Ramble On

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Page County Grown Farm Tour: Skyline Premium Meats

The tour group arrives at Skyline Premium Meats
This is the second in a series of six posts I’m running this week to reprise the inaugural Page County Grown Farm Tour, which took place on Saturday, August 27, 2011. Despite the hurricane bearing down on the East Coast, a brave group of 40+ farm tourists set out to visit a few of our local farms: Khimaira Farm, Skyline Premium Meats, Willow Grove Farm Market, Wisteria Farm and Vineyard, Paw Paw’s Honey, and Public House Produce. All of the posts on this topic include the label “2011 Farm Tour” at the end, so a simple click will pull them all up, including some posts I put up in advance of the tour, and the one I made about the Farm-to-Table Dinner.

Jared prepares to start the overview and demonstration.
The group departed Khimaira farms and caravanned down Business 340 to our second stop at Skyline Premium Meats, which is part of the Trio Farms operation. Here’s the overview of the farm that was included in the tour overview:

“This farm, located just south of Luray on Business 340, emphasizes humane management and safe handling practices to ensure a consistently high quality product. Skyline Premium’s approach specifies that no hormones, steroids or other chemical alterations are used; because of this, the beef has earned designation as ‘A Virginia’s Finest Product.’”

Some of the makings of the beef ration.  That's barley on the lower right.
 I didn’t manage to save my notes from the farm overview that Jared, Joan and Jerry gave us to start things off – but it was hard not to come away impressed by the details that team went into: we started at one of the storage barns where the freshly chopped corn for silage was kept; followed by a PowerPoint briefing on the history of the farm and all of its products; we saw the raw materials for the beef ration; there was a field demonstration of feeding the cows and calves; and finally, we went to the main steer barn to see the beeves.

Grandpa Buddy Burner was part of the briefing as well. I had a few minutes with him near the steers, and he told me a story about the barn, which predates the Civil War. It’s rare to find many key agricultural structures from that era in the Valley, as late in the war the Union army marched through here to burn them down.

Cows answering the call to feed - with clouds beginning to stream in.
Buddy’s story detailed how the men from the farm went into hiding as the Union army approached on a Sunday. They left behind food for a large Sunday dinner, which the women prepared and offered to the Union soldiers. As a result, one of the Union officers told them, “You’ve treated us kindly, we’ll spare your barn.” Buddy acknowledged the story is not as well documented as other Valley stories about the era, but as he finished talking he pointed to some of the older parts of the barn where rough-hewn structural timbers could still be seen.

A parting shot of the main barn at Skyline Premium Meats.
After we were finished at Skyline Premium Meats, the tour group broke up into three groups, since one of the venues, Willow Grove Farm Market, had limited parking and couldn’t handle all the cars. While my touring colleagues headed off into other directions, I went directly to Willow Grove next, accompanied by John and Nina, some friends I’ve gotten to know during frequent visits to Wisteria. I’ll write about the stop at Willow Grove in my post tomorrow.

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