By: Caroline Orr
On Friday June 16, farmers market director Tyler Horne and I spent a full day visiting an Urban Harvest Farmers Market vendor’s farm, Shiner Pork and Beef in Shiner, Texas. We aslo did a tasting of fresh vegetables from vendor, Scott Snodgrass of Loam Agronomics, at Presidio restaurant located in the Heights. While connecting with the farmers whom behind the scenes make our food taste and feel great, Tyler and I got to watch and learn from start to finish where our food began and how it ended up in front of us at the table, over all creating a day of experiencing fresh farm to table food.
Just 110 miles out of Houston, the small town of Shiner Texas is notable for more than just beer. Beyond the heart of the city and past the Shiner Brewery, Patricia and Ross Tieken have together established their sustainable farm and family business, Shiner Pork and Beef. On land that used to be cotton country, Ross and Patricia have raised much more than just a family. Five years ago, they began their production of meat using Beefmaster-Tajima mix calves and English Large Black Hogs. Meat production however, was not always part of the master plan.
Grazing on their property for over 40 years, Beefmasters are attractive to ranchers for six key points: fertility, docile temperament, milk production, high quality of beef, conformation, and easy calving. Because of these attractions, the Tiekens used to take the calves to auction when they were about a year and a half old to be sold to a feed lot up north. Though they soon discovered, this was not the most profitable use of their beloved cows.
Patricia and Ross got the English Blacks only seven years ago. Their initial idea was to sell them as breeder pigs as they are an endangered breed.
English Blacks enjoy the mud in the heat of the summer
However, with such high-quality breeds of cattle and pigs, meat production proved itself to be the most appealing and practical option.
Before meat production officially began, the Tiekens bought a Japanese Tajima Bull to improve the quality of their beef.
Tajima calf, named ‘BB’ bred with the Beefmaster females
“We bought him when he was such a young bull, just six or seven months old, and since we’ve started breeding and using him, he’s improved the quality of the beef tremendously,” said Ross. “I’ve actually myself been very surprised at what improvements in the taste and texture the beef there has been just by changing the bull.”
Named after a specific region of Japan, the Tajima breed is responsible for the origination of the sought after and world renown Kobe beef.
The Large Blacks on the other hand, are too known for their exceptional taste and for being a ‘bacon breed.’
Apart from the Tiekens use of superior breeds that produce a difference you can taste, the Tiekens set themselves apart in their relationship and treatment of the animals. All the animals are loved, cared for, and even named by the family. Compared to their neighbors, they have half as my animals that live on roughly seven times the amount of land. The cows typically graze rotating from one field to the next in order to keep the grass growing, while the pigs enjoy their feed, milo, which is ground fresh onsite.
Patricia holding the fresh ground milo
In terms of sustainability, the Tiekens do everything possible themselves and onsite using just the animals and their land. They use no pesticides and maintain a considerable garden that supplies their family with fresh homegrown fruits and vegetables.
“Our main goal is really to make the land sustainable so that it pays for itself,” said Patricia. “We do it all on a small scale and it provides the best quality. We avoid the pressure of just trying to get bigger and bigger.”
At the end of our visit Tyler and I got to truly be a part of the family, as we sat down and were served a homegrown and home cooked lunch by Patricia of cheese and tomato tart, boiled potatoes, and of course, English Black sausage with homemade barbeque sauce and sauerkraut.
As starving as we were, the food nourished our empty stomachs as well as our souls! The sausage was juicy and flavorful and the barbeque sauce was distinctively tangy.
Purchase Shiner Pork and Beef at the Eastside Farmers market on Saturdays, or enjoy a farm to table meal prepared by award winning chef, Chris Shepherd, at Houston’s Underbelly, serving unique creole cuisine.
Interested in a visit? Go online to visit their website for contact information at shinerporkandbeef.com
Thank you, Ross and Patricia!
After the visit and Shiner Pork and Beef, Tyler and I had the privilege of meeting vendor, Scott Snodgrass, of Loam Agronomics for some tasty bites at the Height’s new restaurant, Presidio. Presidio, which opened at the beginning of this year, notably chooses local sources like Loam Agronomics for many their seasonal menu items. Enjoying fresh vegetables that Scott had brought over to the restaurant that day that had been harvested earlier that morning made for a special and filling experience. We were served over eight items on the menu! Below were some of our favorites.
Blistered shishito peppers with pickled beets, candied hazelnuts, ricotta salata, fish sauce vinaigrette
Loam heirloom tomatoes with whipped goat ricotta, peach sage, basil, and seeded granola
Sweet potato beignets dijonaise, fennel frond, smoked paprika
Scott Snodgrass enjoying his very own shishitos