If you’ve ever held on to a farming dream, you know that one of the biggest obstacles can be funding. Every new project requires some investment of capital, and if you don’t have the cash you’d usually wind up taking out some kind of bank loan to make your dream a reality. Thanks to a new internet fundraising phenomenon, such arrangements may be a thing of the past.
Over the past few months, I’ve been in email correspondence with Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm about his latest project: building an on-farm, USDA approved butcher shop. Walter, a frequent commenter and sometimes guest contributor here at Food Renegade, raises pastured pigs with a rotational grazing method so they share mountain pastures with sheep, chickens, ducks and geese.
When their butcher announced his retirement in 2008, the Jeffries family decided to build their own on-site butcher shop, complete with a traditional brine curing room as well as smoker to produce custom artisan cuts and sausages. Rather than mortgaging off a piece of their farm to finance the project, Walter turned to an innovative new online fundraising tool called Kickstarter.
Jeffries has created a slew of incentives for backers who pledge various amounts of money — everything from autographed DVDs to shares of fully-processed pastured pork. Backers can donate as little or as much as they want. Even $5 helps.
The way Kickstarter works, projects only get funded if they can reach their initial fundraising goal. Thankfully, Sugar Mountain Farm has reached it’s initial goal of raising $25,000. That was enough to complete the butcher shop, and now any funds pledged will go to the next phase of the project: funding the facilities for on-site slaughter and then the smokehouse.
You’re probably familiar with the nearing extinction of small-scale slaughterhouses here in the U.S. As tragic as the loss is, it makes supporting ventures like the new abbatoir at Sugar Mountain Farm all the more important.
According to Sugar Mountain Farm’s Kickstarter Project Page,
Healthy meat and humane treatment of our animals is critical to us. We raise our pigs on mountain fields eating pasture and hay plus dairy for the vast majority of their diet. Their grazing improves the soil. In turn the land feeds them. They eat grasses, clover, alfalfa, apples, pears, nuts, pumpkins, beets, turnips, kale and sunflowers we grow on our farm plus a variety of other fruits and veggies. They also get whey, excess cheese and trim from a local artisanal cheese maker, boiled barley from a local brew pub and occasional treats of bread from a nearby bakery which are great for leading and loading. We do not feed commercial hog food, antibiotics or hormones nor do we use herbicides, pesticides or the like. The result is delicious wholesome, healthy meat from our farm to your family table.
Furthermore, the Jeffries family has spent 18 months apprenticing under master butcher Cole Ward in order to learn the ins and outs of artisan butchering. Before the recent industrialization of the butchering process, being a butcher meant learning a real craft. An artisan butcher is basically a craftsman, someone who knows how to make the best possible use of the animal while wasting nothing. Cuts are made not according to anatomy, but according how the cuts will be presented on a plate. Will this be barbecued? Turned into salami?
Carrie Oliver, a frequent Fight Back Friday participant and founder of the Artisan Beef Institute, has said, that “The ideal butcher would also have experience on a slaughter line, where artisan practices are just as critical to the end product (not to mention welfare of the livestock and workers). Heck, if they have experience raising livestock, too, for meat, then you’re getting close to batting 1000.”
By bringing slaughtering, butchering, and raising the animals together into one complete circle of life at Sugar Mountain Farm, Walter Jeffries and his family will be “batting 1000.” They’ll be doing what few other pasture-raised livestock enterprises can do.
If you want to learn more about Sugar Mountain’s Butcher Shop project, or even to become a backer, click here to visit their Kickstarter Project Page.
A Few Other Foodie Kickstarter Projects
You may want to check these out:
- Growing Cities — A film about urban farming in America. They’re just $5,000 shy of their initial goal, and only have 8 days left to raise it.
- Misty Meadows Farm Kitchen — This pastured poultry farm wants to build an on-site commercial kitchen so they can create and sell traditionally made chicken stock.
- Paper Crane Farm — This small organic farm is raising funds for a market van to bring their produce to area farmer’s markets.