This past weekend, Chestnut Farms was featured in radio broadcast on National Public Radio titled "Meet your Meat"
Read the interview here or listen to the mp3 file with the interview.
Original Chestnut Farms Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Kim Denney
Chestnut Farms Launches Successful Meat CSA
Hardwick, MA – January 2007 - In response to consumer demand for high quality, locally raised meats, Chestnut Farms has launched the first meat CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the state of MA. Members purchase shares in the farm to support the humane, healthy raising of livestock using traditional New England farming methods. Membership guarantees a monthly package of freshly processed, all natural meat. Initial response has been overwhelming.
Chestnut Farms is a 106 acre family farm located in the heartland of MA, on the site of a former dairy farm. The 65 acres of open fields are alive with a herd of fifty Devon-Hereford cattle, 26 pigs, 25 breeding ewes and 200 turkeys and chickens. “Humanely raised, high quality meat is what we work very hard to grow. Our cows are all grass-fed and the pigs, sheep and poultry are pastured. Our animals breathe fresh air and see blue sky as they roam through the pastures. We are committed to connecting our community to our agrarian roots while caring for our land and our animals” stated Denney.
Concern over commercial meat production combined with a love of a good steak drove Denney and Jakshtis to raising their own livestock. “Many people don’t realize that 80 percent of the grass-fed beef available at local supermarkets is imported from Central and South America. Cattle are being raised in what was formerly a rainforest to supply the United States. We were also shocked to learn that 70 percent of all chemical hormones manufactured in the United States are administered directly to animals in an effort to make them grow bigger, faster” stated Jakshtis. These local farmers believe they can humanely raise high quality, chemical free all natural meat right here in Central MA while operating as good stewards of the land.
Chestnut Farms meat CSA has over 60 members who receive a package of gourmet USDA certified meats each month. Like a vegetable CSA, each month contains different meats depending upon which animals were processed. For more information contact the farm at 413-477-6656 or visit their website at www.Chestnutfarms.org.
SAM ALLIS | THE OBSERVER
Mass. food growers find a profitable niche
By Sam Allis, Globe Columnist | February 4, 2007
Farming is a mystery to urban dwellers. When asked once where lettuce comes from, my old Manhattan friend Betsy replied, "Gristedes."
Farm economics are opaque. During the 1984 presidential campaign, Walter Mondale visited a Georgia peanut farmer to hear his tales of woe. James Perry, the great curmudgeon of a political reporter for The Wall Street Journal, listened to the exchange, then turned to no one in particular and asked, "Has anyone ever met a happy farmer?"
There are some in Massachusetts because, it turns out, it is the top state in the country for cash retail sales direct from farm to consumer. Who knew? The average take per farm is $24,876. (That's $151 million divided by the 6,075 farms.)
Mazel tov, Massachusetts farmers. I think. Now, what does it mean?
It means they are getting more of the consumer dollar at the expense of the dreaded middleman. It means our farmers -- boutique soil tillers to a Midwesterner -- have gotten smart about growing what consumers want.
Horticultural products from nurseries and greenhouses split the farm-to-consumer market with fruits and vegetables, according to Kent Lage, who is the assistant commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. Farmers' markets and farm stands dotting the state are doing well. Some now operate all year with dizzying arrays of value-added products like pies and deli food. (The Observer draws the line at hats, but if that's what it takes to survive, so be it.) It means that Buy Local campaigns in this state are kicking in, and local organic farming is on the move.
But before we release the balloons from the rafters, let's identify what the ranking is not. It's not an income on which a farm family can live. A family of four on 25 grand a year is a family on food stamps. That's why three-quarters of farm households here have at least one member working elsewhere.
And let's be clear here: The idea that we out-farm Iowa is ludicrous. We're talking kale versus rutabaga. For starters, the huge agribusinesses out there dwarf our tiny operations -- the average acreage of Massachusetts farm is a piddling 85 acres. The truth is, many Iowa farmers don't trifle with farm stands.
Lage's father, who has grown corn, soy beans, and hogs in Cedar County, Iowa, for over half a century, is one. He never bothered with a farm stand because no one is going to buy hogs on the hoof or raw soy beans there.
Besides, the volume of consumer traffic wouldn't support it. A neighbor who considered marketing his own dairy products, counted the number of cars that passed one day, reports Lage. All 31 of them.
Almost 90 percent of Iowa's land is actively farmed. Ten percent of ours is. Massachusetts is the third most densely populated state in the country. This density provides exceptional market access and a solid consumer base for farmers.
There are 424 farm stands in the state, many of which are close to suburban population centers that want fresh, local produce and are willing to pay for it. There are also 126 farmer's markets -- over a dozen in Boston alone.
Iowa farmers have less control than Massachusetts farmers over the price of their crops. They have none over the price of feed grain commodities. Farmers here, in contrast, have a much better chance to set their own prices and realize a return on investment. "If you think your sweet corn is really good," says Lage. "You can charge 50 cents more and get away with it."
That said, the pressure on our farmers to sell remains huge. Farm land is prized by developers because it has been cleared. No environmental problems. Adequate water supply. And the siren song of a big cash buyout is sweet music to a family that has struggled for decades.
Still, the future looks good here for those farmers who embrace entrepreneurship. And more farmers are selling their produce to grocery stores, where demand for it grows. Whole Foods is great for local growers. Roche Bros. is good, too.)
Springfield-based Big Y Foods, which operates 53 supermarkets in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts and Connecticut, is another leader. Its people start meeting with local farmers in January each year to chart growing and delivery schedules, "We forecast what we'll need and we figure out who's going to do eggplant, radishes, zucchini," says spokeswoman Claire D'Amour-Daley.
To be fair, buying locally asks a lot of food chains. The process involves countless invoices and deliveries, as opposed to a single invoice and one semi full of produce from a big California outfit. But then, the California strawberries I used to buy at Shaw's are the size of softballs and taste like cardboard.
You don't have to be Mario Batali to appreciate an ear of local sweet corn, a box of local blackberries, a bag of local tomatoes still dusted with dirt. They just plain taste better. Any fool knows that. And if the Good Lord doesn't want us to eat local strawberries in February, that's fine by me. I'll wait for the real thing.
Sam Allis can be reached at
© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company