Meet Your Meat

With the unofficial start of summer kicking off this Memorial Day weekend, I thought it would be a great time to take a deeper look into meat at market. I’ve heard a lot of questions lately about the seasonality of meat, especially pasture raised and grass fed animals so I took a trip to Cibola Farms in Culpepper, VA to get some answers.

When I pulled up to the farm I met Rex, the Farm Operation Foreman at Cibola Farms who is usually working the buffalo stand at our Dupont Circle farmers market on Sundays. When I arrived we hopped into the Kobota RTV (think a golf cart for a farm!) and started our tour with a visit to Cibola’s advanced herd. Commonly referred to as buffalo, Cibola’s herds consist of American Bison, the same animals that used to roam huge swaths of North America in numbers upward of 25 million. The buffalo population was decimated to under 1000 in the 1800’s, but recently with the increase in demand for meat and the rise of sustainable buffalo farms, like Cibola, the number of buffalo in the United States today is about 500,000. The advanced herd of buffalo at Cibola Farms is home to some of their older animals, a mix of both bulls (boys) and cows (females who have calved before). They were happily munching on grass and were scratching off their woolly winter coats with their horns and the help of trees and fence posts when we saw them.

When I asked about what the buffalo ate during winter, Rex explained how he rolls out huge bundles of hay for the heard to feast on every couple of days in winter. They get their hay from a neighboring farm and when the bales are rolled out, it’s a literal hay buffet and the whole heard will graze together until it’s all gone. Cibola also supplements the hay with some free choice snacks, like pine needles and garlic which are available to the buffalo all year round at their leisure. The pine needles are a natural dewormer and the garlic helps keep parasites at bay. During the grass grazing season, pressed blocks of grain are used as treats to lure the buffalo into new paddocks, which they are moved to every few days. Cibola has a total of 35 paddocks which means that it takes a least 30 days for a heard to make the rounds back to the same spot. This ensures that the land has time to rest and rejuvenate before the next grazing.

When grass starts growing on Cibola Farm, usually between March and April, the buffalo transition from eating hay back to eating grass. As you would with changing the diet of any animal, Rex and the other farm workers at Cibola are sure to keep an extra close watch on the herd animals to make sure that each one stays healthy through the transition from dry hay to moist grasses and weeds. Once the buffalo are on a full grass diet again, they will continue to get their fill, moving from paddock to paddock until the a select few are led into transport trailers using a Temple Grandin designed corral system. Between June and November is when buffalo, no more than a dozen at a time, are taken to a USDA approved buffalo processing facility. By August some of the buffalo have had enough grazing time to ensure the tender, nutrient rich and flavorful meat that Cibola Farm’s grass-range buffalo is known for. Once the days start to get shorter and the grass grows back with less vigor the whole process starts over with hay roll buffets until spring when the buffalo can chow down on all 500 acres of fine green Cibola Farm grass once more.

Driving through the paddocks and getting to see the young herd, the advanced herd and some of the special needs animals, including an 8 week old baby buffalo that Rex bottle feeds daily, was an incredible experience. The buffalo at Cibola Farm are treated with respect and can go their whole lives on the farm with minimal human interaction. With the exception of annual check ups for all and occasional pregnancy tests for the females the folks at Cibola let their animals graze, mate, raise and wean their young all on their own. It’s no wonder that Cibola Farms prides itself on their principles of sustainable, humane and ecologically friendly treatment. In addition to their buffalo herd, Cibola also raises Tamworth heritage breed hogs using the same sustainable management practices as they do with their buffalo. They just took their hogs to slaughter a few days ago and are expecting more pigs to arrive any day now.

Cibola is unique in that they sell their products directly to their customers at our farmers markets and at their on farm shop. Each purchase you make from Cibola helps support their principles, their staff and their animals. If you eat meat, choose to support local farmers! Creating healthy, wholesome and natural food is only half of the sustainability equation, the other half is you, the customer who supports this work with your hard earned dollars. Yes, locally and humanely raised meat is more expensive but it’s up to us to create the change we want to see in the world so start small and when it comes to grilling out this summer, be sure to pick up a pack of bacon with your buffalo burgers from Cibola Farms at our Dupont Circle or Penn Quarter FRESHFARM Markets!

Written by Nikki Warner, Markets & Communication Manager at FRESHFARM Markets

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Chef at Market: Rebecca Peress, The Sweet Defeat
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Book-signing at Market: Julie Castillo, Eat Local for Less
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Simple Spring Photo

Spring greetings from Casey Seidenberg & Katherine Sumner of Nourish Schools. We believe cooking should be a happy, stress-free experience. Don’t you agree?  So we recently launched a new product to simplify healthy eating: The Super Food Cards.

The Super Food Card packet contains 8 user-friendly cards each containing all of the information you need to cook a category of food: greens, vegetables, grains, beans, proteins, nuts & seeds, fruits and stocks.

No thick cookbooks, no online searches. Everything is accessible the moment you choose to cook. The set also provides prep how-to’s, secret tips, easy to read charts, and over 75 recipes all on waterproof card stock (so don’t sweat the spills!)

The Super Food Cards make a great gift for the beginner or expert cook. Come check them out at the Silver Spring market on Saturday and Dupont market on Sunday – we will be serving up the lemon-mint white beans below.

In the meantime, here are simple recipes from our Super Food Cards incorporating delicious ingredients currently in season at the markets. As we like to say… “Nutrition is Confusing. Not anymore!”


Mint does more than freshen breath! It is full of antioxidants that help us fight disease, tissue damage and aging.  Enhance the flavor of white or lima beans with this simple dressing, and we promise you will be addicted!

Lemon-Mint Limas

Whisk together 1 minced shallot, 2 T olive oil, 2 T lemon juice, 2 T chopped fresh mint, 1 T Dijon mustard, 1 t maple syrup, ¼ t sea salt and ¼ t pepper in a large bowl. Combine 4 cups of cooked lima or white beans with the vinaigrette. Serves 4 to 6.

Shitake Mushrooms

Mushrooms, especially shitake and maitake, are known to boost the immune system. These crisps make a tasty snack and are a breeze to create.

Shitake Crisps

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking pan with parchment paper. Remove stems from 12 mushrooms and lay, top side down, on baking pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes, until crisp. Serves 4.


Dark leafy greens give us energy!  After such a long winter, whip up this simple chard for some springtime oomph, and also a boost of calcium, fiber and Vitamin K.

Simple Swiss Chard

In a large skillet, sauté 2 minced garlic cloves in 1 T olive oil until golden brown. Add 8 cups of chopped chard leaves, stir to coat, and add 2 T water. Cover and cook until greens are soft, about 5 minutes, Season with sea salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Serves 4 to 6.


Fight spring allergies with the extra kick of Vitamin C found in our spinach and pineapple smoothie.

Green Smoothie

Blend 2 cups frozen berries, 1 banana, 1 cup pineapple, handful of spinach and 1 ½ cups filtered water. Serves 2.


Spring can be a busy time of year, so grab a fresh carrot juice to keep your heart healthy and your skin glowing!

Carrot Beet Juice

Slice a small beet with tops removed, 2 large carrots and ½ cored apple to fit your juicer.  Juice and serve.  Serves 1.

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Community Partner @ Market: Ross Elementary School Book Drive
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Whats in for 2015_blog

For our second annual list of “What’s In,” we’ve compiled a snapshot of what is happening at our markets as well as on farms and in kitchens throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We are literally witnessing a transformation of food and farming in the region and at our markets that is driving a  delicious food revolution. The unique grass roots character of farmers markets make them great places for moving  small farmers and food entrepreneurs to more solid economic footing.  The result?  Better local food for everyone and more of it.  The bottom line remains the same.  Put your food dollars in farmers pockets and we not only eat better and are more healthy but the whole region benefits from home grown economic activity.

Whether it be our farmers, local food entrepreneurs or chefs, there is tremendous energy and innovation in the local food scene.  Our “What’s In´ summarizes the broad swath of new ways this is happening right now:  bounty,  creative  ways of financing farm and food businesses; looking at soil, harvesting weeds and  native crops, featuring ugly fruit and vegetables or farmers and producers becoming more  social media savvy just to name a few.  There are so many exciting and innovative things happening that are sure to delight and surprise.

Here’s to hoping the markets keep growing and thriving as they have during our 18 years at the helm of FRESHFARM  Markets.  Thanks to our farmers and producers, as well as our many loyal and enthusiastic customers, the future looks bright. Hope to meet you at market soon.


~~ Ann Harvey Yonkers, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of FRESHFARM Markets


1. CSA’s = Shopping Done. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s) at four of FRESHFARM Markets farmers markets – CityCenterDC, Foggy Bottom, Penn Quarter, and Ballston – deliver convenience and a weekly selection of the best of each market.  Many market farmers are also offering their own CSA’s.

2. Not just a pretty face.  Farmers and consumers are celebrating the uniqueness of misfit, imperfect fruits and vegetables that deliver as much flavor and freshness as their prettier counterparts.

3. Capital for crops. Micro-lending and grants are new financing tactics that provide farmers and producers an alternative to tough-to-get capital loans from conventional lenders. Kiva Zip and the Jean Wallace Douglas Farmer Fund are two ways FRESHFARM Markets is opening up access to funding so producers and growers can invest, expand and diversify their businesses.

4. Incubating success. With access to the freshest ingredients and an audience hungry for locally sourced and ready to eat foods, a new wave of up and coming local food entrepreneurs are joining the markets and feeding the appetites of market goers.

5. Food entrepreneurs adding to the fermentation fervor. Kombucha starters (also known as S.C.O.B.Y’s), all kinds of kimchi, sauerkraut and even fermented drinks such as wine, cider and kombucha.  Expect to see lots of great new products and collaborations between fermenters and farmers.

6. Match making at market. Chefs and artisanal food producers want the most delicious food and local farmers grow it. They are partnering more than ever before to do delicious business with each other and meet the growing demand for locally sourced and crafted products.  The result? Flavor begins in the fields and is enhanced in the kitchen; farmers put more dollars in their pockets; restaurant diners find unmatched flavor on their plates and shoppers enjoy a bounty of local food choices.

7. Eat healthy on a budget. Low-income shoppers continue to discover farmers markets as a source for their favorite fruits, vegetables and more. Programs like Matching Dollars are supporting these shoppers’ demand for fresh, local and healthy foods throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

8. Dirt….no longer a four letter word. Healthy food comes from healthy soil and many FRESHFARM Markets’ farmers are experimenting with crop rotations to enhance their soil fertility.  Cover crop “cocktails” are especially popular as farmers and researchers confirm that diverse crop rotations build the healthiest soils, which results in nutritious and delicious food.

9. Foraging for weeds and native foods. Given market customers ever widening appetites, farmers are foraging for, growing and selling crops formerly considered weeds such as amaranth greens, stinging nettle, purslane, ramps and dandelion greens. Foods native to the region are the new darlings including pawpaws, black walnuts and Winesap apples.

10. Get social & know before you go. Farmers and producers are increasingly becoming more tech and social media savvy.  Follow them and be the first to find out what they’ll have at market and learn about special end-of market deals. For shoppers who want to learn more about where their food comes from, they can go behind the scenes to see what a day on the farm is like, meet the families behind the food and fall in love with adorable farm animals.

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