While we can all appreciate the amazing taste of a good steak or burger, it often escapes us the work that goes into creating such a high-quality product. This may not seem like a meaningful process for mass-production suppliers, but at Farmer Matt’s, extensive work and community building goes into each and every bite. From sunup to sundown, Farmer Matt and his team work over 400 acres of land to keep animals and customers satisfied.
Taking Care of the Cows
Each morning, Farmer Matt wakes up and immediately does one of the most important tasks of the day: has his cup of coffee. After that, he checks on the livestock. Ensuring each animal is healthy and well is a critical component of ethical farming. The animals’ supply of hay, water, and space to be comfortable is assessed regularly.
Spring and summer is calving season, which means plenty of babies and mamas to check in on. Livestock is counted to make sure everyone is present and kept safe under the care of Farmer Matt. During the winter months, cattle are fed hay bales that were made during the summer months and Matt ensures their water supply doesn’t freeze. The calves also need to be weaned off their mothers and all the livestock is appropriately vaccinated to prevent tick-borne and other illnesses.
While the animals certainly require a great deal work, a lot goes into making sure their environment is kept safe. This means checking the fences and repairing them, making sure the tractor is working correctly, processing any hay or feed, and building new barns. Since the farm is heated by firewood, it must be prepared well in advance of the winter season to ensure there is suitable heat for the farm buildings. Farmer Matt is working on a new cow barn which will add more space for the animals, an exciting new project to increase their quality of life.
The Burger Between the Buns
The end product, Farmer Matt’s amazing beef and delicious homemade meals, is the result of regular hard work and planning. For the restaurant, everything needs to be well-stocked to serve amazing meals. Since the products are locally sourced, that means managing several vendors and communicating with them often. Matt works with his staff as a team to make sure the products are stocked, inventory looks good, and the customers are happy with their experience. For him, it’s important that anything he serves or sells should be something he would feel good about putting in his belly, which means high-quality, ethical, and locally sourced. As he says, “everything in our store has a story.”
One of the things that makes Farmer Matt’s business thrive is his community commitment. Most of the items used or sold at Farmer Matt’s are locally sourced from other farmers he knows and supports. This means the product you consume or purchase is helping small businesses and isn’t mass-produced. The farm-fresh bacon comes from Kettle Brook Farms in North Brookfield. Honey comes from Long Hill Farm in Brookfield and maple syrup from Harms Family Farm in Brookfield. All Hill Farm in West Brookfield provides an assortment of vegetables including heirloom winter squash, and flour comes from Ground Up Grain Flour Company in Hadley, MA. Even the soda is locally made by Harmony Springs in Ludlow using cane sugar and local ingredients. The businesses Farmer Matt supports follow his ethical and high-quality standards, minimizing any unnatural or unwarranted chemicals.
Skills that teach the community how to properly grow foods and maintain their property are scarce and difficult to find. Part of the work at Farmer Matt’s includes offering community classes that educate others on how to live on the land and get their hands back in the dirt. This includes beekeeping, how to care for fruit trees, and fostering other events that get back to nature. Classes are held every other Sunday throughout the spring and summer.
Understanding that you can live sustainably and don’t need to purchase all of your food at grocery stores is something that the farm takes pride in teaching. Supporting small businesses usually means you have more options available; you know where your food is coming from, and the quality is often better. You can speak directly with those who process or harvest the food to have any questions answered, and many farms have ways they engage with the community to give back. Having an ethical farm and restaurant is not simple, but Farmer Matt says his favorite part of it all is seeing the joy in people, making it all worth it.