Behind The Scenes: Usana Farming Estate

This is a historical step for Molewa’s Kitchen. Myles and I are excited to announce that we have added a new section to our website, Fresh Off The Shelf, which introduces consumers to their local food suppliers, fellows who are committed to natural food and place ethical and people before profits. Food suppliers, who put quality over a quick buck. Usana is the first local business that’s being featured in Fresh Off The Shelf, our pioneer, a brand both of us believe in very much. 

As I arrive at the farm in the Stellenbosch’s wine region not long before sunset. After a warm welcome by Co-owner JP, the tour around the farm begins and I am excited. The Usana Farming Estate specialises in grass-fed beef, pasture-reared eggs and traditionally farmed wine. This is not only a chance  to ask questions, but also an opportunity to experience everything he’s telling me about first hand. 

As we walk through the old metal farm gate, a Ridgeback and a hen stroll in front of us, leading the way to our first stop, Usana’s cow pastures. The 300 hectare farm and the mountains around it are atmospherically wrapped into washed hazy gold rays of light and I think to myself I could have not chosen a better time to come and visit.

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Please tell us a little bit about your grass-fed beef production. How do you feed, treat and care for your cattle?

We keep our herd of 180 oxen, a mixture of Angus, Hereford, Limousine and other cattle crosses, outside grazing in the sunshine, allow them to socialise freely and behave as naturally as possible. In order to prevent overgrazing we move our animals two to three times a day on a rotating basis to another pasture. This might be a management intensive process, but it’s worth the effort because rotational grazing is not only more efficient and productive for our operation, it is also more environmentally friendly, aids the animal’s well-being and makes the end product more nutritious. Although, we don’t use all our land at the moment, we provide a generous space, depending on season, irrigated and non irrigated land, rainfall and many other farming variables.  

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By the time our herd returns to a previously grazed pasture after about a month, the vegetation would have had sufficient time to regenerate, which in turn guarantees consistent access to a 100% natural feed.

We decided against a breeding herd, as it comes with multiple complications such as separating the calves from the mothers, which requires more secure fencing, would make rotational grazing difficult and is beyond stressful for animals. As you can see, our herd is pretty chilled, which reflects the fact that it consists of mainly oxen and a couple of bulls. Oxen are less energetic, which in turn results in more tasty layers of fat and more flavour. Our method of farming ensures that our animals are naturally healthy and we don’t see a need for antibiotic prophylaxis, therefore only consider treatment if prescribed by our vet in individual cases, which is rare.

What makes your free-range eggs truly free-range and what are the implications on our environment and health?

Whereas regular free-range chickens are mostly kept in cramped barns, we allow our hens to do what they naturally love doing, to spend all day long outside in fresh air,DSC_1257 foraging through green pastures. They lay around 4300 eggs a day, all of them hand picked and washed, before packed in recyclable boxes and distributed to our list of retailers, restaurants and cafes. (scroll to the bottom to see list) Because chickens are rough on plants and ground as they love scratching and searching for worms, bugs and other insects we move them from pasture to pasture in mobile caravans. In this way we maintain a natural circle with numerous compelling benefits. We preferably move the birds behind the cattle. By doing this, we make room for a symbiotic relationship, which enhances the soil and improves the quality of our pasture vegetation. The chickens break up the cow patties, scavenging and picking for scrubs and spread their manure in the process, which adds valuable trace elements to the ground and prevents soil compaction. Our mobile caravans are kept wide open during the day and are only closed at night to prevent theft and provide protection from natural predators.

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The diet of our birds consists of everything they can find on our grassy pastures such as seeds, greens and insects. We do supplement their diet with a bit of feed which consists of grains and is animal by-product free. The nutritional benefits of pasture reared eggs are remarkable and they are by far more nutrient dense than barn or cage raised. They are lower in cholesterol and saturated fats, higher in omega 3’s, vitamin E and A and packed with high amounts of beta carotene and vitamin D, richer in flavour and texture with a delicious golden yellow yolk. One could say that pasture reared eggs are a real super-food.

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Any focuses for the future? What are your plans?

Long term, we would love to have our own butchery and tasting room at the farm. Currently, we concentrate on converting a part of our farm into a function venue though. Now and then, we host harvest-table events where we serve grass-fed beef and our traditionally farmed wine. The themes for these events change regularly and I’d advise you to follow us on Facebook in order to stay up to date. However, the venue section of our farm can be hired out for any kind of private event. The beauty of the surroundings and romantic atmosphere makes it a perfect location for a wedding celebration and folks who are interested are more than welcome to pop me an email at jp@usana.co.za.

The following lists provide an overview for consumers of all local restaurants, retailers as well as hotels and guesthouses using Usana’s pasture reared eggs. If you are interested in selling any Usana products or purchasing them, feel free to contact the farm directly or click on the links below.

List of restaurants 

Asta

Babylonstoren

Birdcage

Bistro Bizerca

Bocca

Borage Bistro

Burrata

Cafe Frank

Chalk & Cork

Chelsie Cafe

Clarke´s

Emily’s

Fraiche Ayres

Freres Bistro

Gaurdian Peak

Hemelhuis

Ice cream Community

Le Petit Four Bakery & Cafe

M Patisserie

Maison

Origin

Ou Meul

Savoy Cabagge

Schoon de Companje

Showroom

Skinny Legs

Taste Bistro

Terroir

Tokara

Truth

Weylandts

Woodlands Eatery

Little Saints

Bacon On Bree

Baked Bistro

List of retailers

Basic Stock

Chardonnay Deli

Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants

OK Minimarket Palmyra Drive

Potbelly Pantry

SPAR Cape Quarter

SPAR de Boord

SPAR Seapoint

Zelters Food & Wine Store

List of hotels and guesthouses

Hunneyball House

The Last Word

The Three Boutique Hotel

Summer Wood

 

Dennis Molewa

CEO

I believe in the nurturing power of natural food, flavours and spices.

Real food does not compromise on taste. It takes us back to flavour’s true origins.

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