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Producing Natural Meat for Local Consumers in Connecticut

By Jean King

Welcome to the Northeast SARE Spotlight! SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) offers grants to farmers, educators, universities and communities that are working to make agriculture more sustainable – economically, environmentally, and socially. Learn about whether a SARE grant would be a good fit for you.

Dr. Temple Grandin with students at the UMASS farm on March 2, 2010. Photo by Jean King


Interest in natural, local meats is growing in Connecticut, thanks to education and outreach events funded through a professional development grant from Northeast SARE.
Dr. Temple Grandin, notable expert in the humane treatment of animals, made a four day visit to Southern New England on March 1-4, 2010. More than 800 consumers, farmers and students were riveted by her presentations that spoke both from her expertise in animal treatment and her personal experience with autism. Those personal experiences are central to her understanding of how animals think and how we can treat them humanely.
Farmers at her presentation at Old Sturbridge Village went home determined to make immediate changes in care of animals. Animal Science faculty, Agricultural Service Providers, and students at all three colleges flocked to hear her presentations and accompany her on tours of farms. Her knowledge is extensive and solidly research based and she presented a very simple approach to animal treatment based on that.

Participants in a pasturing/grazing presentation at Millstone Farm inWilton, CT August 2009. Photo by Jean King


In another workshop, offered in August 2009, more than 70 farmers and agricultural educators walked the fields of Millstone Farm in Wilton, CT as part of a pasturing and grazing school. The hands-on presentation included demonstrations of the effects of various mowing or clipping heights on pasture regrowth, and information on how to identify different pasture species and about their values for livestock.
Introducing Local Meats to a Broad Audience
The common theme for these two presentations and others to come over the next 2 years is a professional development grant from Northeast SARE to increase engagement of Cooperative Extension Personnel in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Departments of Agriculture, other state and local agencies, USDA agencies and NGOs, and farmers in the production, processing and marketing of natural locally grown meats and other products for consumers. The partnership project grows from concerns regarding food safety, farm preservation and farm viability that have stimulated renewed interest in the production of local food.

Upcoming SARE Grant Deadlines

Sustainable Community Grant – Due October 19, 2010
Sustainable Community Grants are for projects that strengthen the position of sustainable agriculture as it affects community economic development. Communities and commercial farmers must benefit from these proposals, and the selection emphasis is on model projects that others can replicate. We also look for projects that are likely to bring about durable and positive institutional change and for projects that benefit more than one farm. Grants are capped at $15,000.
Learn more at: http://nesare.org/get/sustainable-community/
Partnership Grants – Due November 16, 2010
The purpose of the Partnership Grant program is to support agricultural service providers who work directly with farmers to do on-farm demonstrations, research, marketing, and other projects that will add to our understanding of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is understood to be agriculture that is profitable, environmentally sound, and beneficial to the community. The maximum award is $15 ,000 and the average award is $9,550.
Learn more: http://nesare.org/get/partnership/
Farmer Grants – Due December 7, 2010
The goal of the Farmer Grant program is to develop, refine, and demonstrate new sustainable techniques and to explore innovative ideas developed by farmers across the region. Farmer grant projects should seek new knowledge that other farmers can use and should address questions that are directly linked to improved profits, better stewardship, and stronger rural communities. The maximum award is $15,000 and the average award is around $6,500.
Learn more: http://nesare.org/get/farmers/
Learn more about the Northeast SARE program by visiting www.nesare.org or by contacting Northeast SARE 655 Spear Street University of Vermont, Burlington VT 05405 Phone (802) 656-0471 Fax (802) 656 -0500 E-mail: nesare@uvm.edu

The project anticipates that consumers will benefit from the availability of locally grown natural meats and farmers will benefit from selling their meat directly to consumers. Livestock producers, especially those using pasture as part of diverse forage crop systems, seek basic information and advance research on increasing and improving pasture use and on better options for slaughter and marketing of local livestock meats. Increased sales for producers will enhance farm viability, support preservation of farm land in Southern New England and strengthen local economics.
Survey Results
Direction for project activities comes from a survey of meat producers in the three states, an electronic survey designed by the project team and conducted during February and March 2009. The survey was sent to 285 farmers and a total of 117 responses were received. The SARE Project Team is using the information from the survey to design training and technical assistance activities for providers throughout the region.
Overall 75% of respondents were part-time farmers. There are significantly fewer part- time farmers in MA (53%) than in CT (87%) or RI (94%). The high incidence of part-time farmers has implications for how and when trainings are scheduled, e.g., holding meetings on evenings and weekends instead of during regular business hours.
• Nine out of ten farmers surveyed believe their land will remain in farming, pasture or grazing beyond the next 10 years
• Only about half of those farmers have a plan in place to make sure that will happen.
More than 60% of farmers surveyed said they would be interested in a farmer-owned cooperative business for inspected slaughter and processing and nearly 70% respondents expressed interest in a fully inspected mobile slaughter facility.
Most respondents were positive on the idea of participating in a local/regional farmer cooperative approach to marketing. Overall half of respondents indicated they thought their customers prefer local meat because “Local meat means you know your producer.”
Future Activities
The project will sponsor a three state conference on cooperative approaches to animal protein production and marketing on February 12, 2011 at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. By summer 2010 the project will have an on-line networking presence that will let farmers, providers and educators communicate more fully among themselves on all of these issues.
This project will also sponsor future workshops on live animal stock handling that incorporate Temple Grandin’s food animal handling principles, weighing and grading of live animals and carcass evaluation.
DVD’s of Grandin’s presentation at Old Sturbridge Village are available at www.osv.org
Jean King is a food policy consultant in Connecticut. She may be reached at 860-916-7367 or jeancking@gmail.com. To learn more about the project, contact Michael T. Keilty, Sustainable Food Systems Coordinator, University of Connecticut, michael.keilty@uconn.edu

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