This Old Farm was started to feed our growing family with food that was not only organic, but safe and identifiable. As a trained biologist and former vegetarian, an organic farm was my answer to healing conventionally-farmed fields that were so devoid of nutrients that crops wouldn’t grow without massive inputs of fertilizer. I soon realized that healthy soil needed natural animal fertilizer, and nutrient-dense meat came from free-ranging animals raised in harmony with pasture-based systems.
As I studied the American food system further, I came to understand that we have a brewing national food crisis. Our farmers are aging, our largest produce-growing regions are in a prolonged state of drought, our meat processing industry has become so centralized that many farmers need to travel nearly 400 miles to have livestock processed, and the American dinner plate represents food that has traveled on average over 1500 miles, often from overseas.
Exactly where is our food coming from, and why can’t it be produced closer to home?
It is these questions that need to be at the forefront of American thought as we regain control of our food system and stem the looming food crisis. It was these questions that called me to expand our business from the original 88-acre organic farm to a Food Hub with USDA-inspected meat processing facilities as its centerpiece. Not a package of meat or box of produce leaves our doors without being labelled with the name of the farmer who put their heart into raising a product that first feeds family, and then feeds the community.
At This Old Farm, my staff and I are proud of the growth we’ve undergone since incorporating in 2009. We survived a devastating fire that destroyed our original meat processing facility, and built a bigger and better facility on the ashes of the old one. That facility opened in June of 2010, less than six months after the fire. We’ve increased our meat production, added full-time staff, and grew our Farmer Alliance from 50 or so members in 2013 to 150 and counting in 2015.
Since 2012, we have been active leaders in the Indiana Farm to School Network, working with school systems, State agencies, and other groups to find ways to feed more fresh local produce to our Hoosier school children. We also support the next generation of family farmers by sponsoring Livestock 4-H projects in 5 counties, as well as farmer training services.
We’re now well on our way to expanding into new markets. With a dedicated sales staff in place and a media campaign about to launch, our high-quality meats are making their way into an increasing number of restaurants, college campuses, institutional dining services, and boutique grocery stores. The increased demand helps local beef and pork farmers stay in business, and will translate into more Good Food Jobs.
So what’s next? Measured strategic growth is critical to the survival of any small business, and there’s never been a better time for a land-based food business to branch out in a new direction. We’ve always distributed produce grown by our Alliance members. But as consumers clamor for more fresh, locally-grown produce, we’re expanding this aspect of our business significantly. We’ve already built out a 3-stage cold storage facility that will allow us to increase our produce aggregation over 2014. From there, plans are in the works to build a facility that will move us into bagged ready-to-eat produce mixes, such a chopped lettuce, salad mixes, and cubed fruit.
Whether you’re a client or a fellow food producer, we’re grateful for your support, and we welcome your suggestions for improving our services. Together, we can make local, healthy, traceable food a reality for all Americans.
President, This Old Farm, Inc.