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, including online titles loans, 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 because they had no credit and finance, 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.
Healthy Living Val says
Great to know about. So glad there are ways for these local movements to get national attention.
Walter Jeffries says
One of the interesting aspects of the Kickstarter project we are doing for our butcher shop is that it in many ways resembles the CSA Pre-Buys we did locally except Kickstarter is on a national scale.
With our local CSA Pre-Buy customers pre-purchased pigs and we gave a discount on the processing when we do the pigs in the future after the butcher shop is up and running.
The previous CSA Pre-Buy was calculated for local pickup and delivery. With Kickstarter I added the cost of shipping which expanded the advanced purchasing model to people who had been wanting to do it but were to far away to pickup locally. This allowed more people to support our project and in turn get product.
Kickstarter also required that one offer lower reward tiers. This is why there are T-shirts, ivory tusks, DVDs and meat samplers in addition to quarter pig, half pig and whole pig “rewards” of the earlier CSA Pre-Buy program. Kickstarter calls them rewards but really they are advanced purchases that help fund the butcher shop by getting cash here now to buy concrete, insulation, equipment, etc. When the facility is done we can ship the pre-purchased products, the “rewards.”
Doing Kickstarter has been an interesting experience. One thing that is important for project creators, and backers, to understand is that Kickstarter is just a platform, a web site. They do little to nothing to bring in backers or promote the projects. It is vital that the project creator get the word out through their own social network. If you, as a backer, like a project tell other people: tweet it, put the link on your Facebook wall, on your blog, etc. This ‘word-of-eMouth’ is how projects succeed or fail.
After we complete our project I’m planning to do a blog post that will share what I’ve learned about Kickstarting with the hope that it will help other people do well by doing good projects.
Sugar Mountain Farm
i saw your site Mr Jeffries, i thought it was wonderful, the freebies you offered incited me to check it out, and i saw you had raised almost $10grand more than you needed!What a diverse and honest farmstead you have! i don’t live in vermont and don’t forsee buying your meat anytime soon, unless i end up in vermont, but iwas about to donate something in full support of your efforts as a farmer, until i saw you had raised what you needed and then some. fantastic! I work for a small family owned organic farm in central ny (grindstonefarm.com) and we are presently looking into funding for a commercial kitchen to process goods from our oranic vegetable farm(canning, fresh pesto, slow to go, jams, krauts etc) as well as on farm housing for employees/interns, and this kickstart seems like it would be a great way to do it, and debt free too!!! we already have a csa and a solid customer support but maybe this can invite new customers as well.i will pass this on to the boss! and everyone else as well. thank you for sharing! also, your site was great to browse through, beautiful pics and stories!
Walter Jeffries says
The Kickstarter platform is sort of part sales, part exposure and part donation. There are some people who just gave us pledges because they wanted to and asked nothing in return. As the rewards tiers get higher the shipping becomes a less major part of the cost (e.g., quarter pig, half pig, whole pig) and then it is more like a CSA Pre-Buy. And then there is the aspect that the project has given our family, our farm and our endeavor a whole lot of great publicity, getting the word out both to potential customers and to people who might want to do a similar project on their farm or in their community and that has value too.
We’re beyond our initial goal and the extra will be able to go to the next stage of our project. We broke our project down into phases so that they are more manageable. Check out this post from my blog:
By phasing it we can divide up the funding, the construction and the process of getting each part running smoothly. Baby steps.
Wonderful project! Well down Walter, congratulations! We’ll be following your activites.
We are ourselves documenting the Detroit food/ urban farming scene. A fascinating phenomenon and the only way to go!
We’ll be launching our own Kickstarter campaign for our documentary project (we’re blogging on http://www.detroitjetaime.com for now). Looking forward to hearing from you all!
The Frenchies in the D
Coach Kelly @ Get Fit with Kelly! says
Wow! I had no idea this was possible. Two other families and mine are working towards purchasing land and starting a co-op family farm here in Virginia! This is very exciting. I will share the info and check out the above links. Thank you! PS I am so excited to be part of the “Food Renegade” phenomenon! You and several other bloggers have changed this formerly obese SAHM into a true food renegade, studying to be a certified holistic nutritionist (through http://www.gcnm.com) and have COMPLETELY changed they way our family eats! We even just started raising our own hens!!
Walter Jeffries says
I wanted to just leave a note thanking everyone. Our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop at Sugar Mountain Farm project was a great success. We raise $33,456 which was well over our original $25K goal! As I write our family is working on getting ready for the next concrete pour that will close in the initial meat cutting area, inspector’s office, bathroom and laundry so we can start finishing off the interior.
Building our own on-farm USDA meat processing facility has been a huge push for our family for the past four years. It’s good to be so close and we’re looking forward to the day when our animals stay on the farm rather than traveling the long trip to Mass.
Sugar Mountain Farm
in the mountains of Vermont
vermont department of taxes says
Hi there! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask.
Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest
authoring a blog article or vice-versa? My website discusses
a lot of the same subjects as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other.
If you might be interested feel free to send me an e-mail.
I look forward to hearing from you! Excellent blog by the way!