For those that don’t know it… winter is a time for reflection on the farm. Taking stock of how the previous year went; what worked what didn’t, what would we like to change and what should stay the same. Being that we are entering into our third year of farming, we are still very much molding our philosophies and farming practices, all the while using our Guiding Principles to point us down the path that would best suit all involved: our family, the land & animals as well as our customers! We do not believe it is necessary to compromise, meaning give up something for another, but rather that it is possible for everyone’s needs to be met through cooperation, communication and empathy. Not only do we spend a great deal of time inventorying our operations from the previous year, but we also do a great deal of planning for the next! The two go hand-in-hand really and we truly enjoy the time and opportunity to reflect and remember all the wonderful reasons why we love farm life!
Among the many topics of conversation that have taken place over the past few months, one has been the ever increasing number of requests from our customers wanting cuts of meat, rather than sides or shares (halves & wholes) of both lamb and pork. For various reasons not everyone wants to have to store a large quantity of meat in their freezer; they might not have a freezer or are limited on the amount of room in the one they do have, smaller families or single people may not require such a large quantity of meat and there are those that simply do not consume meat often enough to make a side or share a value to them, yes there are many reasons.
*For those that don't know, there are two ways to get your lamb & pork processed.
- Custom Exempt: in which a mobile butcher comes to the farm, performs the harvest and takes the carcass back to the butcher shop (in our case, we use Stephenson's located less than a mile from us in Ridgefield) The animals never have to be trucked off the farm to slaughter, reducing the overall stress as well as ensuring the animal receives the respect and proper treatment it deserves. The downside to Custom Exempt is it only allows us to sell our meat by the side/share (wholes or halves) not always convenient for all our customers, and this option does not allow us to sell to restaurants, markets or even through our own FarmStore!
- USDA: with USDA, we would have to truck our animals to a USDA inspected facility, usually hours away, and there is no guarantee of the treatment our animals would receive. We would like to think they would be respectful, but again their is no guarantee. The benefit to USDA is it would allow us to then sell meat by the cut, versus the side/share with many more options and avenues in which to sell our product!
So Matt & I have been discussing the idea of possibly taking a small number of animals to a USDA processing facility. Up until now we have strongly opposed this option, we have always promoted that ALL our animals are harvested on-farm in the most humane manner possible, so the idea of taking some animals off-farm has been one that has become quite a debate around the Schwab household! Like most major decisions we use our Guiding Principles to assist us down this path, weighing all our options as we go and discussing them with like-minded farmers that have similar farming practices & philosophies, getting their opinions and feedback, which has been extremely helpful! I love the care and concern this farming community has for one another, it truly is inspiring. That being said, we are at a place now where we are beginning to feel more comfortable with the idea of possibly taking a small number of animals to a new LOCAL facility here in Washington, in which Matt would be involved in much of the process, everything from the transporting of the animals to the harvest itself – overseeing the treatment & handling of them throughout the process! Matt would most likely not be directly involved in the actual harvesting, but would be able to oversee & supervise the procedures & practices of the facility ensuring that the animals are receiving the respect they deserve. Knowing that Matt would be able to observe the process has made the idea of transporting the animals a possibility, but before we make the final decision, we wanted to get feedback from YOU – our community of customers! Should you wish to offer us your opinions & outlook on this matter, please do so here on our blog! As always, your feedback is welcome, wanted & needed, and we thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!