|Ohio Farm News
By Steve Bartels
Consumers are becoming more and more interested in knowing where their food comes from, where it is grown, and by whom. Locally grown products, that are fresh from the farm will, according to several research projects conducted recently, demand a premium price over food that is shipped across the country.
People are concerned about food that may have been harvested days or even weeks before they place it on their tables. They are somewhat concerned about foods that are imported from other countries where food safety standards may not be as diligent as those in the United States.
If you travel through much of Europe, the local market square sells fruits and vegetables that may have been in the field that morning. Many little villages have their own butcher where animals are harvested and the meat sold through the shop or by the farmer to their neighbor. You rarely see super stores where food is grown and processed miles and miles from where it is grown.
Here in Butler County, we are seeing farmers beginning to take advantage of the trend of wanting to eat locally produced food. We have several farm markets that are thriving because they meet this demand.
There are at least three farmers markets, two in Oxford and one in Hamilton, where you can buy fresh during the growing season. We even have a community-supported farm where you can invest in the production of the food, with money as well as time if you wish, and actually get a set amount of product each week.
Meat from beef farms is another area where farmers and consumers come together for locally grown product. Usually this business opportunity is not as well organized as for produce. Meat is sold as “Freezer Beef” or the live animal is sold to the consumer for them to take to a locker for processing. Local producers can do much more to encourage meat sales. We have at least one farmer who supplies a Cincinnati restaurant with Butler County beef. The customers are obviously pleased with the results.
This is a “niche” market where cattle producers from Butler County can take a lesson from the past. Before the industrialization of agriculture, food grown in Butler County was consumed in southwest Ohio. There are many potential customers for beef living within 30 miles of your farm.
What do you need to know to develop this market? What are some of the things you need to do to keep the first time customer coming back? Tenderness is one of the traits that consumers list as important in the purchase of their beef. We all know that your feeding program has a lot to do with tenderness, but are there other factors to consider? Do you need to process the beef in a certain manner to ensure tenderness?
The Butler County Cattlemen Association Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 9 beginning with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m., and program at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Aloysius Catholic Church on Chapel Road in Morgan Township. John Grimes, Highland County Extension, will address many of these questions and many others. John has done extensive work in tenderness and selling beef directly to consumers.
We want to be sure you understand you are invited even if your primary focus is dairy on your farm. You are invited if you are not a current member of our association; you are invited if you are not even from Butler County. The only condition you need to meet to be invited is to want to learn about selling local beef.
The ticket price for your roast beef dinner, cooked by the ladies of the church, is only $12.
You can call your reservations into the office at 513-887-3722 or 513-424-5351 or to Bev Roe, secretary/treasurer of the Cattlemen Association at 513-726-6540 by Feb. 5.
Published in the January 25, 2006 issue of Farm World.