It’s always a treat to be in a restaurant and see a “we buy local!” sign. I tend to assume that restaurants buy food from large companies, since I so often see distributors’ trucks parked on Main Street, hazard lights blinking as a man in uniform with a dolly wheels boxes of ingredients down the truck’s ramp. But I noticed an exception in the Wooden Nickel on Churton Street in downtown Hillsborough: We serve local, grass-fed beef.
If you want to see the source of the beef, or buy some for yourself, visit Walters Unlimited at Carls-Beth Farm, new on the 2009 Piedmont Farm Tour! And a drive out to Carls-Beth Farm in Efland is a bit like stepping into a painting of the countryside with Mary Poppins. Leaving towns and interstates behind, you’ll ride past fields and silos and green rolling hills. Just when you think it can’t get any prettier, you’ll round the bend and arrive at Carls-Beth Farm.
The green pastures on both sides of the road used to grow corn and wheat to feed the hundreds of meat and dairy cattle that lived there. When Roland Walters returned with his family in 2005 to take over the farm from Roland’s father, the farm just raised beef cattle. Roland converted the operation to 100 percent grass-fed animals, with rotational grazing. This means he uses several grassy fields for the cattle; when they’ve eaten through one, he leads them to another, full of grass, and they are eager to go.
After the drought of 2007, when the fields were bare and he had to buy grass for the cattle, Roland knew change was needed: he downsized the herd, built a website, and started marketing the meat himself. In 2006, he’d added goats to the farm. He added chickens for both eggs and meat. He’s just added pork, and hopes to raise turkeys for Thanksgiving, and perhaps pond-raised catfish someday.
Roland sells his meat at farmers’ markets and the farm’s store. Visit his website at www.waltersunlimited.com, and head out to Carls-Beth Farm to see the cattle, the goats and chickens, the lone remaining turkey, the guard donkeys (who ward off coyotes), and their working dogs.