When 53-year-old Loncito Cartwright says his family came to Texas before the war, he means the Texas Revolution of 1835-36. The original Texas Cartwrights came to East Texas in the 1820s and eventually owned a million acres across the state. In 1915 the family acquired land near Dinero, 50 miles northwest of Corpus Christi, and named it Twin Oaks Ranch. During the past decade, Cartwright has steered the 6,000-acre cattle operation in a new direction—raising grass-fed, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free lamb.
“Irish settlers came to South Texas in the 19th Century and raised sheep,” says the Texas A&M history graduate, “so I’m returning to the past in many ways.” Today, he raises a herd of 600 sheep and sells his Loncito’s Lamb to restaurants and consumers in Central and South Texas. His farm-to-table operation began in 2005 at the downtown Austin farmers market. “Top-end chefs started buying my lamb because they enjoyed its quality and were willing to pay for it,” says Cartwright. Word spread among restaurateurs and food writers about the tender, mild-tasting meat. Two years ago, Cartwright added free-range swine to the ranch. Wild hogs occasionally get in with his heritage crossbreeds, so he calls his 250 pigs “free-love” pork.
Diners can find Cartwright’s lamb and pork at eateries such as The Cove and The Luxury in San Antonio, Whip In and Olivia in Austin, the Pink Pig in Fredericksburg, and the Venetian Hot Plate in Port Aransas. Home cooks can buy it at Austin’s Boggy Creek Farm and through Farmhouse Delivery in Austin and Houston.
“I know our animals are happier roaming free,” proclaims the sixth-generation Texan. “And it’s a thrill for me to make friends with the people who buy food produced on our family’s land.”
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From the September 2013 issue.