The journey to northeast Ohio farm to table: from eggs to sides of beef to seam butchering
As I’m making my annual biweekly trip to Kinsman, Ohio this morning, I started reminiscing and thinking how far we have come with the farm to table movement. Sometime in the winter/spring of 2011 I met a guy named Kip Amerin who raised laying hens and meat chickens in Andover. Kip was our very first farmer that we bought directly from and we had an agreement to buy some eggs and meat chickens in the summer when they came to size.
What today seems so silly to stress about, was a huge step 4 years ago. I was a nervous wreck as Kip’s eggs cost twice as much as mass produced eggs and so at that time I used both because of the price difference. Fast forward to the spring of 2012, I went from worrying about buying eggs to buying pigs and lambs from Miller Livestock in Kinsman that would be processed and packaged for us at Jones’ Processing in Hartford. This was a huge learning curve for me and amazingly, for some odd reason, even after that, Aaron and Melissa Miller still talk to me to this day. As the next 8 or so months go on, Aaron is now pushing me hard to buy a side of beef. In my mind, I’m ten times more scared than when I made my first egg purchase because this is a large animal, it is a couple hundred pounds by the half, which means I will have a large amount of ground beef and need to decide what to do with it and it comes with a pretty decent price tag.
I knew I wanted to showcase this beef for New Years and had many discussions with my family and Aaron about what was best for us to do. My family felt I was crazy to commit to something so large, while Aaron insisted that everything would work out fine, just take the side of beef. Our family takes a vacation to Florida every December just before Christmas, so while we were there, I was slowly trying to work on them to see the benefits of buying this beef and have them agree that it would be a good decision to do so. I said try, and believe me, I was doing everything I could to talk them into it, but it was getting me nowhere. After returning from dinner one night, while still in Florida, Aaron calls me at like 10pm:
Aaron: How we doing? (He says this every single time on the phone)!
Me: Good (while I’m shaking half to death as this is a huge decision)
Aaron: Your cow needs to go to the butcher, what are you going to do?
Me: Let’s do it.
I bought my first beef in 2012 and haven’t looked back since. This past fall I started butchering our pigs myself and have found it has given me more freedom to use the animal exactly the way I needed for the weeks ahead and I enjoyed being able to do it myself.
The reason for this story is not that I’m trying to toot my own horn about what we accomplished, but just putting to pen all the previous milestones and tough decisions that make today so special for me. You see, I’ve had an idea in my head for the last few months and turned the opportunity down once as I lacked a piece of equipment to make this idea come to life and actually be doable. Well, it came to life yesterday as I left my house at 6 am and headed to Columbus to purchase a larger meat grinder. This will allow me to bring back a side of beef that I will butcher for the first time myself. As I’m driving I just chuckle that 4 years ago I was flipping out over buying eggs and now I’m buying sides of beef and butchering it myself!
I remember that my dad had a quote on his office wall for years that stated, “Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without some kind of risk, danger, or pain.” This post is not about me bragging, but to say that sometimes the challenge in front of you seems overwhelming, but when you accomplish it and look back you realize how small it actually was.