Co-op Launches Local Farm Program

Wisconsin residents have strong ties to family farms that are rapidly disappearing. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection, 638 dairy farms went out of business in 2018 alone. The Sustainable, Local, and Organic (SLO) Farmers Co-op emphasizes that this trend could be reversed if consumers spent more food dollars locally, providing another income stream for small farms and shifting some dairy farms from milk to pastured meat. In April 2018, SLO launched a meat-share program that increases the percentage of the retail dollars that farmers are paid for their beef, pork and chicken from an average of 14.3 percent to 56 percent.

SLO retains more earnings for farmers by asking households to subscribe to monthly deliveries, which stabilize production and keep farms out of the ups and downs of the commercial market. Prices for the meat boxes are based on the actual costs of small-farm production using small, local processors.

“Direct-to-consumer marketing is key to supporting the small producers,” said Valerie Dantoin, SLO’s president. “Right now, the average Wisconsinite consumes about 58 pounds of beef a year. If we could capture just 10 percent of that locally, we could support small farms.”

SLO focuses on four pillars of sustainability: sustainable incomes, in sustainable communities, using sustainable production practices, for sustainable health. Flying Tractor Farm in Sturgeon Bay is one of the co-op’s members, and owner Ron Schweigert is vice president of SLO Farmers Co-op.

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