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Local meat processor keeps focus small while expanding

Working with small producers is a priority for This Old Farm.

Allison Lund

April 30, 2024

3 Min Read
From left: Jessica Roosa, Yone Smith and Lucas Roosa
FAMILY FARM: Jessica Roosa, along with her daughter, Yone Smith, and her husband, Lucas Roosa, own and operate This Old Farm Meats and Processing in addition to This Old Farm sheep farm. They raise around 400 sheep. Photos by Allison Lund

The pandemic drew attention to gaps in the meat processing industry, which led to a string of new processing facilities being created. However, This Old Farm Meats and Processing in Colfax, Ind., recognized those gaps and challenges long before the pandemic.

Jessica Roosa opened This Old Farm Meats and Processing 14 years ago. She and her husband, Lucas Roosa, have since worked to grow the business while still prioritizing small livestock operations. They want to create a reliable outlet for producers who may find difficulty booking dates with smaller processing facilities.

“I’m passionate about the small farmer getting their product to market,” Jessica adds.

Managing growing pains

Keeping that focus on the small farmer has not wavered as the business continues to grow. However, in an industry that exists on high volume, according to Jessica, it can be challenging to stay small and local. The Roosas have tackled those challenges head-on as they find their footing in this small-meat-processor market while continuing to expand capacity.

Capacity at This Old Farm today is 25 head of beef per day and up to 75 hogs per day. The couple is planning to expand to accommodate 50 head of cattle per day, and eventually 100 per day. Additionally, they’d like to expand their hog numbers to maintain a 3-to-1 ratio of hogs to cattle.

“When somebody says it can’t be done, I say it can’t be done yet, but we’ll figure out how we can,” Jessica says.

Part of figuring things out has been applying for various grants and awards, including the Local Meat Capacity Grant through USDA. The Roosas are currently waiting on decisions for that grant, but they are hoping to move the processing space to a different building at the facility so they can create more hanging space.

Out-of-state producers welcome

This Old Farm has attracted producers from several surrounding states and beyond who are looking for a processor that will accommodate their smaller operations. Cliff McConville, Dundee, Ill., says he is impressed by how attentive Jessica and her team are to his needs. A unique practice implemented at This Old Farm that McConville is grateful for is assigning someone to work directly with a producer.

“Something that they’ve done differently is that we have an account representative,” McConville adds. “That’s been helpful to have somebody who will work with us.”

He appreciates their attention to detail, which shines through on their packaging, he says. McConville says this is the only processor he has worked with that will allow him to include “100% grass-fed beef” on his packaging. He’s also impressed with the options for value-added products, such as beef bacon, snack sticks and sausage. He knows his assigned account representative is helping him maximize cuts and will address any issues that arise.

“It’s been good for us,” McConville says. “They’re one of the few processors that focuses on market farmers like us.”

Packaged ground beef on a counter

The work extends beyond the butcher shop. Lucas adds that they hold classes for producers, where they cover topics like marketing your product, grading and business plans. He says they are always open to working with new producers, and they want to act as a support system.

“We’re not afraid of the work that needs done,” Lucas says.

About the Author(s)

Allison Lund

Allison Lund is a staff writer for Indiana Prairie Farmer. She graduated from Purdue University with a major in agricultural communications and a minor in crop science. She served as president of Purdue’s Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. In 2022, she received the American FFA Degree. 

Lund grew up on a cash grain farm in south-central Wisconsin, where the primary crops were corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Her family also raised chewing tobacco and Hereford cattle. She spent most of her time helping with the tobacco crop in the summer and raising Boer goats for FFA projects. 

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