Pandemic or not, farm life continues and it seems there is never a lack of obstacles to surmount or tasks to tend to. Ken forged ahead processing as many hogs and beef as the farm could produce throughout the fall, taxing our facilities and the energy of our work force to the max. Through all the challenges it has been very rewarding to bring our products to a local community that has supported us so well.
When lockdown started and schools closed we lost some of our workers who had to tend to the needs of their children. And with the influx of new business that the pandemic brought, we not only had to replace the employees that left, but we had to increase our staff to get all the work done. The jobs were hard to fill since they were not particularly pandemic-friendly because they involved working side by side with others and a good deal of exposure to the public. I found myself back in the processing room, wrapping meat, until we were able to get hiring done. And even with many hands busily wrapping sausage, the task was overwhelming. We finally decided we had to make a change and ordered a machine called a “Tipper Tie”. The new machine makes quick work of packaging the hundreds of pounds of sausage we produce each week and we have been pleased that our customers seem to be adjusting to the change in wrapping style. The “Tipper Tie” is actually an attachment to a new machine we purchased to replace our sausage linking machine which needed updating to accommodate the volume of link sausage we have been producing.
Sometimes changes create as many problems as they solve - more production, more people, more supplies, more equipment and all of a sudden we need more room. We have always processed the beef we raise, but we have out sourced the slaughtering of the beef to another plant. Prior to the pandemic, Ken was in the thinking process of adding on to our facilities so we could take care of the beef slaughter in house. With the pressing need for more room, all of a sudden we found ourselves taking on the construction of a large addition with an area where we can kill both beef and pork, more cooler space, more space for storage and equipment and more elbowroom for our employees. Once we got started on the project we realized that with the construction boom in the area, supplies and subcontractors were in high demand and we ran into many delays and roadblocks, but by the end of the year, the building construction was done and the new cooler was installed along with some of the equipment. As 2021 begins Ken will be working on completing equipment installation and then concentrate on improving our processing procedures making use of the luxury of added space.
Our son, Logan, has long assisted in the family business, mainly handling the Clark Fork Market and overseeing the Missoula store. For a number of years he has been dwelling on the fence, keeping the door open to entering fulltime employment at the farm, but not willing to give up the security of his day job. As he witnessed the dramatic disruption of his parent’s plans to “slow down a bit”, brought on by the pandemic-fueled demand for locally-sourced food, he (and his family right along with him) took the leap into the challenging, sometimes frightening world of self-employment and has signed on as a fulltime working partner with Ken. Though his commitment to his job at CHS won’t be finished until April, he has been taking vacation days to work at the farm and we are all excited that he has decided to invest his energy and talents in our family business as we move forward. As I am sure is the case with most people, we welcome the arrival of 2021 and have high hopes that life will calm down a bit. And we feel an overwhelming gratefulness for your patience and support through a tumultuous 2020. We wish you the best in the New Year!
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