Cassoulet: The Quilt of Cooking
By Jessica Luhning | Photos By Jim Klousia and Eric C. Snowdeal III 0
In my effort to source pork and make new farm friends, I decided to reach out to Vince and Dawn Hundt, owners of Poplar Ridge Organic Farm and St. Brigid’s Meadows. The latter they co-operate with a sweet, young farm couple, Jason and Kristin Blankenheim.
Twenty miles northwest of Viroqua on Poplar Coulee Ridge, the Hundt Family has been “farming gracefully” since 1978. They primarily focused on dairy and grassfed beef until they purchased a second certified organic farm in 2006, St. Brigid’s Meadows. Here a herd of 50 Jersey cows, rotationally grazed on 60 acres of certified organic pasture, produce more than 100 gallons of fresh milk every day of the year. In addition, laying hens, pastured poultry and pastured Yorkshire and Red Wattle hogs each play their part in creating a healthy and balanced farm ecosystem.
True farmers to the core, the Hundts and the Blankenheims work tirelessly to maintain not just one but two thriving farms with genuine commitment to sustainable business ethics and land stewardship. Their high-quality, full flavor pork is a testament to their hard work.
For the lamb I knew just who to call: our friend Bonnie Wideman. Bonnie and her partner, Craig Scott, care for 160 acres of the most beautiful land the Driftless has to offer—rolling green pastures with native grasses, mixed hardwood forests and oak savannahs, and clear, cold springs. Pine Knob Farm, 13 miles southwest of Viroqua, is certified organic and permanently protected with a Mississippi Valley Conservancy easement prohibiting future development, mining, pesticides or herbicides, and restricts the land use to no more than 5 percent in row crops.
Bonnie and Craig manage a herd of 24 Hereford-Red Devon mix beef cows (including one large Red Devon bull by the name of “Fuzzy Bear”) and 200 Katahdin sheep, a breed from north central Maine with high resiliency and low-input management needs.
They commit to raising only enough animals that the land can support. They are able to accomplish this through pasture improvement efforts and growing all of their grain requirements on the farm. According to Bonnie, “It’s all about the health of the land. The health of the animals will follow.” Their hard work and dedication is evident in the outstanding taste of their lamb—a true representation of what the land can offer when cared for responsibly.