Let's get one thing straight--we are in this for the long haul. Since you've joined our movement and trusted us to raise your food, we haven't taken any of our decisions, or our patrons, for granted. And we want you to know it's only getting better. All of it!
Lots of people have been asking me and Matt and what we learned at the marketing workshop in Jackson, Mississippi last week. It was AMAZING. We were in a room with 20 other producers (ranchers, farmers, etc) from around the United States, talking about how to get the healthy, sustainable food we raise into the hands of the millions of Americans who need to eat. It really felt like we could change the world by changing what people eat... good for the land, good for the body, good for the soul. In fact, the guru of the pasture-raised, direct-to-consumer, rebel food movement, Joel Salatin, said that he wished our "best and our brightest" were graduating from school and heading to the farms, to solve food shortage, eco-diversity, federal regulations and other incredibly complex topics. Which felt REALLY good to my achiever parts and satisfied my farm-raised-city-girl-career-woman-mother complex. Woohoo!
We learned a lot of specifics, but one of the most important things Matt and I found was the center of why we are doing what we are doing at Black Market Farm. Our mission is to create community by providing direct access to natural, healthy, sustainable food. That's our center. It's direct, it's based on a relationship and nothing about it is elite. It's simple. And it's transformative for health, for the ecosystem and for the experience of knowing EXACTLY where your food comes from, how it's raised, who raises it, and how it gets to you. Less than one-hundred years ago, we ALL knew that! Because if we didn't raise it ourselves, we had to find someone who did. And our communities were based on mutually-beneficial relationships. You be the butcher, I'll be the baker and they can be the candlestick maker.
This isn't a luxury. It might easy to dismiss this idea or what Matt and I are doing as a privilege, but it's what can hold us and our family and our communities together. And what we are offering isn't just for the elite. And we are getting more and more clear on that the closer we get to our center. We've played around with lots of terms since our inception, not even two years ago. Like kids and teenagers, we've been trying to figure out who we are.
We felt like we could change the food system by offering largely heritage breeds, which sounded like a GREAT idea. And yet, they were very slow to grow (especially at 8,000 feet!), which means the cost of raising them was increased and, in the end, we were doing a lot of explaining about why the expensive heritage poultry didn't look like the chicken you get in the grocery store. We still believe natural is best and modified Franken-breeds won't have a home on our range, but maybe not so much skinny-ass stewing hens, either.
We thought about going organic. The certification process is incredibly complicated and restrictive, not to mention cost prohibitive. We were looking to be more FREE with our food, not more restricted. Which is why you probably won't see any kind of certification on our products anytime soon. Unless really good, happy meat becomes a certification. But until then, we'd rather have you come visit the farm.
We thought maybe it was important to offer a customized experience. But we this needs to be balanced with accessibility. We would LOVE to have our local, custom butcher do all of our processing, but unless we have contracts for shares of the live animal in advance (and if it sounds like a complicated loop hole, it is) we can’t have him do the harvesting. And even if we had all that in place, we cannot cross state lines with the meat, which leaves us with a very limited market.
We believe that everyone should have access to local, healthy food, directly from the sustainable, humane folks who raise it. Matt and I are talking about our product more and more as an "everyman" food and not an exclusive option. You may hear us talk less about customization and more about accessibility. Or more about animals that are healthy and sustainable at our high elevation and less about specific breeds. It's a learning curve and knowing what we are NOT is just as helpful as knowing what we ARE.