But What About Us?

We are in our spring waiting season…waiting for the weather to warm up, for the grass to start growing again, and for the lambs to be born in three weeks. (Yikes.)

So while I’m waiting, I tend to get excited about things. A few days ago on NPR an economist from Stanford was interviewed on the impact meat production has on the environment. Not surprisingly, it’s not good. She listed all the bad things—fuel consumption, chemical use, high transportation costs, etc. The negative impacts of industrial agriculture form quite an impressive list. (And that’s not even getting into animal welfare, which an economist isn’t likely to address because you can’t measure it and assign it a cost.)

All through the interview I kept waiting for the economist to point out that small, sustainable farming doesn’t harm the environment nearly as much as industrial agriculture. I waited and I waited. Finally, at the end of the interview she said a few sentences about buying locally.

That was it. Nothing about supporting small farms. Nothing about raising animals on pasture, letting them spread their own manure, letting them harvest the sun’s crop (grass) without using a tractor or any fossil fuel.

So there I was, jumping up and down in front of the radio, crying, “What about us? Are we so invisible that economists think it’s a waste of time to point people in our direction?”

I hope not. We’re out here, but many of us are going under because we don’t have the resources to promote our product, or the time, or the skills. We love animals, so we raise them. We’d love to raise more and sell them to people to eat.

So we’re here, waiting. We’re doing what we can to let people know we’re here, but we’d love it if consumers started bypassing the meat counter in the grocery store, bought themselves a small freezer, and came directly to us. Good for the environment. Good for the animals. Good for the farmer. Good for you.

12 thoughts on “

  1. Good morning!

    I know this isn’t “new news” to you – and I’m sure there’s a good reason why you and Melissa don’t do it, but I think a real business opportunity would be to ship the meat you produce. I know MANY people up here in northeastern MN who would gladly pay the shipping charges. Instead of beef, we order bison from a farm near Rice Lake, WI. If memory serves, overnight shipping for our last order of 50# was only $25.

    Anyway, just a suggestion. Maybe you can get lots of feedback here to see if it would be worth it or not. 🙂

    P.S. Very happy to see an update this morning. Wish you would do so more often!

  2. chicken mama,

    Yes, I need to update more often. I can’t believe how fast the days go by.

    We’ve looked into shipping our meat, and the cost of the packaging alone is incredible. Also, we hope people would buy locally when they can–while bison farms are rare, there are sheep and cattle and chicken almost everywhere!

    Thanks for your thoughts, though. If we just had a 30-hour day, perhaps we could do more marketing things… On the other hand, we’re two introverts who love staying home….

  3. Another thought…

    There are many small farmers who are great at marketing, and they could use more business too. (In my new book I talk more about how to find small farmers…)

    Of course, one could always raise one’s own animals. (Like chicken mama.) And I’ve had lots of urban people tell me they have chickens in their backyard—the newest urban trend!

  4. Catherine,

    I have to ask ’cause I don’t quite get what you mean . . . .

    Are you trying to say that since other lamb/mutton farmers, for instance, DO market their product for shipping that we should use them (instead of you since you don’t ship)? If so, got anyone to recommend? 😉

    Up here in northern MN there are gardens/gardeners from whom we can buy locally (and, generally speaking, organically) – but that’s only 3 months out of the year. Then, there are eggs (but rarely meat birds for some reason) and milk to be bought directly from the farmer. But no beef cattle or any other kind of “on-the-hoof” critter. (Must be the climate and horrible soil conditions, I’m guessing.)

    Perhaps an up-and-coming farmer who wants to live in NE MN will read this and relocate?! 🙂

  5. You’re right…there are areas of the country (and MN) without livestock, which I totally forget now and then because we’re surrounded with animals in southeastern MN. Ooops.

    MN Dept. of Ag puts out a MN Grown book listing farmers who sell meat…that’d be a good place to start.

    And if we receive a CRUSHING demand to buy our meat through the mail, we’ll revisit the whole packaging thing, and let you know!

    Thanks for reminding me livestock farmers actually aren’t everywhere. …. just feels like it down here!

  6. Catherine,
    Bought the new book this afternoon. Can’t WAIT to read it (have to do end-of-semester homework first).

    You might be interested to know that Barnes & Noble downtown Rochester lists 15 available copies in their computer but I took one of two on the shelf.

    Maybe they sold 13 others before I got there!

  7. Hi!
    May I make a suggestion about finding local meat? A wonderful resource would be the local feed mill. Ask the folks in there if they can recommend anyone who raises a handful or pigs or steers or chickens. In addition to Catherine’s suggestion to get minnesota grown’s book, you can search the online listings of farmers near you at http://www.minnesotagrown.com. You might also check out http://www.localharvest.org for folks on a nationwide basis. Also,keep an eye in the classifieds of the newspaper on a regular basis – not just when you think of it. The farmer won’t advertise regularily. She’ll probably only do it right before butchering…you won’t want to miss that ad!
    Keep in mind that it’s hard for little farms to adjust production. We can’t raise a whole bunch of animals assuming they will sell. When it’s time to butcher, it’s time to butcher. It would be a huge risk to raise animals and have no one to buy them. Another thought is that advertising is costly.Sometimes,we have hesitiated when it came to running a $40 ad when we only have a bit of meat not already spoken for. We have only recently started advertising and getting our name out there. If we have more interest than product, we’ll happily start a waiting list. Catherine- I love your blog and first book. I am anxious to read the latest.
    Chicken Mama – I tried to find your blog to see where in MN you are, but couldn’t figure it out. (I’m new to blogging). I’m inviting you to
    check us out at http://www.bearcreekacres.com
    Hope this helps.
    Mary Ann

  8. actually cjw we had 20 on hand and have sold down to the number you saw, I’ve ordered 20 more. Trying to make it our “Book of the Month”. I feel for chicken mama but is that not(shipping) against the whole idea of local farms. With gas at 3.50, the ware and tear of the roads, wages and say nothing about pollution. This is how the whole thing got started, we moved farther and farther away from our food sources. What did the Natives do for meat? If we are to support Catherine and Melissa we need to buy local even if it means going without until some enterprising individual starts up a business because of demand. Ask the local grocery store to buy local. Sorry, I know I’m preaching to the choir just feel that we have lost so much in this country. Sustainable farms are only that because demand has not out striped supply. Well, well that’s enough. You thought I owned a farm, instead I live in a pretty little house in a pretty little town and stay home a lot.

  9. I love this discussion. It’s exciting that we’re starting to talk about meat in this country—how the animals are raised, and how they could be raised.

    Mary Ann at Bear Creek makes a great point about production—farmers can’t afford to increase their production unless they know they can sell those animals.

    And we can’t just wave a magic wand to make more—gotta let the animals engage in sexual congress, then wait for gestation (5 months for sheep), then help animals give birth, then wait 8-9 months until animal is large enough. (I cover all this in my book, so I’ll stop blathering.)

    Bookboy—wow. Exciting that the book is moving! Thanks for letting me know. And don’t worry about ‘preaching.’ Actually, you’re ‘educating’…

  10. I’m a vegetarian, and I heard that show on the radio too, and was jumping up and down in my seat.

    I’d really like to know the answers to my questions about the envrionmental impact of my buying plastic packed tofu that’s been shipped in from Oregon (theoretically, you can make it anywhere, but I don’t, and I don’t know someone to buy it from in MN) versus buying meat raised locally (and, theoretically, on local feed) I imagine it’s a much smaller difference, and maybe even better to eat the local meat.

    I think shipping is sort of an unfortunate option. It’s great if it helps small scale farmers survive, but the point is we need more small scale farmers all over, so everyone can go to the farm they buy from.

  11. Earthfreak has an excellent point—we need more small farmers. Consider the environmental impact of 100 farms each raising 100 steers, vs. one ‘farm’ raising 10,000 steers.

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