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Meat club connects customers, producers

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Looking for yet another way to support local agriculture and meet local meat producers face-to-face? The University of California Cooperative Extension acts as a sort of middleman between rural ranchers and customers craving their locally raised product with the Sierra Foothill Meat Buyers Club. Each month, customers are able to fax or e-mail orders for locally produced beef, pork, lamb and goat products, which are available for pick-up once a month at three Placer County locations. Current vendors are Coffee Pot Ranch, Sinclair Family Farm, High Sierra Beef and Flying Mule Farm. “What we’re hoping to do is create more convenience and access to local meat,” said Roger Ingram, University of California Cooperative Extension county director and farm adviser. “A lot of our work has shifted to make ranchers and farmers more economically viable.” The meat buyers’ club has been in effect since August 2008. Deliveries are done once a month, usually during the last week of each month, Ingram said. At this point, there are three area locations — the Confluence Kitchen in Auburn, Sinclair Concrete in Penryn, and the Persimmon Café in Lincoln. “We just wait here, give the meat and take the money,” he said. Rick Bedoy, of El Dorado Hills, ordered grass-fed beef during the February cycle, picking up some short ribs, crosscut shank and ground beef last week at the Confluence Kitchen. This was his first time utilizing the meat buyers’ club order process, although he has been buying local meat for a few months now. “It gives a way to access their product, because they’re more rural, they’re more far out,” he said. “It gives some buying hubs where they can come in, we can come out and we can meet halfway.” Another advantage for the producers is that they’re delivering what they’ve already sold, as opposed to bringing a cooler full of meat to the farmers’ market and not knowing if they’ll sell everything they bring. “It’s a central pick-up point,” Ingram said. “It works well for the meat producers because they can make a specific delivery.” Ingram would like to see the program expand to include more locations elsewhere in the region like Roseville, Granite Bay and Truckee. Ingram said 10 orders were filled during the February cycle. “It would be good to at least double that,” he said. “I think if we can get it to take off, it just has great potential.” Margaret Fulton, of Auburn, also picked up an order from the Confluence Kitchen last week. “I like to support local agriculture,” she said after obtaining her pre-ordered goat shanks and trimmings. “It’s very convenient and a great way to support our local producers and get some really good quality food.” Karin Sinclair of Sinclair Family Farm in Penryn has had a positive experience with the Sierra Foothill Meat Buyers Club. “I really enjoy the fact that it’s a local product,” she said. “Agriculture in Placer County is kind of dwindling, and it’s nice to get a good response from the people.” Sinclair said she likes the face-to-face transaction with customers. “I’m more of a one-on-one kind of person, and this has kind of gotten my foot in the door,” she said. “It is something that’s definitely been helping us.” The next delivery cycle is scheduled for April 1-3, and orders must be received via fax or e-mail by March 30. See http://ceplacer.ucdavis.edu/Meat_Buyers_Club/ for more information. The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at lorylln@goldcountrymedia.com.