Our local growers are out of sight ─ but certainly not out of mind. We’re pretty jazzed about what Glenn and Caryl Elzinga are up to over at Alderspring Ranch. Their certified organic grass-fed beef is just about as good as it gets, we thinks.
Recently Glenn weighed in on everything from his favorite beef-based meal to direct marketing:
How long have you partnered with the Co-op?
Wow. I think it has been around 12 years!
Which products do you grow ─ and which of those are sold at the Co-op?
Just certified organic grass-fed beef, raised on our ranch. That's it!!
How and why did you become active in your particular style of growing?
We were always interested in connecting folks with their food. However, the "tipping" point for direct marketing happened one day when we were driving across Kansas in the pouring rain. We had a bunch of little kids in the back seat, and they said "Dad! What is that SMELL?" It soon became apparent through our rain-streaked windows when we observed in our silence that there were hundreds ─ no, thousands ─ of calves and yearling-sized beef cattle in a huge feedlot, up to their bellies in the muck.
One of my girls slowly spoke up, picking her words carefully: "Dad? Are our calves in there?" I said that I didn't know for sure. We had loaded them a few weeks ago, filling a semi for somewhere in Kansas. That was the end of us being a cow-calf operator. Our grass-fed beef experiments (this was 20 years ago) had yielded enough results that we were ready to jump off the pier into the sea of direct marketing. There was no mud there, by the way. It has been a journey — that is for sure. But it has been a right one.
What are the guiding principles of your work?
The word “wellness” or “health” really sums it all up. It is foundationally about healthy soils, and then the plants that grow on our wild soils, and our beeves that live on that by eating, and giving back, and ultimately us, the final consumers of that health.
What’s the impost important thing for consumers to understand about Alderspring?
We raise wild protein. We have all heard of Wild Alaskan Salmon. Our beeves live a very wild life. On Alderspring, they never live on row-crop ground. They never live in a feedlot. In the summer, they wander on 70 square miles of certified organic wildlands in the mountain country near the high Pahsimeroi.
They share their habitat with nearly every wild large animal species in Idaho: elk, deer, mountain sheep, lions and wolves. They make their own food choices. Even on our home ranch, we give them big areas to graze because we believe that the beeves know best about what to eat and when. It makes our beef some of the most nutritionally dense food available on the earth because we have not determined what our beeves eat ─ they have. And they are the experts.