BUSKIRK – If you read the sign highlighting the many cuts of beef sold by Longlesson Farm at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, you may start daydreaming of a hearty stew, a carefully cooked steak, or a perfect burger.
Bob and Melanie Mason’s 450-acre Longlesson Farm in Buskirk (northern Rensselaer County) is not far from the Vermont border. Bob and Melanie work together with their daughter and son-in-law, Shannon and Christophe Robert. The family raises the Angus herd for meat and also sells bulls for breeding.
About 120 Angus cattle graze on the pastures and are never fed any grain. They also never have growth hormones or eat any GMO (genetically modified organism) crops. Cattle are rotated between different fields on the farm, so they always have something fresh to eat. This system of rotational grazing is great for the cows and helps build the soil in an environmentally sound way.
“People sometimes wonder what grass-fed cattle eat in the winter, when the pastures are covered with snow. The answer at our farm is that they eat hay, harvested from our own fields. That, with some extra minerals and salt, is all they need to stay healthy. If we ever have to treat an animal with antibiotics due to a temporary health issue, they aren’t marketed until the drugs have moved out of their system,” explains Christophe.
This is the farm’s first season at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market. The farm sells rib-eye, NY strip, sirloin and London broil steaks, as well as chuck steaks and roasts, stew meat and short ribs and shanks that are especially popular in the slow-cooker during the winter season. It also sells free-range roasting chickens and treats for dogs, including bones and puppy liver treats.
“We believe that in this time of questionable mass production, the future of local pasture-raised beef is bright. Our goal is to produce breeding stock that is ‘fit not fat’ and freezer beef especially suited to this market,” notes Melanie.
“We raise our herd slowly, allowing them to reach two or three years of age, which is when they have a great beef flavor that is so different than industrially-farmed beef. You really can taste the difference in our 100 percent purebred Angus beef. The key is to cook it properly, with steaks cooked to rare or medium rare. Cuts such as chuck, stew beef, shanks and short ribs are ideal for the slow cooker,” she continues.
Consumer interest in grass-fed beef has grown in the past several years, with more customers trying to avoid eating beef that is raised in large feedlots called confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). There are health benefits as well to eating grass-fed beef: it is reported to have more healthy fats (Omega-3s) than commercially-farmed animals, as well as higher levels of CLAs (conjugated linoleic acids) and vitamin E.
“We name our cows and give them a good life. Our butcher is Eagle Bridge Custom Meat and Smokehouse, a USDA inspected facility. They have also been inspected and have received the Animal Welfare Approval, which guarantees safe and humane treatment of all animals,” states Christophe.
Longlesson Farm has many recipes to offer its market customers, from Sumatran Beef Ragout to Beef Stew to these slow-cooker Cider Braised Short Ribs. Stop by their stall and talk to Christophe for some more ideas!