Yesterday, the Press Democrat ran an informative article about the lack of meat processing facilities in the region, and the obstacle this presents to local ranchers and customers seeking local meat. We at Mendocino Organics have to cope with the lack of local food infrastructure (aka value-added processing near us). For example, today, we had to take our lambs to Occidental for slaughter.
How many miles are we taking our lambs? How many hours are we on the road? What are we doing to try to make these trips more efficient?
The day started with us rounding up most of our sheep in Potter Valley and pulling the 6 lambs ordered. 5 for Bar Agricole in San Francisco, and 1 for Patrona in Ukiah. From Potter Valley to Panizzera in Occidental was a 1.5-hour, 84-mile drive.
When we got there, we unloaded the sheep from our truck (we don’t have a livestock trailer yet) into a holding pen. After the lambs are slaughtered, on Thursday, someone from Bar Agricole will drive to Occidental to pick up the 5 lambs whole. The 1 for Patrona will be delivered to Sonoma Direct near Petaluma where it will be cut and wrapped because they requested it as such.
If we sell lamb retail, we also have to get them delivered to Sonoma Direct or elsewhere to get cut and wrapped in a USDA-inspected facility.
To make the drive down to Sonoma County more worthwhile, we went to Hunt and Behren’s, the mill from which we get organic feed for our chickens. We can buy it at the Farm Supply in Ukiah, but it’s less expensive directly from the mill…and we were already down the road.
At the end of the week, we’ll again drive south to Sonoma County – to Sonoma Direct – to pick up the cut and wrapped lamb for Patrona.
In many ways, we are very fortunate to be working with the restaurant, Bar Agricole. We don’t have to worry about the second step in processing, and we don’t have to drive back to the processing facility to deliver it to it’s final destination. That means less expense for us in time and fuel. Hopefully, we are contributing to a more sustainable regional food system. Until our local food system (aka Mendocino County) provides more demand and/or infrastructure is created that we can legally sell more of our lamb here, our farm will most likely continue to be a part of this larger food system.
Here is an interesting article from Choices Magazine, a publication of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association about sustainable regional food systems. “Local food” seems very popular now, and it’s a great ideal, but what about regional food?