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December 03, 2010


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I agree. I am a cattle farmer in Canada and I am pretty sure they are not selling local beef in most of our restaurants. People are not aware. Natural beef, organic beef, local beef mmmmmm I wonder.

David Fogle

When we first started selling direct we didn't feel we could create a win-win situation with wholesale accounts. One of the biggest challenges for the small farmer is consistent production schedules.

Finding individuals who will purchase your products is the long, hard way of building your farm business but the best way (in my opinion) in terms of long term stability.

It hurts to lose one customer and especially if they are purchasing a large quantity such as wholesale accounts.

We repeatedly turn down restaurants and such for that very reason. It doesn't fit our business model. We refuse to go in debt to service a large account.

Every animal that isn't sold is not necessarily future income... it's a liability until sold and you receive the money.

It's easy to forget we must keep our farms profitable with a strong cash flow and customer base. If not, we end up in debt or out of farming.

steven romero

Walter Jeffries -

Out of all of the farming models out there today I sincerely see your's as the MOST sustainable. We need more long-term, consistent, stay-the-course attitudes in small farming if this thing is ever going to bring about change to the way people eat, and the way restaurants source their food. Sadly, there are too many folks who build a 5-year business model and thus only make a 5-year committment without thinking long-term. I think this only causes 1) a high degree of frustration for the farmer in not being able to meet some ridiculous goals that have been set, 2) a lot of debt for the farmer trying to "buy" your way into success by acquiring all the farming bells and whistles that is necessary to get an operation up to speed and turned around quickly, and 3) a lot of frustration for the purveyor trying to support local foodsheds when a meat source that they've spent time and money building a relationship and supply line with dries up. Fortunately I've seen the wisdom in your approach to farming, and my wife and I plan to emulate that over the next 30-40 years (hope I'm healthy and can live that long) on our farm.

Rebecca -

Thanks for the great blog, and for providing a forum for farmers to collaborate on our success and our woe. I sincerely hope you and Jim are having a wonderful Christmas this year, and that you are enjoying your time off.


bruce king

you're protecting the name of these bad actors even now. Outing them would help other producers in your area.

Sometimes you have to make some noise. Since you're not farming any longer, what's the point in not saying who it was?

Walter Jeffries

Most unfortunate about the dishonest caterers. Our experience is the opposite. We rarely provide meat for one time events because we're sold out so far in advance with standing orders. We have a regular delivery route to a couple dozen stores and restaurants within about a 100 mile radius of our farm. They have standing orders. We price for this and encourage this. It helps us know how many pigs to slaughter each week and makes it easier to sell the pig nose to tail as much as possible.

The issue for chefs and stores is they need consistent, reliable year round fresh delivery of product that as standard as possible. They have told me they have a problem with farmers who deliver one week but not the next, product quality varies, etc. They need consistency. We spent years developing our farm to provide this need, year round farrowing even in our harsh northern climate, deliveries and we're working on building our own on-farm USDA/State inspected slaughterhouse and butcher shop.

As you note, few restaurants or stores want or can handle a whole pig but by having many on our route we're able to sell out virtually every bit of meat from every pig every week. My wife likes to say, "It takes a village to eat a pig." Cute.

Providing consistent product all the way through to the final consumer is a partnership among many people. We have to meet the meat needs of the chefs and stores so they can meet the needs of their customers. Together we make it work but it took years to get where we are. A farmer must be willing to make a long term commitment and gradually build up all of the systems that it takes to do this. Like with any other type of business it doesn't happen over night and not even in a year or two.


Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont


This is exactly why I am the one not returning the chefs' phone calls. The few times I did, they wanted only rib eyes or brisket. That's it. I know they're busy, but it shouldn't take much time to study up how many different cuts there are on a steer, and how few rib eyes and briskets that includes. I get lots of frantic "I need 30 dozen pastured eggs in two days for the Green Ball". Never is there an offer for a longer contract, recognition, etc.

Thanks but no thanks.

I'll stick with my customers who love their 1/4 beef or their 25-lb. variety box, who will come back for more, and who sincerely appreciate what we're doing and have no problem recommending us to their friends and family.


Thanks for writing this.
I have similar thoughts running around my head after spending the last year raising pigs for some 'promises' made by local chefs who then moved on and left us hanging.
And now we don't raise pork...

At least I don't have to tiptoe around the whims of a chef who makes me promises and then doesn't care that we spent a ton of time and money based on those promises.
Ugh. Don't get me started, I'll be here all night ;)

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