I think everyone will agree that these are crazy times. In spite of supply chain issues, worker shortages, quarantines, and lack of enough hours in a day, we have managed some major accomplishments over the last year and a half.
Our much needed addition to the meat shop is complete except for the tweaking that is inevitable to bridge the gap between how you imagine things are going to work and how they actually work. The added space has been a lifesaver though the extra room has been quickly swallowed up by our increased beef and pork production and the accompanying need for room for more equipment, workers and freezers and coolers.
We were able to move our smokehouse out of the processing area which freed up some much needed room there. We also replaced it’s aged smoke generator and microprocessor. Perhaps we could have justified a second smokehouse years ago, but having to monitor the very tight smokehouse schedule day and night during the 2020 holidays with no room for any kind of malfunction convinced all that a second smokehouse was a small price to pay to assure our sanity and timely delivery of product to our customers during the 2021 holiday season. The second smokehouse is up and running and Ken is already experiencing a huge sense of relief.
Ken has long wanted to replace our very old “retro” freezers and coolers that we have had in our retail area since we opened. The freezer space needed to display the full line of retail beef we are now offering, made it necessary to reconfigure our retail area and at long last replace the freezers and coolers. We squeezed the remodel in during the little lull between Easter and the beginning of farmers markets. The retail area is functional but not done….maybe we will be able to get it finished in January.
We were surprised to find a bit of a silver lining in the loss of our feed mill in a fire over a year ago. Our stationary mixer and feed delivery truck were a total loss which led us to purchase a mixer/grinder powered by a tractor to process feed for the hogs which finally arrived early in the summer. Without the fire, we probably would have updated our old system eventually, but the new system has proven to be by far faster and more efficient than the old one and we can use the tractor for other duties around the farm.
If Ken and Logan ever felt like they were going to slide into their parent's business and be on easy street, their hopes have been thoroughly dashed by now. However, they can and I think they do, find satisfaction in knowing they have been able to revitalize what Duane and I began with their youthful energy and their own brand of expertise to meet the growing needs of the business.
The hardest news we must break to you this newsletter is that we have had to do some price increases. The cost of barley, one of our major input costs, has more than doubled this harvest season and there really is no other way to offset the expense, but to increase our income. Nonetheless we are gearing up to be prepared with a ready supply of pork and beef for the holiday season and beyond. We hope to see you soon!
O U R S T O R Y
Our venture into the pork business began as a dream in Duane's mind to have a farm of his own someday. That dream started materializing in 1974 when Duane, having finished his stint in the Army, purchased six sows and obtained permission to use an outbuilding on the farm where he worked to raise some piglets. Within a year the heard had grown to 20 sows.
In 1976, we got married and if that was not enough of an adjustment, we purchased our present farm site that included 150 acres and 150 sows. For nine years, we raised hogs and shipped them to packers in the Northwest. In the mid 80's, packing plants within practical shipping distance from Montana began to shut down, so we decided we needed to either create our own market or find another means for making a living. The result was we built our own small packing plant and began our "Farm-To-Market" operation through which we produce pork from conception to pork cuts ready for the consumer to prepare.
With trends in the 80's heading toward lean, more healthful meats and then increasing concerns in the 90's with regard to chemical and drug residues in food as well as foodborne illnesses, the timing was right to give consumers the opportunity to purchase pork products direct from a farm that has control over each step in the production process.
We produce lean pork through selective breeding, crossing Yorkshire, Duroc and Hampshire hogs to take advantage of the best traits in each breed. In addition, we feed our hogs a carefully balanced diet, a vital component in the production of lean, wholesome pork. This diet consists of locally grown barley enriched with soybean for high protein as well as essential vitamins and minerals. We also choose to use sound animal husbandry practices instead of depending on hormones or antibiotics to raise healthy animals, thus alleviating consumer concern over chemical and drug residues in our products.
We hope you will take the opportunity soon to come by our store or give us a call for more information or to place an order.
Duane and Janette Braaten