Co-op gets its goat -literally
While the local-foods movement has primarily been focused on garden produce, a cluster of farms has launched an all-natural meat cooperative.
High Country Grassfed is a cooperative of four farms that offers a "buying club" with deliveries rotating around region. The cooperative was formed by Rose Mountain Farm and Yellow Wolf Farm, both of Lansing, and joined by Ripshin Beef in Lansing and Heritage Homestead Goat Cheese in Crumpler.
All of the animals from the farms are raised humanely and sustainably on lush mountain pastures, said Ann Rose, owner of Rose Mountain Farms. Animals are fed on grass or all-natural grain, are antibiotic- and hormone-free, and all meat is inspected and processed according to U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.
"We're a cooperative of farms but we're a buying club," Rose said. "You're (The buyer) on a specific pick-up place, with one town every four-to-six weeks. We are growers and distributors of animals fed with all-natural grain that is chemical free.
High Country Grassfed offers beef, pork, chicken, duck, lamb, goat meat, eggs, goat cheese and goat milk soaps and lotions.
Rose said delivering animal products from local farms beefs up the freshness factor.
"It allows for more freshness, because I will process animals every week, and I process the day before delivery so they can be delivered fresh, not frozen," she said. "I think that's a big plus for our customers, because they might have to go out-of-state for antibiotic-free beef."
Currently the farms are delivering to Ashe County, Boone, Blowing Rock, Banner Elk and Hickory. The cooperative is planning to add deliveries to Greensboro, Charlotte and Winston-Salem soon.
Prices are posted on the Web site at http://www.highcountrygrassfed.com, with a 25- cents-per-pound delivery fee for people outside of Ashe and Watauga counties.
Though all the cooperative members are experienced, they have found that teaming up will help them reduce overhead and offer more variety to customers, as well as ensure abundant supply.
"We have just started the cooperative this year," Rose said. "I've been farming 25 years, commercially for the last five. We also distribute through New River Organic Growers, so some is going to local restaurants."
Rose said consumers welcome the choice of knowing where their meat comes from. "It's good quality meat, frequent, year-round availability, humanely raised and we deliver," she said. "We appeal to former vegans, because a lot of people choose not to eat meat because of inhumane treatment."
The cooperative is currently pursuing certification through Animal Welfare Institute, an organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to alleviating pain and suffering in farm animals, among other causes. Certification ensures the animals are treated well and naturally, not confined, and are supplied with forage and fresh running water.
"It's basically a health certification," Rose said.
The cooperative is ready for the holidays, but also hopes to grow in the years ahead as awareness of the benefits of local meats increases.
"Reasonably, just with the four farms, we could probably supply 200 families, and we have room for growth," Rose said. "We will take more farms as long as they follow the Animal Welfare program."
Customers should bring their own coolers or insulated bags to the pick-up point. Orders are being accepted through Nov. 8 for deliveries in Boone and West Jefferson on Nov. 11. Holiday orders will also be accepted in late November for local delivery. There are no sign-up fees or minimum orders and orders can be placed online.
"Sausage and lamb chops are our two best sellers," Rose said. "This time of year, we have an increase in people requesting roasts for holiday dinners."
For more information, call Stacy Martin of Yellow Wolf Farm at (336)709-6541 or Ann Rose of Rose Mountain Farm at (336)977-2535, or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org)