How many times have you heard “live your passion”? How many times have you met people who actually ARE living their passion? You need to meet Carole Soule and Bruce Dawson of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon. Their passion is locally grown food.
The pair met when they worked at Digital Equipment Corporation (now Hewlet Packard). In 2000, they cleared some land on their farm. Their search for a low maintenance method of keeping the land clear lead them to purchase sheep. That venture was short lived when the coyotes took the sheep as snacks.
After some research, they settled on cattle, specifically, the Scottish Highland breed. The coat on Highland cattle is long and bushy. It that resembles the shagginess of a sheep dog but is rougher and thicker. The coat keeps the animal warm during the cold winter months. For the farmer, this means the cattle don’t have it be kept in the barn all winter. For the consumer, this means a naturally leaner cut of meat because the animal doesn’t require back the fat to stay warm.
Carole and Bruce started with two pregnant cows. They were “guaranteed” to calf easily but, as with many aspects of life on a farm, things didn’t go exactly as planned. The first birthed easy, the second, not so much. Farming is frequently about on the job training and Carole says if she knew then what she knows now they would not have lost that calf.
It would be a few years before they slaughteed their first cow. The meat was good, but later cows have delivered even leaner, more flavorful meat. Genetics plays a very important role in building a healthy happy herd of cows. They also discovered that the right butcher makes all the difference when preparing meat for human consumption. They put their knowledge to work and started expanding their herd.
Eventually the herd grew so that they had more meat then they could eat or give away. Carole approached the Concord Co-op to see if they would be interested in a source for locally raised, hormone-free, anti-biotic-free beef. The Co-op jumped at the chance. The response was fantastic, So much so it was hard to keep up with the demand.
Farming is a community venture. Farmers rely on each other for stock, knowledge and help. Carole and Bruce had developed a network of local, small family farms who shared their views on raising hormone free, anti-biotic free, cattle. With the help of that network they were able to provide the additional meat to necessary to guarantee a steady supply.
As the heard grew and the sales of their meet increased so did the workload. Bruce eventually retired from his job as a software engineer to become a full-time farmer. That doesn’t mean he left his interest in high technology behind. There are WebCams of the farm and according to Carole the water troughs even have WiFi Internet access in case he wants to set up cameras to check on the cows. Carole balances farm responsibilities including public relations and marketing with her full-time job in sales compensation for HP.
Carole feels the cows are her employees and they should be afforded the same respect as human employees. Although she does find in necessary to reward the bovine employees in a different method than the 5 part time staffers who help she and Bruce run the farm and the store.
The store stocks their Scottish Highland beef as well as locally raised Angus beef, pork, lamb, chicken and goat. Winter hours are Tuesday, Thursday 4:30pm – 7:30pm Wednesday from 9am to 1pm and Saturdays from 9am to 3pm. Many local businesses and restaurants also stock their beef.
On Sunday October 10th, from 9 AM to 4 PM the farm is hosting their 5th annual Farm Day and hoping to attract close to 2000 people throughout the day. There will be a band, hayrides and plenty of locally grown food (including the legendary Miles Smith Beef Stew). Miles and Eliza Smith founders of the farm in the 1830’s will also be there to converse farm life. There is no charge to attend, but there is a $5 charge for hayrides, children under 12 are free. Download the November 2009 Loudon Ledger for an article about last year’s festivities.
I’ve had grass fed beef before and it reminded me of cardboard. So with a little trepidation I purchased some of Miles Smith beef at the Concord Farmer’s market this spring. I was very pleasantly surprised the meet had a rich flavor and despite being 90% lean, it was still moist and juicy.