Owner of Fresh Valley Farms and treasurer of the SSMPA.
Our farm, located in the township of Spallumcheen, 5 km from Armstrong, is primarily dedicated to producing hay and pasture, but our main business is selling our pasture-raised beef, pork, and chicken. Since 2012 when I moved back to help on the family farm, I’ve been building up a marketing business around our meat to support the farming addiction.
I started Fresh Valley Farms as a cooperative marketing venture with another farm producing pork and lamb. My concept from the beginning was a meat only CSA box. 5 years later, after multiple incarnations and business partners, my spouse, Annelise, and I now run a successful CSA with over 120 monthly customers. We regularly use four different abattoirs, three different butchers, and sell our product from Kamloops to Salmon Arm, with the bulk of our customers in Kelowna. The best part of our sales model is that we get it done in one week of the month, and I’m free to actually farm the rest of the time.
Learning the ins and outs of the slaughter/butcher industry has been a process to say the least. It’s taken a long time to figure it all out, not that I have, but I can say one thing for sure: if I’m not hauling 10 hogs, or 4 beef, when I drive to the Slaughter house, I’m not making enough money. The whole process takes a lot of time. Getting the animals loaded, knowing what to order and how to order it, or hauling sides to the butcher who will actually make a product I can sell, then picking up, labeling and sorting, and storing it. All this labour and the requisite infrastructure eats heavily into our bottom line. I’ve learned that the price/lb that the butcher charges is only part of the equation. It’s all about getting a quality product that’s consistent, and packaged in a presentable way. I often pay more than $4,000 to process 10 hogs. That’s too much of our margin, I’m aware, but it’s better than having a poor product that doesn’t sell.
Before I started managing the farm, my family used to get all the beef slaughtered right on the farm. This was prior to the implementation of the current Meat Inspection Regulation (MIR). I didn’t have a lot to do with it back then, but I remember seeing how easy it was. It took about an hour for them to pull up to the farm with the mobile kill trailer, shoot it, gut it, skin it, and load it in their trailer. 3 weeks later you picked up your beef. I’m not all that keen on doing the slaughtering myself, but I sure would be happy if we could just call someone up and have it done on the farm. It’s safe, clean, and my animals would get to live in peace right up until the end.
I helped form the SSMPA because I think it’s time to re-evaluate how the current meat processing industry is regulated. Why is it hindering farmers from reaching their potential and feeding their community? We have a right to produce food, and to process food. We need to hold the government responsible for the negative effect the current MIR has had on our industry. We need to make sure that any new regulations that are written are based on sound scientific evidence, and not imagined “risk” that can’t be proven. We need to get organized so that we can speak to government with the authority of an organization that knows the rights of those it represents. In the case of meat inspection regulation, we need to have our voices heard because we are the people it affects most. If we can’t afford to have animals on our land, what will happen to our land? How can we maintain an agricultural land reserve in a province where no one with a small to medium sized land holding can even afford to keep some cows on it?
If you’re thinking about joining, but can’t justify the $35 for one reason or another. Please join as a supporting member at the very least. Follow our progress through the newsletter and on Facebook, and help out when you feel you can. We’re currently member supported, with no outside funding, so please help out in any way you can.
Steve W Meggait