The Nalls family food  | TheFencePost.com
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The Nalls family food 

Scottish Highland cattle have been a wooly mainstay of Three Sister Farm & Ranch since the property's inception in 2017. The shaggy, burly bovines love cold weather and are an excellent homestead breed. Photo courtesy Margaret Nalls
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The hardest worker in the ag industry is its good food. Not only must it survive and thrive as it grows, it also needs to be healthy, tasty and cost-effective.

The Nalls family of Wellington, Colo., raises that luscious, sensible kind of produce and livestock. Not by chance, mind you, but by design. Because, unlike with some human groups, there’s no dramatic Nalls family feud, just cooperative production of Nalls family food. Everyone pitches in toward the common goal.

Beautiful varieties of Three Sisters Farm’s squash happily co-exist in the traditional American Indian growing way as two of the three sisters: corn, squash and beans. Photo courtesy Margaret Nalls
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Steven (aka Steve) Nalls is employed as a chef instructor at the Auguste Escossier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colo. The educational center offers many programs, with multiple classes in each, for potential culinarians (culinary school grads who have not yet attained actual chef status). Successful students merit an associates degree in culinary arts.



Nalls has worked in the food industry for 24 years. Twelve of those have been as an educator with the above school, where he shares his knowledge of food origins and how to best-produce healthy fare for family and community.

Nalls said he currently works his own land as more of a homestead than a commercial venture; he sells only amounts over and above that grown for his family’s needs. And that family is sizable: Steve; his wife Amy; their three daughters (an 11-year-old and twin 6-year-olds); and Steve’s parents, Margaret and Scott Nalls.



THE LAND OF PLENTY

The Nalls’ 80-acre property, purchased in 2016, is north of Wellington and called Three Sisters Farm & Ranch, LLC. It includes 2,500 square feet of bed space dedicated to “just about every kind of vegetable there is.” Contentedly sharing the eclectic plot are tons of tomatoes, plenteous peppers, savory salad greens, garlic, leeks and numerous other veggie varieties.

Produce thrives in this hoop house at Three Sisters Farm & Ranch in Wellington, Colo. Photo courtesy Margaret Nalls
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Steve said he’s working toward building Three Sisters into a CSA and Market Farm, hopefully in 2023. An associated goal is to donate a percentage of yields to area food banks. He’s adamant that nutritious food should be readily available to people in all income brackets, not just high ones.

Nalls uses regenerative agriculture techniques, i.e. dense plantings of companion plants such as the three sisters (corn, squash and beans) and bed rotations. He seeks and selects heirloom plants by flavor and appropriateness for the northern Colorado area.

“I like to put myself into that regenerative agriculture model,” he said, “which is drastically different than most commercial models.”

Although the farm/ranch bears an official name, Nalls intends for the scope and variety of species/ breeds to serve as “the whole-diet farm,” rather than one generating just a few common types.

As do many teachers, Nalls doubles as a lifelong student who diligently does his homework. His online research through “Slow Foods,” an organization that periodically puts out the “Arc of Taste” database, is one primary, comprehensive information source. The Arc’s U.S. listings alone comprise 12 pages of varieties. Nalls said he continuously studies livestock breeds and produce varieties to learn which types best compliment Colorado’s regional soils and climate conditions.

HARDY AND HEALTHY

When it comes to Three Sisters Farm & Ranch livestock, variety is the spice of life. All their animal breeds are chosen for physical durability and excellent meat flavor.

Scottish Highland cattle have been a wooly mainstay of Three Sister Farm & Ranch since the property’s inception in 2017. The shaggy, burly bovines love cold weather and are an excellent homestead breed. Photo courtesy Margaret Nalls
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Highland Cattle, introduced to the ranch in 2017, currently total eight head: four cows, three heifers and one steer. These long-haired Scottish bovines are very hardy. They don’t just tolerate but love cold weather. Grass-fed, their beef is ultra-delicious, said Margaret Nalls, and they can be milked as well. Steve added they’re a very good homestead breed.

Just the name of the Nalls’ sheep breed, Icelandic, indicates the geographic source of their hardiness. Steve proclaimed them an excellent old variety with genetics dating back a thousand or more years.

“Icelandics are a ‘triple whammy’ breed,” he said, because they produce meat, dairy and fiber. Further, they rarely experience trouble in lambing season.

“We’ve only ever had to assist one ewe (in birthing),” he said.

The historical Icelandic sheep breed dates back more than a thousand years. Three Sisters Farm & Ranch currently owns a 24-head herd, including this colorful trio. Photo courtesy Margaret Nalls
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Like the Highland Cattle, the sheep arrived in 2017; the Nalls’ herd now stands at 24 head, including five rams.

Margaret affirmed Icelandics are “a fine animal to have.” She explained, “Even older ones don’t get a muttony, gamey taste” (as do some breeds).

Steve described several of Three Sisters’ poultry species. He said that the American version of the French Bresse is one of the tastiest chicken breeds known. Though somewhat smaller than some other meat birds, the gourmet product dresses out at approximately 3 pounds rather than 4 to 5.

All of the farm’s egg bird breeds are cold-hardy and lay colorful spheres bright enough to serve as Easter basket fillers, without the use of dyes.

German Bierfelders have great temperaments. Olive Eggers are a crossbreed that lays… you guessed it… olive-colored eggs.

Three Sisters’ Blue Slate, Bourbon Red and Royal Palm turkeys are primarily intended for meat. Their eggs are rare as hens’ teeth because the lady gobblers tend to hide them — and hide them well.

Margaret is hands-on with all of the Three Sisters’ species, especially while Steve and Amy both work their jobs in town. From early morning forward, Margaret feeds, waters, and monitors all the critters for injuries or other abnormalities. From care of barn cats to horses to bees, she is attentive, adept and knowledgeable.

The honey bees are locally sourced and cold hardy; three hives currently over-winter. When the occasional bear rumbles through, sometimes knocking over a hive, Margaret rights it and soldiers on. If she can’t handle single-handed something way out of the ordinary, Steve and Amy help attend to it when they get home.

Yes, Three Sisters Farm & Ranch is a truly family-focused venture where Steve Nalls is teaching the next generation, his young daughters (like the farm name, three sisters), about agriculture.

“They do tend to eat a lot of what they pick.” he happily remarked, concluding, “But that’s the whole point of it, right? Flavor and nutrition.”

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