As a farmer who sells free-range chicken, pastured pork and grass-fed beef, Matt Soldano of Southtown Farms loves the idea of a three-day weekend devoted entirely to grilling.
As a veteran of the Iraq War, he also knows there’s more to the holiday than back-yard barbecues. Much more.
A U.S. Marine Corps vet, Soldano was deployed to the Al Anbar Province of Iraq in 2004. His unit was charged with defending the outer perimeter of the Abu Ghraib prison.
He was lucky enough to make it home alive, to New Jersey, albeit with a severe case of PTSD due to a traumatic brain injury he suffered in Iraq.
At first, he wondered if he could ever find civilian work that would suit him. Then, he discovered farming. He started with just a handful of chickens but knew immediately he was on the right path. With some help from the Farmer Veteran Coalition he was able to start Southtown Farms in Mahwah in 2010.
“When I am working with my animals and working on my land … I trust people,” he says. “I feel very good about the direction my life is going. I am proud of what I do. I enjoy the fact that day by day I am bringing healthy, safe, and clean food to my community.”
This week, he is bringing 7 varieties of his whole hog sausage (“all meat, no weird stuff”), dark-meat chicken leg quarters designed for the grill, boneless skinless chicken breasts and grass-fed beef for hamburgers. All of his animals are raised free of antibiotics, hormones and grain diets.
Matt is committed to raising all of his animals in the “free-est” environment possible. These days, his worst enemies are the coyotes and bears who sometimes get too close to the perimeter of his farm.
This weekend, he encourages people to “go out, fire up the grills, and have fun,”
“But make sure that at some point during the weekend, you pause and make a toast to our fallen heroes.”
Check out this collection of genius grilling recipes from Food52.com.
This week All you Knead Bakery will be visiting us from Beacon. Make sure you try one of their rustic loaves, a breakfast pastry or one of their tangy pretzels.
Saturday will be is our LAST “winter” bi-weekly market. We will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
NEXT week is the official kick-off of the summer season (with some exciting new vendors) and we look forward to seeing you weekly. Summer hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
See you at the market!