Oregon Small Farm News is a free online newsletter that concentrates on both commercial small farm entrepreneurs as well as non-commercial small acreage landowners. Our focus embraces organic/biological and conventional farming systems and emphasizes three areas:
Re-visiting Conway Family Farm -- Camas, WA
Land Access, Land Succession, and Oregon Agriculture: New research underlines challenges and opportunities
Oregon Community Food Systems Network Launches Website
Dry Farming Oregon
NMPAN's Beginner's Guide to Local Meat Processing
FSMA Updates: Farm Direct & More
Organic Farmer Fights for a Sustainable Future
The OSU Small Farms Conference: 16 Years & Breaking Records
USFDA issues RFC in FR re BSAAO for FSMA PR
Farmers Share Their Farm to School Experiences
Growing Resilience: Water Management Workshop Series
New Technology Available for CSA Farmers Funded by Western SARE
National Animal Health Monitoring System and the 5 Q's
Plant in a Box: A Solution for USDA-Inspected Poultry Processing?
Local Foods and Farm Business Survival and Growth
Food Summit Helps to Connect the Mid-Valley
Scientists Urge New Model for Soil Carbon
Brietenbush Farmer to Farmer: Ahas and Uh-oh!
Field to Fork: An Agricultural Field Day
Poultry Feed Trials at Berggren Demonstration Farm
USDA Does Switcheroo with Grass Fed Label Standard
Want to Identify Crop Specific Costs of Production for Your Farm? Join the 2016 Cost Study Project and Make it Happen!
Northwest Farm Credit’s New Programs for Beginning Farmers
Croptime: Scheduling Vegetables with Degree-Day Models
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) in Oregon
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) What Is It?
Jackson County’s Ban on Genetically Engineered Crops Will Stand
Finger Lakes Meat Project: Bringing Back the Meat Locker
Using Sacrifice Areas to Protect Pastures
What Do You Need to Know About FDA’s New FSMA rules?
It’s Just around the Corner: The next Living on a Few Acres Conference
Farmer, Entrepreneur, Soil Scientist, Mechanic, Vet…That’s you!
“I built a packing plant to support my farming habit.”
Mike and Patty Kloft are the farmers behind Lonely Lane Farm, a meat company based in Mt. Angel, OR, that sells pork and 100% grass-fed beef, both raised with no hormones or antibiotics. They recently took over a critical link in their supply chain: processing. Century Oak Packing, in Mt. Angel, OR, is a USDA-inspected “cut and wrap” facility where they turn whole carcasses into packages of meat for sale. The plant was designed for co-packing, and the Klofts are currently seeking other local meat producers interested in USDA inspected retail cutting and packaging, and value-added production.
Mike and Patty both have deep roots in Mt. Angel. Mike is a third generation cattle farmer, and Patty is a fifth generation pig farmer. Mike’s grandfather had a meat packing plant but sold it when he started Lonely Lane Farms in 1939. The farm was originally a dairy and then switched to beef in the 1980s after the dairy market collapsed.
Long before grass-fed beef was popular, Lonely Lane cattle were forage-finished. The Klofts grew their own alfalfa for finishing, and the cattle, 100% Polled Herefords, graded low Choice, with white fat. “The breed makes a big difference in how things marble,” Mike explains. They never used antibiotics or hormone implants. It wasn’t a marketing strategy, just how they did things. “We didn’t know anyone wanted that,” Mike laughs.
In 1999, while a student at OSU, Mike was selling finished beef cattle to a nearby processor but cattle prices were then very low. He started thinking about other options. He was taking a class in world agriculture and food from OSU Professor Garry Stephenson and after class one day asked for advice about direct marketing. Mike remembers Garry’s advice to the word: don’t find a product to match the market, find a market to match your product.
Mike began selling packaged cuts of meat at retail stores in Corvallis and the Beaverton farmers’ market. While other local meat producers often only had fresh product seasonally, Lonely Lane could deliver fresh meat year-round, because the farm staggered calving to be year-round.
Initially, they direct marketed no more than 50 head of beef each year. They now sell 165-200 head of beef and 250 hogs per year. The hogs are all raised on Patty’s family farm, and they have added four co-producers for beef. Their #1 market is grocery stores, and #2 is the Beaverton farmers’ market, where Lonely Lane was the first beef and pork vendor, drawing customers from miles around because no other farmers’ markets had meat then.
From farmer to butcher
When he began marketing meat, Mike was lucky to have a USDA inspected meat processor, Mt. Angel Meats, in the same town. When he started bringing animals there, the plant was in need of a HACCP plan, which Mike offered to write. In return, he asked for packaging space in the plant. He then started helping with cutting. At the peak, he processed four head a week there.
About three years ago, Mike decided he needed more control over his processing – specifically the cutting and wrapping part. In NW Oregon, USDA inspected slaughter is fairly available; what he found he needed was his own cutting plant. “I realized I had to build a facility or get out of the market.”
After unsuccessfully trying to buy an existing plant, he decided to build his own. His father and uncle helped him remodel an old dairy barn on the farm property; it took 18 months and cost about $500,000. The plant is 4500 square feet, with cooler capacity to hold 25,000 lbs or 30 beef (or equivalent).
The plant received its grant of federal inspection earlier this year. They are currently processing two to four beef and three to five hogs each week. Livestock are slaughtered at Mt. Angel Meats or Dayton Natural Meats, then transported as quarters to Century Oak for aging, cutting, and packaging. They also make fresh sausage and plan to have their smokehouse operational by summer.
Mike estimates that the current Lonely Lane sales accounts will use one full day each week, Wednesday. He is looking for regular, weekly processing customers for Tuesday and Thursday. “Now and then” customers will come Mondays and Fridays.
Because the Klofts bootstrapped the plant themselves and took on no debt, Century Oak will break even with only their own product, since both Mike and Patty can handle all their own cutting and packaging. When they have additional processing customers, they will hire an experienced butcher who is a friend of the family and ready to sign on when needed.
“If things go well,” Mike speculates, “if we operate at capacity, we’ll build a new plant in 10 years, a larger one.”
For more information, visit Century Oak Packing’s website: http://centuryoakpacking.com/