As a military kid, Renard Turner moved around a lot. Not the kind of life conducive to witnessing the rhythms of farming nor having much of a chance to be involved in it. Nevertheless, in California where his family settled for a few years, Renard got a chance to join his high school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter and he excelled in the agricultural science classes the school provided. He went on to work a couple decades in the medical field, but still held the dream of farming in the back of his head.
After a time living in Washington D.C., he and his wife Chinette decided to move out to the country, and found the verdant rolling hills of central Virginia calling them. Gordonsville is ideally located within a 2-hour drive of several large population centers, great for anybody trying to make a living direct market farming but far enough away not to just be an over-priced bedroom community full of unaffordable “ranchettes”. The Turner’s started out as homesteaders, trying to be as self-sufficient as possible and even building their own house from scratch.
They first dabbled in sheep and even ostriches, but settled on meat goats about 8 years ago. The forage base was not right for grass-loving sheep and the ostriches were mean and simply not enjoyable to raise. Their land was a mixture of pasture and forest with quite a bit of browse and weeds- perfect for goats.
Right from the beginning, Renard knew that he had to direct market his goat meat and get the highest and best value for it. He simply wasen’t going to survive selling goats at auction or to a wholesaler. He stumbled upon the idea of a mobile concession trailer after a long conversation he had at the Virginia State Fair with a lemonade concessionaire. Renard learned that this lemonade man and his family spent half the year traveling to fairs and festivals and the other half of the year fishing in Florida- not a bad life. Renard figured the concept might work for him too- spend part of the year traveling to fairs on the weekends and the other half of the year focusing on farm projects and production.
Even though goat meat is the most widely consumed meat on the planet, Americans seem a bit slow to pick up eating it as habit. Still, Renard has no trouble selling it- once people try a bite of one of his samples he often sets out, they inevitably end up buying a whole plate. Renard has perfected some delicious goat recipes that appeal to a broad swath of people, including goat burgers, goat kebabs, and curried goat. He travels to county and state fairs, food festivals, music festivals, and other events with his concession trailer. His wife often comes along and helps him cook, and a couple part-time employees that do most of the selling and money collection. Most meat producer’s jaws are going to drop when I tell you this next tidbit. I asked Renard what an average pound of his goat meat sells for after he transforms it into these value-added meals- “Around $36-38 a pound, on the conservative side”. Listen to more of our interesting conversation about goat breeding, pasture management, direct marketing, value-added processing, and more by clicking on the button below.
The Turners new hoophouse is full to the brim with organic vegetables, ingredients they use in their ready-to-eat meals.
Some of the Vanguard Ranch goats- Kiko & Valero maternal lines crossed with a Myotonic buck.
Photos courtesy of the Vanguard Ranch website.