Beaver Creek Ranch – Grantsburg, WI

Crystal Ball Farms’ cow barn burning down was awful enough, but the consequences don’t stop there. Our dairy farmer friends have distributed local food from St. Croix County down through eastern Minnesota and back into western Wisconsin every Friday since 2004. Their rural route helps out a lot of good folks and now that distribution system has been put on hold for six months or until they are able to rebuild. This new reality also means that we don’t get weekly meat deliveries from Doug and Kathy Anderson at Beaver Creek Ranch (Grantsburg, WI).

Since September 2010, Just Local Food Co-op’s meat buyer, Nik, has called Doug every Tuesday and placed our order: a case or two of chicken breasts, a case of chicken thighs, the best damn chorizo sausage anywhere in the Upper Midwest, and “a box of wieners” for good measure. Every week Nik and Doug giggle like immature schoolboys to their favorite meat-related jokes. Every Wednesday Doug loads his pick-up with boxes of grass-fed Highland beef, Duroc pork, and poultry (processed by the Ye Ol’ Butcher Shoppe) and drives to the dairy farm where the boxes are stored in Crystal Ball’s walk-in freezer. Every Friday morning (early) the boxes are loaded onto the milk truck and delivered to co-ops like ours by the likes of Brad or Jim or Barb or Troy, depending on who’s had a hernia, or who’s on vacation, or whose truck broke down, blew a tire, or was engulfed in flames. (We always buy ’em a coffee whenever that happens!)

At any rate, the silver lining now is that though we will place orders less frequently (and may experience some out-of-stocks), we get to see Doug in person! And that is always a pleasure.

The first time Nik met Doug was in January of 2011. JLF’s meat department was a lot less meaty back then, and since Nik didn’t know what he was doing and because there was no formal training process (no formal anything, really), Nik and Aaron took a road-trip up to Grantsburg and met with Doug on a bitterly cold and windswept day. Twenty-below-zero not to mention a windchill. Doug’s hay (his main crop) was buried under snow, the woolly Highlanders were fending for themselves, and Doug (only 73 back then!) was giddy with excitement. He fairly sprinted from shed to barn to shed, told the stories behind every tool and piece of machinery, leapt over open holes in his hay mow, and then after a couple of hours, after everyone was officially cold and unable to speak cogently, Doug took Nik and Aaron inside the house which was warm and filled with the aroma of homemade chorizo chili. (Doug learned how to cook after he returned from his service in the Korean occupation and found employment at San Quentin, California’s notorious state penitentiary.) Kathy had also made bread the night before and Doug had pressed several heads of garlic, so everyone ate chili and dipped fresh bread in garlic oil. Nik’s paradigm was shattered that day on so many levels, but mostly he remembers Doug eating two bowls of chili in the time it took him to eat one–and Doug, as always, never stopped telling stories.

Here’s to the Andersons!