Monday, June 13, 2016

Ranch Diaries: Traditional agriculture meets progressive ideals

by Laura Jean Schneider

...I’ve since relaxed my polarized view, and I think both conventional, commercial ag and small-scale niche market farms and ranches do share common values: quality food production, a superior product, and the desire to serve happy consumers.

I, and many other producers, have found that niche markets are worth pursuing, for reasons other than health or land benefits. Any producer, traditional or nonconventional, is interested in making a premium return on their livestock. Selling grassfed beef, like I’m doing with Big Circle Beef, is just one way to do that. At AgriFuture, I heard about several other interesting ways to make it in the industry. One young producer shared how he maximizes the land base available to him by breeding and raising a modest herd of show cattle, and selling weaned calves for such a high premium that he can support the higher costs associated with operating without economies of scale. Another enterprising young man started his own jerky business, turning cuts of meat that are naturally more sinewy into a high-dollar item. Sam and I did a brief presentation about our path to Triangle P Cattle Company. The room was full of young faces and spirits were high.

I felt that again sitting in the meeting room with my new Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance partners. How to get some diversity into grassfed advocacy, someone asked. How can we take advantage of programs tailored to conventional ranchers and farmers, someone else added. There were adjectives tossed around to describe what about grassfed tastes good to a public with shifting needs. There was a unanimous agreement that the alliance needs to be part of bridging the imagined gap between producers, partnering with folks who don’t see eye-to-eye on everything but share the same core values.

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