About Sylvia Burgos Toftness

A Latina from the tenements of the South Bronx, I now raise 100% grass-fed beef in west central Wisconsin with my husband Dave. We believe more people will choose to farm and eat healthful foods if they know the connections between what we eat and how it's grown. That's why we invite you to walk the fields with us; hear from experts on my Saturday morning show, Deep Roots Radio; share our adventures on my blog, From the Bronx to the Barn; and buy our sustainably grown beef. We farm with a tiny carbon hoofprint (R) so that you can enjoy great-tasting grass-fed beef that's high in nutrition while helping to restore our environment.

How long has it been??? What’s happening on this city-girl’s farm.

What happened?? Where did the summer go?
Well, if your life’s anything like mine, your Monday-Friday went to work and family. And your weekends, if you planned well and were able to add a dash of good luck, were spent doing lots of chores. You know – the laundry, food shopping, buying school supplies, banking, and repairing this-and-that. Hopefully you took some time for coffee with friends, and maybe dinner out with your sweetie.

A few 2016 calves

A few 2016 calves

The growing season started with the arrival of our spring calves. All our new little BueLingos were born out on our pastures and unassisted. This season also required that we up our game and manage our pastures for a slightly larger herd. This summer’s frequent rains helped keep the much-needed grass growing.
We began harvesting in July, and will take our final two beeves to the custom USDA processor in a month or so. (Those two animals will go exclusively for ground beef and summer sausage.)
Today, we get ready for an annual right-of-passage – tagging every calf, and castrating the bull calves. Once castrated, the male calves are called steers, and they’ll graze for two years to harvest age and condition. Until that time, all the cattle will enjoy the best of care: 365 days a year on grassy fields, sunshine and fresh air, a 100% grass diet, and the company and calm of their herd. It makes for contented, healthy cattle, and, ultimately, great-tasting and highly nutritious beef.
And that’s the heart of it: health and happiness – for the the cows, the land, and for you and me.
We all benefit from farming and living with a tiny carbon hoof print (TM)*, truly sustainable farming.
Thank you for visiting the farm and sharing the story of your food journey. I really enjoyed making frequent deliveries in Amery, Polk and St. Croix counties, and the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.
I look forward to meeting you. Please visit. And until then, enjoy the cooling fall weather.
Sylvia

*tiny carbon hoofprint is a US registered trademark belonging to Bull Brook Keep.

Our Variety Packages are SOLD OUT for 2016. Ground beef and Summer Sausage still available.

Thanks to all our Bull Brook Keep customers for a great season. It was great to meet you on the farm or when making deliveries.

The demand for our 100% grass-fed beef continues to grow, and we are now sold out of our variety packages for this year.

However, we have ground beef and summer sausage available, and I recommend ordering sooner than later. Click here to order online.

If you’re interested in 100% grass-fed beef for next year, please check back. You can find out about our variety packages by clicking here. We’ll reopen our web store in May 2017.

Have a great fall season! And know you’re always welcome to visit the farm. Whether you’ve purchased beef from us or not, we’d love to walk the pastures with you, introduce you to our herd, and hear about your journey into good food.

Sylvia & Dave

Storm drops cow on farm? Feeling a bit at Oz.

Squinting, I picked up my phone to check the time: 5:15AM. Why was I awake? Then I remembered last night’s storm: lightning, rolling thunder and walls of rain driven by high winds – gusts that tore tree branches ripped up my tomato plants.
The little bull calf must have been frightened. He’d been left in the field after I moved the rest of the herd across the driveway and to a fresh paddock. Darn calf. It just wouldn’t stay by its moma. It kept running around me and double-backing to the old field. Crazy kid.
5:15AM. Sunday morning and the cows were mooing like crazy. The unhappy moma bellowed the lead, and the rest of the cows provided boistrous backup.
I pulled on my patched jeans, a tattered black t-shirt and an over-sized white shirt (to keep off bugs), and headed out to find the calf and coax it in with the rest of the herd. Correction: I would try to coax it back to its mom.
(Herding a calf and herding cats have a lot in common.)
Wearing my shin-high Muck boots, I was half-way across the wet field when I noticed a strange white patch moving within a shadowy stand of poplars. It bobbed about five feet above the grass. What was that? The little bull calf only reaches my waist, so it wasn’t him. Not only that, but all my cattle – BueLingos – have either black or red faces.

BueLingo calves

BueLingo calves


The white patch kept approaching.
I stopped cold. Was that a man in our field? The white patch loomed closer. When it stepped out of the trees, I saw it for what it was – a white-faced Hereford cow. What in the world? Where did this thing come from? And how did it get into our fenced-off field?
As I was mulling this over, I also spotted our errant calf. Both he and the hiefer (young female) were standing across the driveway from the rest of the herd. They were separated by 30 feet of gravel driveway and two lines of electric fence. So all this noise wasn’t just about the calf, it was also about the strange cow.
I yelled at Dave (he was on the deck enjoying a first cup of coffee), to let him know about the visitor left by last night’s storm.
Dave responded with his usual, “What in the world?”
Visiting Hereford heifer

Visiting Hereford heifer

We guessed this young Hereford was spooked by last night’s pyrotechnics, wandered over from the neighboring farm, and found (or made) a breach in our perimeter fence.
We took a breath. Seeing that both the Hereford and our little Buelingo were safe, the first order of business was finding the hole in our fence line.
I searched for an hour before church services. Nothing. Dave and I resumed our inspection after brunch. Nada. Our theory: the heifer is a jumper.
If you’ve never seen it, it’s a sight that stops you in your tracks – a 1000-lb bovine easily clearing a 5-ft fence. Breath-taking.
OK. The heifer is safe. The little bull is safe, if temporarily separated from its dam. Our fence line is intact.
Next step: knock on a few doors and find out if any of our neighbors is missing a heifer wearing an ear-tag marked #1.
It took us just a couple of tries. The worried owner lives just across a main road from our farm. She’d been frantic when she discovered her pretty red heifer missing this morning. Mystery solved, but the issue’s far from resolved.
Getting the Hereford back to her farm may take a bit of time even though her pasture is just 1/4-mile from us. It could take two days or two weeks to have her join with our herd, calmly move through rotational paddock changes, and finally make it back up to our corral. Once in the corral, we would get her into a hauler, and make the minute-long drive back to her home farm.
BREAKING NEWS: Just got a call from the Hereford’s owner. Seems the heifer jumped fences, trotted along the busy county road, turned into her home driveway and jumped back into her own field.
Theory proven. Issue resolved.
Just checked my phone. Storms forecast for Thursday.

Chinese herbs, acupuncture, spinal manipulation for dogs, cats & livestock. Live, June 11, 9-9:30AM CT

Jody_team_07What: Deep Roots Radio interview with Dr. Jody Bearman, lead in the all-woman, holistic practice called Anshen Veterinary Acupuncture, LLC., in Madison, Wisconsin.
When: Saturday, June 11, 2016, 9:00-9:30 AM Central Time
Where: Broadcast and streamed live from the studios of WPCA Radio 93.1FM and www.wpcaradio.org on the Internet.
Why: Dr. Jody, and her associates, use Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, spinal manipulations and other approaches to address illness and disease and to promote wellness in dogs, cats, goats, horses and other livestock. Why? How effective are they?

That’s what we’ll talk about on the show tomorrow morning. I hope you’ll tune in.

Sylvia

Extra! Extra! Get your free Deep Roots Radio podcast here!

Miss an episode of Deep Roots Radio? Here’s a bunch of them – conversations with some of the most interesting farmers, ranchers, reporters, writers, cooks, scientists, policymakers and thought leaders. Download and listen whenever you like, or click and listen online.
Enjoy!!

Saturdays, 9:00-9:30AM CT on wpcaradio.org

Saturdays, 9:00-9:30AM CT on wpcaradio.org

Ya gotta have heart!!

Americans love their flame grilled steaks, simmering pot roasts, and juicy burgers. But what about the rest of that 100% grass-fed steer? What do you do with the heart, liver, tongue, oxtail, shank bones and other lesser known cuts? Today, we’ll focus on the heart because it can become a favorite.
The heart of a full-grown beef steer can weight four or five pounds.It’s the most lean cut of meat in the cow. It’s also a muscle that’s worked constantly since conception. Lack of fat and constant use can make any muscle tough if not cooked correctly. Fortunately, there’s a great recipe and approach that makes for a luscious stew of tender morsals.
I adapted this recipe from Jennifer McLagan’s “Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal.” I’ve tapped the unique cooking powers of a stove-top pressure cooker to yield tender beef and a savory sauce. It’s a hearty meal when served over hot rice and with a side of steamed carrots. I washed my dinner down with home-brewed kombucha.

Moroccan beef heart stew with brown rice and home-fermented kimchi.

Moroccan beef heart stew with brown rice and home-fermented kimchi.

Here’s a recipe for a 4 lb. heart. If you have a cut of heart that’s smaller, simply reduce the other ingredients proportionally. Or, you can make the full recipe for the sauce – it’s delicious on eggs, polenta, rice or baked potatoes. Here’s the recipe:
Braised Heart

Dr. Gail Hanson on antibiotics overuse in industrial ag and the rise of superbugs

The antibiotics given to livestock amount to tons every year. If these drugs were administered to help the animal recover from illness or injury, I could see it. But that’s not the case. In many confined animal feeding operations, antibiotics are mixed with the daily feed in order to prevent illness due to crowded conditions, and to boost animal growth.
What does that mean for us?

Dr. Gail Hansen, a senior officer for Pew’s campaign on human health and industrial farming

Dr. Gail Hansen, a senior officer for Pew’s campaign on human health and industrial farming

This Deep Roots Radio interview with Dr. Gail Hanson, of the PEW Charitable Trusts provides eye-opening information.

Sylvia

Audio

Chefs for sustainable food – James Beard Foundation VP Kris Moon on the new Impact Programs

We all know that chefs can cook, some of them extraordinarily. And we know that what they cook can reflect and flavor local culture. But did you know our chefs can – and increasingly do – play a role in redesigning a more sustainable, healthful food system in America?
I really enjoyed this conversation with Kris Moon, Vice President of the James Beard Foundation because the foundation’s Impact Programs spotlight and promote chef-led efforts to rebuild a more nutritious and regionally-sourced food system in our country.
Experienced and trained in restaurant management, nutrition and major networking events, Moon is leading programs true to the values and heart of the foundation’s namesake, James Beard – the chef and cookbook author who was lovingly regarded as “America’s favorite chef.”
I hope you enjoy this Deep Roots Radio conversation.
Sylvia

Connecting the dots between what we eat and how its grown

Connecting the dots between what we eat and how its grown

Image

Light showers

I hadn’t expected it. After all, the forecast had been for rain yesterday afternoon, and when it didn’t materialize, I thought, “oh, well,” and “darn.” [When your business is converting grass to beef, as our’s is, we can always use an inch or two of rain every week.]
Believing the rain had either veered by us or that the system had disintegrated at the county line, I then did the usual farm-mental-gymnastics and planned for today’s early activities.
And so, now it’s raining, but lightly. The weatherman says the showers will be brief. I can see the edge of the clouds to the north. From solid grey cover they break up to brighter, puffier islands in the blue.
One more cup of tea, and it’s outside I go.
SylviaReceeding showers - May 5, 2016

The Prince.

imagesI’m surprised by how much the passing of Prince has hit me.
He belonged to the world, but first he was Minnesota’s.
RIP.