Follow along each month in Attraction magazine as Sprout takes readers on tours of Mid-Shore farms. They will share stories from the road as they visit and learn about area farms. Sprout provides individually portioned ready-to-eat meals using fresh, local and organic ingredients, delivered directly to customers as well as on sale in their Grab-N-Go Café.
When traveling along the winding backroads of Denton, one may be entranced by the beautiful wildflowers, hundreds of rows of corn, and other peaceful scenery. However, when suddenly the barking of six Italian Maremmas catches your attention, it’s likely that you’ve arrived at Abundant Grace Farm. At first glance, Abundant Grace may look similar to other farms, however, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Here, they grow their produce organically and, according to owner Brian Perez, this involves a lot of trial and error. Another aspect unique to Abundant Grace is their pasture-raised pork and the way that they raise the pigs. To learn more about the Perez family and their operation, members of Sprout’s crew visited the 45-acre farm for an eye-opening tour.
Brian, along with his wife, sons, and a few employees, all work together to make sure everything runs smoothly on the farm. Brian reveals that he began farming seven years ago, following his retirement from the U.S. Army. Brian and his wife’s reason for starting their own farm, he explains, is that they “had a passion to be a part of [their] own food system.”
Nowadays, a trip to the grocery store can entail browsing through aisles of processed food, imported ingredients, and confusing nutrition labels. This makes it difficult to know exactly what you’re consuming. The Perezes saw this issue and decided to do something about it, stating that they “wanted to have an impact on [their] food.”
Sprout takes pride in their use of ethically sourced, local, organic ingredients and they’re not the only ones that recognize the importance of such quality. With organic produce becoming the more popular option, many find themselves questioning: “What’s so great about organic produce? What sets it apart from other produce available to me?” and even if it is worth the cost.
The dictionary defines organic food items as ones that are “produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.” This means that organic food is grown using natural methods. Tomatoes found in the grocery store have likely been infused with chemicals or genetically modified to increase their shelf life, giving them time to be trucked across the country or even imported internationally. Unfortunately, produce such as this loses a majority of its nutritional value and it’s hard to be sure exactly what you’re consuming.
Aside from these issues, conventional farming methods can have negative effects on the environment and human health. The use of chemicals and pesticides that rid crops of insects and weeds can be carried through runoff into nearby bodies of water, contaminating them and putting organisms in these habitats at risk. Additionally, such substances have been linked to a multitude of diseases from asthma to various cancers. When it comes to organic local produce, it’s obvious that the product is truly fresh, wholesome, and good for the environment. Also, there’s no guessing game that comes along with it. When receiving produce from Abundant Grace, one can rest assured that it was naturally grown nearby.
At Abundant Grace Farms, they not only grow organic produce, but also raise pigs to provide local, pasture-raised pork to their customers. These pigs are all shapes, sizes, and colors, some even with playful names such as “Peppa” and “Patch.” Brian expresses the importance of caring for the animals and giving them a stress-free life. Abundant Grace’s approach to raising these animals is unique as they use no antibiotics and “try to keep things as natural as possible.” While pork often comes from pigs that are born, overfed, and then processed over the span of a few months, the Perez family gives their pigs 18 months to grow properly before harvesting. They take pride in the fact that they keep less pigs at a time, which allows them to put more time and energy into raising them. Their goal is to keep two pigs for breeding purposes and allow the other pigs to reach 180 to 220 pounds before they are processed. Brian, who served for over 24 years in the U.S. Army’s Infantry, is hardworking and passionate about what he does, stressing that when it comes to produce and pork, “quality is the biggest concern.”
The farming lifestyle is not always the easiest or most glorious one, but the Perez family seems to have it down to a science. While the family does live on the farm, Brian points out that they aim to keep their family life and farming separate. While the whole family helps out where they can on the farm, each family member plays a different role. Brian explains that his wife, Jessica, homeschools their sons, 10-year-old Bradley and 8-year-old Joshua, while keeping everything in the household on track. Brian, on the other hand, primarily tends to tasks on the farm. The couple feels that it’s important not only for their kids, but for everyone to learn about the food that they eat, as well as where it comes from.
At Sprout, they appreciate the concept of local and organic, as these are the two focal points of their enterprise. Sprout is a “zero-waste” operation, and their relationship with Abundant Grace allows for everything to come full circle. This is because the business donates their compost to the Perez family for the pigs. They later buy Abundant Grace’s pork that they incorporate into several of their meals. This pork can be found in Sprout’s Bahn-mi Bowl, their own spin on the traditional Vietnamese meal, as well as their BBQ Pork small plate, in which it’s served over cabbage.
Produce from Abundant Grace Farm can also be found in a variety of Sprout’s products. It’s always a humbling experience to observe a farmer doing things the right way when it comes to their animals as well as the environment. While the members of Sprout’s crew had an idea of what went on behind-the-scenes when it comes to raising pastured pork, their tour of Abundant Grace Farms allowed them to discover the time, money, effort, and passion that goes into raising each pig. While the extra care and energy put into the product may increase the price, it’s clear that the quality makes it well worth the cost. Through all that Abundant Grace Farm puts into their products, Sprout’s appreciation for the process has only increased and they hope that sharing their experience will have the same effect on others.
Brian says that while there are no scheduled events, Abundant Grace Farm hopes to open to the public in the near future. When asked where he sees the farm in 10 years, Brian reveals that he’s working on larger organic vegetable production with integrative perennial systems. He also wants to have additional livestock enterprises. To find out more about Abundant Grace Farm and their products, their Facebook page has all the latest information and updates. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for the Perez family at the Easton Farmers’ Market where you can ask questions and even taste the products for yourself.
The author, Georgia Foster, age 17, lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore with her mother and two sisters. She attends Easton High School and is passionate about writing, specifically feature writing and investigative journalism.
Are you tired of going to the grocery store, wandering the aisles for an hour, and waiting in line, only to buy the same items week after week? Are you looking for unique, healthy food choices and a place that is local and convenient to walk in and purchase them? Well, look no further… Welcome to Sprout’s Grab-n-Go Café! From organic bread, delicious meals, and delightful snacks, to thirst-quenching beverages and a variety of yummy spreads, Sprout offers an ever-changing menu. New items are constantly being introduced to Sprout’s selection, so stop by and see what’s new. Not sure if you want to buy something? Curious about any ingredient? A friendly member of the Sprout family will be happy to let you try a sample and answer any questions you may have. The newly built and easy-to-navigate Sprout Café is your solution to good food, every day. Sprout is located at 335 North Aurora Street in Easton. Open daily. Visit www.eatsprout.com.