Catherwood Organics, Humble Beginnings
by Betty Hamm
“Hey there, everyone!” Finally, some rain instead of snow, some sunshine instead of snow, and some heat instead of cold. Our little chicks arrived April 4th, just two days before -31ºC hit, and that was a challenge. But we are so used to challenges in farming that we just continue on. However, way back when, continuing on was not as easy as it is now.
Let me introduce our family business. My name is Betty Hamm, and along with my husband Leslie and our children Tamara, Amanda, and Joel, (and now 12 grandchildren), we are Catherwood Organics located near Perdue, Saskatchewan.
We were a young family with dreams of raising our kids on the farm where they would be safe, learn a good work ethic, and live the Canadian dream. In those days, we couldn’t afford to butcher an animal. We needed to move them through the system to pay bills.
As a family, we were experiencing a few minor health issues in the late nineties, but we thought they weren’t a big deal. After all, other families were experiencing similar issues—a little eczema, a phlegmy throat, constant runny noses, weight issues, ear infections, frequent headaches, and achy joints. We worried that we weren’t helping our bodies with the cumulative exposure to chemicals and hormones in the food we were buying. But remember, we thought we couldn’t afford to keep a cow or a pig.
In 1997, we made the decision to go organic. Oh yeah, we were the hippies, the neighbour with weird ideas. We took the brunt of many jokes and jabs, but we soon came to the conclusion that we couldn’t afford NOT to be eating our own organically-raised food. After researching many sources, we discovered food was the best medicine for the gut, which controls what ails the rest of the body. The phlegmy throat and the eczema were taken care of by drinking raw A2A2 milk… instead of store-bought white liquid that resembled milk but was lacking the beneficial nutrients that the pasteurization process took out. The achy joints improved with the reduction of processed meats and foods in our diet. And for whatever reason (maybe no antibiotics or pesticides), the headaches diminished, too. I started baking with our own certified organic wheat and flax and, for these small changes, we felt healthier and more energetic.
It is well known that we are exposed to so many unavoidable toxins which may or may not end up making us ill. So every little change we can make will reap huge rewards. I truly believe it is the cumulative exposure to toxins in our environment and food that can have grave consequences. Choosing healthy foods is an easy change to make. You really are what you eat.
As an added bonus, our pork chops will brown in the pan instead of staying a deathly gray colour, and they are tender and juicy instead of tough and dried out. And there is never a faint smell of barn lingering in the air while cooking it. And our meat has real flavour. The beef tastes like beef that mom made every Monday, so there would be meat for sandwiches throughout the week. The pork tastes and smells like roast pork again. The Chicken… mmmm… tastes like Sunday chicken from days gone by.
At Catherwood Organics, we don’t throw the word “organic” around willy-nilly. That word really means something to us. We continue to raise our animals on our own farm, under our family’s constant supervision. We are proud that we have earned the label “organic.” We are accountable. We are scrutinized by a third-party inspection every year, and our grains can be spot tested at any time anywhere in the food chain. The only way you can have that assurance with your food is for you to know your farmer.
We don’t use steroids, growth hormones, chemicals, sprays, or unnecessary antibiotics. When animals are raised properly with very little stress, they don’t get sick. But should one need to be treated with an antibiotic, then of course we treat that animal. It is then immediately taken out of our direct-to-consumer organically-reared food line and goes to the traditional market where it will eventually end up in a grocery store.
We raise pastured heritage chickens and pastured heritage Berkshire pigs (highly sought after by prestige chefs worldwide). We raise A2A2 Guernsey family milk cows and grass-fed/grass-finished beef and lamb. All are raised ethically and holistically in as natural a setting as possible, allowing them to do what they want to do instinctively and still able to keep them safe from predators. Our neighbour has said, “If I can come back to life, I want to come back as an animal on Catherwood Organics Farm.” We do give the animals a good life.
We are a fifth generation family farm and are proud of where we are today: small and local but making a difference in many peoples’ lives. In recent years, we have expanded enough to be able to share the benefits we experience with other families. Families that see the upside of knowing how their food is grown but don’t have the opportunity to do for themselves what we are doing. Our products are now available as individual cuts, a weekly or monthly meat box of beef, pork, chicken, or lamb, or a variety box of all meats specially designed to fit your taste and needs. If buying in bulk is your goal, we can arrange to have a half or whole animal cut the way you like. We will include cooking instructions and recipes in each food box if requested.
At Catherwood Organics, we take pride in delivering to our customers healthy eggs and grass-fed/grass-finished beef and lamb, pastured chicken, and pork. Pastured meat and eggs are higher in omega-3s and CLAs (conjugated linoleic acids), vitamins, and trace minerals than conventionally reared animals. CLAs are associated with many benefits including reduced cancer risk, reduced cardiovascular disease, and better cholesterol levels. A serving of grass-fed beef has 2 to 4 times as many healthy omega-3 fats as grain/corn fed beef. And good grazing management practices will definitely give a decent marbling to the meat. (stonebarncenter.org: “ Back to grass.”)
Our family raises Guernsey milk cows for families who need a milk cow. They are a hardy cow, similar but bigger framed than a Jersey with a nice gentle disposition. Our Guernsey herd is tested A2A2 positive, which means they produce a milk with the A2A2 beta-casein protein. Society always wants to change, but with change sometimes quantity does not equal quality. At some point in history, a genetic mutation occurred and A1 beta-casein appeared and began to be more prevalent because dairy operations were trying to increase milk production. A1 milk has been implicated in heart disease, Type-1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia. A1 milk can also cause such minor symptoms as general ill feelings (congestion, nausea, etc.). Dr. Joseph Mercola has an excellent article on this subject: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/07/09/the-devil-in-the-milk.aspx. I am among many health-conscious folks who hope it will soon be legal to sell raw milk in Saskatchewan.
At Catherwood Organics, we consider the environment when we produce healthy animals in a natural setting to increase the nutrient values of our soil and food products.
If you have been looking to source healthier, natural, and locally-grown food from humanely-raised animals for you and your family, look no further than Catherwood Organics. We host several events throughout the year at our farm near Perdue where customers can come see for themselves how we raise our food and theirs. We welcome the chance to visit (maybe even brag a little) and answer any questions folks may have.
Visit www.catherwoodorganics.simdif.com (a work in progress and soon to be catherwoodorganics.com) to see a full lineup of their products and follow them on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with all the fun they have!! They look forward to the opportunity to be your farmer. To contact Betty and Les Hamm and family, call (306) 237-9286 and see the display ad on page 17 of the 24.2 July/August issue of the WHOLifE Journal.