Lamb produced by Evermore Farm in Westminster will be an ingredient in the grilled Persian-style kofta barbecue with tomato shirazi and mujaddara salads offered during Gov. Larry Hogan's annual invitation-only Buy Local Cookout on Thursday, July 20.
According to a Maryland Department of Agriculture news release, 21 recipes were selected based on availability of ingredients, geographic representation, maximum use of local ingredients and creativity. All recipe submissions will be published in the "Recipes from the 2017 Buy Local Cookout" cookbook.
"It is a wonderful opportunity to support and celebrate local food and meet our kindred spirits while learning innovation in this effort from our peers," said John Myers, who co-owns Evermore Farm with his wife, Ginger.
The cookout partners chefs and farmers, Ginger Myers explained. The Myerses worked with chef Michael Cleary of Bon Appétit Management Co. at St. John's College, and provided 60 pounds of ground lamb. Baltimore County's Roseda Black Angus Farm provided the beef and Caroline County's Hummingbird Farms produced the tomatoes for the dish.
"It has become pretty competitive. There are a lot of bragging rights involved," Ginger Myers said.
Ginger Myers said the couple's mission is to share the wealth and feed their neighbors. Their farm was founded in 1783 and is directly descended from the lands owned by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence for whom Carroll County is named. The couple runs the farm with a philosophy from their Pennsylvania dairy farm backgrounds to "leave the land better than we found it."
John Myers manages the fields of their 21 acres and Ginger Myers manages the livestock and marketing. They also employ a full-time farm manager and two part-time employees. The stewardship process starts with the soil and John Myers said the object is to improve its fertility, tilth, organic levels and physical condition.
"This requires an understanding of what is going on in that soil and attending to those needs. The traditional shortcuts of chemical fertilizers may be effective, but may also come up short long-term. I take the long view. I add manure, compost, and all manner of organic materials to the soil to improve the parameters I've described above," John Myers said.
"We want a healthy eco-system in the soil. This also means protecting the vital topsoil in the soils we borrow during our stay on planet Earth. To protect soil, it needs to be healthy, we must be mindful of erosion and protect soil from loss that is so hard to build."
Myers said it is vital that farmers educate the public on the realities of food production where they can.
"Animals in our care must be treated with respect and an understanding of the sacrifice being made so that we can survive. It is important that we ask ourselves about moral implications as we consider the latest technological offerings to enhance food production. Just because we can does not mean we should," he said.
"We believe all of our animals should have access to grass, dirt, space and shelter. They need an environment that allows them to be as they were made. We must understand their needs and cater to them while they are with us and ensure that when they come to the end, it is done humanely and with dignity."
The Myerses raise Berkshire hogs; Irish Dexter-belted Galloway crosses for beef; layer and broiler chickens; and Katahdin hair sheep, a breed developed with crosses from Africa and the Caribbean. They also cross Katahdin ewes with Dorper males for better meat production.
"We're looking for a larger loin and leg," Ginger Myers said. "We're seeing the popularity of lamb increase, much due to ethic populations that prefer lamb and goat. Lambs are also popular during Christian Easter and Greek Orthodox Easter."
Ginger Myers said they lamb once a year and wait until March so the sheep have enough grass on the pasture. Their sheep are mostly grassfed but may have some grain to keep them healthy during the winter.
"For us, it's the most natural way to feed the animals we have," she said. "The trade-off is that they do grow slower. We have to charge a little more because it takes more time and effort.
"The best compliment we receive is that the meat tastes so clean. Customers start off for the health benefits or how the product was raised. They come back for the flavor and the transparency in both the production and the sale."
The Myerses sell community supported agriculture shares and run an on-farm market year-round. They also have a spot at the Westminster Farmers Market and sell to restaurants like JeannieBird Baking Co. and Rare Opportunity Bakehouse.
"We put a real emphasis on selling food to people within a 20-mile radius," Ginger Myers said. "If we don't support local production, the land will be lost to construction projects and will no longer be a working landscape. If you want to see the next generation of local farmers, you need to buy their local products."
"Because food does not travel far in this model, food is fresher and generally more nutritious as there is little need for altering with preservatives and so on," John Myers said. "Because food does not travel very far, we save all of those nasty road miles with the downstream consequences. When you buy local, you meet the person producing your food and consequently connect with not only how your food is produced but you also become aware of the production season concerns, and this helps to provide an appreciation for the food with which we are so richly blessed."
Customer Mona Becker, of Westminster, described Evermore Farm as "a gem in Westminster."
"It is the closest place you can buy ethically raised, pasture raised meat," Becker said. "The heritage breeds they use do contribute to the taste. It's fresh and hasn't been transported more than a few miles. I'm a big fan of their chorizo because the spices in it are just phenomenal."
Customer Stacy Shaffer, of Westminster, said she buys from Evermore Farm because "they raise their animals in an environment that's both sustainable and ethical."
"You see the animals out in the field, and they look happy and self-actualized," Shaffer said. "I know when I'm buying something from them that it was raised with a good quality of life. You can taste the difference — it tastes like it should taste."
For more information, visit www.evermorefarm.com or call 443-398-6548.