Monday, June 08, 2009

Everyone Likes Eggs at The Farmer’s Market - But Please Buy Some Lamb!


This past week, The Farmer, Julia and I did two mid-week farmer’s markets in little towns close by to our farm. We were asked by a friend who is in charge of the Agricultural Commission in a neighboring town if we would come sell our lamb. She had heard that we were now trying to establish a retail lamb meat business. We said “yes” without really thinking about what it would entail and then had to follow through on our promise.

The Tuesday market is held in the parking lot of The United Church in Bernardston. It is free for farmers (no booth charge at these markets) but as a farmer, you have to commit to packing a truck, driving there (20 minutes one way), standing and smiling for 3 hours – hoping some kind soul will buy our lamb, and then packing up, driving home, and unloading the truck at our place, moving the frozen lamb to yet another freezer before cooking dinner, getting the homework done, and then collapsing for the night.

In addition, we had to purchase a smallish chest freezer ($250) that could go to the market with us (the local Board of Health looks out for all of you!), a special adaptor for the truck to turn the battery into an electric outlet for the chest freezer ($59), and an extension cord ($10). I also had to pack up a calculator, business cards, promotional cards, pen, change box, some water to drink, and whatever else we all possibly need for three hours in the sun. Then we had to weigh and mark the meat with prices – since I don’t want to have to also haul the scale (which I bought on-line from Scales Galore for $150 plus freight - which by the way would make an awesome scale for anyone doing dyeing....), pack the meat in a cooler with ice to hold it while we drove in two separate trucks to the market. (The Farmer had hay down and couldn't stay and sell with us.) When we got to the market, we had to off-load all this stuff, including the totally unwieldy chest freezer that takes two strong people to get off the truck safely. I think if we had thought all this out, we might not have been so quick to say ‘yes, sounds like fun and a good opportunity!”

I’m posting all this stuff here for you to read for your enjoyment (Oh, yeah – are they nuts or what?) and for your education as to what it takes for a farmer to go to a Farmer’s Market. And none of these kooky details include what it took to birth the lambs, raise them successfully, get them to the slaughterhouse, drop them off safely, pick them up and transport them home successfully to our freezer, only to pack them up again and then take them to our local farmer’s market.

I am not writing this for sympathy. Aaaahhh, woe is me – This is all so much hard work….. I am writing this to get all of you, my loyal readers, to visit your local farmer’s market and support your local farmers! The Farmer’s Market Concept is becoming so popular and widespread now that many, many small towns are organizing them in church parking lots, town commons and other spaces. They are fun to go to by yourself, with your children, or with a friend. By visiting and buying from your local farmers, you’ll help keep the agricultural land in your area planted, productive, and green. You’ll have a direct input to your local community by keeping your dollars in local families homes as compared to shopping with huge “out of town” corporations.

Lately, I’ve been thinking there needs to be a Ravelry Group called “Knitters Who Eat Lamb!) What do you think? Would anyone join? I think about this a lot because as I travel around the country, teaching knitting with color or whatever I am most interested in at the moment, I usually include a brief introduction to where I live. I usually give a bit of a slide show – showing my family and extended family of animals. Inevitably, as I talk about our sheep, lambs, pigs, chickens, there is always a “cry-out” from many knitters in the audience. “Oh my goodness,” they say, “How could you eat them?” The easiest way for me to explain to people why it is necessary for us to sell our lambs for meat is to talk about the exponential growth that occurs in a flock of sheep. We started out with four sheep back in 1979. That morphed to 7, then 15, then 30, and on and on. We have literally birthed thousands of sheep over these past 30 years. No farmer, unless perhaps they are Paul McCartney or someone else with very deep pockets, could ever continue to feed and keep all the sheep that are born – year after year. Not to mention the work, the hay that has to be cut, the housing that needs to be built for the flock. It just doesn’t work that way. And so we choose to eat our sheep and sell them for meat.

I grew up in the suburbs of NY City – in northern New Jersey. My family didn’t raise our own food, except for some veggies. All of our food came from the local grocery store. Every night, we ate some kind of protein, whether it be chicken, beef, fish or pork. Never did my sisters and I have any realistic regard for the life that was sacrificed for our dinner, nor the farmer who grew it. Dinner was just expected – protein and vegetables with some kind of potato, bread or rice every night before we ran out the door to a high school extra-curricular meeting or homework before the t.v. screen.

No, the meat that America buys does not originate magically in plastic wrapped Styrofoam container packages. That meat has to originate somewhere. That animal that you are feeding to your family – whether it be hamburg (cow), chicken tenders (poultry), lamb chops (sheep), or pork tenderloin (pig) – all started somewhere – on someone’s farm (factory farm or homestead – they all begin somewhere). That piece of meat began as a baby animal. It grew into an adult that was of a size that was advantageous for the farmer to part with at a certain cost. That animal was released into the food chain and became packaged meat for your family to enjoy.

So what in the heck is the title of this post all about? I also brought a couple dozen of my hen’s eggs to the market. They were gone in a flash. I think shoppers are a little afraid of eating lamb. I’ll keep working on them though. Our lamb is tasty and delicious and healthy. I only wish my hens could lay three eggs each a day. Everyone loves farm fresh eggs, don’t they? They don’t have to think about the animal being slaughtered, they just think about healthy little chickens running around a farmyard!

Off to paint yet another sign – a Leyden Glen Farm sign to drag around to the local Farmer’s Markets!

34 comments:

alce said...

I'd be happy to join your Ravelry group, and I'd also eagerly buy your lamb, were i not a couple thousand miles away in California.

Thanks for your eloquent summary of meat eating. If slaughterhouses had glass walls, then so many more people would be vegetarians. Yet there are defensible reasons to eat meat, from enjoyment and taste to the role that animals play in making protein available from plants that humans can't eat, and from land that won't support more intensive agriculture. But eating meat definitely requires a commitment to acknowledging the truth of what it costs.

cate said...

Maybe some lamb recipes on your blog would be helpful. People may not know what to do with it, or how to cook it.

Charlotte said...

I'm thinking maybe having some recipes printed up to hand out with purchase would help the sales. People may not know how to cook lamb. I don't. If hand-out recipes are too costly, maybe some poster ones that people could read for ideas would help.

Turtle said...

would love to buy some lamb from someone i "knew". But also 3000 miles away. Aside from seafood, lamb seems to be the only meat my stomach can digest, so it leaves me pain free (lol, a good thing) Good luck!! Your egg shot is so much more colorful than our farmers market eggs...still working on hubby to get some chickens!

Mary Lou said...

I buy lamb at the local farmers market. Sometimes I even go in a whole lamb with friends. Then one of us also gets the lambskin to send off to be processed. I'll join a group if it helps.

Turtle said...

lol, id join your lamb rav group!

Bonnie said...

Since you asked, no I wouldn't join a Ravelry group of Ravelers who eat lamb, as I'm vegetarian! Sorry! Even before I became a vegetarian (in the early 90s), I didn't eat lamb - never did like the taste or the smell.

But I wish you much luck. I'm sure it will take time to grow the venture. I do believe in buying locally produced food, and organic food whenever possible, which is why I've been a member of a local cooperative farm for 13 years.

KarenW said...

I'll join a Lamb eatin' group. And I wish I could get some of your lamb as the selection in the stores around here is poor. Just none of that green mint jelly please!

ellen said...

I'd love to buy some..but I am also too far away. I love lamb!
When we had sheep years ago, we always had lamb in the freezer.
What some people may not realize is that not all sheep are equal when it comes to making money off of their wool.
Good luck on increasing your sales.

Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Very well said. I wish you the best. Seems to me that direct marketing is a good way to go. I may be doing this myself with heirloom veggies next year if all goes according to plan.

By the way, I love lamb.

chickenbetty said...

Count me in for the group on Rav! I lurve me some lamb and if i get out your way again I'm stocking up! I've actually got the hubby excited about going out for beer and lamburgers at the Peoples Pint. ;)

Gerrie said...

Maybe someone like me would wander by next time-would love to buy the lamb, can't swallow eggs!

Diane H K in Greenfield said...

Hi Kristin.

Others have commented about recipes, and that is a good route to take. Handouts that include recipes will draw customers. I'm happy to share my family's lamb stew recipe if you want it.

Years ago, I worked for a CSA in Connecticut. That farm grew all kinds of food plants, some of which I'd never experienced before. The CSA handed out recipe cards based on the produce that was available each week, and it made a huge difference in the CSA members' enjoyment of the produce they received weekly.

Carol said...

I really struggle trying to educate people about meat too. We are far too squeamish about meat which is counterproductive to the health of animals (Don't ask=don't tell about factory farm conditions). Anyone looking for lamb recipes? Try souvlaki, roast lamb, lamb skewers, Irish stew, lamb with garlic & rosemary, loin stuffed with apricots & pinenuts, Lancashire hot pot, lamb curry, rolled shoulder, Tunisian lamb with eggplant, cassoulet, lamburgers, moussaka, shepherd's pie. To name but a few...

marit said...

We love lamb, ang raise sheep ourselves. Most go to the slaughterhouse, but I always butcher a few at home for our own freezer. The ribs are salted and dried, and makes a traditional Christmasdinner. I'd love to have chicke again, and raise a few pigs. Wedon't have a farmer's market nearby, but we try to buy both meat and eggs that are produced locally, as well as fruits and vegetables during that season.
Good luck! It's a lot of hard work, but I hope it will be worth it!

Dianne said...

Educational post, but just one of the many reasons why I am a vegetarian. "No food with a face" is my motto.

Julie said...

Very well-said...although I choose not to eat meat for spiritual reasons, I realize that's not a decision that everyone can or necessarily should make. Humanely-raised meat has a place in our food system.

Also, as a founding member of the advisory board for our local farmers' market, I saw how much work it is, especially for the farmers. It has made me very loyal to those farmers, for all that they put into bringing fresh local produce into our city.

Amy said...

Great post! I blog about local eating and my homesteading experience, and the more involved I become, the more I know about what is involved in getting food to the table, the healthier my family's food becomes. I wish I lived closer, I would buy some lamb! I faithfully support my local farmers each week, as I wait for my own garden to grow and my own birds fatten for fall harvest. Thank you for being out there doing the hard work of it all!

Anonymous said...

i am a faithful reader of your blog, love to read about life on your farm!
i am a long-time supporter of a local organic farmers market, and i buy local and seasonal.
i wish i could get some of your lamb! i love lamb!
alas, too far ! toronto.
best wishes in your new venture!
helga

Anonymous said...

Wonderful and informative post, Kristin! I appreciated it, as sometimes I grumble (to myself) about some of the prices our local farmers are charging for some of the produce (I live in an area where most don't know about raising your own food, so it's the trendy thing to go to the Farmer's Market and buy at whatever price).

Don't get me wrong....I KNOW how much work it is to grow and raise....I grow my own produce and raise the animals. But after this posting and a slapping on the head, I think I will just keep quiet and go buy from my farmers, who are out there every week working hard. It's the dragging of stuff to the location that I hate, so I should give them the consideration to buy their items!

Christine

Hilary said...

You've inspired me to hit the farmer's market, Kristin! I don't know what's available at ours, but I'm all about supporting local economy. And farmers are the salt of the earth. :-)

Hilary

Anonymous said...

Just a thought maybe people would be less squeamish if your label didn't include such a cute lamb

Karin said...

I hear you and I feel your pain about the initial set up costs etc. People never have any idea what it takes to sit there for those 3 hours and do the "marketing". There is so much work that goes into it before hand!

I've been a vegetarian for 20 years so can't help you out much as far as buying the lamb, but I go to a market with veg fare and I tell you SAMPLES are the way to go. I don't know what it takes as far as licenses to offer cooked product, but it helps a great deal to be able to offer samples. And recipies. Maybe another market vendor who does food could be in co-operation with you?

Good luck!!

Melanie Jolicoeur said...

Your new farm stand is on my list of places to check out the next time I'm headed your way (which usually means I have a craving for Pad Thai and am rushing to Thai Blue Ginger).

Anonymous said...

Good luck to you, Kristin! I hope you sell out. I shop at our local(around the corner, literally) farmer's market every week. It's like a neighborhood party, in the parking lot of the DMV, of all places,
and hoping to sell my picture book, Farmer's Market Basket!" to a publisher soon.

Martha said...

A must read for all persons who eat is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Her account of raising plants and animals for eating helps those who are far from the farm understand why the higher cost of organic food. Also, she writes a very convincing rationale for eating meat, meat that has been grown by a local farmer and 'pastured finished.'

Any person who wonders how you could eat "those cute little animals" should read this book.

Good luck to you, The Farmer, and Julia as you help all of us live and eat in a more healthful way.

mascanlon said...

Oh I would buy in a minute but I'm in CA too. I always am more willing to try an unusual veggie at my local farmers market if they have samples and recipes available. As always thank you for sharing your thoughts so beautifully.

Anonymous said...

I'd buy your lamb if I lived closer but since I live in France, I'll go and try to find some local French lamb. This is not an easy thing these days since most lamb here is from New Zealand and local sheep farmers are selling out since they can't compete.

Elizabeth Psyck said...

I can't wait for our farmers market to open up...it's a late one at June 30th.

But I agree - people are too afraid to eat foods because they're cute (lamb) - although maybe I shouldn't judge because I still can't bring myself to eat rabbit (lamb and veal are delicious though).

But thank you for reminding us about the farmers. I grew up in a weird city/suburbs/farm area where they all just sort of melded together, so none of our farmers travelled that far. But I used to make a point of always buying from a certain farmer at the NYC Greenmarket I lived near because they drove several hundred miles every week to sell their grapes/juice/wine.

Anonymous said...

Just made a lovely butterflied leg of lamb on the grill for my family last week - marinated in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, onion, thyme, s&P - yum! Have you tried selling on the internet through Local Harvest.com? They have lovely items grown by local farmers, including lamb.

Siri said...

AMEN! We're far too disconnected from our foodsources in this country. I'd definitly join that Ravelry group, and I think you'd be surprised how many others would, too.

We've recently gotten to know our local CSA farmers and are amazed at how much work they have on their plates, between planning, starting, planting, & caring for all their crops, advertising & selling shares, harvesting & making up the shares to distribute, attending two farmer's markets each week (one tiny one in our own town which can be only barely profitable for them if at all, and the other an hour's drive away), and working the paying jobs they do on the side a few days a week, not to mention building their house from the bottom up. Oh my.
It's exhausting just thinking about it.
They're good at what they do, though, and enjoy the process, and so many are grateful for what they're doing AND are willing to pay for their efforts. They've certainly proven all the naysayers wrong (those who said they'd never pull it off in this climate/community/etc.), selling ALL their shares in their second year.
Sending good luck your way for your new venture. Seems it'll be worth sticking it out to see how it goes. Might just take people seeing you at the market regularly before they're willing to give it a try, and then word of mouth will likely take care of the rest.

Emily said...

Could you leave the freezer in the bed of the truck and sell it out of there? That would save the task of lifting it out ... but maybe the Farmer needed the truck at home and you needed the freezer at the market. I'm glad you went - educating consumers is a big part of being a small farm retailer. Have those recipes ready for folks at the market and it might help sell it too. Also, post a list of the restaurant(s) that prepare it - that's a great endorsement!

woolywoman said...

I suppose people who think that eggs are disconnected from slaughter never realize that half the chicks born are roosters? Can you imagine how scary and violent the yard would be with all those roosters? Yikes!

I used to think lambs were cute until I helped a friend move her sheep around her property. Having been knocked over, charged, and made to feel really, really dumb by a bunch of sheep, I am happy to eat them. Really. In fact, I ordered for the freezer on the spot the ram lamb that knocked me down, then turned and ran back over me. ( Yes, I am a klutz.) He was delicious.

The meat guy at my market sells a $20 meat pack- his choice, but a nice assortment, about two meals worth, or three sometimes. Always has a recipe sheet for the cuts that are being sold, and sells out in an hour. He sells beef, lamb, and stewing chickens from the egg side of things. Now I'm hungry.

Thanks for the great post!

Pork with Bones said...

I'd certainly buy lamb from you, if I were local! I wonder if the prospect of carrying meat while they wander the market and return home has an impact on how many people buy it, though. Perhaps if you made insulated bags available for purchase, some people might make purchase even if they hadn't planned to buy meat that day.