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New Ipswich

Linking meats  to the  market

AGRICULTURAL TRENDS: Local farmers finding stores to sell in year-round

  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.
  • Hoppy's Country Store in New Ipswich will be teaming up with local farmer Dave Somero to sell locally-raised beef and pork in their convenience store.

Farm manager Carl Somero wanders out into the field, banging a white bucket filled with grain with a stick. Immediately, one field over, Hereford beef cattle start lowing and ambling towards the connecting gate to get their daily treat. The herd recently shrunk in size from 16 to 15, when one of the cows was sent to the butcher. But unlike in the past when the beef would have fed the owners of the farm or gone to a group of families in town that pay to share the meat, that cow is headed for the store. Hoppy’s Country Store, to be exact.

Earlier this year, Judy Spring, co-owner of Hoppy’s Country Store, approached Dave Somero, a New Ipswich farmer, about purchasing some of his beef for her own use. The two couldn’t come to a deal, however, because even purchasing a share of a cow would have resulted in an excess of meat for her, explained Spring in an interview at Somero’s farm on Friday. That would have been the end of it, but the interaction gave Somero the idea of selling his beef at Hoppy’s. And not only beef, but eventually pork as well.

“Of course, we said yes immediately,” said Spring.

Hoppy’s isn’t the only local store investing in local meat. Roy’s Market in Peterborough and Hancock Market in Hancock are expected to be getting regular deliveries from Monadnock Valley Beef and Bison in Hancock by this winter, and Kim Graham of Oxbow Farm in Dublin hopes to be able to one day soon sell the pork produced on her farm at local retailers as well. It’s a relationship that can work for both farmer and retailer, said Graham, as long as the farmer can provide a steady supply of the product, and the seller can price it in a way that makes it profitable for the farmer.

Mark Hopkins, co-owner of Hoppy’s, said there is a market for local beef and pork, noting that local farm stands have started to pick up on people’s desire for meat that was raised locally — but farm stands aren’t around all year long.

“When the season ends, they shut down, and people have to go without. This will be year-round,” he said of the meat from Somero’s farm his store will be selling.

One of the draws of having local food products at your local general store is just the convenience of it, added Hopkins. “Hoppy’s is 20 minutes from everything,” he said. “It’s an alternative for people who are traveling to get their fresh meat now.”

There are several reasons it makes sense for Hoppy’s, he said. For Spring, the number one reason to have access to local meat is health. “It’s a healthier way to eat,” she said, but it also makes sense from a business perspective, she said. “In business, you always have to tweak something every once in awhile,” she said.

Mark Hopkins, co-owner of Hoppy’s agreed. “If you don’t change, you lose customers because you never have anything new,” he said. “We don’t just want to be the bread, milk and cigarettes store.”

The customer base has been very interested in the new venture, he noted. When Somero first approached the store about selling meat there, they drifted the idea to their customers and received a positive response. And once the deal was final and they announced the upcoming addition to the inventory on the store’s Facebook page, a lot of customers began asking when it’ll be in the store, he said.

“We’re very much excited about it,” Hopkins said in an interview at Hoppy’s Convenience Store on Friday. “We’ve gotten really good feedback, especially since the meat is coming from someone they know.”

Somero isn’t a lifelong farmer, he said Friday, unless you count the chickens his family had when he was a child. He started the farm after his retirement in 1999. The economic downturn got him interested in supplementing his retirement, he said, and farming has always been an interest of his. For the last four years, he’s been building herds of cows, pigs and goats, as well as guinea fowl. The pork that Hoppy’s hopes to start selling by the beginning of December will also come from Somero’s farm.

Somero said he doesn’t raise his beef organically, but borrows a lot of organic-farming methods. His cattle aren’t injected with any antibiotics or hormones, and are mainly pasture-fed, with some hay and grain.

“I’m positive this is going to sell. Once word gets out, people will travel for it.”

He has handpicked his butcher, he noted, choosing Westminster Meats in Westminster Station, Vt., which has a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector on-site five days a week.

Somero’s beef will be aged longer than average, he said, which improves the tenderness of the meat. Then it will be packaged to be sold frozen at Hoppy’s. Hoppy’s has already ordered a new, three-door freezer to store the meat, said Hopkins. And the store will carry a little of everything, said Spring, from suet, to soup bones, to various cuts of meat. When Somero’s pork is available for sale, it will be in the form of whole-hog sausage, which will include Italian mild, sweet and hot sausage and maple syrup sausage in both patties and links.

The fact that they can sell local meat is important to Spring, she said.

“Being from the Midwest, to me beef has to be done properly. I can remember when my parents put beef on the pan, you could smell it immediately. Now, the processed stuff is so bland. There’s a big difference in flavor. A big difference,” she said.

Hoppy’s Country Store will begin to sell Somero’s beef next week, and his sausage by the end of November or beginning of December. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Hoppys-Country-Store.

Monadnock Valley
beef and bison

Other local farmers are also making the transition to selling their meat in local small markets. Phil Rooney, the business manager of Monadnock Valley Beef and Bison in Hancock, said the farm is just about ready to start providing a consistent supply of meat to Roy’s Market in Peterborough as well as Hancock Market. The markets have had meat from the farm before, he said, but only in limited supply. Since the farm started in 2010 , they have only slaughtered a few animals, he said, because the animals are mostly grass-fed, which means they are slow to mature and the herd is slow to grow to the point where culling is advisable. Like Somero, the meat produced by Monadnock Valley isn’t organic, but many organic principles are employed in the raising of the meat, said Rooney.

This fall, is the first year the farm will be able to start a regular schedule to provide their meat to the local market.

“We have just really gotten into the production capacity. We have the ability to provide for the local community,” said Rooney. “And the local market is there for this — there’s absolutely a demand. We’ve only processed a few animals in the last year and, as soon as it goes into the market, it’s gone. We’re excited to be able to consistently supply it.”

The best time to process the animals is in the fall, said Rooney, because the meat tastes the best after the animals have been grazing all summer. The farm will process enough animals in the fall to freeze and provide a supply through the winter, until the spring when they can process a fresh supply. There is a large cultural movement today to support grass-fed or organic meat, and to support local farms — that is amazing, said Rooney. “It’s cool to see the Monadnock region really be part of that,” he said.

The meat will be available in the local retail markets, and also will eventually be available for pick up at the farm’s Peterborough business office at 70 Main St. . Currently, the farm is in the midst of applying for licensing for that option. For more information, see www.mvbeef.com or call 925-3939.

Oxbow Farm

While many farm stands that rely heavily on garden produce close down when the growing season ends, that’s not the end of locally produced products, pointed out Kim Graham, co-owner of Oxbow Farm in Dublin, in an interview Monday. She sells her meat chickens and sausage at the Peterborough Farmers Market, which is a year-round venture, and her meat is also available year-round, as it’s available, at her own farm stand. Her eggs are sold retail at Roy’s Market and Maggie’s Market in Peterborough. By next year, she hopes to have established her pork supply well enough to support selling that retail as well, she said.

“The market is definitely out there for local products,” she said. “It’s just finding the right balance of supply, demand and price. I’ve been very fortunate that the establishment’s I’ve worked with have been very willing to try my products. And it’s been successful, so they continue to sell them, and it’s been at the price I need. If local markets are going to support local farmers in that way, that’s great.”

The biggest issues, she said, are making sure the quantity of product meets the demand, and making sure the quality of the meat doesn’t dip during the winter months. This year, Graham said, she only raised about 100 meat birds, when she could have easily sold four times as much, she said.

“I guarantee the quantity, because there’s nothing more frustrating than going to a retail for a product that’s not there. I want people to be able to count on the product,” she said.

Graham raises both her chickens and her pigs outside as much as possible, she said, because they are more nutritious when they have access to grass and insects. In the winter, however, those pickings are slim, and she has to rely much more on grain feed. However, she supplements that with old produce collected from Shaw’s Supermarket , to keep the animals healthy.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

Good job, Ashley.

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