Wow, what a whirlwind few days I had last week! Did I mention that my flight last Wednesday was at 6:00 a.m., and that the car taking me to the airport was picking me up at 3:00 a.m.? I ended up going to bed around 9:30 at night on Tuesday, and Tony actually woke me up as my alarm was going off and I didn’t hear it – thanks Tony! I woke up at 2:40, jumped in the shower to wake me up more than anything and then was turning the Keurig on when the car pulled into the drive. I brought my suitcase out to let him know I knew he was there, and told him I was just going to run in and get my coffee and purse. When I came back outside, he was holding the back passenger door for me – it was kind of like I was a rockstar.
That was my personal driver, who, um apparently didn’t like to talk much. Other than to mention the construction and talk about mosquitos, that was the extent of our conversation! Thanks for the ride!
Even getting to the airport at 4:00 a.m., getting through security still took me an hour. At that early part of the morning, only one security station was open and it didn’t matter what gate your plane was going out of, we all went through the same security line. Um, one problem. I put all my toiletries in a quart size bag – check. I took off my shoes – check. Put my purse in the bin – check. Put my jacket in the bin – check. What I forgot to do? Take off my Fitbit! Once I went through the security booth, they pulled me to the side and patted me down – I thought, okay random pick a person out of the line to pat down, until she pointed to the Fitbit and asked what it was. Doh! I had to hand it to her and she had to run it through separately! I will say, though, I had nearly 2000 steps before 5:00 a.m. – nice!
Both of the planes I flew in were what I consider tiny. I am not a fan of flying. I realize I have a better chance of getting hit by a car than anything happening to me in a plane, but I still get nervous. And the last several times I’ve flown, I have been by myself, so I don’t think it is that appropriate to ask my seat mate if they’ll hold my hand if it gets turbulent.
I have to say though that the travel there was seamless. No delays, nothing. I ended up getting at the hotel by 10:30 – our first event didn’t start until 4:00, but there weren’t really any other flights that got me in Lubbock without several hours of layover before then. No worries – they said my room would be ready by 1:00 so I just set off to get my steps in!
I started walking to what I thought looked like the main street. It turned out to be University Avenue by Texas Tech University.
Did you guys know that football is really popular in Texas? Ha! It was a huge stadium. I started walking in a direction to find someplace to have lunch. I stumbled across this statue:
I looked around to see if I could find a sign telling me if these were maybe important people to Texas Tech, but I didn’t see anything. And they were huge – I barely was taller than the elbows! Weird. Now I have to admit, I only went in one direction where I could see that there was anything other than the campus. But I have to admit. Lubbuck is kind of boring. And as a total coincidence, yesterday an article actually came out that said that Lubbock was just named the most boring city in America!
Of course, being in Texas I had brisket on my mind. I had already googled where Rudy’s BBQ was, and it was 11 miles away – which doesn’t seem like far unless you don’t have a car. And from what I could tell, the cab service and public transportation wasn’t too apparent. I put on my google map “BBQ place from my location” and found that a place called The Arrogant Texan was just a few blocks away. Score!
But I was a bit confused. It was half BBQ place and half vintage candy/gelato store. So I walk to the restaurant part of it and ask for a menu – nope, you need to go next door to the candy store and the menu is on a blackboard there. Huh. So as I am smelling sweet candy and in front of a gelato case, I am looking at the menu – not bad prices – $8 for a choice of meat, beans and corn bread. Except no one was around to ask questions. I went to the BBQ side, no one was around, went back to the candy store, that was empty too. I waited a good 7 minutes and then said “f this” and left. I did take this picture for Tony though – he loves John Wayne!
I ended up at a taco place and ordered . . . fish tacos. So weird for me, but they were really good. By the time I finished lunch it was time to head back to the hotel and check in and relax. It felt like I had already been up 24 hours!
Our first event was at the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock. This was where we were going to see the documentary Farmland, which is still actually playing in theaters now. You can watch the trailer here. We were lucky enough to have two of the stars of the documentary in attendance to do a Q & A after the film viewing. Brad Bellah is a sixth generation cattle rancher. He and his wife Molly were actually expecting twins during the filming of this documentary – they were at the hotel now 11 months old.
Here he was during our wine meet and greet before the film.
I appeared to be about the only one who didn’t own a pair of cowboy boots!
What struck me the most as I followed these ranchers and farmers is that this is a true commitment. You can’t go half assed in thinking “I am going to raise cattle, or I am going to become a Certified Naturally Grown vegetable farmer.” You are all in. And in the advent of social media, Brad said it’s routine as he is on his 14-15 hour work day to look down at his phone and to see his old college friends on twitter and Facebook asking who wants to meet up for happy hour. There is no happy hour when you are a farmer. And his wife Molly talked about the solitude of being a farmers wife. It’s not like you can look at your next door neighbor and she that she’s up and knock on the door and have a cup of coffee with her. The farm is so spread out that you can’t even see your neighbors and she did admit at times that it’s a lonely life. They got married in 2011 – how beautiful is this weeding picture?
Out of the 317 million people living in the United States, only 1% are farmers. The average age of a farmer? 60! Yet 90% of the food produced in the U.S. comes from family farms. Farmers and ranchers don’t set their prices either, the market does – so it can change 25% week to week!
And we watched a woman Margaret from Pennsylvania who is a Certified Naturally Grown vegetable farmer – holy balls does that woman work hard. Like Brad, she’s college educated but wanted to do what was her passion. Her parents never even had a garden growing up! She now provides food through her local CSA, farmers markets and to local chefs. You can see a video here of how she got started.
The bottom line is that it is almost impossible for a young person to just “decide” to be a cattle farmer. Land is so expensive and from what I garnered, each rancher only makes about $10 a cow after all is said and done – from raising it from birth, weaning it from the Momma, having it double in size at the feed yard to being slaughtered. While chicken ranchers take care of everything from beginning to end, no cattle farmer could do that because it would be too expensive – no cattle rancher can own all the cattle, all the land, the feed yard and the slaughter house, which is why the profit margin is so small. That’s why the particular feed yard we visited has 123,000 cattle that come through their yard every year so as to make a profit by sheer volume.
I did get to eat brisket! That was our dinner on Wednesday night – so tender and good! With some corn bread and a hot pepper on the side. Not even sure how that got there!
Tomorrow I’ll talk about our trip to the feed yard. Be prepared to see a lot of cow pictures!
I slept in both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday afternoon around 1:00 I was still so tired even though I had only been up for a few hours that I contemplated taking a nap, but I powered through. I worked on Saturday night and it was steady busy and I was home by 10:30 – nice! Yesterday we went grocery shopping. We sat outside and grilled up a Greek marinated chicken – simply marinated it in 1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice and a one teaspoon of olive oil for a few hours before going on the grill. I also cut out the back so that this cooked in about 50 minutes.
Our snack, based on Courtney’s fabulous idea for a dinner party, was burrata cheese, sesame toast and a tomato relish – I simply seeded and put two tomatoes in my mini chopper with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I added extra salt and pepper to mine to reduce the salt for Tony since there was salt in the vinegar. Um, turns out he didn’t want to try it anyway – it was good though!
That picture of the chicken was taken with my iPhone – I use a free app called Camera+ and this is under the “special” filters, and it’s called “depth of field.” Not bad for my iPhone 4!
Tony had fun wearing my cowboy hat that I got on the trip – I missed him!
And now it’s back to the grind. I ended up cooking my lunch while the coals were hot – Greek marinated chicken breasts with zucchini. I also made a batch of brown rice, so that’s two of my lunches for the week already prepared. I am going to share the Greek marinated chicken breast tomorrow – so good!
Looking forward to catching up with you guys and see what you’ve been up to. Each day this week I am going to highlight one of the bloggers I was happy to get to know last week. First up?
I actually met Heather at the last Live Well get together last October, and it was through her that I learned about the crock pot recipe contest in one of her weekly “what’s on the web” posts. She originally started her blog when she had an engagement breakup. She had traveled all the way from Texas to upstate New York, only to be left without knowing a sole. You can read the long story here, which I definitely think is worth reading! But since that post, she’s now dating again, and while she blogs at Then Heather Said, her true passion is the Healthy Living Summit. Long time food bloggers will know that this was started by the (throw up in my mouth) KERF, Meghann, Caitlin – I am not even going to link to their names because Heather has taken it to a whole new level, matching sponsorship with actual products that fit an active and healthy lifestyle. Heather has also lost 60 pounds and counting, and I am proud to call her not only a blog friend but a friend in real life!
Sorry this is so long – so much to say! Alright, I have exactly 15 minutes to get shit together – make it a great day!
Disclaimer: This trip was provided to me free from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to review for the blog. All opinions are my own.