Have you ever stood in front of the meat case at your local grocery store and wondered about people behind the beef you are purchasing? Who is raising the cattle? Where is it coming from? And, of course, as consumers we have questions about the care producers give to the cattle during their life.
I recently had the chance to spend a weekend with the New York State Beef Council for the BEef Together Bloggers Event learning exactly about all the stages of beef production and the people behind it. It was a weekend full of beef, fun, and thought-provoking discussions about today’s agriculture and beef industry. Three days were spent donning plastic booties and touring farms, learning about beef cuts, and cooking up all sorts of beef alongside beef producers and food bloggers.
One of the highlights of the event was getting to visit Ameele Farms in Marion, where I met Mike Ameele, a man with a passion for agriculture, the family business, a love of the land, and a dedication to producing safe and nutritious beef.
Family Farming in Upstate New York
Ameele’s farm was started in 1930 by Mike’s great-grandfather who milked cows on the farm in Wayne County, the farm had stayed in the family, but operated much like a hobby farm until Mike and Colleen bought it from his parents. For the last 20 years Mike has been expanding the farm, and including high tech tools such as GPS crop systems. Over the years the little hobby from has grown to 2000 acres, where about 500 head of cattle can be found at any given time. Now with the 5th generation of Ameele’s poised to join the farm, the family’s recent expansions and investments in new technologies will better position future generations to continue the farm legacy.
Ameele Farms is proud to be one of the producers who supply fresh beef to Moyer Beef, a brand of locally produced beef sourced only from small family farms in the Northeast which is available at Tops Friendly Markets. Like most family farms in the area, Ameele’s operation is pretty diversified, not only do they raise beef cattle, they also have 200 acres of apples, and grow all their own feed for the cattle.
During the tour, Mike talked at great length about his relationship with a local veterinarian to provide care for his herd. Together, they have created a preventative care plan, and also work together to care for any animal that that becomes sick or injured, although the veterinarian, who was at the event, said treatment of sick animals has been greatly reduced by cultivating very close relationships with specially chosen cow/calf operations from whom Mike sources young cattle for his herd. Ameele farms also produces all of their own feed for the cattle, which gives them the opportunity to fine-tune diets as the cattle’s dietary requirements change for optimal health.
Speaking of feed. Last week, I wrote and shared a video about how we put up corn silage on our farm, and I saw something super cool on Ameele’s silage I have never seen before and I had to tell you about it!
Remember I mentioned Ameele’s have an orchard and raise about 200 acres of apples? Many of those apples are used for applesauce and apple slices, after the preparing the sauce and slices there is a resulting co-product called “apple pomace”. Apple pomace is a rich source of carbohydrates, fiber, a good source of minerals and nutrients, and not to mention tasty to cattle. Ameele’s have put this apple pomace to good use. Instead of covering their silage bunker with a tarp or encapsulating it is plastic, the apple pomace is packed over top of the silage, creating the airtight seal silage needs to ferment. When it is time to feed the cattle, the apple pomace is served up right along with the silage, there is no waste and the cows don’t seem to mind getting an extra tasty treat to go with their meals!
While so much of Mike’s agricultural career has been spent building a family farm I was curious to hear what steps he was currently taking to ensure the success of future Ameele’s at the farm’s helm. Mike talked about crop diversity and environmental sustainability. But after talking more with him, Mike admitted that one of the biggest hurdles he sees as faced by farmers today is a shift in the public’s trust in food production. It did not take long to become apparent the Mike is a quiet man, who admittedly doesn’t enjoy being the center of attention, but he is proud of the role he has taken on; providing high-quality beef that feeds not only his family, but mine and yours, caring for his herd, and being a good steward of the land. Mike is passionate about he does and wants to see that way of life continue for the next generation. By speaking up, and stepping out of his comfort zone, he has committed himself to becoming part of the discussion about food production and answering questions consumers may have, this he told me he does for the next generation.
I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to meet the dedicated, hardworking, and caring family at Ameele Farms as part of the BEef Together weekend. Being able to meet one of the families and who raise Moyer Beef has really made me feel good about choosing Moyer Beef for my family at the grocery store.