Conversation starters

We all want to know more about the food we eat — and whether we prefer to dine on T-bones or tofu, the back story has become increasingly important. We want to know the who, when, where and how of the food on our plate. We ask questions, read labels and search for answers online.

But turn the tables and be the person growing, raising or producing food. How do you engage shoppers, chefs, grocery stores and anyone else who questions the origin of their edibles? In this case, we took a group of visitors straight to the source.

Welcome to Ironsides Angus in Lewisburg, W.Va. It’s a beautiful place with amazing views and friendly, hospitable folks who love to talk about their family farm.

Bill and Sara Irons welcomed 50 guests who enjoyed a refreshing cocktail on the patio, lunch on the lawn, and a hayride through rolling hills and acres of grassy pasture.

Did I mention it was the perfect autumn day? Blue skies, puffy clouds, trees just starting to flaunt fall color. It was exceptional! And the food? Delicious. Beautiful. Mouthwatering. Served under a canopy on sturdy farm tables decorated with wildflowers and wood, elegant china and shiny cutlery. Glasses sparkled with ice water and sweet tea, red wine, and something that tasted of peach cobbler and a bit of bourbon.

Guests dined on freshly grilled beef served on sizzling cast iron …

… and short ribs atop cheesy grits.

The family-style meal was prepared onsite by these three guys: Certified Angus Beef ®  chefs Michael OllierKyle Miller and Scott Popovic. Tough guys who turn out tender, tasty beef — and everything else your taste buds desire.

They prepared a meal that was fresh from the farm, so to speak. But we also wanted guests to talk to the Irons family, see the cattle up close, experience farm life first-hand, and get a feel for agricultural pursuits.

One look around this farm and it’s quite evident the Irons family cares deeply about the land they call home. It’s also clear that cattle take top priority. And Bill Irons isn’t the only one who nurtures these newborns.

Wary mama cows and weeks-old babies watched as we paraded past in our hay wagons. I’m sure they were wondering why a bunch of humans was out and about on their home turf. The answer is easy: for the conversations, of course.

It’s an interesting dynamic — world-renowned chefs and restaurateurs getting a glimpse of family farm life, seeing the beef industry from the rancher’s perspective, and learning what it takes to grow amazing steaks.

In turn, the Irons family had an opportunity to chat with the end-users of their premium product. Everybody learns in these sorts of situations. It’s a chance to ask questions and seek answers. And everyone gained a new understanding of the beef industry, from pasture to plate.

Some, like Chef Jeff Henderson (in the brown hat), were even willing to try the cowboy way for part of the day.

And sharing his love for this way of life is reason enough to make Bill Irons smile.


Published by

Jennifer Kiko

Jennifer lives on a rural route with her husband, kids, horses, cows and faithful Labs, Cash and Carter. She's an aspiring foodie and enjoys making good food for great friends. She lives next door to a winery, plays the piano, and admits to growing too many tomatoes.