About a half an hour south of Notre Dame, Indiana, is Grass is Greener Farm, a husband and wife operation on the plains of the Hoosier State that raises heritage livestock and poultry: beef, lamb, pork, goose, chicken, and turkey. The farm’s name plays on the idiom which observes that, from the outside, we humans are tempted to view others’ lives through “rose-colored glasses” but, really, things aren’t as rosy as they seem. It’s a clever name for the farm since the assertion being made is that, actually, things are better here.
Hearing good things about the farm from more than one breed association, I was excited to meet John and Toni Rowe–the farm’s owners–with whom I spent the better part of a warm, breezy afternoon a couple weeks back. When I arrived at Grass is Greener, John was grilling sausage. Forsaking lunch for the time being, he, his wife, their daughter Hannah, and I jumped into a utility vehicle and began moving from one part of the farm to the next.
We began with their herd of Red Poll cattle, which were just recently put out to pasture after a bitterly cold and long winter. In a moment of blissful silence, one could hear only the sounds of the warm wind and the cattle ripping and crunching on the lush pasture grasses. The Rowes use rotational grazing and give their herd a 100% grass-fed diet. Their veterinarian, who visits numerous farms, marvels at the health and vitality of their herd, a testament to the quality of the beef they raise.
Their chickens are raised on the same pasture as the cattle, using a system made popular by Joel Salatin. In this system, the birds are sequestered to a specific area of the field–chicken coop and all–by large, portable containment units that act as screens. This allows chickens to graze on pasture in the open air while they are kept safe from outside predators (and from flying away). When they’ve sufficiently picked through an area of the field, the unit (and chickens) are transported to another part of the farmland.
The hogs are fed a diet of GMO-free corn (grown by the Rowes themselves), a salad of pasture-grasses, and whey. The Rowes and I pulled handfuls of herbage from a dense pasture area–buckets-full–and tossed the nutrient-dense greens to the swine. After more than an hour in the fields, it was time for the Rowes to return to their lunch and for me to say goodbye. Before leaving, I purchased some ground of Red Poll beef, ribeye steaks of the same, and Red Wattle pork chops–along with ground pork.
While I could hardly wait to get home to try the samples of Grass is Greener heritage meats, I also couldn’t resist a rendezvous with an old priest-friend of mine in Notre Dame, through which I would pass on my way back home. The University in the summer has all the feel of a well-manicured garden or even a private golf course for those of noble parentage; it is lush and serene. My host, Fr. Michael, and I dined at the newly renovated Morris Inn, a sort of clubhouse for Notre Dame alumni. Dinner was a Reuben sandwich washed down with a tumbler of Scotch. Leaving the Inn, we enjoyed the waning hours of the day on the shores of St. Joseph’s lake, gazing across the water at the Golden Dome which glowed softly in the pinkish-gray light of the evening sky. For the outsider looking in, you’d see two good friends catching up over Havana cigars with rye whiskey at the ready. You might be tempted to think, “Boy, that’s the life.” And you’d be right.