Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE99-270
Lydia’s three previous SARE grants were concerned with promotion of export markets for goats and goat semen. This project is entirely different– Lydia used her SARE grant to help organize a farmers’ marketing cooperative, known as Vermont Quality Meats (VQM). As of February, 2000 fifty-two farmers had joined, and approximately 100 restaurants were receiving regular deliveries. With the help of SARE, the Merck Family Fund, the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, and the Vermont Department of Agriculture, Lydia and the other farmers involved have incorporated, designed a logo, compiled product and price lists, purchased a refrigerated truck, and contacted numerous potential customers.
VQM markets almost exclusively to upscale restaurants in the New York and Boston metropolitan areas, on the theory that the best way to assure a respectable profit margin on the smallish volume that they are able to deliver, is to sell a high-quality product to those who can best afford it. To assure the quality of the product, Lydia has drawn up guidelines that detail what breeds and ages are acceptable and how they should be reared.
From April 1, 1999, when VQM began operation, until February 10, 2000, they had sold over $260,000 worth of meat, including 880 lambs, 308 pigs, 262 goats, and smaller numbers of calves, chickens, turkeys, deer, and game birds. They also sold some eggs and cheese. The prices they get—as much as $5 per pound, dressed weight, for young lambs and $7 per pound for suckling pigs—are far better than the prices that quality meats will fetch at auction, or from a wholesaler. One farmer reports, by way of comparison, that the highest price she received for lamb last year (1999), selling through regular wholesale channels, was $1.42/lb.
The response from the buyers has been enthusiastic. They are impressed with the quality of the meat, and they appreciate the personal interaction, and the effort that VQM makes to deliver to their requirements. Some have urged Lydia to expand into value-added products, such as sausages.
Besides grants, VQM’s revenue comes from a $250 initiation fee that farmers pay upon joining, and from an assessment (20% for pigs, 16% for other animals) on sales after deduction of slaughter costs. Besides improving income for farmers and delivering a quality product to urban consumers, VQM has created approximately ten new part-time jobs, in accounting, marketing and delivering.