Farmers are embracing Community Supported Agriculture, a subscription model that takes the uncertainty out of selling | Ralph-Lauren

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Would you be interested in having your meat delivered weekly from a farm up the road — bypassing the supermarkets and making connections with a farming community?

In a world where monthly subscriptions are all the rage, some farmers have jumped on board this business model.

John and Tristia Lakey run Lakey Farm in Sunbury, about 50 kilometres from Melbourne’s central business district.

Mr Lakey said they had a potential market of millions of people right on their doorstep.

“What we try to do is maximise the advantages of being this close to Melbourne,” he said.

“We’ve chosen to value-add. With our business we take our lamb, beef and goat to the farmers’markets and sell them direct — we also sell meat boxes.”

“Our supply lines are pretty short so when the meat comes to you it’s fresh, in contrast to some of the bigger supermarkets that may have the meat packed offsite and shipped to them in styrofoam packs.”

Community-supported agriculture

Lakey Farm has about 80 subscribers who receive meat boxes with mixed cuts every month.

“About half of the animals we slaughter each month are already pre-sold,” Mr Lakey said.

“We know our income up to one or two years in advance, because those sales are guaranteed so long as people commit to our 12-month deal on subscriptions.”

Two people selling meat and wine in a stall at a farmers market.
John and Tristia Lakey selling meat and wine at a farmers’ market.(

Supplied: Claire Quirk

)

This subscription service is known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where people buy shares in a farm’s projected harvest in advance and receive regular deliveries.

Ms Lakey said sales had increased in 2020, and credited COVID-19 lockdowns for the bump in CSA customers.

“They know that we will turn up with good produce — the meat boxes became a really solid way of people knowing they could get what they wanted each month.”

Nose to tail

The Lakeys practice regenerative farming and have sustainability at front of mind with all aspects of the business.

“It’s nose to tail — it has about 40 per cent slow cook cuts, about 15 per cent prime cuts, such as porterhouse steak, and about 40 to 45 per cent are mince and sausages,” Ms Lakey said.

“That’s exactly how it comes off the animal so we’re also minimising waste.”

A paddock full of red and black cows
The farm has a mix of livestock breeds.(

Supplied: Claire Quirk

)

“We’re actually using every aspect of what an animal can produce, which means we get revenue from different streams, then we don’t have to have quite so many animals.”

Ms Lakey said there had been a resurgence of interest in goat, mutton and secondary beef cuts.

“Ryeland mutton is actually really top stuff, it’s sweet and still relatively fresh flavoured like the lamb, it doesn’t have an oily flavour about it.”

A paddock full of sheep
Lakey Farm sells mutton from Ryeland sheep.(

Supplied: Claire Quirk

)

‘Wine farmer’

Mr Lakey said he also incorporated general farming practices into viniculture and wine production.

“We tend to graze sheep through the vineyard for almost eight months of the year and just take them out from spring through to harvest,” he said.

“We’re seeking to provide a complex pasture for grazing animals, and complex pastures are best achieved by intensive grazing and resting.”

Three bottles of wine on a rack
Lakey Farm bottles wine from the vineyard to sell online and at farmers’ markets.(

Supplied: Claire Quirk

)

Mr Lakey said along with his bottled wine that could be purchased online or at farmers’ markets, he hoped to develop the business’ wine production further. 

“What we were trying to do was keg wines at the market, where you’d bring a bottle and we’d fill it from our kegs,” he said.

“But then COVID-19 meant that no one could handle recycled products at all — you had to give clean new packaging — so that’s a project we’re starting to play around with.”



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