Saturday, March 8, 2014
The farm store at Kay and Greg Fowler’s Spring Brook Farm has been in operation since 1997. Kay, who presides at the shop—husband Greg tends the farm—comes from an old Cumberland farming family, the Blanchard’s, who started farming in 1820 on the road of the same name. That land is no longer farmed. But the Fowlers, who are now in their retirement year, are perfectly content to manage their 30-acre Greely Rd. spread and keep the shop open.
Spring Brook Farm, Greely Rd
The store is known to area residents who come in regularly for grass-fed beef, pork, eggs, dairy, baked goods and farm food from other local growers and producers. It’s where customers go to get their roasts for Thanksgiving, Christmas and their hams for Easter and everything else in between. Kay is also a fixture at the Falmouth and Cumberland farmers’ markets.
Kay Fowler at the farm store
I stopped in the shop on Saturday to see what she had in store. There’s always a freezer case full of their farm-raised pastured beef and pork and if you’re lucky there might be cured bacon from their pigs (it sells out fast). It’s very smoky, intensely flavored bacon cut into thick, wide strips. I also saw some fresh and smoked hams in the freezer, too, and I’ve had them many times. It’s some of the best pastured pork around.
Inside the store showing the dairy case and farm goods like maple syrup and honey
In the freezer case there's all cuts of beef
Years ago Spring Brook was an active dairy farm, but the operation was eventually sold to Smiling Hill. You can still buy real buttermilk, milk and cream at the store under the Smiling Hill label.
Spring Brook's pastured pigs in their pen
The cows that you see grazing on pasture or behind the corral are, however, not for milking but for the farm’s beef, which is very special.
“Our beef is 100 percent grass fed,” said Fowler who maintains high standards of quality on her farm.
The land has been organically fertilized for years, though it’s never been formally certified as organic. But Fowler is adamant about how the herd is raised.
“Some grass-fed beef that you see in markets s often finished on grain,” said Fowler. “We don’t do that.”
Their beef cattle are actually Jerseys, which are otherwise prized by dairy farmers for the high-fat content of the milk. The Fowlers still maintain the Jersey breed, however, but it’s for beef, not dairy.
“That’s why you see," Fowler explained, “the slightly yellowed marbling in our beef because that’s typical of the Jersey breed. Also we don’t slaughter until they’re 36 months old compared to the standard 24 months.”
Older beef, according to Fowler, is more intensely flavored, rich and high in Omega-6 fatty acids.
Kay is always ready to give out a recipe or two, and she told me of her latest experience with her own beef chuck roast. She had a fresh one available (it hadn’t been put in the deep freeze yet) and didn’t have time to make a pot roast, the most common use of this tougher piece of meat. So she decided to roast it in the oven. She seasoned it with just salt and pepper, and roasted it at 325 degrees at about 20 minutes per pound until desired doneness (145 to 150 degrees for medium).
“I was amazed,” Fowler offered, “how tender it was just like a sirloin roast. I can’t guarantee that every cut of chuck you’ll get from me will be like that, but this one was.”
Spring Brook's chuck roast turns out surprisingly tender when oven roasted
I had to find out myself and bought a small roast. I prepared it as she instructed and it turned out perfectly tender and juicy, something that you don’t expect from an oven-roasted cut of chuck. But maybe that’s what happens from all the good breeding and caring at Spring Brook Farm.
Spring Brook Farm, 168 Greely Rd., Cumberland, ME 207-829-5977 or 207-671-3165. The store is open Tuesday to Friday Noon to 6:00 PM; Saturday 9:00 AM to Noon.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.