Only one vendor at Annandale’s , held in on Wednesday afternoons, offers 67 different varieties of pork, beef, chicken and fish. That vendor is fourth-generation farm Fertile Plains Meats.
Located in Jefferson City, West Virginia, the farm is owned by farmer Shannon Donley. Its name, according to Donley, comes from the name the land was labeled on an old 1860 map of Virginia.
In addition to every day cuts of meat, Fertile Plains also has three varieties of pulled pork, four kinds of soup, farm fresh eggs and more. “We only did dairy when I was growing up, but I’ve had hogs for 30 years now,” said Donley. ”I’ve since introduced chicken and eggs, and then beef. Our meats are straight from the farm. We have our slaughtering done in Hagerstown and then they go right to the market."
At Fertile Plains, everything is done with care. “Shannon grows his own grain and grass and mixes his own feed,” said Stephen Peters, who runs the Fertile Plains booth at Wakefield. “Everything is fresh. The longest he’ll freeze anything is a week or so.”
How the animals are treated is also a priority for Donley and his farm. “I [don’t use] steroids, growth hormones, antibiotics, or animal products on my animals. Our food is fresh and not mass produced. We take more care, and it makes a big difference,” Donley said. “Our animals are all outside, and if an animal gets sick, it is separated from the rest until it is well again.”
Regular customer Ellen Leach loves the farm’s North Carolina style pulled pork. “When you get pulled pork at the grocery store, half of what you pay for is sauce. At Fertile Plains, it tastes good, and you’re actually getting the meat that you’re getting for. A lot of people don’t realize that the extra money is worth it because you get so much more product,” said Leach.
Since the kind of food animals are fed affects the flavor of the meat, the answer as to whether animals should be grass or grain fed differs between vendors. Donley feeds his animals based on what he knows. “Our hog is grain fed and our beef is both grain and grass fed—it’s how I grew up feeding our animals and how I will continue to feed them. It’s what I think tastes the best,” Donley said.
Donley has many goals and ideas for his business. “As far as wholesale goes, I would rather work with mom and pop stores and restaurants than large chains. I’d love to have cooked food available at the market, or even to have a winter market where vendors can cook and serve their products hot to customers,” said Donley. “I think that there would be enough interest to make that happen if we could find a location.”
If you would like more information about the cuts of meat, a list of markets, or the services that Fertile Plains has to offer (a winter pickup program is in the works), please visit their website.