A few months back I heard a comment on an NPR radio program that really caught my attention. The program was about the local food movement and at one point the guest on the show said, “Now remember - just because it’s local doesn’t necessarily mean it has a smaller carbon footprint. That Argentinian apple that was shipped on a barge with thousands of tons of other apples may actually have required less fuel per apple than the apple than came from a few hundred miles away in the back on a farmer’s pickup.”

Pretty interesting, huh? It caught my attention because, for me, it was refreshing to hear someone who was really thinking critically about their food system. Don’t get me wrong, I love buying local food. But assuming that locally produced food automatically has a lower environmental impact is, well, a bad assumption.Tendergrass Farms2

I grew up on a little organic vegetable farm outside of bustling Asheville, NC and loved farming from about age 12. My parents proudly marketed their organic vegetables to local restaurants within just an hour’s drive from the farm. After graduating from college I moved to the tiny rural town of Floyd, VA where I took on the management of my father-in-law’s grass fed meats farm and eventually bought my own little farm there as well. After marrying my wife, Ann, I made an agreement with my father in law to take a couple of years to do everything I could to make his farm and little roadside farm store economically viable, something that had not yet been achieved over the 10 or so years that they’d been farming.

Photo: My Father-in-Law, John Paul Houston.

I did everything I could to attempt to get locals to drive out to our little farm to buy our exceptional grass fed meats. I called up local universities to try to get wholesale accounts that I thought could perhaps save the farm. I called every health food store in the area trying to convince them that the prices we were offering were honest and fair given the quality of our products. But it was of no avail.Tendergrass Farms1

12/6/2013 3:41:16 AM

Interesting concept. I understand the theory but see two issues. 1). Driving 40 miles to the source ensures fresh (unfrozen) meat. 2). Do you take into account in your figures the cost of (a) Freezing, at source? (b)shipping to NE? (c) storage for "x" time at NE? None of which really detract from the issue that the co-operative now sells it meat in volumes that make a family farm more economic - though doubt that it will ever be truly economic ever again.

4/24/2013 3:37:14 PM

I can't say how happy I am that Tendergrass exists. I've been eating only pastured meats for about five years now, and early on, I can't even imagine how much fuel I used going to each farm in NJ...if I could even find one that raised pastured meat. Forget choice. It was whatever they had available. But, I was willing to sacrifice choice in favor of flavor/health value.

My husband and I moved down to VA a few years ago, and while we heard amazing things about Sweet Providence..it was just a bit too far of a drive, so we never made the trip. But now that it is Tendergrass? We've placed multiple orders and have been beyond impressed at customer service, shipping speed and quality of packaging and product.

It's a locavore/pastured meat/paleo eater's dream. I'm so happy it's working well for them, but I'm a little sad the secret is out! Now I have to battle the rest of the US for their awesome pastured products. :)

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