Photo by Forrest Nguyen
For most of us, local, farm-to-table dining requires driving to a socially conscious restaurant. When Amanda Lucy was growing up, it only required walking into the kitchen. Lucy, who co-owns Lucy’s Restaurant in Jackson Ward with her husband, Jason, spent her childhood on Monrovia Farm, a 138-acre cattle farm in Westmoreland County that was once part of President James Monroe’s estate.
Three generations of her family have run the farm, making their living selling beef to private individuals and livestock exchanges. But both of those markets can be fickle, so Lucy and her sister, Cathy Cavender, brought more security to the family business by persuading their father, H. Shirley Powell, and Cavender’s husband, Andy Cavender Jr., to get their Angus beef into restaurants, butcher shops and upscale grocers.
Once the farm began transporting its cattle to an FDA-regulated slaughter facility, they were in business, so to speak, and could sell beef for public consumption. The timing was perfect — Lucy was opening her first restaurant, finally giving Monrovia meat prime real estate on a menu. Today, you can find Monrovia across Virginia, from Pendulum Fine Meats in Norfolk to Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub in Alexandria. But here in Richmond, the only restaurant where you can order it is Lucy’s — a deal that Lucy was shrewd enough to negotiate with her father.
It’s a whole new world for Powell, who now gets to see his product artfully rendered on a plate, and read glowing reviews about it. “He’s tickled pink,” Lucy says with a laugh.
And so are diners. Monrovia beef is made from cattle that are grass-fed throughout their lives, then switched to a more fattening diet of grain shortly before slaughter, resulting in a rich, marbled meat. After two to three weeks of dry aging, the entire cow is packed and shipped to Lucy’s, where Jason Lucy breaks it down and uses virtually every bit. From corned beef hash for breakfast to hamburgers for lunch and juicy, cut-to-order steaks for dinner, meat lovers can sink their teeth into a premium product for a fair price.
In today’s beef industry, that’s rare.