Thanks to the Field Work podcast for sponsoring this episode. Visit www.FieldWork.org to learn more.
Interest in local and regional food systems has been trending upward for a long time. The pandemic has only accelerated consumer interest in having strong relationships with where they buy their food. But what sounds easy on the outside: farmer produces food and consumer buys it - is much more complicated in practice. First of all, there aren’t enough local/regional slaughterhouses for livestock producers to scale their direct-to-consumer operations because of low margins, regulations, and labor. Today’s episode tells the story of how Adam Parks built a local meat business, and how he is part of a group that has formed a cooperative to solve this problem of local meat processing. Adam is the founder of Victorian Farmstead Meat Company located in Sebastopol, California. They have been selling local meat in the area since 2010 at farmers markets, through a CSA (community supported agriculture), and more recently through home delivery.
“I developed a network of six to eight local ranches that raised for me… And we set about taking fresh meat to the farmer's market. That was kind of what made us unique was that we were the first local people to really bring fresh meat to the farmer's market.” - Adam Parks
Adam’s collaboration with local producers allowed him to take advantage of a trend he noticed after the 2008 recession involving the consumer preference for a more controlled, less extravagant splurge with high quality food items. Adam also created a newsletter that has helped to build a relationship and trust with customers developed at farmers markets.
“Once we gain that trust, we protect it like gold. Our long-time customers will tell you that they don't worry about what they buy from us. They know that it's as good a product in terms of how it's raised and how it's processed as they can find. And so they just get what we have available.” - Adam Parks
Adam remarks that having control over the meat processing aspect of his operation became more attractive as his business continued to expand. He started a 120 square foot butcher shop and is hoping to expand to a much larger standalone facility very soon. Slaughter and USDA sanctioned facilities tend to be hours away which is another part of the business he hopes to make more efficient and sustainable. Adam is one of 16 founding members of the Bay Area Ranchers Cooperative (also known as BAR-C), which is a coop of local producers who are pooling resources to build a mobile USDA-inspected meat processing facility in the area. They hope to be in production this May.
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