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Growing and eating it all on the family farm

November 6, 2009 |  6:00 pm


When Greg Nauta of Rocky Canyon Farm kills a cow, he gets two tri-tips. That’s doesn’t put him in a good position to sell to customers looking for tri-tip in quantity, so he needs people willing to cook all the other parts of the animal.

Fortunately, chefs such as Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City are interested in doing just that.

They, along with farmer Phil McGrath and moderator Evan Kleiman, talked Thursday night on a panel at the Santa Monica Library called “Eating the Whole Farm,” about a revivial of “nose to tail” farming and cooking practices.

Ford said he is buying whole rabbits, deer and pigs for his restaurant, adding that doing so gives him and his staff a new “reverence” for food animals.

McGrath noted that eating seasonably requires people to try new foods, to adapt to what's available, and that people are coming around to that idea.

“I remember back in the day when nobody would buy a beet. People were afraid of beets,” said Kleiman, host of the KCRW show “Good Food” and chef-owner of Angeli Caffe on Melrose.

Ford said he likes to use crops at several points in their growth. Young cilantro, the feathery fronds before it flowers and the flowers themselves all have different tastes and textures and uses in the kitchen.

Nauta’s Rocky Canyon Farm in Atascadero sells pork and beef. Nauta also grows vegetables and has a commercial juice room. His wife makes jams, which they may start selling.

His animals are pasture-raised, but they also get fed leftover vegetables from his crops. He says the cows love melons. But he learned from a friend to keep onions away from them or the milk with have an onion taste. The animals are butchered locally, and he sells the meat from coolers at farmers markets.

McGrath Family Farm has a farmstand and sells produce at farmers markets and to restaurants. But he also runs a community-supported agriculture program in which groups of people buy shares in the farm’s harvest – in advance, in McGrath’s case, a season at a time.

“It’s truly a commitment” for people to spend the money before they get the food, McGrath said.

He’s also planning a “huge” compost center on the farm.

He said he can employ workers year round on a diversified farm, comparing that to large one-crop operations that hire many people but in short spurts.

-- Mary MacVean

Photo of Phil McGrath by Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times