Beef cooperative

Project Overview

FNE12-738
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,698.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Duane Burch
Rosie's Beef
Co-Leaders:
Sarah Teale
Rosie's Beef

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Animal Production: grazing management, livestock breeding, mineral supplements, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational, watering systems, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, youth education
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, marketing management, farm-to-institution, market study, value added, agritourism
  • Natural Resources/Environment: grass waterways, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control, prevention
  • Soil Management: soil microbiology, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, urban/rural integration, employment opportunities, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    In the fall of 2011 Burchland Farm combined forces with neighbors at Emsig Farm (Gordon Chaplin & Sarah Teale) outside Granville, NY to create a grass fed beef herd. Burchland Farm and Rosie’s Beef LLC combines a long history of farming with access to New York City’s restaurant markets and food marketing industries.

    On November 4, 2011 we held our first cooperative meeting with thirty-six beef producers from fourteen farms, hosted by Sandy Buxton and Paula Burke at the Cornell Cooperative Extension offices. The goal of the co-operative is to build financially viable, environmentally sustainable farms in the Washington County region by selling grass fed / grass and grain finished beef at a price and in a quantity that makes sense for the farmers and their customers. The cooperative model provides small-scale, yet consistent job growth within the field of agriculture, and on-going member education, which is essential to the success of the cooperative, ensures continuing business, economic, and agricultural education of all those involved.

    We will create a long-term marketing strategy and business plan with the assistance of a technical advisor. Outreach will be through Extension newsletters, open producer meetings and marketing conferences.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The first step has been to gather together a group of farmers who believe that forming a co-op together is the right approach. Everyone acknowledges that while keeping beef cattle is the best way to hold on to their farms, and to preserve the integrity of the land, the marketing is the hardest part.

    Our cooperative came together in November 2011 and a small volunteer staff, with one paid coordinator, has been formed. Going forward we will keep in weekly contact with the co-op members via e-mail, and eventually through a shared web site and Google Groups. It is our intention to meet monthly and a bi-weekly Newsletter will
    profile individual farmer’s methods and needs, and will share marketing strategies and resources.

    Through our
    monthly meetings we intend to:

    • Form a legal entity
    • Set membership fees
    • Establish a delivery schedule & system
    • Create an in depth analysis of costs
    • Agree on shared protocols
    • Agree on pricing and markets
    • Lease or buy a refrigerator truck
    • Create a web site

    We will also arrange for New York City butchers and distributors to come to the monthly meetings to present their needs and methods. Adam Tiberio, (See NY Times article “Young Butchers Gain Rock Star Status in the Food World” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/dining/08butch.html?pagewanted=all) has already shown interest in attending a meeting with us. Adam has worked with Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in the Chelsea Market in New York and trained as a butcher in Boston for 12 years before opening a small butcher’s shop in the East Village and also has large plans and is going to open the first USDA-inspected cut-and-wrap facility in New York City in the Spring/Summer of 2012. His idea is to buy carcasses from groups such as ours. He will pick them up from the slaughterhouse – he is currently using Eagle Bridge – and will transport them to New York where he and three other cutters will age, prepare and deliver cuts of beef to high-end restaurants, butchers and distributors that we will have directly pre-sold to. He already has 20 restaurants on line to receive our meat. The advantage of working with someone like Adam is that he is able to cut and sell pieces of meat that most processors either miss or ignore. He has a mere 18lb loss from any carcass and on average increases the beef producers’ income by $90/side.

    Tom Mylan from The Meat Hook (http://the-meathook.com/) has also agreed to come and talk to our group. Tom is branching out beyond the butcher’s shop in Williamsburg, NY. He already has a small restaurant in the Rockaways and is starting others in Brooklyn. He is also developing a line of meat specialties, like sausages, patés and hot dogs for general distribution to supermarkets. And he is educating his customers about unusual or less expensive cuts of meat. He has a growing need for quality, grass fed beef and likes to work
    directly with farmers.

    We will continue to invite people like Adam and Tom to present to our farmers and to educate us on the new market potentials that are opening up in New York. We will send out these meeting invitations to our co-op members as well as to other interested farmers in order to increase our base and to help inform as many farmers as possible about the New York markets.

    The cooperative structure enables members to share information about production plans, sales volumes, prices and other market intelligence and/or to formulate price strategies; this collaboration increases the growers’ market power.

    In addition, we will also increasing our markets by attending the farmer’s markets in New York. Sadly the Union Square Green Market does not allow co-ops but the New Amsterdam Market (http://www.newamsterdammarket.org) is a wonderful new farmer’s market next to the Brooklyn Bridge and they do allow co-ops. We are registered to be able to sell grass fed beef there in the spring, starting June 5, 2012. We will be renting a registered, refrigerated van every Friday and will drive to the city to make deliveries for
    Saturday. We will then attend the New Amsterdam Farmer’s Market on Sunday and drive back that evening. They run from 11:00am-4:00pm on Sundays.

    Beyond establishing a few initial markets, we will also be working with Karen Karp and Karp Resources (http://www.karpresources.com/) as our technical advisor to help form long-term marketing strategies, to write a detailed business plan and to source new markets and grants. Karen Karp is working with New York City to develop the New York Wholesale Farmer’s Market (The Wholesale Greenmarket) and we would like to be there once it is established. In addition, we would like to reach out to larger markets, such as the New York City schools
    and corporations, and companies like Sysco, who are looking to move into local, sustainable foods. Karen Karp also helps to coordinate The Sustainable Food Lab (http://www.sustainablefoodlab.org/), a global network of business, public sector and civil society leaders, who work to accelerate sustainability in mainstream
    food and agriculture. Such contacts could prove invaluable to our cooperative.

    Before our first meeting, a questionnaire and survey was sent out to all attendees in order to evaluate the size and capabilities of each farm, the farming practices and the number of steers that they anticipate being able to supply to the co-op. We will continue to survey our members and a report will be sent out before each monthly meeting. In this way we will be able to track our inventory, anticipate our needs and show growth.

    One of our co-op members is also a successful software developer and he has been developing software to keep track of inventory. With his assistance as the co-op develops and our sales increase, we will continue to collect data and with the information that we gather we will also be able to track:

    • The increase in the number of cattle on each farm
    • The amount of beef sold by each individual farmer
    • The increase in the acres of pastures and fields brought back into production
    • The increase in farm income related to co-op sales

    With the assistance of our technical advisor, we will also be developing detailed strategic marketing plans and a business plan. This will give us a format that we can use as a baseline to track the growth of our markets and individual farm incomes.

    In addition, one of our farmers is also a web designer and will be creating a web site with database integration. In this way our databases will be available to our co-op members, and others, for view via the Web. In addition, we will also be able to post research articles, contact lists, price lists and market details.
    With these databases we will also be able to measure our results by:

    • The number of farmers who join the co-op
    • Our ability to hire staff to run day-to-day operations
    • The type of markets that we are able to serve and the amount that they are prepared to pay.
    • Our ability to streamline the inventory and to make things easier for the farmer. For instance, we will put a
    premium on those customers that order sides of beef, as opposed to cuts, which will decrease our slaughter
    house costs, and increase our ability to track inventory.
    • The increase in our customer base that is prepared to order sides, rather than cuts of meat.

    We will also be keeping data on the number of farms that move towards using grass-fed, sustainable methods with less dependence on grain, pesticides, fertilizers and tractors. It is our aim to decrease the costs for producing quality beef by using sustainable, grass-fed methods with an increased understanding of pasture management
    and less dependence on increasingly expensive corn and gas. Education through cooperative meetings, newsletters and a blog is a big part of our mission and we will measure the success of this by the number of
    farmers switching to purely grass fed methods.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.