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A taste of the farm

Photo by Buffy Pollock Chef Chad Hahn prepares grilled beef sliders during a barbecue that recently brought out the curious (and hungry) to Rusted Gate Farm in Central Point.
Rusted Gate Farm welcomed locals to a barbecue and a chance to check out its farm stand

CENTRAL POINT — A Saturday event late last month at Rusted Gate Farm, complete with sizzling burgers, smiling faces and tiny green buds covering nearby trees, seemed to almost usher in one of the first days this year to truly feel like spring.

Puffy clouds and sunny skies set the scene for a “free beef sliders” barbecue event held Feb. 26, which was designed as a way to lure locals to check out a farm stand that opened at Christmas time.

Weekend chef Chad Hahn served the grilled burgers while visitors explored the farm stand offerings and volunteers shared the farm’s mission and plans.

Known for its “free flowers” U-pick garden on Upton Road, Rusted Gate is a nonprofit whose mission is to support small farms by identifying new products, practices and ways of generating income, as well as sharing information with the local farm community.

Founded in 2019, Rusted Gate Farm was co-founded by longtime Central Point resident Rachel Hall, who said she had despaired over the demise of small farms in her neighborhood, and her sister, Christy Walton, a philanthropist with the Walton Family Foundation.

Program manager John Souza said it was exciting to gear up for the coming growing season with the farm stand (and website) now offering Rusted Gate’s own beef.

In addition to offering beef, hay and produce, Rusted Gate has charmed a local fan base during the pandemic with its free U-Pick garden as a means to share the farm and its mission of sustainability, education and supporting local farmers.

“We wanted to invite people out to see the farm stand, which we’re just now opening for the season, and to see that we offer beef both here in our farm stand and online,” said Souza.

“We get thousands of people come through our flower garden. People just love being able to get outside and get their hands in the dirt and get a break from everything. We get a lot of hospice nurses that come by and pick flowers or other employees in the medical fields. It’s nice to mill around in flower gardens before they head home after a long day.”

For its beef offerings, Rusted Gate maintains 100 head of black angus and charolais angus cross cows. A membership program touted on the farm’s website offers an annual membership that comes with a discount on all meat purchased throughout the year.

As a nonprofit, the farm focuses as much on producing its own beef as helping other locals succeed at the same, Souza said. An ongoing project at the farm involves helping to bring a mobile slaughter unit to the area that meets USDA guidelines and addresses a shortage of options for local meat processing.

Manning the grill for a steady stream of burger fans, Hahn said the sliders were a hit.

“People love the burgers, so we’re educating on grass-fed beef and how they’re drastically different in taste than store-bought burgers,” Hahn said.

“We just did a very simple presentation, made with a black garlic salt. When the fat content is right and it’s flavorful, there’s no reason to mess around with it too much.”

Prospect resident Patty Hayton enjoyed some of the free sliders and looked forward to produce and flowers from the farm.

“I saw they were doing this on Facebook, so I came out to see what they were about. I’m interested in the local farm stands because I like the idea of the fresh, local produce,” Hayton said.

“The beef is a nice option. It’s really, really good. I can really get the beef flavor from it. It’s very juicy.”

Checking out the farm stand, brimming with everything from walnuts, eggs, honey and blacksmith wares by local vendors, local beekeepers Risa Halpin and Harvey Young enjoyed a rare afternoon off, sampling sliders and enjoying the farm.

“I think it’s a great outreach, and it’s important to encourage the local and small-business focus. We saw they were doing the free flower picking and then we heard about the farm stand opening,” Halpin said.

“I’ve heard they had an animal day for people to come see the animals. It’s important, with so many families living in an urban area, to be able to see and feel some of the animals. It’s important for all of us to know where our food comes from and for us to create more local options and to support the local farmers.”

If you go

Farm stand hours at Rusted Gate Farm, 5461 Upton Road, Central Point, are 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

More information is available online at rustedgatefarm.org.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.