Clover Patch Café will make the switch to locally grown beef

Ryan Long, Neil Colburn and Leland Long gather at the Clover Patch Cafe in Bayview, which will start using beef exclusively from the Long Family Farm this weekend. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Ryan Long, Neil Colburn and Leland Long gather at the Clover Patch Cafe in Bayview, which will start using beef exclusively from the Long Family Farm this weekend.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

BAYVIEW — There’s some really good moos on the horizon for local burger lovers.

Neil Colburn said his restaurant, Neil’s Clover Patch Café, will start using beef that’s grown locally.

And talk about local. The beef will come from the Long Family Farm, about three miles from Neil’s Clover Patch Café.

The farm, which has been in the Long family for nearly a century, has a 100-head herd.

Leland Long said he would easily be able to supply the restaurant with the quantity and the quality of beef that’s needed.

“Neil would only be taking half of our week’s production,” Long said.

Colburn said he had talked with Long earlier about switching over to local beef, but that was during the peak of the recession and Colburn said he was afraid of making the change. There are bigger concerns now, he admitted.

“I’m more afraid of losing our small farms and ranches on the South End,” Colburn said.

There are plenty of other benefits, however.

“It’s a better product with better flavor,” Colburn said. “And there’s the moral part of it, and supporting your neighboring businesses.”

Colburn said the price of a hamburger would go up a dollar.

But his menu prices were already going to rise, based on expected increases for restaurant staples.

“It was going to go up anyway,” he said. “Just in the past month, the food price index went up 4.5 percent. That’s just food across the board. And I believe it will continue.”

“I will either have to adjust my menu or go out of business,” Colburn said. “So this could not have come at a better time.”

Combined with other benefits — supporting local agriculture, and the taste of the locally grown beef —  the deal was sealed.

“I’ll make a little less money, but I’ll be providing a much better product. And also a product that I think is accepted by a majority of people on South Whidbey,” Colburn said.

People here want to see small farms succeed, he said.

Colburn has been purchasing his beef from the Midwest, from the company once known as Iowa Beef Processors that is now Tyson Fresh Meats. The Clover Patch uses about 70 to 80 pounds of ground beef a week, and the restaurant purchased a freezer last week.

Colburn said the switch was expected to start this past weekend.

By Monday, the restaurant will be using Whidbey-grown beef exclusively.

Long said the differences are major between Whidbey Island beef and commercial beef.

Island-grown beef does not contain added hormones, which commercial producers use to promote faster growth. Local cows are forage fed.

“There are no by-products. We don’t feed cows to cows, we feed grass to cows,” Long said.

The animals are not given antibiotics, in their feed or medicine.

And they are fed PH-neutral rumen, which prevents deadly E coli.

Antibiotics are used on commercial beef, he said, because businesses are running the animal on the edge of what’s possible, so the antibiotics are needed to keep the livestock alive until it can make it to the slaughterhouse.

Locally grown beef is as heart healthy as wild salmon, Long added.

“A grass-fed animal has the same Omega 3 ratio as a wild-caught salmon,” he said.

“God didn’t mess up on cows,” he added. “People fed them stuff they weren’t supposed to eat.”

Long noted that it also takes beef about 15 months to get its flavor, but commercial cattle are slaughtered within 13 months and so the meat has a bland taste. He added that his beef is also aged for greater flavor.

South End residents have been able to buy beef from the Long Family Farm for the past year from the Goose Community Grocer in Bayview as part of the “Whidbey Island Grown” brand that was created by agricultural producers on the island.

Colburn said the restaurant tested the local beef out with a select group of customers.

“They said, ‘Wow!’ They could really tell the difference; it was a much beefier flavor,” Colburn said.

The Clover Patch will be the only restaurant serving beef from the Long Family Farm.

“To me, this is just the beginning,” Colburn said.

He said every aspect of his business is being reviewed to see how it can use other local products.

“This is a place for us to start,” Colburn said.

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