I love where we live. In our backyard is the Washougal River. Follow those waters downstream a couple miles and you reach the mighty Columbia River (Roll on, Columbia roll on…). We’ll pause here for a moment because from this vantage, one can drive for less than two hours almost any direction and reach something breathtakingly beautiful. Drive due west and you reach the Pacific Ocean and the sandy beaches of the Oregon or Washington coast. Drive northeast or southeast and you could wind up the slopes of Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, or Mount Rainier. Drive due east, and you pass through the majestic Columbia River Gorge, and end up in a completely different world from the evergreen-laden, hilly, wet, cloudy land of southwest Washington where you started.
This is the route we took a few days ago to visit Emerson Dell Farm, just outside of The Dalles, Oregon. At first I was disappointed that we were having one of our first rainy weekends of October on the day we were to visit the farm, but I should have known that once we passed through the Cascade range, we’d get nothing but blue skies for the rest of our visit.
David and Margaret Brewer are the hardworking couple that run this farm, and I met Margaret about five years ago when I was looking for a source for grass-fed beef. David’s family has been farming this land for five generations; Margaret was a city girl who fell in love with the farmer and has embraced the farming lifestyle.
We purchase a whole animal from the Brewers once every year or two and divide it among friends. Usually Margaret delivers the beef to us in Vancouver, but this year we decided the see the farm for ourselves and pick it up there.
The Brewers’ cattle are 100% grass-fed, grass-finished. They are kept on the Brewer’s land their entire lives and are rotated through a sequence of planted forage crops.
They sell their beef to individuals and New Seasons Market. Once we purchased our first quarter, we couldn’t go back. Besides the psychological sense of wellbeing about this food, the taste is noticeably superior, and Margaret Brewer is just so likable and easy to work with.
The Brewers also grow wheat, canola, barley, and mustard, rotating according to holistic land management. David Brewer manages his land and crops with a scientist’s precision toward soil health and sustainability. On the Saturday we visited, he was out on one of his fields seeding wheat.
Margaret took us on a quick tour of their acres, and one of the most delightful spots was this one-room schoolhouse, built in the early 1900’s, purchased by David’s family years ago.
Since we had been listening to “On the Banks of Plum Creek” in the car on the way to the farm, we were thrilled to see this Ingalls-ish building before us.
We spotted elk, pheasant, and wild turkeys in our meanderings, but the kids fell in love with the family cats, of course.
I’m so thankful for the Brewers who faithfully care for their land and animals, not to mention a couple of growing teenagers. It feels good to put money directly into the hands of these hardworking farmers to buy wholesome, clean food which will sustain us for a year or more.
After a couple hours, we drove back into the clouds and rain to meet up with our beefy friends in Vancouver. The cherry on top was getting to see the whole Ross family (should’ve taken a picture of this special occasion)!
So, if you’re ever over at our house for dinner and are eating beef of some variety, now you know where it came from. And if you’re interested in joining us next time we buy beef from the Brewers, let me know, or I can connect you with them yourself if you don’t want to wait for our next purchase.
A Favorite Beefy Recipe:
Crockpot Beef with Broccoli
- 3 lb boneless chuck roast, sliced into strips
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbl sesame oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 Tbl cornstarch
- 3-4 heads broccoli, cut into small florets
- Whisk together beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and garlic and pour into crockpot.
- Place slices of beef into the liquid and stir to coat.
- Cook for 5-6 hours on Low
- In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid to create a slurry, and pour into the crockpot and cook for an additional 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.
- Steam broccoli and stir into the beef at the end, or place fresh florets in the crockpot in the last 30 minutes.
- Serve over rice.