What we mean when we say "local"
It's sad, but some words just seem to loose their meaning over time. They get watered down, convoluted, corrupted, or even hi-jacked by authorities to a narrow, legalistic definition. I think this is especially true with words that become trendy. They become popular, over-used and everyone thinks they know what a particular word means, but do they? The words used in the farming realm are no different. I've been thinking about that a lot lately as we've been drafting our first real marketing materials and getting ready for our first agriculture expo. Defining who we are, what we do, and what makes us different without just sounding like a run-on cliche of trending words isn't so easy. Consider just one word: LOCAL.
So there I am, driving home on I-70 West in a full-sized pick-up truck with its entire back filled to the top with 1,331 lbs of beef. That's 20, 60+lb boxes. I had just picked up our first beef from the butcher, and it hit me: this is local. I knew everything about the product I was hauling and it had never been more than 50 miles from home. This beef is from only 2 steers - number 11 and number 18. They were born in the fields around our farm at the beginning of winter, right after we bought the farm in 2013. They might even have been one of the calves we saw born out in the field behind our barn apartment the very first weekend we ever spent on the farm. They grew up being rotated around the 300+ acres of pasture around us. They were 100% grass-fed. They never had any antibiotics.
They spent their last 2 months in the field just below our driveway and we went out to give them a small handful of barley most mornings just so they would get to know us. Our crazy Jack Russell loved to run into the field and bark at them. They looked at him like he was flea. I even buried our John Deere Gator in the creek trying to turn them around and get them back into the fenced pasture when they got out one morning. (that really is another story I should write about). I personally walked them 1/2 mile over to our neighbors barn to load them on the trailer when it was time to take them to the butcher. Now that was a sight: 2, 2000+ lb steers following along behind me. We drove them 49 miles to the butcher, 49 miles home, and won't sell this beef to anyone that lives more than about 50 miles from our farm. When it is sold, our lucky customers will have bought "local" in the
truest sense of the word. They also are buying hamburger that came from a single steer - not a mix from a dozen or more cows. I can also vouch that it wasn't a little grass-fed. It was 100% grass-fed for 2+ years. That makes me happy.
I could write a story like this for all of our animals - the pigs, the lambs, the chickens, the turkeys. When I say "local" I don't mean in a general sense of a few hundred miles. I mean right here. I personally know everything we're bringing to market. It was born and raised right here on our farm and it never travels far. When it does, we're the one's handling it. That's what local means to me.