Beef cooperative – Part 2

Project Overview

FNE13-788
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2013: $14,710.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Sarah Teale
Rosie's Beef

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Animal Production: grazing - continuous, free-range, grazing management, livestock breeding, pasture fertility, range improvement, grazing - rotational, winter forage
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, marketing management, farm-to-institution, value added, agritourism
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, urban/rural integration

    Proposal summary:

    In 2011 Burchland Farm combined with our neighbors at Emsig Farm (Gordon Chaplin & Sarah Teale) outside Granville, NY to create a grass fed beef herd. Rosie’s Beef LLC unites my history of farming with access to New York City markets where Gordon and Sarah also live. We could not be financially viable alone and so on November 4, 2011 we held our first cooperative meeting with thirty-six beef producers from fourteen farms, hosted by Sandy Buxton at the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Thanks to an initial SARE grant the Adirondack Grazers Cooperative was incorporated in June 2012 and we have been selling fresh, wholesale beef in New York City since July 2012. The Board holds monthly meetings, weekly conference calls and conducts educational outreach through newspaper articles, panel discussions, Meat Week NYC, CCE newsletters and farm visits. We have a web site (www.adkgrazers.com), Facebook page and video portraits of our farmers. The goal of the cooperative is to build financially viable farms in the Washington County region and so in order to increase revenue back to the farms we are also seeking to develop a market for frozen beef in Family Packs that will be marketed direct to customers, through local food distributor Regional Access and to restaurants. We are seeking a SARE grant to assist with creating a long-term marketing strategy for the frozen beef packs and to increase our fresh beef markets. We will continue to work with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to get the word out to farmers in their newsletter and regular e-mail bulletins, and in holding monthly meetings and workshops at the CCE offices. These meetings are open to members, potential members, as well as to anyone who has an interest in grass fed beef farming, meat and marketing. We will continue to build our list of interested farmers and will visit their farms to talk about the benefit of joining the cooperative. As a result of our work so far we have had requests from other CCE groups to speak on panels and we will continue to do that. In addition, we have had requests to appear on panels in New York City including with Food Systems Network NYC annual panel and Just Food. This year the Adirondack Grazers were the focus of Meat Week NYC and our beef was part of a cutting demonstration at The Meat Hook in Brooklyn and East Village Meat Market.These events generated press and considerable attention in the local food community and we will continue to do them. We have also held Meet The Farmer events in New York City and regular meetings on members’ farms. By visiting farms we will be able to learn directly from each other and will at the same time increase the unity between the co-op members. Sarah has also been meeting with butchers, markets, distributors and restaurants in New York City and will continue to do so. We have built a comprehensive web site (www.adkgrazers.com), a logo, a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/adkgrazers) and a brochure that customers can refer to. We have been filming farmer’s portraits since the summer have continued to film every week since then. These portraits are posted on our web site for customers to see exactly where their beef came from and how it was raised. Sarah Teale, an Emmy nominated filmmaker, has also teamed up with Lisa Jackson, who is also an Emmy award winning documentary maker, and together they will be producing a feature length documentary on the cooperative and its members. The intent is to record the development of the cooperative during its first year.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our objectives are:

    • Developing a market for our Family Packs of frozen beef through CSAs, individual customer outreach and with one-off packs to restaurants
    • Advertising in both local and New York City magazines, newspapers and through web sites and Blogs
    • Researching and writing an in depth Marketing Plan
    • Standardizing our production results through education on finishing animals
    • Continuing to build our inventory with outreach to Members beyond our current region
    • Building on our established inventory spreadsheets
    • Managing our Social Media sites through our web site and Facebook page with outreach to food Bloggers and Twitter accounts
    • Adding to our sales team, including a local sales representative in the Saratoga/Albany area

    Our methods for measuring performance targets are:

    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.

    Since then we have established a detailed spreadsheet that includes information of herd size, birth dates, numbers of cattle, farming methods, breed and veterinary records. In this way we are able to track our inventory, anticipate our needs and show growth, which we will continue to do.

    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

    Our financial records are currently managed by Farm Credit East and by our paid coordinator and bookkeeper. This gives us a detailed baseline to track the growth of our markets and individual farm incomes.

    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 have put a premium on those customers that order sides of beef, as opposed to cuts, which decreases our slaughter house costs, and increases 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.