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Farm Visit: Double J Farms

March 2, 2012

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?  Jared McCray decided by the time he was 9 years old that he would be a farmer. Able to spend summers on an uncle’s dairy farm, he was exposed to the work ethic that would be required. He started raising spring calves and selling them in the fall.

Graduating from high school, he took advantage of a USDA program and bought a tractor and arranged to lease some land. Next was the purchase of some cows, and later a bull and it had begun.  He says it has not been as easy as some other young men his age whose parents own a farm already, but he will make it work.

Meanwhile, his wife Amanda grew up in town and never imagined this would be her future. They have a delightful 2-year-old son who already loves tractors and a 1-week-old daughter. Life is good.

Jared leases about 1000 acres in several areas. He took me to his winter pasture area where most of his herd currently is located. His bull is on his parent’s land. In all, he has 17 cows, 3 steers, 10 calves and the bull.

Coming from the New York metropolitan area and having always lived in suburbia, I am full of questions and Jared was very patient. He explained the life cycle of each animal in his herd. How castration must be done early, and the differences between cutting and banding. How the ears are tagged to identify his ownership and each individual, and how that came in handy when his cows broke through the fence and wandered on the Interstate right-of-way one stressful day a few months ago.  We discussed the pros and cons of grass versus grain feeding. He explained the difference between natural and organic.

Finally, he not only explained the slaughtering process but he took me over to Young & Stout, one of several slaughterhouses he uses to process his animals. (Young & Stout also sells meat in bulk, but much of their supply is from major meat distributors and the source farm is unknown for any given cut.)

He also explained that he charges $1.25 a pound for the hanging weight of the animal and there is also a charge of about $0.45 a pound hanging weight for delivery to the slaughterhouse.  The cleaned carcass (guts, lower legs, head and hide all removed) is then cooled before being moved into an aging room for at least 10 days.

Each slaughterhouse then charges for butchering, adding anywhere from $0.50 to $0.65 a pound. The butcher will process to individual specifications, i.e., thickness of steak, fat content of hamburger.

Jared says he works 4 days a week for a beer distributor and he needs to get to 1000 head before he feels the farm can cover his annual needs. A herd of 2000 will permit some additional purchases he wants, such as insurance on the bull.

He provides meat to people as far as North Canton, Ohio and into Virginia.  And it makes sense…and cents…..if you have a freezer, the idea of buying a quarter, half or full cow means you know how it was raised and save money to boot!

The last time they will look this clean

And speaking of boots, I knew enough to bring an extra pair of shoes, but I have ordered wellingtons now for the next visit to a farm.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2012 4:31 am

    wonderful experience

    • March 16, 2012 4:40 am

      Unlike many Americans, I am aware that the meat in the packages in the packages in the store comes from animals, and which type. When I was young my parents took us travelling around the U>S> and I have seen the huge feedlots that have been in use for over a century here. Personally, I am getting to the point where I want to know a lot more about the food I eat, to know it is healthy. Yes, this visit was very informative.

  2. March 17, 2012 6:15 am

    Thanks for liking the post. I am a vegetarian, but I hold farmers in high respect for their tough lives and how they manage the land. You may be interested in John Berger’s book, Looking at Animals, on how we – especially those in cities, don’t understand animals any more. But you’re probably too busy. cheers.

    • March 17, 2012 6:19 am

      I am presenting this blog so consumers here in West Virginia can learn about the various local foods that are produced here. As a consumer, I never realized this mountainous state actually had as many small farms as it does. As the consumers understand that they can get quality foods that have a smaller carbon footprint, the local farmers will more easily get their food to the market and the local economy will also benefit.

      As for the book, thanks for the suggestion. I am also a book seller so will be looking for that one!

      • March 17, 2012 6:28 am

        Bristol has a farmers market each week, but it only survives because they get free carparking nearby. One of the vegetable farmers sells vegetable bouquets – he and his wife had one for their wedding. Wodnerful stuff to be able to make soup with it after the wedding. People complain about all the foreigners coming to the country, but they buy unusual veg, which means the farmers can grow different stuff like kohl rabi, sugar beet and candy beet – they are great raw. You can get purple broccoli almost all year round which is also wonderful – poor mans asparagus. Adn tehre are lots of different types of cheese being made locally too, which is wonderful. and apples of course.

      • March 17, 2012 6:43 am

        I moved to West Virginia 5 years ago and was sad to learn that the local farmers market was only part of the year and pretty small. Also there were few pick your own places nearby, as the terrain obviously has a huge effect on how flat land is developed. However, as I meet more and more of the small farmers I see there are two issues: 1. there is more here than I, as a cook who wants good products understood (so we have to market better) but also 2. the farmers don;t know there is a market at all. So yes, this is consumer driven in a huge way!!!

      • March 17, 2012 7:07 am

        Farmers are becoming the ultimate entrepreneurs. A while back, there was a huge scandal over a farmer – I think in Essex – who was making portable gallows for African dictators. His defence was he was sjust supplying a need. He did not choose who ws exectured. Fair enough. But it shows how diverse soem farmers are becoming.

      • March 17, 2012 8:33 pm

        Any of our actions have effects….and in this kind of case, some people would have a strong feeling about the ethics.

      • March 18, 2012 9:49 am

        We always have choices, and part of that is about the PR that goes with them. I can’t imagine he made any friends from that, but maybe he did’t care.

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