Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Saturday, July 26, 2008
  Two Spoon Farm - Meat with Integrity
Usually I leave the realm of local food and agriculture to the far more talented and prolific Ali over at the Cleaner Plate Club, but I feel the need to spread the word about something really cool happening just up the road in Pownal.

Two Spoon Farm is a brand new operation just off of Carpenter Hill Rd in North Pownal, VT run by Angela and Brian McGinness. They are raising chickens, beef, pork and lamb on about 35 leased acres of gorgeous reclaimed farmland. What makes this farm truly special is that they are attempting to run it as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) much like the very popular, vegetable oriented Caretaker Farm in Williamstown and the lesser known, but absolutely incredible Mighty Food Farm in Pownal.

More importantly, they are doing everything right from a health and environmental point of view. All the animals are free range. The cattle are grass-only fed. The pigs are given a few acres of wooded land to root around. The chickens get to trot across an open pen and develop their muscles which leads to one of the best tasting birds you can imagine.

There are absolutely no hormones or antibiotics given to these animals. The only outside food is grain for the chickens and pigs who quickly process it right into the eco-system if the pasture. I've seen a lot farms and processing plants in my years in the food biz. I've never experienced one that has the complete integrity, from start to finished product, of Two Spoons. The place really could be a chapter in one of Michael Pollan's books.

Angie and Brian are constantly moving the temporary fencing used to corral the animals. This allows the chickens to scratch and "fertilize" the ground plot by plot. Within a few weeks the areas that chickens have previously roamed are full of incredibly lush green grasses and meadow plants that just happen to be the favorite food of the steers. These cattle then devour and tramp the pasture down to the point where the sheep can come in and clip the lower lying grasses that make up most of their diet, which leaves the vegetation low enough for the chickens to come back to their starting plots and keep the rotation going.

I'm not going to try and kid anybody. Meat of this quality is not cheap, but the gap between the prices of farms like Two Spoons and conventional factory-raised meat is narrowing with the rise in grain and oil prices. It costs a lot of money to haul a pound of refrigerated dead cow from Nebraska to New England. I should also mention that by buying this local product you are directly supporting a young family living in your own backyard. The profits aren't being sucked up by Wall Street. It is also "clean" food, free of the various suspect elements found in your average supermarket meat section.

And did I mention that it is as good a chicken as I have ever tasted. Seriously.

Brian and Angie sell their harvest by the piece every other week at the Walloomsac (Bennington) Farmer's Market and on the farm. The most economical way to purchase is to buy a share of the animals you expect to eat. You pay part of the price up front and the rest later. This saves a fair amount of the total bill and "reserves" your purchase since the larger animals are only processed periodically. (Hmmmm... pork chops.... slobber)

After walking the pasture at Two Spoon with approximately 70 locals this afternoon, it is my sincere belief that this particular enterprise will explode in the next year or so. If you want to get in on this remarkable little corner of our world, I would suggest buying shares in your desired meats ASAP.

Angie and Brian can be reached at 802-823-7308 and at
I've raised pigs on and off throughout my life, and I've been curious about these share farms - what happens to your share if the animal/produce you paid for doesn't make it?

I know what happens on a traditional farm, the farmer is out some money and potential food, but does the share holder loose his money?
The shareholder does take some of the risk, but also gets some of the excess bounty should it be a banner season.

I have yet to see a one of the local CSAs not do everything they can to minimize the risk. Angie and Brian have purchased extra animals as insurance. Caretaker strictly limits the number of shares. But as a de facto owner, there is a slight possibility that you might experience some turbulence.
Your information on local farms is fascinating and gives me hope that there is more than one way to boost the economy of the Berkshires and southern Vermont.
Why are the prices for products raised on these farms more expensive? They don't buy expensive injections, or special grains. The animals are raised au naturel for the most part. That is the question I have a hard time getting around, why does less always cost more?
Economies of scale. Grain purchased by the 50lb bag is more than by the tanker truck full. Processing the meat costs more when not done on an assembly line. The animals and seeds or seedlings cost more in small amounts. A living wage for the farmer.

You also get what you pay for. To me the question is not why are these products more expensive, but why would anyone buy the abused, chemical laden products the agri-farms produce?

The successful marketing scam that big business has pulled off, which has changed the whole concept of what people expect "normal" food to be, is absolutely amazing.
What CJ said, plus the fact that IBP and Tyson can pack 10 times the number of feed lot cattle, pigs and caged chickens into the space used by traditional farmers. This is the reason why so many antibiotics are proactively used by big agribusiness. If you pack animals together like sardines in a can, you will end up with very sick animals.
Southview, if you haven't already, you should read The Omnivore's Dilemma. It speaks directly to these issues.
Awesome Greg, glad you pointed this out. We were there for the pasture walk on Sat to see where our meat comes from... what a concept, eh?

About prices... Remember that Angie and Brian have to live on the proceeds from this farm. This is their job (and a hard one at that). So what is mostly being paid for is their time, which is perfectly fine with me.

Also, if you break down the costs, they are almost even. Look at the chicken: Sure it is more expensive that buying a whole chicken at the grocery store. But most people don't buy it whole: a breast or two here, a thigh here... if you add it up that way, its about the same.

All you need is a sharp knife.
I second that Omnivore's Dilemma recommendation, CJ.

In fact, Michael Pollan also speaks almost directly to Brian's point about the farmers' need to make a living. In one sequence of the book, he spends a few days working on a farm. At the end of the first day, he basically says (and I'm paraphrasing here) Now that I have some sense of the hard work that goes into producing this food, I'm willing to pay this farmer any damn price he wants to charge.
OF COURSE FARMING IS HARD! Has our recollection of that occupation fallen so far back into our past memory that we no longer perceive the lifestyle? Sun up to sun down! When city slickers start to clatter about how hard it is, I just sit back and chuckle.
Of course we are talkin about Gentlemen Farmers or Mom and Pop endeavors here not huge corporate subsidized conglomerates. So lets leave the Yuppy, this is kool and neat-o line of thinking and just look at the reality of small farming. In the (good old days?) people farmed to survive. Had large families to help run the farm, and never made a profit!
I congratulate Angie and Brian for their choice of lifestyle. Farming today has to be a labor of love with enjoyment in the endeavor for the sake of the endeavor. If they are looking to just farm as a business for profit than I think they made a bad choice.
Although I found Pollen's homage to the farmer quite sappy at times, I think his words and the point Southview are trying to make are on the same page. Of course someone who jumps from the city to trying to work a full day on a farm is going to be over-whelmed. Its a whole different mindset and way of thinking. The work is long and at times hard, but most farms have machinery to handle the tough stuff, all you have to do is sit on it. Even haying is not what it was just from when I was a kid. The baler kicks the bales into the wagon, no body stacks them any more. A hay elevator lifts them into the barn, we had to toss them up to the hay loft (a whole art in itself). Milk machines, automatic waters and feeders, barn cleaning machines, manure spreaders, etc.

On the flip side, people who pick up that plastic wrapped steak, pork chop, or chicken breast have no idea what really went into bringing that product to your table or what the real version of that product should even look or taste like. You want to spend a fun day, try chasing the baby pigs back into the pen as they run all over the neighborhood with taste for freedom.

I agree if you go into farming these days to make a profit, you've made a bad decision. If you're doing it for the way of life and can make enough to support yourself - I say job well done. Not until people realize what it takes to put that food on the table will they be willing to pay the true cost and the farmer be able to make a living again.
We purchased Two Spoons poultry last season. The taste and texture are better than any other I have or not. Supermarket birds are weak by comparison.

I find the taste of their chickens to be nearly identical to Ruffed Grouse. We are pleased to support a farm that provides such tasty meats raised in a conscientious, sustainable manner. We accept the risks as without such support, Two Spoons may fail and the community will suffer the loss.
If anyone would like to share comments with me about cooking Two Spoons poultry, feel free to do so.
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