knopf, edited and published Julia Child’s cookbooks and was her editor.

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