Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Our Meat Business - Leyden Glen Lamb

A few weeks ago, I told you about my family's new venture selling our lamb as frozen meat to the general public. I've been so busy with book stuff that I haven't had time to update my blog readers with what happened after I announced our new business - Leyden Glen Lamb.

First off, we had to take the lambs to be processed. After loading the animals, they have to be driven to the slaughterhouse. In a week, we pick up the animals in packages and bring them back to our freezer. Below is a photo of a two legs of lamb - one with bone-in, one boned. The lamb is packaged in cryovac by the local USDA certified for resale slaughterhouse we take our animals to. (That spotty white stuff is snow that was falling as I took the photo of the meat.)

For those who haven't been long-time readers, in the past we have always sold our lamb crop at the local livestock auction just before Easter. It's an easy way to disperse of our lambs in one fell swoop. We have always collected the check, paid the bills we owe, and then moved on in the cycle of farming, barely realizing any cash flow until the next Easter. With the surge in interest in humanely raised animals, grass-fed and farm raised animals, we thought it was time we became more involved with the actual marketing of the lambs. Thank you Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver and their respective books - Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for generating interest in many people who never really thought about where their food comes from.

First off, let's say, there's going to be a huge learning curve to this project/business. Secondly, we won't be getting rich but then I don't know any farmer who is. Mostly though, The Farmer, Julia and I we will be meeting interesting people who are passionate about their food, about the animals which become the food, and the land it is raised upon.

So far, we have joined CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture), attempted to sign up for (dial-up isn't helping here!), checked out the local Farmer's Market requirements (probably won't work for us this year), and worked on a flyer for direct sales. There's a lot to starting a business like this and I've had to put some of the things like business cards, promotional signs, and marketing materials on the back burner while I finish up stuff for my upcoming book. I wish I didn't need to sleep, cook, care for my house and family, clean up the winter stuff in the yard nor run errands - then maybe something for this lamb business would get done.
But that's just the way it goes - talk about multi-tasking.

First off we delivered some meat samples to some local restaurants and markets. Now that's an experience, walking into a restaurant establishment with a pound of frozen, cryovac wrapped meat to try to drum up business. I guess it's no different than yarn. So far, we've been selling our ground lamb to a fun old-fashioned "drive-in" called The Wagon Wheel on Route 2 on the Gill/Turner's Falls line. They've put our lamb-burgers on their "specials" roster as seen in the photo below. How cool is that? It is selling well - we've had several re-orders. Neat, huh? I just delivered a large order of lamb stew meat to The People's Pint - the local brewery and good food hang-out in Greenfield. No idea what they are going to do with it - have to check in on that one. You can also find our lamb in the meat case at Greenfield's Market, our local food coop. It's a start and we'll see where it goes.

Best of all I delivered a whole lamb to the lovely Marie Duprey while I was in Dedham, staying at my sister's St. Patrick's Day weekend. In the driveway of Laurie's house, Marie and I talked about her folk-singing career, her passion for yarn and knitting, and life in general while we moved the meat from my cooler to hers. She and her husband have been trying to eat local for the past year and our lamb is now part of their diet. They've been buying chicken and pork from a farm in Concord, Mass. The best part of the transaction was that Marie gave me a loaf of her homemade, still warm, whole wheat Irish Soda bread (it was St. Patrick's Day weekend) and a wonderful CD of her music which I have been listening to in my truck.

That same weekend while I was visiting Dedham, The Farmer was meeting up with Carol from Boston-ish who was skiing in Vermont with her family. He waited beside the road at the former Streeter's Store until they exited Route 91. They swapped the meat from his truck to her car and off they went. Later that week, Carol left a lovely message on our phone calling our lamb "stunning." You should have seen the smile on The Farmer's face as he listened to her message.

While we have been discussing this meat business, The Farmer and I never thought about what we would get out of selling lambs directly to the public. Basically, it is an attempt to make more money than we have been earning from our auction sales. But the satisfaction from hearing from both Marie and Carol about how they are cooking and enjoying our lamb has been very gratifying and icing on the cake. Seeing the name of our farm on a "specials board" at a local restaurant is pretty cool too.

We'll see where this goes!
We've got two more lambs ready for the next two families. If you want information - send me an e-mail and I'll send you an info sheet. My e-mail address is on a link at the sidebar at left. One day I'll have an official website that will be easy to access -- once I get some other stuff done around here!

Thank you internet and thank you to Adam's Farm for running a top-notch facility for processing our animals.


cate said...

I've never eaten or cooked lamb, so I would be interested to know how best to cook it and get some pointers on prep and whatnot, and maybe even some recipes posted on your blog?

Oh, and I'm making a baby sweater and intend to use your embroidery tips to zing it up a little. I'll post pictures when it's done.

Mama Urchin said...

We but almost all of our meat from local farms. It's something I really believe in. I'm glad the experience for you has been a good one. When we go to the farm where we buy our lamb I am very knowledgeable thanks to your blog :)

Marie said...

Thanks again Kristin! And thanks for the lovely link-love. You are very kind to give me a mention.

I've got a delicious bit of your roast lamb as part of my lunch today, slow-cooked with onions and carrots. We are really enjoying it! And have spread the word amongst our like-minded pals.

I'm sure you're customers will all be incredibly pleased with the wonderful lamb you are providing.

Take care,

Diane H K in Greenfield said...

Yay, Kristin! I'm so glad the lamb marketing is beginning to take off! I wish we all could have seen Mark smile when listening to Carol's message. Selling directly can be so satisfying, this I know from growing up on my mom's farm. We sold direct to the public, and it was awesome.

You might want to get in touch with the good folks at the Rendezvous in Turners. They have specials, and I think local lamb could work nicely with their menu. I'll email you the contact info.

I have my family's signature lamb stew recipe from when we raised our own meat lambs, are you interested in posting it for your customers?

Dee, NYC said...

Don't want to make your life more difficult!! Is it possible to also sell your meat online?

Emily said...

Thank you for selling your lamb directly to consumers! I have a lamb in the freezer and it is a very special treat once a week to eat some for dinner. My husband and I are both big lamb fans, and finding good local lamb is much easier than finding good local beef, so our red meat is usually lamb! I'm glad you're getting such great feedback about your lamb. Keep up the good work!

Carol said...

My only disappointment with the whole transaction was that I didn't get to meet you! Next time? I've got a leg defrosting for Easter Sunday and I cannot wait to roast it with garlic and rosemary (My blog post today was about your lamb. Hope it helps!). I'll add to the recipe box if you'd like too. It's a complete and utter joy to cook with your lamb. I'm lucky to have the opportunity.

kmart said...

Thanks for selling directly to the consumer. I think this is a wonderful venture that you and your husband are undertaking. I am very interested in buying your meat. When you are ready, will you let me/us (the readers) know how we can get your meat if we live in Boston and the pricing. Thanks and keep up the great work.

barbara said...

Living in far away Ohio, I can't buy your lamb, but I wish you success. I've been trying to buy as much of my food locally as I can. I shop at our local farmer's markets and it is a pleasure to place my money directly into the hand of a person who worked hard to grow or raise it. The food is of course better, but I'm happy not to be supporting Cargill, Conagra and the like anymore than I absolutely have to.

From the Farm said...

Kristin, if you don't mind sharing, what is the minimum quantity the restaurant is interested in?

Also, what do you charge per lb on the average? In your case, the processing seem to add 75 cents/lb and that would probably be a deal killer where we are (Central FL). I mean that would bring the final price to about $2.50/lb (live weight) and I'm not sure we could find customers at that price despite excellent taste, all natural grass fed, etc., etc. So, we've only sold the whole animals before. What am I missing? :)



Joanne said...

Congratulations to you on this "next step!" We buy all our meat locally--chicken, beef and lamb and it makes such a fact, it's much more affordable for us! The meat tastes great and I know it led a happy life on the hoof, too. I am sure your lambs are delicious! Wish I lived close enough to consider shopping from you! :)