Back to Earth Tacos | Got To Be NC Beef

This post has been sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. I received both monetary and product compensation in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Nestled along the banks of the Uwharrie River near Asheboro, North Carolina is the picturesque home of Tom and Janice Henslee. They share their home with Janice’s mother, as well as a number of bees, free-range chickens, three adorable Brussels Griffon pups, and a field of grass-fed cows. There is plenty of wildlife, too, on the 110 acres that is Back to Earth Farm.

I had the pleasure of spending a morning with the Henslees. They welcomed me into their home to chat about the history of the farm, explain how their farm operates, and share their plans for the future. As I hung onto their every word, I was excited to hear that we share similar beliefs in holistic health and nutrition.

Tom and Janice Henslee
(
photo courtesy of Back to Earth Farm)

In 2013, Tom and Janice moved to North Carolina from Texas to establish Back to Earth Farm. They wanted a place where they could regain and maintain their health: body, mind, spirit, and environment. They “walk to talk,” so to speak, by reconnecting with nature to promote a well-balanced life. Tom and Janice are passionate about renewing the health of the land through regenerative farming practices, connecting communities with a healthy food source, and offering a place for people to learn, rest, rejuvenate, and have fun.

Tom and Janice explained the details of their sustainable farm model. They focus on healthy soil, which produces healthy plants, that will be eaten by healthy animals. That combination makes for healthier people. I was fascinated to learn that Janice had acquired a microscope specifically for viewing soil samples. She explained that she would look for live microbes, which promotes a healthy environment.

These microbes are often nonexistent in farms that use artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. However, the Henslees do not have a need for artificial fertilizers because they choose to utilize managed grazing. Simply put, their cows are contained to an area to feed for a certain period of time. The cows are moved before all of the grass is eaten, allowing the grass in that area to regrow before the cows return to that specific part of the pasture. Using this method allows the cattle to spread their own manure as natural fertilizer.

Did you know that grass-fed beef has 80% less total fat than grain-fed, along with more antioxidants and vitamins? Tom and Janice’s cattle are also GMO free and raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.

After our morning of great conversation, I received a guided tour of the property. There is a serene beauty the encompasses the still-growing farm.

Map of Back to Earth Farm

(image courtesy of Back to Earth Farm)

As we neared the river, the hidden gem of the farm appeared. It’s a hand-crafted cabin made from cedar and pine. The 2 bedroom, 1 bath retreat is available for rent, and includes a full kitchen, heating and air, fireplace, TV, wraparound lower porch, 2 upper-level porches, and a carport. It sleeps 6 comfortably but is not child-proofed.

BTE Cabin

I immediately fell in love with the charm of the cabin. From the gorgeous dining room table handmade by Janice herself to the hammock on the wraparound porch overlooking the river, guests are sure to fall in love with this peaceful getaway. Janice went on to share her dreams for Back to Earth Farm. In addition to their sustainable farm producing nutrient-dense food, she envisions one day offering wellness retreats and educational workshops. For now, she is focusing on growing her most recent inception – a wedding venue! [I plan to write a future blog specifically about Janice’s wonderful ideas.]

BTE Cabin Kitchen

When we arrived back to the house, it was time for me to become Farmer Tom’s chief farm hand. He and I headed out to the pasture to move fencing. The cows heard his whistle and hurried through the field to meet him at the fence line. Like well-trained pets, they knew what was about to happen; it was time for fresh grass to eat. As he reeled in the line, I removed the temporary fence posts from the ground. The cows were very interactive, and seemed just as interested to see me as I was to see them. Tom took the fence posts from me and started to reset them in their new location. I followed behind, securing the line to the posts. And just like that, I became a tiny part of their efforts to leave the land healthier than when they arrived. Restorative farming at it’s best.

BTE cattle
BTE newborn calf
(
The newest member of Back to Earth Farm, a 5-day old calf.)

Before I said goodbye, Tom filled a bag with a selection of meat, from ground beef to filet mignon. I admit that I was a little sad to leave my new friends and the amazing farm that they have created, but I was equally as excited to head home and prepare something tasty with local, grass-fed NC beef.

I love simple, whole food recipes and from-scratch meals. I decided to make tacos with organic, non-GMO ingredients to pay homage to the Henslees and the holistic philosophy that we share.

Ingredients:
1lb grass-fed beef
1/2 small onion (organic)
1/2 bell pepper (organic)
1 zucchini (organic)
3/4 cups water
1T chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1T olive oil

Additional Organic Ingredients:
1 tomato (diced)
black olives (small jar, sliced)
shredded lettuce
guacamole
non-dairy shredded cheddar cheese
gluten free taco shells and/or gluten free soft tortillas

Instructions:
Prepare by dicing the organic vegetables. I love adding fresh veggies to any main dish. They provide extra nutrition as well as offering more flavor and texture to a meal.

vegetables

Add olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan; heat on high. Then add diced vegetables. Sauté until tender.

saute

Remove the sautéed vegetables from the saucepan and set aside. In the same saucepan, add the grass-fed ground beef. Brown thoroughly.

beef

When the beef has finished cooking, drain grease (if there is any; my Back to Earth beef had very little!) and return beef to saucepan, along with sautéed vegetables and taco spices.

combine

Side note: I use spices instead of a prepackaged taco mix. However, there are several great choices available if you do not have individual spices on hand. Check out: Wick Fowler’s Taco Seasoning or McCormick Organic Gluten Free Taco Seasoning. Both are available at local grocery stores.

Add water, mixing ingredients well, and heat to boiling.

taco mix

Reduce heat; simmering uncovered 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened.

To assemble taco, select preferred taco shell. I used both a Garden of Eatin’ brand yellow taco shell and an Udi’s brand plain tortilla, which mimics a soft taco shell.

Add beef mixture, then layer with lettuce, tomato, olives, guacamole, vegan cheese, [I prefer Daiya brand cheese.] or any other topping of choice.

Back to Earth Tacos

There you have it! A simple, whole food taco that is delicious, healthy, and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

I have had so much fun learning about local grass-fed beef. There are a lot of choices for consumers when it come to NC Beef, available throughout the state in farm stores, at farmers’ markets, and online. Back to Earth Farm offers online shopping, as well as scheduled deliveries. If you’re interested in learning more about Back to Earth, or scheduling your own farm tour there, please visit their website: Back to Earth Farm

As I mentioned earlier, this post was sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It is an honor to be featured alongside eight amazing bloggers who also toured NC farms and shared their recipes. Please check out their posts below.

Got To Be NC Beef Farm Tours

And What To Make with Your NC Beef

Greensboro Science Center

As summer winds down and families prepare to head back to school, I wanted to share with you a hidden gem right here in the NC Triad that can serve as both a last-minute daycation and an educational field trip.

Welcome to the Greensboro Science Center!

GSClogo

The Greensboro Science Center is located on Lawndale Drive, just minutes off of I-40, and houses a museum, zoo, and aquarium. All can be accessed for one admission price of roughly $12. Also on site, but not included in admission, are a restaurant, a theater, and an outdoor adventure center. Hours vary between attractions, but all are open nearly year-round.

My family and I recently visited the science center, and had a wonderful time. These are a few of the highlights from our trip:

The Carolina ScQuarium is home to many animals, including sharks, stingrays, penguins, and otters! We began our day enjoying the stingrays and sharks; we were allowed to touch them! My niece said that the stingrays were very soft but the shark felt more like a lizard. At 10am, we ventured over to the African penguins where we listened to a presentation while they were being fed.


After we finished in the Aquarium, we headed over to Destination: Dinosaur. It was an exhibit of fossils and dinosaur replicas, which was both educational and fun! I knew T-Rex had tiny arms, but I guess I never really knew just how tiny until I saw the comparison between it and a smaller raptor.

Just around the corner from the dinosaur exhibit was HealthQuest. It was a room full of hands-on exhibits that covered everything from sneezing and gastrointestinal sounds to reflexes and nutrition.

Our next stop was the Animal Discovery Zoo! My youngest nephew enjoyed the goats and chickens in the petting zoo, while his older brother and sister checked out the wallabies. My favorite part of the zoo were the gibbons. They looked like they were having so much fun!

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 7.24.44 PM

As we looped around the zoo’s path, we stumbled upon Davis Kelly Fountain. It was not only beautiful (and entertaining to the younger kids) but was a refreshing spot for such a hot Carolina day. The fountains played music and the water sprayed to the rhythm of each song!

Adjacent to the fountain was the Discovery House. Here, you could see (and pet!) animals like the domestic rabbit, ferret, guinea pig, and this adorable chinchilla below. There were also armadillos, porcupines, snakes, and an Egyptian bat!

As you can imagine, we worked up quite the appetite with all of our adventures, so we heading back inside the main building to grab lunch at The Fresh Market Cafe. I was impressed by their selection of food; there was truly something for everyone. My mom and youngest nephew enjoyed hot dogs, my sister-in-law had a turkey and cranberry sandwich on wheat, another nephew has pizza, and my niece enjoyed mac and cheese. The Fresh Market Grill is very allergy friendly, so I had delicious gluten free chicken strips and hummus with carrots.

Once we had our bellies full, we played a bit in Sciplay Bay. There were several rooms with a mixture of interactive elements, stunning special effects, and live- action adventures.

We finished our day with the TWC Extreme Weather Gallery, learning about record rain falls, variances in hail sizes, and feeling hurricane-force winds.

We didn’t make it downstairs to the Herpetarium Exhibit. We were all tired and ready to head home. But I feel certain that we’ll go back. In addition to the exhibits we did not see, the science center is expanding! They’re on a three-phase plan with final construction scheduled to be completed by 2020. I highly recommend visiting the Greensboro Science Center on a regular basis over the next four years.

 

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. All photos © 2016 by jennonamission.