We’re more than half way through our first farmers market season and whew! what a time we’ve had. Being at the farmers markets is a wonderful and very rewarding experience. Benson and I have been producing grass fed beef since 2007. Before we started selling at the market, the only way you could buy our meat was to commit to a half or quarter of beef and have it custom cut.
This worked really well for us for a long time. But it was almost like a VIP club. We couldn’t sell to many people selling our beef this way. And while we LOVE all of our loyal custom order customers – we did want to share our product (which we think is wonderful) with more people. So, last year, we went through the process of getting several licenses and certifications through the state of Maryland. Under these umbrellas, we are permitted to have our animals butchered at a USDA inspected facility, transport the frozen meat back to our farm, store the frozen meat on our farm and sell the frozen meat at the farmers markets.
The markets have been tremendously successful for us. The popularity of our meats has created a problem that we didn’t think we’d have – not enough supply. Raising grass fed beef takes about three years – that’s time to breed the cow, a 9 month gestation period and then two years to finish the cow/steer on pasture/hay until it’s ready to market.
Pigs don’t take quite as long to finish. We don’t breed our own pigs here on the farm. Instead, we purchase “feeder pigs” (weaned piglets) from a local St. Mary’s County farm and we raise them here until they reach their finished weight, which is about 250lbs. It takes us about 6 months to finish our hogs.
The goat and sheep take about 18 months. Similar to the cows, we breed them here on the farm. The goat and sheep have a 5 month gestation period and typically you don’t want the lamb or goat to be more than a year old when it comes time to market them.
Custom orders (sides of beef and pork) are something that we continue to offer. This is what we started the farm with and an option we still want to provide people with. If you have the freezer space and your family eats beef/pork on a regular basis – this is the option we recommend. We also introduced a meat CSA this year, which was an option for people who don’t have the freezer space, but still want to “guarantee” their local meat supply. We reserve the rest for the markets so “everyone” can try our meats if they want to.
Anticipating what we need one, two or three years in advance is difficult – and we’ve outpaced our own expectations. We are scaling as quickly as possible, but with the type of farm we’ve chosen to have, that path is a little bit slower. Here’s what the rest of 2014 will look like for us…
Beef – Limited Supply Until September
We’ve just about sold out of our beef for the summer. There is one steer we reserved to take down to the butcher in mid-August, which we will have back in the early part of September.
We are sold out of sides of beef until 2015. If this is something you are interested in, we strongly recommend that you email us at email@example.com to be placed on our waiting list for first notification when we start taking reservations in January.
Pork – Sold Out Until mid-September
Wow do you guys like your pork! The pork we had at the market earlier this summer went very fast. We have several hogs to take to the butcher in late September and we’ll have those back in first weeks of October.
Custom pork orders for September are officially closed. We aren’t selling any more from this crop – however, we are adding a third buying cycle. These pigs will be ready in January. We’ll accept orders on a first come first serve basis through September 30th.
Lamb & Goat Meat – Available mid-September
We are very excited to start marketing our lamb and goat meat this year. This is our first year marketing the lamb and until now, we’ve only reserved the goat meat for ourselves or custom orders (whole goats). This will be at the market in mid-September. It’s unlikely that we’ll open up custom orders for the lamb/goat because of the limited supply, but you can still ask if you’re interested. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss options.
Summer Farmers Market Schedule
We’ve been trying to stretch our meat supply out as long as we could, but we’ve reached the point where we’re just about sold out. That means we’ll have to take a break from the market until we have more meat in stock. This is a tough decision for us on a number of levels. First, we really like seeing you all every week. Second, we made a commitment to the market and the other vendors to be there. But, without much meat to sell at the market, it doesn’t make sense for us to be there.
Here’s the plan:
* 7/23 (wed.) – Prince Frederick Courthouse Farmers Market 11:30am – 3:30pm
* Vacation 7/25 – 8/1
* 8/2 (sat.) – California Farmers Market 9am – 1pm & CSA Pick Up
* 8/7 (thurs.) – Solomons Farmers Market 4pm – 8pm & CSA Pick Up
* Summer Break through end of August
* 9/6 (sat.) tentative date of return to the California Farmers Market
* Resume farmers market schedule:
- Solomons Farmers Market • Thursdays 4pm to 8pm
September 11th through close of market in November
- California Farmers Market • Saturdays 9am to 1pm
September 6th through close of market in October