FEATURED VENDOR – GAUKER FARMS
A Tradition of Family Farming
by Denise Gierula
For those of you who are familiar and routinely shop at our market, I am sure you have already met one of the newest additions to our vendor line-up – Gauker Farms. Located in Fleetwood, Gauker Farms came highly recommended to fill consumer demands for beef at our market.
If you are new to our market, stop by, meet Jodi Gauker and check out her well stocked coolers of beef…roasts, ground beef, steaks, hamburger, ribs, jerky, bologna and more straight from the farm. Fill your freezer by asking Jodie about Gauker’s great pricing on beef packages. You can even order a whole or half a steer and they will help you decide which cuts of beef best suit your family. Ask us, the market ladies, how much our families enjoyed last week’s delicious meals of pot roast, tri tip, filets and stir fry. But plan accordingly for all your beef needs because Gauker Farms will only be appearing at our market the first and third Saturday of each month.
Jodi is the Agriculture Project Manager at Chester County Economic Development Council, the marketing and sales coordinator at Gauker Farms, sells delicious Gauker beef at our market and is a brand new Mom to adorable 10-month-old daughter Callie Anne. To keep all that in balance, I asked Jodi if she had superpowers. While Jodi insisted she did not, what she does have is an honest, intelligent and humorous style and talent for writing so I will let her take the story from here. The following are Jodi’s answers to questions that she and her family are frequently asked at markets.
Taken with permission (thanks Jodi!) and written by Jodi Gauker from GaukerFarms.com website:
What makes Gauker Farms meat so special?
Everything! (Just kidding!) Lee is the 9th generation to farm his family’s Fleetwood, Berks County farm. Jodi somehow got roped in and married Lee, so she’s here and helps Lee out when she can (and “deals with people” because Lee doesn’t like to do that!). We sell our beef and pork by the whole, half, quarter, or cut. We are licensed by the PA Department of Agriculture and the Chester County Health Department (because we go to a Chester County farmers’ market). Our steers are butchered in a USDA inspected shop in Lancaster County who do an excellent job with our livestock. The beef is dry aged for at least 2 weeks which really helps the flavors within the beef concentrate which gives it that “not from a grocery store” taste. We raise all of our own grain and hay – and the straw bedding! – on our 260 acre farm. The entire Gauker Family is involved – Lee’s dad does most of the feeding and helps Lee with some of the fieldwork, Lee’s mom does the books and once a year can be found in the tractor baling straw, and Lee’s sister helps out from time to time, too. Even Lee’s uncles and cousins help us bale and put away straw in the very hot barn in July, which we truly appreciate! (When IS that elevator coming again?!) 🙂
Is Gauker Farms grass-fed?
Our steers are out on pasture most of their life (they are in the barn for the winter – and some of our older steers stay in the barn when they are close to “finish,” but they have ample room and access to a straw-bedded barnyard. Our steers are all fed grain twice each day though. We produce the grain right here on our farm.
Is Gauker Farms organic?
No. We use judicial use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on our farm to produce quality crops.
Does Gauker Farms raise and feed genetically modified (GM) crops?
Yes, we do. We plant lots of different varieties of corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay on our farm, and while our hay and wheat is not genetically modified, and our pastures do not have genetically modified seed, we do plant (and our steers consume!) genetically modified corn and soybeans. We agree with the FDA in their opinion that GM crops have been tested and have not proven to be harmful to humans. We also find that we are able to use less pesticides (read: less spraying, less fuel to go over the fields, etc.) because we use GM technology. If you are uncomfortable with this, we are HAPPY to recommend another farm to you that does not feed genetically modified crops. We support your right to know and choose!
Are Gauker Farms cows happy cows?
Our dairy farming friends would want you to know we raise steers – castrated male calves – and not cows – which give milk. 🙂 Our steers are happy though! Sad steers don’t eat. Sad steers get sick. We VERY rarely have either of those cases on our farm. We have happy, hungry steers.
Do you feed hormones or antibiotics?
We want you to know hormones are not fed. They are a small capsule which are placed in the ear of a steer which release estrogen which help the steer better convert feed to muscle. Now that you know this, you should know that we do NOT implant with hormones. It’s just not part of our plan. If we did, a serving of beef from a steer who did have an implant would still have much less estrogen in it than a spinach salad. However, we still don’t do it.
We do treat sick animals. We give sick animals antibiotics under the direction of our veterinarian. Typically, we may have sick calves when they are young. It’s kind of like sending a child to pre-school – they need to pass along all of those germs from one to another until everyone’s immune system develops. However, once that happens, everyone is healthy again. We typically do not have sick adult steers. In the three years we’ve raised steers since Jodi has lived on the farm, she can count on one hand the sick adult steers. It’s typically when the weather changes. (Do you get sinus infections when the weather changes? I sure do! They stink, but it happens, even if you try your best to avoid it.) They are given antibiotics. Sometimes they don’t pull through and they pass away. Sometimes they do pull through and are healthy again. When we give antibiotics to sick animals, there is a withdrawal time on the bottle which means that the steer cannot go to market until that time is up, which is when the antibiotic should be out of the steer’s system. We’ve never had a time when the animal even came close to going to market close to the withdrawal time. Guess we’ve just been lucky!
We do add rumensin to our feed mix for the steers. Rumensin is not an antibiotic although it kind of acts like one. Rumensin is really like probiotics in your yogurt – they stimulate the good bacteria in your stomach to help you better digest your food. You can read more about rumensin here.
Don’t agree with this? That’s OK! Let us know, and we can refer you to another farmer who better meets your needs. No problem!
A huge thank you to Jodi for answering so many questions! Of course, I could not resist asking Jodi one more important question…what does she think of our market? She replied, “I really enjoy the Antietam Valley Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market, even though I’ve only been there three times now. What I like about it, and what makes it stand out from other markets I have been to, is the incredible sense of community and support for the market. There are many markets where customers come, get their things, and leave quickly to get on to the next thing for the day, but I see a ton of neighbors coming, browsing, asking great questions, talking with each other, volunteering to help – and that’s valuable. It’s something I hope this market always holds!”
Can’t get enough Gauker? Save the date for the Second annual Fun on the Farm Day, Sunday, August 2nd starting at 11:00 at their farm in Fleetwood. Learn about the Gauker farm, pet the calves, play some fun games, and enjoy their own brisket and Windy Acres Barbecue Restaurant pulled pork. RSVPs preferred but not required.
Contact Jodi or Lee at (724)454-3674 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find them on Facebook.com/gaukerfarms or visit their website at www.gaukerfarms.com. Order or buy beef at their farm store by appointment only or at the following markets: Artisan Exchange, Downingtown, Malvern, Macungie and now at Antietam.
Gauker Farms has a wonderful website filled with tasty beef recipes and even desserts. Of the tried and true recipes from Jodi, the following porcupine ball recipe is one she really enjoys. “I don’t like breakfast foods, so I used to eat them leftover for breakfast all of the time when I was little” said Jodi “Lee has come to like them because they aren’t “spicy.” It’s a meal we enjoy! We actually have recipe cards with both of those recipes, so market goers can pick them up at the market.”
JODI GAUKER’S PORCUPINE BALLS (written by Jodi)
Let me tell you about Porcupine Balls. Porcupine, what?! Who wants to eat a porcupine?! No joke. These things are deliciousness on a plate. I’m telling you: so easy. I’d tell you it’s so easy my sister could do it, but she burned boiling potatoes once. And then put the scalding pot outside on a rubber mat. Sorry, Heide. We’ll keep you anyway. ANYWAY, here you go!
1 lb. Gauker Farms ground beef
1/2 c. rice (you can use minute or regular. I’ll explain more on this below.)
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can tomato soup (in our house, it’s ONLY Campbell’s)
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
2/3 soup can water
I say you can use minute or regular rice. I use regular uncooked rice because I like texture. I like a little crunch. A little crunch never hurt anyone! Lee, on the other hand, prefers mush. So if you’re like Farmer Lee, you’ll want to go for minute rice, or already cooked regular long grain rice. I digress.
Mix the ground beef, rice, bread crumbs, onion and egg in a large mixing bowl. Form into 1.5 inch balls and place in a greased 8″x8″ square pan – or pie pan – or a similar sized pan. Because you’re baking a tomatoey product, though, I recommend it is glass and not metal. I’m sure there’s a really highly scientific reason for why the tomatoey stuff breaks down in metaly stuff, but I’m not here to tell you about that. I’m here to get some good food on your plate. I digress.
Mix your tomato soup, Worcestershire sauce, and can of water in a small bowl and pour over top of the meat/rice balls.
Cover in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
Then, uncover, and eat your heart out! But you may want to wait until they cool a little. If you’re like me, you have no patience, will dig in, and burn your tongue. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
I serve these with a vegetable! Because we need vegetables in our lives! 🙂 I prefer corn or green beans, or a nice side salad, but go be adventurous if you’d like. After all, you’re eating PORCUPINE BALLS! 🙂