Nourish your body, excite your taste buds, give back to the earth.
Amanda Callahan of Callywood Farms in upstate South Carolina talks to us about living with the earth and relearning what 'nourishment' means.
Tell us about your project, what do you do?
We own a small family-run farm we call Callywood Farms with a true family-crew, which includes my husband BJ & I, our four-year old Aria, and our one-year old, Woods! We primarily raise pasture-based protein: pork, chicken, and eggs, all of which are Animal Welfare Approved. We also manage a large garden, a small orchard, and we forage for our family.
Our farm is on 15 acres of mostly wooded, hilled land: perfect for free range chickens and forest-fed pork. It is also perfect for growing mushrooms! In the past few years, we have experimented with growing various culinary mushrooms (mainly oyster and shiitake) and have really taken to it. Our funded project with Tater Tats will help expand our production to help bring mushrooms to local restaurants and our customers’ plates.
How did you get into this business? What introduced you to and made you passionate about what you do?
Short version: boy meets girl in college. Girl likes to cook, boy likes to eat. They become obsessed with cooking and eating really good food. They move out West to Denver, CO and the obsession continues until their tiny urban backyard is covered in fruit trees and vegetable plots and a flock of chickens. They get the itch for more land, more food, more ownership of food choices, more input into local food systems. They desire to raise their children in a world where food is real and not from a store or box and where they have a deep connection to the plants and animals that nourish their body and to the earth that makes it all possible...
Thus: Callywood Farms.
What are you most excited about right now? What are some of your future goals?
We are most excited about growing more mushrooms! We hope to start new mushroom logs on a semi-annual basis to ensure consistent production. With every move we make, we think about how we can honor the earth and use her resources with purpose. With our need to expand and improve our pastures for raising pastured meat turkeys, for example, we will need to remove several large trees, and what’s a perfect way to utilize fresh cut, large trees?!? Plug them with mushrooms of course! The effects are threefold: increased sun exposure for our pastures, a substrate for many years of mushroom growing, and filling a hole in our market for high-quality Thanksgiving turkeys!
What frustrates you most about your work or the current food culture at large? What do you wish to change the most?
So much knowledge about basic cooking and preparation of nutritional food has been lost. One of the biggest barriers we face is marketing our pastured chickens, because we only sell them whole. Because our culture is so focused on fast, convenient, packaged food, many families and individuals do not know how to work with a whole chicken or are intimidated by the process. Don’t get us wrong: we both work outside our farm and understand the reality of limited time and hungry kids, but we have also learned the great value of making real food a central part of our lives. We spend a lot of time conversing with friends and customers about how to incorporate this into their lives, as we see so much joy and benefit from it in ours.
Any recent moments of optimism? Things you see changing for the better?
We are fortunate to have a very dedicated, customer base. From the onset, our main goal to was to raise all of our animals for our customers in the same way that we would raise them to feed our own family. This keeps us to the highest standard and is very rewarding that our customers are so supportive and encouraging. They do practically all of our advertising for us, and we are very proud to consider many of them much more as friends than customers. Our chicken/pork pickup days at the farm tend to feel more like friendly reunions than work.
Favorite vegetable to eat, grow or wear?
Farmer BJ: Nothing beats a fresh farm salad made with freshly picked tasty lettuce! I also love growing a large garden for our pigs that has seasonal goodies for them to snack on. It’s a random seed toss kind of garden and that’s what makes it fun: to see what pops up where and then get to watch them eat it all (quickly!).
Farmer Amanda: Beets and brussel sprouts. Have you ever snapped a brussel sprout off the stalk and enjoyed it right there, THE BEST.
Farm girl Aria: Watermelon. Aria has already grown a few watermelons in her short life on the farm, and she adores each one.
Farm boy Woods: Sweet potatoes, he wears them very well...all over his face after dinner!
Anything else you want us to know? Anything you want us to help you spread the word about?
We host an annual Summer Solstice Festival at the height of season to celebrate our loves in life: friends/family, local food, local music… and craft beer. If you’re around the upstate SC, we invite you to join in and follow us on Facebook for event updates!
Partnering with other small businesses, organizations, and families in our area has been our most rewarding product of our farming experience. To that end, it is so cool to see a small company like Tater Tats take the initiative to give back to small farms and partner with us on such an exciting project.