Local Meat Distribution: Kansas City Style

by firsthandfoods on June 26, 2012

Thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Farmhand Foods’ Co-Founders, Jennifer Curtis and Tina Prevatte, were able to visit Kansas City last week for a cross-training with Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a network of small-scale farmers spearheaded by entrepreneurs Diana and Gary Endicott.  GNFF began 12 years ago after Diana and Gary left their landscaping business in Dallas to raise vegetables and cattle on their family farm outside Kansas City. As Diana began exploring markets for their products, she discovered a wealth of interest but limited connectivity between area producers and market buyers. They began by selling local, all-natural beef to area retailers. And when their cooperating slaughter plant burned to the ground, Diana and Gary dove in deep and started their own small-scale processing plant, which Gary now manages.

GNFF is now a widely respected brand and has grown well beyond what the Endicott’s modest farm can provide. They source beef, poultry and pork from a variety of producer networks and cooperatives (including an established community of Amish farms) and sell meat, eggs and dairy products to numerous Hen House Markets, a high-end retail grocery store chain in the Kansas City metro area. They’ve developed a robust work-place centered CSA program providing over 700 members with vegetables, fruit, meat & flowers. More recently, they began working with area Head Start programs to supply pre-school aged children with all natural meat and fresh produce, and helped launched a small retail grocery store focused on seasonal produce in the Ivanhoe neighborhood, a well known “food desert” in Kansas City.

GNFF was built on an impressive foundation of community partnerships and has a never-ending list of ideas for innovative expansion. For us, it was a great opportunity to better understand how GNFF markets and distributes their meat in collaboration with independent farmers under an umbrella brand. We were able to get advice about how to approach and navigate relationships along the supply chain, including with producers, processors and retailers. It inspired us to look for opportunities to diversify our customer base (beyond restaurants & food service) and to seek strategic community partnerships to facilitate sales of local, pasture-raised meats within underserved communities. One of the more gratifying aspects of the visit (at least for the Excel fans in the group!) was comparing notes on inventory tracking systems and discovering methods for streamlining data collection and analysis.

No trip to Kansas City would be complete without barbeque. For that, we ended up eating in a gas station at Oklahoma Joe’s dubbed one of 13 places to eat before you die by Anthony Bourdain. While we missed out on the burnt end sandwich, the ribs were delicious. Much thanks to Diana and Gary for taking time out of their busy schedules to share lessons learned. We are back to work here at Farmhand fully inspired.

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