Tag Archives: Crane Dance Farm

Farming How Nature Intended

Consider Animal Welfare Approved farms the next time you buy meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. It makes a difference to the animals, the environment, the farmers, and to you.

One of my favorite local AWA farms for meat is Crane Dance, in Middleville, Michigan. And I love Grassfields for eggs and raw milk cheeses.

What about yours? Here’s where you can find farms near you.

Fulton Street Farmers Market in Winter

Last month I was excited to learn that Michigan ranks in the top ten states for its number of winter farmers markets. Even though the Holland Farmers Market, my most local one, isn’t open in the dead of winter, the Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids is. Generally, it’s a bit of a drive for me on a Saturday morning, but Bill was planning to be in town today so he paid a visit, picked up some produce from Visser Farms as well as some bratwursts from Crane Dance Farm, and took these photos. For now, the market is temporarily located in the Salvation Army parking lot while construction is underway to expand and upgrade the current site, including the addition of permanent roof structures to provide shelter for this open-air market.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thanks to these hardy folks for enduring the elements each week to provide us their local goods!

When Garlic Scapes Are in Season

What is a garlic scape?

A few years ago I may not have been able to answer that question. But since I’ve become a locavore (whenever possible….it’s tough to be a pure locavore living in the North Country!), I’ve paid more attention to what’s available at my local farmers markets.

Well, it’s scape season! Garlic scapes are the shoots of the garlic bulb, edible and delicious in salads, pesto, on pizza, or simply sautéed.

I decided to roast mine with some asparagus, also in season here in Michigan right now, that I picked up along with the scapes from Eaters Guild–one of my favorite organic producers–at the Holland Farmers Market today, along with some fingerling potatoes from Visser Farms.

First I roasted the potatoes in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Then I added the scapes (chopped) to the oil and placed the asparagus on top.

I roasted the vegetable mixture another ten minutes.

Then served the vegetables alongside a Grilled Ribeye Steak that I picked up from Crane Dance Farm at the Holland Farmers Market this morning. I love it when they make the trek to Holland on Saturdays!

Crane Dance Farm’s Mobile Meat Market

Yesterday, when I was at the Holland Farmers Market stocking up on produce for the winter, I stopped by the Crane Dance Farm booth to pick up some stew meat for Beef Bourguignon. Owned by Jill Johnson and Mary Wills and located in Middleville, Michigan, Crane Dance Farm is one of Bill’s and my favorite choices for meat when we need to supplement our stash from Lubbers Farm.

Mary and Jill from Crane Dance Farms

In the winter, we usually buy meat from Crane Dance Farm at the West Michigan Co-op, but yesterday Tim and Stephanie Pierce, two of the farm’s apprentices, gave me a flyer advertising their winter schedule. I was thrilled to learn they will be setting up their Mobile Meat Market at the Holland Civic Center one Thursday afternoon a month from December through April! (Check out their Winter Delivery Schedule on the farm’s website.)

So if you’re looking for a healthy, happy source of meat–from grassfed beef and lamb to pastured pork, poultry, and eggs–visit the Crane Dance Farm Mobile Meat Market in Holland. The bonus? They’re Animal Welfare Approved.

Pork Piccata

Piccata in Italian means “larded,” but when you see the word on a menu, it generally means a boneless cut of meat that’s sautéed in a lemon butter sauce.

During my detox week last winter, I made a Bill-friendly Chicken Piccata dish from one of the happy chickens we had in our freezer. This recipe for Pork Piccata is basically the same thing. Ingredients may vary depending what you have available but the key ingredients you must include, in my opinion, are: breading, lemon, garlic, and–obviously–meat.

Pork Piccata

2 boneless pork chops, or pork tenderloin medallions (about 1 lb. of meat)

1/2 cup or more brown rice flour (or other flour depending on your dietary restrictions)

1 egg

2 T. or more olive oil for sautéing

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc (or water or chicken stock)

1/2 a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: Capers for garnish

One deviation from most of the Pork Piccata recipes I’ve seen is substituting boneless pork chops for pork tenderloins. That’s because the idea originated from two Crane Dance Farm pork chops that were in the freezer.

Because of their thickness, I flattened the chops by placing them between two pieces of wax paper on the counter and smashing them with a meat tenderizer until 1/2-inch thick at the most. (I also trimmed the fat at this point.)

Then I cut each one in two and sprinkled the pieces with salt and pepper.

Next, I smashed and peeled a clove a garlic, then cut in half. I sautéed the garlic with olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until golden. It’s important to remove the garlic from the pan afterwards so it doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile, I stirred the egg in a flat bowl and added some water, and set up another bowl with brown rice flour for dredging.

After dipping the pork in the egg mixture, then the flour, I placed it in a medium-high skillet with olive oil–about 3 minutes per side or until nicely browned.

Then I removed the pork from the pan, keeping it warm, and added the white wine and deglazed the pan. (Water or stock could be used in this step in lieu of wine.) 

Afterward, I added fresh-squeezed lemon juice and stirred the liquids to blend, then returned the pork to pan and coated it with sauce. I covered the pan and cooked the pork on low heat until done, about 10 minutes.

One of my favorite ingredients for garnishing is capers but you could also use fresh chopped parsley. A very nice accompaniment to Pork Picatta is Red Russian Kale and Blue Potatoes. You can’t go wrong mixing pork, kale, and potatoes together on a plate!

Not Your Father’s (or Mother’s) Ribeye Steak

Back in December, when Bill and I picked up our first order of meat and vegetables from the West Michigan Co-op, we discovered that we could buy excess products from vendors from whom we hadn’t ordered. One of these vendors was Crane Dance Farm, run by two women who raise grassfed animals on their farm in Middleville, Michigan. (An interesting twist to the story is that they took the herd of cows from Providence Farms, our previous supplier, which has ceased operations.) So it was a natural connection for us to meet with Mary and Jill, who will be soon setting up a booth at the Holland Farmers’ Market. We’re excited to have them in Holland!

We bought a couple of ribeye steaks to try. But December in Michigan doesn’t offer many chances to grill unless you keep your grill in the garage, which we don’t. We had to wait until the snowmelt, which amazingly occurred this week.

The main thing I want to share is how grassfed meat is different from what you’d buy in the grocery store. Therefore, you need to cook it differently, too. This took some adjustment for me at first, but we’ve been eating only grassfed meat for the last two or three  years now so we’ve got the process down.

If you haven’t switched over from feedlot meat, it is so worth it. For one thing, the meat is more nutritious and less fatty. And, I’ve read, animals that are less stressed–let’s say, happy cows–offer better meat. (See Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, for more information.)

In the U.S., we’ve been conditioned over the years to look for “marbled” meat, thanks to the marketeers of the beef industry. But grassfed meat should not be marbled. And that’s why it’s leaner, and better for you.

I found a great recipe from Epicurious.com that ensures you won’t overcook your grassfed ribeye steak. It’s called Grilled Grass-Fed Rib-Eye Steaks with Balsamic-Caper Vinaigrette. Although I’ve made the recipe before, tonight we opted to just do the paprika rub, and not the vinaigrette. And the steaks were delicious.

The rub, preceded by a garlic and olive oil rub, seems to be the key to keeping the meat’s moisture in.

Of course, the grillmaster is key, too. Bill has the best technique: Sear each side for one minute on our Weber Q 300 grill. Then grill for two more minutes per side.

And, it’s important that the meat rests when it comes off the grill….usually for about two minutes under foil.


We enjoyed our steaks with Kale Risotto and a salad with greens from our CSA. And, because each of our steaks was just under a pound, we were able to save the leftovers for another meal.