Nine months ago, two of the biggest players in the Northern California’s artisan meat business almost disappeared. Now, they’re teaming up to be a serious force in the growing market for sustainable, locally-raised chicken, pork, lamb and beef.
That means Victorian Farmstead’s Adam Parks, who sells at many local farm markets, through a CSA and at Community Market in Sebastopol, will be handling the meat distribution for both. Tara and Craig Smith, who own Tara Firma Farms, will consult on various events and strategic decisions at the farm.
It’s a solid match for the once-rivals, and a win-win for their CSA members.
Smith was giving serious consideration to throwing in the towel last spring after five years of explosive growth at the farm. The 250 acre operation is a model for sustainable food production and community education, including tours and events at the farm.
“It was exhausting me,” said Smith. “I just lost it in March, and I was planning to shut it down,” she said candidly. “Because the bigger we got, the harder it got. I just needed to do something else,” she said.
Tara Firm currently has more than 700 CSA customers, and Smith said she was heartbroken at the though of having to walk away from the business. When Parks approached her with a suggestion for collaboration, Smith leapt. “It was such a relief to me. I was so not wanting to let it all go, because there’s just nothing out there quite like we do,” she said.
Smith was ready for a break. Ready to spend more time with her teenage son. Ready to get a mani-pedi, she joked.
Parks, who runs Victorian Farmstead with his wife, Laura, and new business partner, Adam Taggart, will be able to collapse many of the doubled efforts and streamline the business operations.
“[We] wouldn’t have made it alone nine months ago,” said Parks, who is no stranger to the ups and downs of the artisan meat business.
Last December, in deep financial trouble, Parks sent out a plea to his supporters (who he calls “Meatheads”) to buy coupons to be used at a later date, giving the company a quick infusion of cash without begging for a handout. The generosity of the local community was tremendous, and Parks raised several thousand dollars in only a couple weeks from people of all corners of the community. With this push, Victorian Farmstead was back on its feet. “It was a true story of community support,” said Parks.
Taggart, who joined the team in 2015, helped Victorian Farmstead develop a better business plan and restructure debt so the company could grow. So well that Parks recently told CSA subscribers that, “Over the past 5 months, we’ve already knocked our vendor debt down by over 60 percent and expect to have it completely satisfied by the end of the year.”
“[The partnership] is a huge advantage for Victorian Farmstead because we can now provide home delivery to our retail customers as well as veggie and fruit shares,” said Parks. Tara Firma customers will have access to fresh and rfozen meats and be able to pick up their shares at farm markets the VFMC attends.
“More families of the future will be able to enjoy the quality meats of Northern California. The beauty of this collaboration is that thousands of families in Northern California will continue to have access to the incredible meat raised in Sonoma and Marin counties.”
Now that’s some seriously meaty news.
– Jenna Fischer contributed to this article