Family. There is nothing more important to me than family. Funny thing is, I’m not from a big family. I have one brother who is a bit older than I am. Growing up it was almost like being an only child because he was off to college. I have no first cousins as my Dad was an only child and my Mom’s sisters had no children. But still, my family is the most important thing in my life. When I had the opportunity recently to participate in a media tour, with Florida Beef Council and Sunday Supper Movement, of Florida cattle ranches and meet the people behind the industry, one thing I learned is that family is important to these ranchers too. Not only their own families but their ranching families. Many are not only currently, multi-generational operations, but these ranches have been in their family for generations.
About the ranchers:
The Griners, Ken and Lynetta, of Usher Land and Timber, Inc., are Florida natives who own this family logging, farming and cattle company in Levy County, FL. Lynetta is an 8th generation Floridian and their son, Korey, works with his parents in the business. When they speak about their operation, they are truly proud of their heritage.
The Whitehurst Family of Whitehurst Cattle Company is truly an “all in” family affair. Their sons all work in the business with great support from their own families. They were kind enough to host us for a country ranch breakfast on our last day of the tour. They served up a delicious casserole, pancakes, bacon, biscuits, fresh fruit and coffee. It was an early morning, get you going kind of meal. They were perfect and gracious hosts intent on making our group feel welcomed and comfortable. Well fed, too!
Bo and Emily Hobby are the proprietors of Rockin’ H
Ranch, also in Levy County. Unlike the other ranchers we met, the Hobby’s are first generation cattle ranchers. Their dreams of raising their family in a rural environment came to fruition and brings them to where they are today. On the day we visited, the first stop of our tour, the Hobby’s grandchildren were on horses, appearing very comfortable. Like it was second nature. We boarded a hay wagon for a ride into the pasture. The day was hot and the cows took refuge in the shade under a big, beautiful live oak tree. The children worked to rustle them out of their resting place and even the tease of food that Bo Hobby placed out for them wasn’t making them budge, but the kids got it done. The herd made its way closer to us, mooing the entire time! I will say, cows are curious animals.
Don Quincey started Quincey Cattle Company in 1992 after an upbringing of having been around cattle. He jumped at the opportunity to start preconditioning cattle for Sparks Farm. In the beginning it was Don and his first employee, Clayton Carter, who is still with his operation today. The environment in which the cattle are raised sets them apart from others. They raise cattle in pastures, on grass land and not in paddocks or dirt lots.
Don and his wife Donna graciously welcomed us to their home for a delicious beef dinner in their backyard which is nestled among the live oaks along the famous Suwannee River. We dined on beef, loaded mashed potatoes, bacon wrapped string beans, roasted asparagus, rolls and bread pudding for dessert. A delicious end to a perfect day.
Our second day and final day of the Farm to Fork tour with Florida Beef Council included a mini #hashed cooking competition. My teammates, Tracy from Having Fun Saving and Amy from My World Simplified, had only a few minutes to create a recipe and shop for ingredients. We then had 45 minutes to create the dish. Our Loaded Cowboy Baked Potato took third prize in the competition.
Loaded Cowboy Baked Potatoes
- 4 medium Idaho potatoes washed and dried
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 yellow squash julienned
- 1 zucchini julienned
- 8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms sliced
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 1 bottle Sam Adams Summer Ale
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Cherry tomatoes halved (as garnish)
- Green onions sliced (as garnish)
- 4 cheese shredded cheese blend
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/8 cup green onions sliced
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Bake potatoes for 1 hour until knife inserted in center releases easily.
- In a bowl combine the sour cream with 1/8 cup sliced green onions. Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a skillet season ground beef with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often. Remove from skillet when done. Set aside. Drain and discard any fat drippings.
- Add 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup Sam Adams Summer Ale to the skillet along with baby portobello mushrooms and sliced onions. Sauté until soft and liquid has evaporated. Remove from skillet and set aside.
- In same skillet add another 2 tablespoons butter and sauté squash and zucchini until softened. Return beef, onions, and mushrooms to the skillet and heated through.
- Remove potatoes from oven and slice as you would if you were serving a baked potato. Squeeze potato open and break up potato inside, being careful not to crack the potato shell. Add butter and mix. Add a dollop or two of the sour cream and green onion mixture. Now start building your loaded potato. Add beef mixture and top with more sour cream mixture if desired. Top with shredded cheese, halved cherry tomatoes and sliced green onions.
- Serve hot.
One theme that resonates with me about all of these cattle ranchers is, not only their love of the land, their animals and their jobs but their pride in educating people about the cattle industry. These humble ranchers believe they should leave the land in better condition than which they received it. If only everyone felt that way.
Disclosure Statement: The post is sponsored by Florida Beef Council in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.