HOOKS, Texas -- As winter nears, Annemarie Sullivan is preparing for the holidays by packing the Sullifarm Shop freezers with meats from her pasture-raised animals. "Fall and winter are a great time for stocking the shop full of meat from animals after a long summer full of pasture grazing," said Sullivan, owner of Sullifarm and Kitchen. Not only do the dropping temperatures aid in the prevention of any pathogens that could make livestock ill, the winter season brings about a favorite treat for the pigs on the farm. "During this time of year, the pigs love having acorns and pumpkins added to their diet.
As soon as the acorns start dropping, the pigs go crazy," she said. "A lot of people in the community bring us their fall display pumpkins for the animals to eat so they don't go to waste." Besides being a nutritious winter food source, the donated gourds add a complex flavor to the meat of pigs that eat them, Sullivan said.
Livestock also receives a rotation of grain and hay during the colder months to encourage foraging over the course of winter, when the animals are not so enthusiastic to explore in frigid weather. "You can see, taste and smell the difference in meat from animals raised outside in their natural environment," Sulllivan said. For farm-to-table events, Sullivan develops a mystery menu using local, seasonal ingredients that she only reveals at the party.
The sold-out Thanksgiving dinner party was no different. "Our meals are intensely determined by what we and our local farmers are harvesting at the time," she said. In December, Sullifarm and Kitchen is hosting a BBQ Extravaganza with guest chef David Dan of Tyler, Texas. Sullivan and Dan will team up for a night of open-fire cooking using various Sullifarm pork cuts, in addition to chicken and beef sourced from East Texas farms. For those unable to attend farm-to-table events, Sullivan offers customizable pork pasture boxes.
She even personally delivers the boxes to local customers. For those willing to make the drive to Hooks, Sullifarm Shop can be found just a little farther down from the farm on County Road 2202, off Farm to Market Road 1398. Answer a related Daily Poll question at texarkanagazette.com/news/polls. "I love to take a Sunday drive down that country road that leads to the Sullifarm Shop to pick out my favorites -- pastured pork sausage, pecans, fresh bread, vintage treasures and sometimes flowers," regular customer Leah Trumble said.
"Literally all of my favorite things in one special little place." By building her farm on the foundations of regenerative and sustainable techniques, Sullivan operates on principles of restoration, repair, healing and health, with the intention of leaving land and its resources in better condition than found.
She said allowing her animals to graze increases the organic matter in the topsoil, which makes the animals' food more nutritious. This translates into more nutritious food for customers, Sullivan said. The livestock are provided an environment that fits their habits, from pigs having mud to roll in, to geese that are free to roam and play in puddles. Sullivan said having happy, well-fed animals provides the best protein source for tasty, quality food.
After all, it was cooking that led Sullivan to pursue farming. Sullifarm was born from Sullivan's desire for delicious and nutritious food for her own taste buds. Eight years later, it has grown into a mission to help others prioritize their health. "Life can be more positive when you eat well and feel well," she said. In addition to creating a healthier community, Sullivan encourages other farmers to practice sustainable production.
Doing so increases the nutrients and the diversity in local food and aids in boosting rural economies by reducing the gap between farmers and consumers, Sullivan said. Sullifarm and Kitchen also aims to lift the community by forming relationships around food. Sullivan wants to create a dialogue where consumers and farmers are discussing where their food originates, how their food was grown and how that food impacts individual people, the community and the environment. "Every time you eat a meal, you are either enforcing a positive or negative effect," Sullivan said.
"Not just to your body, but to our animals, our communities, our future generations and our natural resources." (Sullifarm and Kitchen is at 495 County Road 2202 in Hooks. For more information, visit www.sullifarm.com. Find Sullifarm and Kitchen on social media at @sullifarmandkitchen.)