Shane Hughes: The Cow Whisperer
From Wall Street to cow pies, the Liberty delight farms' founder Found his Calling
The Meat & Potatoes
Under 50 ;)
My secret vice is the Klondike bar. Every flavor!
Mashed Potato Magician
Where do I even start? Visiting Liberty Delight Farms in Reisterstown, MD with my best friends and my favorite farmer as the tour guide was an experience I will never forget. Shane Hughes, founder of Liberty Delight Farms, is a big handsome farmer with a heart of gold. This All American football star towers over us as he leads us around the sprawling property, where he gives each animal we encounter a rub or a kiss of affection. Shane's sensitive soul and passion for raising animals humanely and sustainably literally chokes me up.
I've gotten to know Shane over the years during our time working together at Future Harvest CASA, where I master the web communications and he serves as the Treasurer of our board. When I first met him, I instantly wanted to be his friend as he entertained my countless questions about his farm, his animals, how he was able to raise animals for meat, if he ever got any sleep, etc.
He always considers our annual conference a "vacation" from the farm, so we hang at the bar and chat until the cows come home! It was only natural that I take a trip to the farm itself and tell you all about how amazing he is, too!
Shane, along with his VP and partner in life, Lauren Taylor, run the all natural meat producer in Reisterstown. The farm produces the freshest beef, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, rabbit, beef jerky, sausage, eggs and more. They even have a Raw Dog Diet and various all-natural treats for your canine family members.
The crops the animals are fed are grown on the farm or sourced by verifiable local farmers meeting LDF's quality growing practices. The livestock is pasture grazed and raised naturally without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones or growth stimulants.
The canine meal plan stems from the rescue operation that Shane started with his Great Pyrenees dogs. Although known for their protective instincts and typically used as working farm dogs, Shane and Lauren's dogs just get to run around, eat, cuddle and be loved. They rescue the animals rather than acquire them to work on the farm, and they are basically giant polar bears of cuteness. So naturally, they were fed the "leftovers," which eventually stemmed into it's own line of LDF products!
Shane is always working to make the farm even better. Currently, he's getting ready to build new housing structures for the pigs out of concrete so that they will stay warm and dry on a surface that can be easily cleaned. He also created a natural run-off filtering system for water that runs from the farm down to the stream nearby. The stream is also used to hydrate the animals, with several watering stations around the pasture sourced directly from the stream and even a path down to the stream itself.
Shane and his team also make their own haylage feed for the animals from the cut grass and hay on the farm. It provides not only a way to preserve the foraged hay, but it also results in a higher feed quality bale through leaf preservation and possible nitrate reduction.
What else could there be, you ask? Shane is also installing solar panels on his farm structures for even more sustainability and waste reduction.
Owning a farm is incredibly hard work. Owning a sustainable farm is even harder - but Shane just makes it seem like the best job in the world. He is so incredibly passionate about what he does and makes sure it's done right.
Some fun and important facts I learned about Shane on my visit to the farm before we get into the interview:
- He is very adamant about never yelling at or around the animals. Just as it stresses humans out, it stresses animals out too. He always talks to them with a soothing, calm, and loving voice. I must say, it makes us all feel at home :)
- Shane and Lauren eat mostly pork. Shane says he can't afford to eat his own beef - haha! They cook a lot of pork chops, or chuck roasts and short ribs in their new sous-vide - a big step up from the crock pot! Shane says they don't typically eat the rabbits, as they'd rather sell them and leave cooking those up to the professionals.
- Shane's favorite meal? Grilled ribeye with baked potato and asparagus, and roasted apples with ice cream for dessert. I cooked up one of the cowboy ribeyes and don't think I'll ever eat another cut again (see below for photo).
I Caught Up With Shane At The farm and learned what his favorite meal was, which animal he favors the most and the ingredient he will not touch. Check It Out...
Why did you get into farming?
I grew up on a farm where we had just a handful of animals and always was fascinated with them. As an adult I dabbled with my Uncle’s farm as a hobby. When I had the opportunity to start a second career it was the obvious choice. Ultimately I bought my Uncles farm and grew it from 10 head of cattle to now 160+ beef, dozens of Pigs, over a thousand Chicken and hundreds of Rabbits! The beauty of working with nature and these beautiful animals is very satisfying. Watching them grow and providing them all with healthy and happy environments is a passion.
What did you do before you were a farmer?
I went to college at Salisbury University, became an All American football player and a numbers guy. I became a CPA, and for many years worked at Legg Mason, ultimately managing their money markets- it could not have been a more different career!
Can you describe to my readers what it means to be a sustainable farm and why that is so important?
Sustainability is a big buzz word. For liberty Delight Farms it means building and retaining natural resources that will be renewable without further disruption for future years. We built watering systems that pull from a local stream, installed solar for electricity, built drainage systems to minimize erosion, and create food gathering and storing spaces to prepare for winter months to feed the animals. Each project takes into account how we can be smart with the land, the natural resources and prepare the farm for the coming years. We believe in quality and doing each thing as well as possible.
What animals do you raise on your farm?
What animals do you raise on your farm? We raise Simmental Beef, Berkshire Pigs, a couple of types of Chicken: Cornish Rock Cross Broilers and Ameracauna’s, New Zealand and Silver Fox Rabbits.- oh, and of course Great Pyrenees!
What's your favorite thing to make using the products from your farm?
As you can imagine, we are meat lovers! We experiment with many dishes so we can share our recipes and experiences with our farm friends network. Beef- the Rib Eye is definitely the shining star, with a not so distant second, the Skirt Steak. For Pork- if you have ever tried Berkshire Pork (some call this the Waygu of Pork), our pork chops are so delicious. We’ve recently gotten a Sous-Vide, what a game changer. So far the most surprising was the Fried Chicken recipe in the Sous-Vide! Grilling season is almost here, looking forward to cleaning off the grill to master the perfect Cowboy steak rub and juicy/ smoky Spare Ribs!
Where can we find your products?
We happily participate in 7 farmers markets around the DC/VA/MD area. They are listed on our website www.libertydelightfarms.com. We sell at the farm as well as host a CSA (monthly 'Farm Share’) that is a pre-set cost $160/ month for 20 pounds of mixed meat. The farm share orders are available for pick up at all of our farmers markets, the farm, as well as the following partner locations: Quarry Wine and Spirits, Kenilworth Wine and Spirits, Foundry Row Wine and Spirits and Canton Crossing Wine and Spirits. We also work with countless restaurants and facilities, also listed on our website.
Tell me about a typical day on the farm from the time you wake up until the work day is over.
At the farm things start early. It’s exciting to wake with the sun and see all of the cows on the pasture. We have full time farm employees that are involved in the day to day feeding and maintenance of the farm. I typically jump into the mix as needed and steward the evolving season’s necessary changes in the barnyards as well as the pastures. I work with vendors and suppliers, help with tagging and herding the animals, eat a delicious homemade lunch with LDF meats, survey the animals growth trajectory and manage the schedule, pack orders and inventory the walk in freezers, connect with the butcher, talk to the animals, feed dogs, sit outside with my sweetheart to watch the sunset with my favorite cocktail- an Old Fashioned, then have a fantastic homemade LDF dinner. Then I pass out! Rinse, Repeat!
Do you have a favorite animal on the farm?
It's ok - we won't tell the others!
My first love are the heifer’s (girl cows). Currently we have about 70 pregnant cows- so the baby calves come daily. Cows have so much personality- the calves are like little kids running around playing. Cuteness overload. The female cows will be with us for 16-18 years producing calves, we baby them and talk to them, many have names. Favorite new calves are Thelma and Louise- twin girls born this past fall. They are their own comedy channel!
What advice can you give to animal lovers about eating meat?
Know your farmer. When you know your farmer and understand the way animals are raised and loved it is part of the food chain to honor them with a respectable next chapter. We honor our animals and use every part to make sure they never expire in vain, it is with purpose and commitment that we harvest and sell to people that have like minded attitudes.
Is there an ingredient or food that you absolutely hate and would never eat?
We cook a lot of food for our 4 big dogs. One thing the dogs and I agree on - no kidneys.
Anything else you want the readers to know?
Yes. Being part of a local food community, like the one that the Hangry District is creating, is part education, part social and part participation. We greatly enjoy being in the conversation, engaging with local young people and sharing with our farm friends to continuously strengthen the farm to table movement. It’s a prideful life, one we would not trade for anything.
Do you eat meat? Do you know where your meat comes from and how it was treated? If not, you really need to think about it and look into supporting local farmers like Shane at Liberty Delight Farms. Like any animal lover, I have always struggled with eating meat, but I educated and familiarized myself with humane farming practices and made a point to meet local farmers like Shane and that makes me feel good about eating meat. It is imperative that we keep local farmers in business, so do whatever it takes to eat local (meat especially) - it WILL make a difference.
A HUGE thank you to Shane and Lauren for taking me and my besties around the farm for a beautiful, educational and truly inspirational day. The work that you two do is labor intensive and messy, with extremely long hours -- and I've never seen two happier people. Always positive and always smiling, these two show me what it looks like to follow your dreams, so that's what I'll do.
1633 Oakland Road
Reisterstown, MD 21126