by Michele Murphy
When the owner of Carnivore Meats & More says local, he means really local. And he’s willing to invest in his community to make that happen.
On a snowy Sunday in February Carnivore Meats owner Ian MacDonald arrived at Woodwynn Farms, the therapeutic community for the homeless on the old Woodward farm in Central Saanich. MacDonald was delivering what will now become Woodwynn’s breeding and meat program – a small herd of heritage Dexter cows, complete with two calves. They were the latest, and most significant donation from the supportive butcher shop owner in what has been a three-year relationship with the farm.
When asked how this relationship started, Kate Wamboldt, Woodwyn’s Farm Manager recalled “Ian walked into our office one day about three years ago and asked if we wanted some meat.“ The program needed food for their participants, volunteers and staff and Carnivore fit with the Farm’s values around quality, drug-, chemical- and hormone-free food, so they gratefully accepted. “It’s been a wonderful relationship ever since,” says Wamboldt.
I think that you have healthier soil when you have more hands in the earth, and we’re very fortunate here at Woodwynn to have lots of hands that want to be in the earth ~ Kate Wamboldt
To date Carnivore’s support has been frozen meats when they have a surplus, nothing out-dated, just extra. MacDonald explains, “We buy our animals from local island farmers whole, which means that it can be a little tricky selling every part of the animal and sometimes we end up with more than we can hold in our freezers. So it made sense to offer our extras to our neighbours at Woodwynn.” What that donation looks like for the farm cooks is often grilling steaks in the winter, and stewing beef and pot roasts in the summer, but they make good use of whatever they receive.
Through the years MacDonald has gotten to know Wamboldt, and understand and respect Woodwynn’s farming philosophy and vision. “They believe in growing organically, respecting the earth, understanding the benefits of chemical- and drug-free farming and husbandry. These are values that I, and therefore Carnivore, share. I was very happy to add Woodwynn to my list of local suppliers when they began offering specialty fowl and meats. And, adding a social benefit to the environmental and health benefits of the food that we sell, is really exciting for us.”
So when a local farmer told MacDonald that he was selling the last of his heritage Dexter cattle as he had become ill and was no longer able to ranch, and asked if he knew of anyone that might want them, MacDonald knew of just the right home.
The Dexters are a good fit for Woodwynn Farms as it continues to beef-up its almost 200-acre farm operations. “Our vision is to move from hay production and return the farm to closer to its origins when the Woodwards owned it, with a mix of husbandry and organic vegetable farming,” explains Wambodlt. Adding cattle to the mix is part of a larger plan as the farm works to enrich its soil and improve the yield of organic produce. “We are moving away from mechanization and chemicals, and towards a more sustainable model of farming. I think that you have healthier soil when you have more hands in the earth, and we’re very fortunate here at Woodwynn to have lots of hands that want to be in the earth,” she adds.
Dexters are smaller animals than the full-size Black Angus that roamed the pastures when the Woodwards owned the farm. Dexter cows are usually around 750 lbs, to a Black Angus’ 1100+ lbs. According to the Canadian Dexter Cattle Association they are a calm and gentle animal, they eat less, calf easily, live long, and can breed until late in life.
Labelled as the ideal family cow, Dexters may be perfect for the Woodwynn family as the animals will not only offer pasture cultivation, rich manure, milk and meat, they will also offer companionship. Kylie Janzen, a Woodwynn program participant, grew up on a farm in Alberta and feels right at home with the cows. She says that farm life offers her an opportunity to connect with herself. “It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, I always get up to feed the animals,” she says. “They help me to connect to myself and the earth, and understand the cycle of life. And though I’m always sad to see them go, I am grateful to be part of it.”
MacDonald says that he too has long been a fan of the little bovines. “Dexters are a fine animal. They produce high-quality milk, tender meat, they are easy on the earth, and great with people – all values that I’ve built Carnivore around. I think that it’s a great fit for Carnivore, for the Dexters and for the community.”
Watch for Woodwynn Farms beef in the fresh case at Carnivore Meat & More in Brentwood Bay sometime this spring.