Profitable meat marketing is a theme at Practical Farmers’ 2019 annual conference

Staff Writer
Tri-County Times

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2019 annual conference will feature a suite of sessions dedicated to profitability on livestock farms, including sessions on profitably marketing meat, the economics of running an organic dairy in today’s market milieu and grazing cover crops profitably, among others.

The conference, “Cultivating Connections,” will take place Jan. 17-19 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. Register on the PFI website, or contact Debra Boekholder at debra@practicalfarmers.org or 515-232-5661. Those who preregister by Jan. 10 will save $10 per day. Special rates are available for students and PFI members.

Three sessions will specifically explore meat marketing, from how to more strategically approach meat marketing, to assessing whether marketing efforts are profitable, to the pros and cons of a cooperative meat marketing model:

• In “Building a Meat Cooperative From the Ground Up,” farmers will learn from Cody Hopkins about the business structure of Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative, a meat co-op that connects member farms with markets and provides support with animal purchasing, processing, aggregation, distribution and marketing.

• In “Profitable Meat Marketing: Part 1,” Matt LeRoux, agricultural marketing specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in New York, will share strategic and specific marketing efforts that can help farmers take full advantage of the market for local meat.

• In “Profitable Meat Marketing: Part II,” Matt will guide participants through the Cornell Meat Price & Yield Calculator, a tool he developed to help farmers figure out how to price different products for different marketing channels and whether they’re actually making money.

“For small-scale farms, the need for marketing skills has increased as the local food marketplace has become crowded with more competition,” Matt says. “Perhaps 15 years ago the supply of local meat was smaller than the demand, allowing farms to simply show up and sell out in their markets. However, here in the Northeast, we have seen many farms, both old and new, respond to market demand for local meat and enter the marketplace.”

The upshot, he says, is that farmers need to “step up their game” when it comes to marketing, and critically assess their income goals and the profitability of their various marketing channels.

The conference will also feature:

• Numerous other livestock sessions, on topics ranging from linebreeding and cattle genetics, to pastured poultry and wool production, to using livestock to regenerate degraded soils, and more.

• Two pre-conference short courses, including one on silvopasturing that will explore in-depth the growing practice of integrating trees, livestock and forages. Both the “Silvopasture” and “Orcharding” courses run Thursday, Jan. 17 from 1-6:30 p.m. and continue Friday, Jan. 18 from 8-11:30 a.m., at the Scheman Building.

• A keynote address by farmer and author Michael Phillips, of Heartsong Farm Healing Herbs and Lost Nation Orchard in New Hampshire, who will help listeners understand the vital link between mycorrhizal fungi and crop health, and explain how this fungal network can help foster resilience in ecosystems.

• Many opportunities to network and build relationships with other farmers, researchers, consumers and sponsors – including during the free breakfast served on Saturday morning.

For full details on conference sessions, speakers, vendors and lodging options – as well as a downloadable conference brochure – visit PFI’s annual conference webpage.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2019 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors, including Albert Lea Seed; Clarity Financial Planning; Clif Bar & Co.; Grain Millers; Hall Roberts’ Son, Inc.; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy and Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Natural Resources Defense Council and Niman Ranch.