In November of 2011, fourteen farmers met to begin forming a beef producers cooperative. It was an effort to turn the tide on the loss of farms and farmers in their area. Their goal: enhance sales of their beef in New York City and local regions to support a living wage for themselves and provide growth opportunities for local farms. They created the Adirondack Grazers and all the necessary infrastructure to help them work successfully together, including a board, a small volunteer staff and one paid coordinator and bookkeeper.
As a result of the newly established cooperative and associated marketing effort, business has grown significantly. As of 2013, they were selling fresh, wholesale beef to several butchers, and to restaurants and caterers. These venues are not always available to a single, small producer because they require volume. But as a cooperative, Adirondack Grazers can supply the volume required. The result is that they Payments to farmers for their steers increased from $45,829 to $97,179, or 115%. Pasture acreage increased by 32 percent, and herd size grew 55%, from 652 to 1,014 head of cattle.
Pretty great, right? How you can you do this? Well, Adirondack Grazers had a little help from a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant, and a Farm Start Loan and now they’re sharing some of the materials they developed so that you can use them to jumpstart your own cooperative effort. You can download their Brochure, a Membership Application and Marketing Agreement and Protocols for how beef is to be raised to use as examples.
They also put together a documentary, which premiered at the DOC NYC film festival on November 14. We covered the documentary effort a few months ago when they were raising money to complete the film. You can see the latest trailer below. Now that it’s done, we’re hoping to soon be able tell you when and where you can see it. It’ sure to be a great learning tool for those interested in working cooperatively to improve things for a community of producers.