Our main objective is to create a partnership that enables multiple farms to market and sell Kunekune pork in order to share risks and benefits between a group of farmers selling pork together. A cooperative business model seems like the logical fit for our goals. Currently, three farmers who live within a 40-mile radius are prepared to make the operational changes involved, and three more are considering joining. All three committed farmers have been raising Kunekune Pigs between three and eight years. We have sold meat in individual cuts, wholesale to restaurants, and/or in wholes/halves via freezer trade. Since we have a group of farms that agreed to this first step, we will ask if this method of partnership can be developed and expanded as a model to others by creating a framework and providing thorough technical assistance in order to collaboratively produce high-quality Kunekune pork for the market.
We seek to create written procedures and way of collaboration that solidifies a Kunekune pork cooperative. We seek SARE funds to develop five main components of establishing our partnership: membership, product consistency, logistics, market demand and marketing, promotion, brand development, and sales.
The Kunekune pig is a rare, but growing landrace breed of pig with many exceptional characteristics. Since facing near extinction in the 1970s, New Zealand’s native breed now has fairly healthy populations in countries across the globe, including the United States. As breeders are moving from saving the Kunekune pig to sustaining it, more and more people are looking to a model of preservation through utilization – the Kunekune pig as a pork animal. The Kunekune Pig in America is now finding a growing niche market for small farms, in sustainable farming systems, for permaculture, and with chefs, charcutiers, and caterers.
Kunes are prized for their ability to graze grass cleanly and thrive on little more than pasture all while creating succulent, red, well-marbled delicious tasting pork with copious amounts of excellent, pure white fat and unblemished leaf lard. (American Kunekune Pig Registry, www.americankunekunepigregistry.com/about)
As a pastured pig with almost no tendency to root, they contribute to a heathier pasture environment. They reduce runoff compared to bare lots or confinement. They spread manure by design — feeding the soil as they contribute to heathier pastures wherever they live. Highly amicable animals, they are easily compatible with other livestock, and can cooperatively manage pastures alongside ruminants such as sheep and goats.
Based on registry numbers there are approximately 400 breeders of Kunekune pigs in the US and that number increases every year. The vast majority of these farms are raising Kunekunes on a small scale (less than 50 animals). As the number of farms raising Kunekune pigs continues to grow, so does the need for a business model that can generate sustainable income from the animals. Many farms, including the applicants to this grant, are already seeing increased interest in a pork product like Kunekune meat –
high-quality, sustainably raised with minimal impact to the environment, and locally produced. However, we are also finding that, as individual farms, we are not able to meet this demand. We are finding that restaurants and butchers are wanting higher quantities on a consistent basis than any one of us can regularly produce. As working farmers, we are also limited in how much time we can spend building an individual customer base and attending retail (farmer) markets. Given these circumstances, we feel that the development of a partnership through a cooperative business is the logical solution to expand markets and increase overall income for sustainable farm operations while solving some limitations individual farmers face in terms of scale, brand/marketing power and logistics.
If we are successful in our endeavor, we will be able to share our experience, knowledge and outcomes with Kunekune farmers in other regions as a model for sustaining our breed and our farm businesses for the foreseeable future.
Jennifer Bassman is owner of Heritage Haus, a 15-acre farm located in Berkshire, NY specializing in producing heritage breed pork, lamb and poultry. In its 2nd year, the farm is offering pork and turkey at local farmers markets and direct to consumers. Jenn is a part-time farmer, with a full-time career in marketing, communications, and graphic/web design. She is president of the Empire Kunekune Pig Association and a founding member of the Kunekune Pig Preservation Project.
Our main objective for this project to create a partnership that enables multiple farms to market and sell Kunekune pork in order to share risks and benefits between a group of farmers selling pork together. We started as a group 3 of experienced and Kunekune pig breeders and producers in Upstate NY who sought to develop a cooperative model for joint marketing so that that would expand sales channels to places where we could not reach individually, and increase our overall farm sales. As small farms often struggle with limited resources for labor, time for sales and marketing, and capacity for growth, we wanted to explore how we could work collaboratively to overcome these barriers and create a more sustainable system for small farms. If/when successful we would be able to share our experiences with other farmers interested in utilizing the cooperative model.
In 2019, we added 5 other project member producers and investigated market channels, processors, pricing structures and organizational guidelines under which we could operate. We also explored opportunities to utilize emerging technologies, particularly Blockchain, to add market value to our product and provide valuable insights into breeding and raising Kunekune pigs. We conducted an on-farm seminar/hands-on workshop for 14 farmers in NY, MD and PA, a webinar titled “Kunekune 101: Ask Me Anything” for 18 farmers, sat on a panel about co-op formation at the Carolina Meat Conference with an audience of approximately 35 and created an educational table display about Kunekunes and Kunekune Pork for the Broome County Fair. We created a logo and word mark for our organization, filed for Trademark on both, and developed a working draft of 100% Certified Kunekune Pork Participation Guidelines.
- Project members met twice, on March 3 and March 22. Discussed scope of grant, brainstormed some ideas.
- Began planning on-farm workshop, Kunekune 101, to be held at Bel Canto Farm.
- Set goals for the co-op.
- Create a sustainable market for our product
- Establish Kunekune pork as a niche product and part of the higher-end market. Tap into the local, pasture raised grass-fed market.
- Conduct research that helps standardize the Kunekune as a meat breed and helps breeders make better choices with regard to feeding and breeding.
- Investigate the use of new technology like Blockchain which could provide immutable records that verify the quality, breed and origin of our pork adding value to our products
- Share in the risks and benefits with other producers
- Project members met on April 24.
- Decided on name for Co-Op (Kunekune Pork Producers Association, KPPA), purchased urls for kunekuneporkproducers.com and certifiedkunepork.com
- Identified a Blockchain company Beefchain to contact about using Blockchain in our Co-op.
- Decided that we would need a set of criteria for becoming “Certified” in our co-op.
- Held on-farm workshop Kunekune 101 at Bel Canto Farm in Trumansburg. The workshop focused on herd health care, confirmation, and breeding. Dr. Mary Smith of Cornell University gave a lecture on Swine Health and demonstrated how to do a necropsy. 17 farmers attended from NY, PA and MD. Attendees were surveyed following the workshop for feedback and thoughts on topics for future events.
- Had initial call with Rob Jennings of Beefchain, gathered information to bring to the group.
- Identified the Carolina Meat Conference as an event that would make sense for group members to attend.
- Project members met on May 17.
- Reviewed survey results from the workshop
- Reviewed initial information provided by Beefchain
- Discussed what we would want to include in our criteria for being certified within the coop
- Agreed we needed to create a logo and word mark to represent our organization. Identified an attorney at Miller Mayer, LLC who can assist with trademarking.
- Scheduled meeting with Miller Mayer
- Met with Miller Mayer, received board approval to proceed with filing for trademark for Kunekune Pork Producers association and 100% certified Kunekune Pork
- Project members met on June 21.
- Finalized draft logo and word mark.
- Discussed Beefchain – needed additional information on costs, but potential plan created to test tracking a batch of pigs.
- Created an excel spreadsheet representing the data we would like to collect on our pigs over time. In the future, this data would be recorded in the blockchain system, but can be recorded manually for now.
- Agreed to create a Kunekune pig/pork display at the Broome County fair in July
- Discussed processing and logistics – Identified Regional Access as a potential distributor.
- Project Members met on July 3 & 21.
- Discussion about the AKPR (breed registry) announcing a similar pork certification brand. Brainstormed how we would distinguish our program by setting higher standards and working to utilize blockchain for verification.
- Set up and managed an informational display on Kunekune pigs and pork at the Broome County Fair. Kunekunes were also exhibited by 4-H’ers at the fair.
- We identified attendees for the Carolina Meat Conference and reached out to organizers about being presenters. Jenn Bassman was invited to sit on a panel about co-op formation. Jenn Bassman also received a scholarship to attend.
- Completed filing for trademarks on our logo and word mark.
- Project members met on August 16.
- Members still struggling with pricing structure for co-op. Decided to reach out to other farmers scheduled to speak on the co-op panel to ask questions and gather feedback about our organization.
- Set a date for a fall webinar Kunekunes: Ask Us Anything scheduled for September 27
- In light of one of our farmers being quarantined for rabies, discussed our vaccine practices on our farms.
- Learned that IT developer for Beefchain left company, our contact at Beefchain is difficult to reach.
- Led a webinar, Kunekunes: Ask Us Anything on September 27. Approximately 18 guests in attendance. Conducted followup survey to get feedback and find out about interest in other topics.
- Finalized criteria for participation in the certified Kunekune pork program.
- Identified the New York Farm Viability Grant as a possible source of additional funding for blockchain research.
- The project members met on October 18
- Discussed upcoming grant opportunities, membership models, logistic challenges
- Discussed possibilities for next educational event
- Recapped CMC event, and resources acquired at event. Agreed to add resources to website.
- Barb Rossi and Jenn Bassman attended the Carolina Meat Conference. Jenn presented on a panel about co-op formation in the sustainable meat industry. Approximately 35 people attended. Connected with Slow Food USA, a genetic researcher interested in working with Kunekunes as well as restaurants and chefs.
- After weeks of no contact from Beefchain, we discovered that our primary contact was not with the company. The new CEO meets with us and gives us a very different message regarding pricing structure.
- Project members met on November 16
- Discussed sales channels and challenges
- members shared hesitancy to commit pigs to co-op without having guaranteed clients, but recognized difficulty of solidifying clients without guaranteed pigs
- invited two new members to join the project, Karl Peabody of Peabody Farms and Amanda Hand of MKONO FARM
- In light of the inconsistencies and turmoil within Beefchain, a new blockchain was identified, ripe.io, who was very interested in working with us and pursuing work via our grant. We submitted our NYFVI grant.
- Project members met December 19
- Scheduled winter webinar: How to choose a Processor, The ins and outs of Butchering for February 16
- Discussed taking an organizational position about the changing breed standards from the registry.
- Discussed consulting with Heather Sandford, founder of the Piggery, for insight into pricing and logistics.
- Discussed new processing options – Cornell is a possible option.
- Submitted Grant for SARE Year 2, revisions to NYFVI
- Met with Andy Brudtkuhl of the National Pork Board who connected with us as a result of our work with ripe.io. NPB has some funds to do other work with blockchain and would be interested in doing more work with a heritage breed like Kunekunes. We will follow up in January-February 2020 after the budget has been approved.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
Kunekune 101: On farm workshop at Bel Canto Farm on April 27.
An educational conference and hands-on workshop focused on herd health care, confirmation, and breeding. On Saturday, April 27th, we were joined by guest speaker Mary C. Smith, DVM at Cornell University, and others for this full day of education focused on the Kunekune Pig.
We had 14 farmers attend this event from NY, PA and MD.
Returned feedback surveys indicated a high level of satisfaction with the event and interest other events covering topics including: vaccinations, feed, bloodline traits, history of KuneKune, how to house them, how to market them, and more about the co-op