WATERTOWN – Farm families have always worked together, sharing jobs and helping out as needed, whether in the fields, caring for livestock or repairing equipment.
In other industries it would be called “cross training.” On the Gitto Family Farm and Kitchen, pitching in to help as needed is not something that was questioned. The philosophy of the entire family has been “just do it.”
Greg and Carol Gitto started their organic dairy, beef and produce farm as a way to involve their ten children in a family venture. The combination suited them well for quite a few years.
As their business developed and some of the grown children moved on to other ventures, they have found a special niche that has replaced raising the labor intensive garden produce.
When pay prices for organic milk dropped they were happy they had other aspects of the business to carry them, like the licensed commercial kitchen that the Gitto family uses to make organic tortillas right on the farm.
In 2009 they started making tortillas to sell at farmers markets along with their produce after meeting an entrepreneur in Canada who was doing it. They started small, making them in a licensed kitchen in Lake Mills. Business soon took off when stores like Metcalfe’s, Willy Street Coop, and Whole Foods began ordering the tortillas sold under the brand Gitto Farm n Kitchen.
Balls of dough are placed on sheet pans. On an average production day, the Gitto family turns out around 10-12,000 tortillas, packaged and ready to deliver.
They now make many thousands of them every week, selling them in southern Wisconsin and Chicago markets. They also continue to market their Jersey hamburger, meat sticks, and sausages made from their organic cow herd.
“Jersey calves don’t bring much at a sale barn but raise them and sell the meat and they are the most popular meat at the farmers’ markets,” said Greg Gitto.
He advises others thinking about ways to supplement traditional farm income to cultivate a good, personal relationship with the stores. Knowing the rules regarding labeling and food safety is also critical.
“If you are ever going to get into anything like this, find a mentor to work with,
Gitto said. “You never finish learning. I was never much of a reader, but I am now because I want to learn.”
Like any venture, they started the tortilla business small.
The couple began using older equipment in a rented kitchen and now have built their own kitchen with more modern equipment that is run like an assembly line. The room is located inside a custom built addition on the farm and is air conditioned to keep the product consistent.
Batches of organically certified flour and other basic ingredients are weighed and then mixed to make the tortilla dough.
Every batch of their tortillas is measured, mixed, weighed out, divided, rounded into dough balls, put into the proofing cabinet (to get the baking soda and vinegar to work), sent through a press to be flattened, baked, cooled, bagged, sealed, weighed again and then put into the cooler.
The tortillas are only in the oven for a very short time, and once they pass through, the flat discs should blow up like a balloon and not have any holes burned in them. Any defective tortillas are promptly discarded.
Dough balls are placed on a belt that will take them into the press to be flattened.
Flattened tortillas coming out of the oven and onto the cooling conveyor.
The family makes both 8-inch and 10-inch tortillas in three varieties: whole wheat, white, and spelt. The tortillas move through a 400 degree oven on an assembly line, devised to ensure that the shells are baked evenly – thanks to the 9 burners inside.
Between 5:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. the family is able to turn out 10-12000 tortillas, packaged and ready to deliver.
Like any venture, the equipment they purchased needed some tweaking to make sure it suited their needs.
For example, an important part of the process is getting the air out of the bags before sealing. Gitto’s son, Tim, the maintenance man on the farm,– designed a simple roller system at the end of the line, made out of PVC pipe, that rolled each bag just before sealing.
The baked tortillas are sorted, bagged, labeled, and then placed into a cooler prior to packaging and delivery.
“Whether you are running a farm or making tortillas you need to be able to modify and repair equipment for the job you need to get done,” Gitto says. “Each of our grown children has a special talent that they are able to put to good use.”
When the Gitto family was marketing their vegetables, they needed the entire family to make it possible. Today, labor is still an issue and the family has almost completely cut out their veggie business because of the time it takes to make and market the tortillas.
The greatest demand for tortillas has always been during the months when fresh veggies are available to go with them.
“Customers like them because they have a distinct wheat flavor but it is not overwhelming,” Gitto said. “Others like them because while they are very thin, they still hold together when loaded down with ingredients.”
To learn more about the Gitto family’s business and products, visit https://gittofarm.com/
We are excited to announce that we are expanding our tortilla business! We will be supplying some of the Whole Foods stores in the Chicago area!
If you are one of our many valued customers, and you know folks in the Chicago are, we invite you to help us get the word out about the availability of our tortilla products.
A list of the stores already stocking our tortillas may be found on our Store Locations page. We will be updating this list as more store come on line with us.
We had the opportunity to participate in the Garden Expo and Farmers Market on February 10th, at the Alliant Energy Center, in Madison, WI.
Although the attendance was less than we expected, we were able to get our products in front of the public once again and also promote several of our new line of value added specialty meat products.
We would encourage you to visit our website often and leave any comments you may have about our tortilla and meat products!
This article was shared from Natural News.
If you’ve ever doubted whether organic food is worth the higher price tag, a study that was recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine should put your concerns to rest. In the study, French researchers showed that people who consume organic food have a 25% lower risk of developing cancer.
The study, which was carried out under the guidance of epidemiologist Julia Baudry, looked at the diets of nearly 70,000 French adults with an average age in their mid-40s. The volunteers were divided into four categories according to how often they ate 16 organic products that included vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, prepared meals, condiments, dietary supplements, vegetable oils and other products.
After an average follow-up time of 4 ½ years, the researchers looked at how many of the participants had developed some type of cancer. After comparing the volunteers’ organic food scores with the cancer cases, they were able to determine that those who ate the most organic food were 25 percent less likely to develop cancer than those who did not eat organic food. When it came to specific types of cancer, the group who ate organic was 73 percent less likely to go on to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 21 percent less likely to go on to develop postmenopausal breast cancer.
It might be tempting to assume that the group who ate organic food would be more health-conscious overall and likely had a healthier diet in general, and that may be responsible for the lower cancer risk. However, the researchers say that simply is not true; even those who ate a low- to medium-quality diet yet opted for organic enjoyed the reduced cancer risk
The following article was shared via WordPress Reader.
Anyone who eats meat has heard of grass-fed beef. Stroll through the grocery store and you’ll find ‘grass-fed’ or ‘grass-finished’ beef. You’ll also notice it’s more expensive than regular meat. Despite the higher price, many choose grass-fed meat because it’s healthier.
What is Grass-Fed Beef?
But what exactly is grass-fed beef? Does the cow’s diet really affect it’s quality? The good news is it’s actually better for your health. Here’s what I learned about grass-fed meat and why it’s the best choice.
Grass-fed beef comes from cows that eat a healthy, natural diet. Real grass-fed cows consume 100% grass after it stops drinking milk. Grass-fed cattle are also allowed to eat and grow at a normal rate. This means they are not genetically modified. They’re free from antibiotics and steroids that make them grow faster.
Moreover, farmers make sure they don’t feed pesticide-sprayed grass. These cows have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. They remain grass-fed up to the time they meet a humane death.
Grass-Fed Beef vs. Regular Grain-Fed Beef: Which is Better?
To understand the difference, we should look into a cow’s stomach. Cows have a unique digestive system that breaks down plant material. Many mammals, like humans and dogs, can’t fully digest plants. Cows, on the other hand, have a large stomach that allows them to eat wild grass. In fact, a fully grown cow can store up to 55 gallons of grass.
Basically, a cow’s natural diet consists of lots of grass.
This is obviously not the case for grain-fed beef. Regular cows are removed from pastureland and shipped to feedlots. These are called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The cows are fattened with grain, corn and soy products. They’re given antibiotics and hormones to produce bigger cattle in a short amount of time.
What’s wrong with grain-fed meat? Grains aren’t a good source of nutrients for cows. This affects their overall health. In fact, regular beef has low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed beef has 5 times more omega-3 than regular beef.
Compared to regular beef, grass-fed meat has the following health benefits:
High-quality protein – Leaner meat has lower overall fat. It also means it has less calories. Eating lean meat is linked to higher levels of good cholesterol in your blood.
More omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 is a great source of good fats. It’s good for heart health, reducing the risk of heart attacks by 50%. It’s is also good for your brain. Studies show an omega-3 rich diet makes people less prone to Alzheimer’s disease.
Higher levels of carotenoid – Grass-fed meatbasically has more beta carotene, a substance that helps produce vitamin A. This supports your immune system and even helps fight cancer.
Rich in Vitamin E – Vitamin E is actually a powerful antioxidant. It promotes cell renewal and protects against cell damage. It also helps slow down the aging the process.
Higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – Grass-fed meat has twice as much CLA as grain-fed beef. CLA is a fatty acid that helps reduce certain types of cancer.
To be honest, I thought grass-fed meat was the same as organic meat. Though grass-fed meat is usually organic, I learned NOT ALL grass-fed meat products pass standards. Cows may be ‘grass-fed’ and still given steroids and antibiotics. Also, even if they only eat grass, some cows are still kept in feedlots. In other cases, some farmers even fatten “grass-fed” cows with grains during the last months of their lives. Real grass-fed meat takes longer to raise, that’s why it’s a bit more expensive. So always check if you’re buying from a legit farmer.
How Do I Make Sure I’m Buying 100% Grass-Fed Meat?
The trick is to look for grass-fed meat verified by trusted organizations. For example, look for the following seals:
These groups make sure cows are raised in pastures with 100% grass diet. They also make sure your meat does not have growth hormones or antibiotics.
Another way is to go directly to a local organic farm that you trust. This allows you to assess farming practices yourself. It’s the best way to ensure your meat’s quality.
The next time you cook burgers or steak, think about where your meat comes from. Grass-fed beef is definitely the healthier, more ethical choice. It may be a bit expensive, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.