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It’s a farmer’s life, naturally

August 17, 2013

Blackstone farmer Joe Wojcik introduces his herd of beef cows to a visitor. (PHOTO/Ernest A. Brown)

BLACKSTONE – Leaning on a wooden fence, Joe Wojcik watches a young Hereford calf prance alongside its mother, who is doing her best to ignore the calf’s playful gestures as she quietly grazes in the dew-covered pasture.
The calf was born in May on Wojcik’s seven-acre farm on Mendon Street and is being raised for meat. Like all of Wojcik’s cows, the calf is fed a diet of silage, hay and sweet grain. When it reaches a certain weight, it will be brought to market, where Wojcik will pay to have the beef hand-processed in a local USDA-inspected facility in Athol, Mass., and aged for three weeks to concentrate flavor and ensure tenderness.
The 400 pounds of hand-cut, vacuum-packed and flash-frozen beef will then be delivered by Wojcik straight to his growing base of customers who all have one thing in common: they want their beef and pork raised free of antibiotics and added hormones.
Wojcik, 63, is as far outside the industrial agriculture system as you can get, and it’s just the place he wants to be. His Spring Brook Farm, which produces locally grown beef and pork, is a throwback to a time when small-scale farming was good for the environment and the meat products were healthy.
“It’s so much different than the beef and pork you get at the supermarket,” says Wojcik. “I’ll put my ham and bacon up against anybody.”
According to Wojcik, the modern U.S. beef industry is all about putting as much weight on animals as fast as possible and getting the meat to market as quickly as possible. And to do that, he says, animals are fed hormones to promote faster growth and given antibiotics to ward off the diseases bred by unnatural, unsanitary conditions.
“The entire process from birth to market should naturally be 22 to 26 months, but there are some people pushing these animals out in 14 months,” says Wojcik.
And they’re doing it, he says, by feeding them huge quantities of corn, protein supplements and drugs, including growth hormones.
At Spring Brook Farm, the cows are fed a natural diet of silage, hay and sweet grain, while the pigs are fed milk and sweet molasses grain.
The farm has eight to 10 pigs and 17 cows on the farm at most times. The piglets are raised starting in October, and will go to market in five to six months after they have reached the 200-pound range. About five to six cows will go to market in a year.
The cows start breeding around the first of August and will get their pregnancy checkups and vaccinations by a veterinarian the first week of December. If all goes according to plan, the calves will be born around the first week of May. Most cows will have a single calf, but there have been a couple sets of twins born on the farm over the years.
“I’ve been in up to my shoulder a few times,” Wojcik says, referring to the times he’s had to assist in a breached birth.
Wojcik’s farm on Mendon Street is about 300 years old, but it’s been in his family since the early 1950s, when his father bought the land - known for years as Webster Farm – to raise pork and grow vegetables. The farm is next to Wojcik’s Farm, which is run on an adjacent parcel by his brother, Chip Wojcik.
While Joe Wojcik grew up on the farm, he never made it his life’s work. Instead, he drove a tractor-trailer for Roadway Express for 37 years, driving more than a million miles without a single accident.
After retiring in 2010, he and his wife, Lorraine, decided to run the farm as a small-scale business specializing in locally produced meat with the help of their son, Joe, 44, and grandson, Daniel, 16.
“It keeps me busy,” Wojcik says. “I’m not going to sit in a chair because I’ve been on the go all my life.”
Wojcik believes independent local agriculture is essential to a healthy food system, and he’s made it the mission of his farm to produce organic beef and pork that is healthy and tasty for his discerning customers.
“My beef and pork are not juiced up,” he says, “and that makes all the difference.”
For more information on how to purchase beef or pork from Spring Brook Farm, contact Wojcik at (508) 215-9105 or by email at farmerjoe178@aol.com.

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