November 21, 2017
Remember the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” and the famous quote: “If you build it, they will come”? Well, the dream that built a baseball field in the middle of an Iowa cornfield works today for Erica Siler of Sivue Farms at North Java, N.Y.
Erica, her husband Joe plus his parents, have a 150 Angus/Angus-cross cow herd fed on 120 efficiently-managed acres producing three feed crops in two years. They finish just enough hogs to fill requests for pork by their beef customers. They also raise Thanksgiving turkeys and sell brown eggs, seasonal fruits and vegetables, plus maple syrup from their 10,000-tap sugarbush.
A growing market share for this western New York family’s steer beef comes to them via MeatSuite.com. Designed by Matt LeRoux, Cornell agriculture marketing specialist, Meat Suite is bringing consumers looking for locally-raised meats to nearby New York livestock producers. Farm profiles on the website are searchable by geography, farm name, product, payment plans and product attributes.
“Meat Suite bridges the gap between consumers who don’t know where to start to find local meat products and producers, particularly those with no direct marketing reference point,” Siler says. “We’re happy to have a well-established Meat Suite farm profile already in place. As the food purchasing dynamic continues to trend toward buying local and buying direct and more consumers learn what MeatSuite.com is, I believe we’ll see a spike in its use,” she says.
TASTE-MASTERS: (From left) Erica and Joe Siler gather in kitchen with Joe’s parents, Mary and Joe Siler, Chef Travis Barlow, and Jacquie Billings, The Hole in the Wall Restaurant co-owner .
Sivue Farm’s online description notes the family specializes in fresh quality, pasture-raised, freezer beef with animals bred, born and raised on-farm and fed custom-designed, nutritionally-balanced diets. The profile also includes a photo, map, product pricing, as well as email, phone number and Facebook contacts.
“People are looking for local producers and finding us” Siler says. “At least six people have emailed us because of Meat Suite. It’s a great middle connector that creates common ground for producers, and consumers. We see this becoming one of our major marketing tools.”
A ‘find your farmer’ tool
This website, created by Cornell Cooperative Extension educators, is designed to increase “freezer trade” — sale of whole, halves, quarters of animals and bulk meat bundles. You can search for farms in your neighborhood or by species across the region. With New York Farm Viability Institute funding, Meat Suite has expanded into 22 counties, with more than 210 farms online.
An earlier NYFVI grant supported LeRoux’s development of the Livestock Yield and Price Calculator tool and reported in American Agriculturist’s Calculate a meat price that’s right. The calculator helps producers accurately set meat prices in bulk or by the cut. It guides market channel selection based on expected returns, and collects data to aid ongoing decision-making.
The Silers generally ship four to six steers at a time to their processor 9 miles away. There, buyers pick up fresh or flash frozen orders. The processor accommodates chef-buyers’ requests for uncut quarters.
Meating the farmer events
LeRoux credits Cornell Cooperative Extension educators with giving Meat Suite “legs” statewide. In the Siler’s western New York area, the cooperative extension has introduced consumers to Meat Suite farmers through a product showcase at a downtown farmers market, a meat and beer gathering, and live radio broadcasts with producers sharing their stories.
At a Meat the Farmer dinner pairing local meat products with local wines last November, Wyoming County Extension educator Sarah Carlson introduced participating farmers, such as the Silers, who spoke about their products being featured on the menu.
DINE FINE ON OXTAIL AND WINE: This table was set for a Meat the Farmer Dinner featuring a chef’s oxtail stew.
“Face-to-face events help farmers grow their customer base in-person,” says Megan Burley, Erie County farm business management educator. “MeatSuite.com puts a digital ‘interface’ on our farmers for consumers.”
“Increasing public interest in buying local meats is creating exciting direct sale income opportunities for New York farmers,” says David Grusenmeyer, NYFVI executive director. “This platform helps consumers buy in bulk, the way many farmers find it most profitable to sell.”
What’s inside the Meat Suite
Aimed at boosting freezer trade sales, Meat Suite includes a searchable farm profile database. Information is differentiated by live, hanging and final weights. It provides approximate expected yields for beef, pork and lamb. Participating producers also market bison, poultry, fowl, goat and rabbit meat.
Common cattle breeds, types of feed, and USDA and New York State regulations are noted along with definitions of such terms as grass-fed, dry-aged, free range and Halal. A link is provided to the
Beef and Pork Whole Animal Buying Guide developed by Iowa State University Extension.
A market channel benchmarking tool also designed by LeRoux for fruit and vegetable producers with NYFVI funding indirectly seeded Meat Suite for livestock producers. For more details, see Data app help select farmers markets, set prices.
To learn more about MeatSuite, contact Matt LeRoux at 607-272-2291 or email [email protected].
Dunn writes from Mannsville, N.Y.
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