Worshiping at "The Church of Food" and a Farm Visit with Tom Schultz

Over the past few years, my culinary experience has expanded well beyond recipes. The business of food has many layers, and it can be a nebulous beast to get your arms around, but as Robert Sietsema says, ‎"The Church of Food is an edifice with many doors and no locks." ...And there's a giant welcome mat right outside the door!

In the course of my travels, I've met with everyone from food scientists, culinary anthropologists; coffee buyers, growers, and roasters; cheesemakers, acquaculture farmers, beekeepers, farmers, ranchers, food activists and chefs. I haven't talked about this process much because it's still ruminating in my mind. But rest assured, I've got stacks of notebooks and thousands of photos. Bit by bit, I'm working through my notes.

Along this journey, I've meet some incredible people who have helped lay the foundation for a new perspective. As a city girl, taking a trip into the field has been a fundamental part of my education.

Curious minds want to know.... so, I gathered some friends for a road trip. First stop, we visited with Tracy Smaciarz, a second-generation butcher who was recently named one of the "Best Butchers in America". We toured his USDA-certified processing plant and then, with blazing speed, watched him break down a couple cows. More on that in my next post.

First things first. Meet Tom Schultz. He and his wife raise lamb on a lush farm 90 miles south of Seattle. Tom's got a ready smile and a boyish hint of mischief. I liked him instantly!

Lamb rancher, Tom Schultz

Spring grass and a watering hole near the barn.

Feeding time at the barn. Notice the lamb in the foreground is loosing his winter coat.

The baby lambs are adorable! This one has blue eyes.

Back in Tom's work space, we talk about his farm and the business of raising lamb.

One of the chefs asked, "Is your meat organic?"

Here is where I learn, consumer ideals don't always line up with the reality of life on the farm. On the Western side of Washington state, our moist climate leads to a number of issues. (We experience 150 days for precipitation/year. Cloudy days: 201; partly cloudy days: 98.) The wet climate leads to a number of challenges, including foot rot.

What is foot rot?

Foot rot, or infectious pododermatitis, is a hoof infection that is commonly found in sheep, goat, and cattle. As the name suggests, it rots away the foot of the animal, more specifically the area between the two toes of the affected animal. It is extremely painful and contagious. It can be treated with a series of medications but if not treated the whole herd can become infected. (Source: Wikipedia)

Tom raises his animals according to organic standards, but because he treats animals that become sick, they are unable to market their lamb as "organic."

Tools of the trade: butchering knives.

Tom's flock, headed out to pasture.

(L-R) The crew: Michelle Clair, Melissa Hogenson, Tracy Smaciarz, Becky Selengut, Tom & his wife, and Chico aka Robert Joice.

Next stop: Heritage Meats. Stay tuned...