Farmers Diner | (Tod) Murphy's Law: Buy Local, Eat Local, and Prosper
So when Murphy wanted to buy pigs for his bacon and sausage business, a Diner sideline called Vermont Smoke and Cure, he approached a few farmers to see whether they were interested. One was Maple Wind Farm, a breeder in Huntington raising 50 hogs a year, mostly to sell at farmers’ markets. They’re fed on grass and organic grains — the pork tastes absolutely incredible — and they fetch good money.
“We get $7.50 a pound for bacon at the farmers’ market, and $8.50 a pound for pork chops,” says Beth Whiting, who runs the farm with her husband, Bruce Hennessey. So when Murphy asked them if they could raise him some pigs at 89 cents a pound, “we had to bury our laughter.”
And yet, 89 cents a pound is more than upscale national pork producer Niman Ranch pays its contract pig farmers.
In essence, it’s a Goldilocks problem: Somehow Murphy has to find just the right size. What his operation really requires is not huge commodity producers or small, incredibly wonderful gourmet farms.
“What I need are 1950s-size farms,” he says. Not a million hogs, but not 50, either — maybe three or four hundred, say. Not organic operations necessarily, just family farms. Precisely, in other words, the kinds of farms that have almost all gone out of business in recent decades.
Murphy can still find vegetable growers to fit his needs; he’s found someone to plant five acres of cucumbers this season, for instance, enough to fill his pickle needs. But to help rebuild the supply of meat and chicken farmers, he’s launching a nonprofit foundation. Named for a character in one of Wendell Berry’s novels, the Jack Beecham Foundation will help growers with business plans and marketing strategies.
If all goes according to plan, it will let small farmers grow just big enough to make it in the food economy Murphy is trying to create.
All this to make a smoked-turkey club. Or, to read from today’s specials menu, some poached Vermont eggs with Cabot cheddar cream sauce. Or some maple-butternut squash. Or some Cortland apple cobbler topped with local granola, and a scoop of that Strafford ice cream. With some Grace Potter wailing from the jukebox.
For change back from a $10 bill, it doesn’t get much sweeter than this. It should work.