If you love barbecued pulled pork, you won’t find any better than what you can get at Jefferson Street BBQ in Converse. But the taste is only half the story. Where the pork comes from and how the hogs are fed is a unique tale in its own right. Combine all the pieces and you get a story about a farm-to-fork connection that two farmers and a businesswoman made happen on their own.
“We’re all neighbors and know each other,” explains Nathan Hunt, Miami County. “One thing led to another, and we saw an opportunity to help each other, and provide wholesome, locally raised products for consumers.”
Hunt’s hogs are the first link in this farm-to-fork chain. They are raised the old-fashioned way, on pasture and in lots. Hunt saw an opportunity when interest in naturally produced food picked up a few years ago. He and his dad, Jack, farm together. Hunt works full time off the farm as a fireman, and his dad works off the farm, as well.
Hunt let people know that his pigs were raised on pasture, taking advantage of a marketing opportunity. Some hogs were processed and sold retail to local consumers who were looking for something besides what they could buy at the meat counter of a supermarket.
Mark Boyer, one of Hunt’s friends, also works full time as a firefighter at the same fire department. Before long, the two were talking about how they could help each other.
Boyer and his family established a business called Healthy Hoosier Oil. Their original goal was to raise canola and sunflowers, and process them into oil on the farm. If they could sell it as cooking oil, they could increase net farm income.
In the process of producing canola oil, Boyer produces canola meal, a good source of protein. It wasn’t long before Hunt was trying it as a supplement for his pigs.
“We found out that it worked well when handled right, so we began getting canola meal from Mark regularly,” Hunt says. “So now we not only had hogs raised on pasture, but they also were fed canola meal grown locally, as well."
The third piece fell into place with Lindsay Baker. She invested hours of work and turned a tiny retail space in an older building into a restaurant. She started in 2012, and also produces soaps that are sold in a store next door.
“We’ve expanded the restaurant and remodeled over time,” Baker says. “We now have people coming here from all over.”
It didn’t take long for Hunt and Baker to realize that she could market what he produced: pasture-raised, locally fed pork. They worked out an agreement, and today Hunt supplies Jefferson Street BBQ with pulled pork. It’s become a signature specialty at the restaurant.
“We’re not bashful about promoting it,” Baker says. “We let people know where the pork came from and how it was raised.”
All in all, it’s an arrangement that works for everyone — Baker, Hunt and Boyer agree.