Planning for a Farmer-to-Farmer Butcher Shop

March 21, 2020
Liz and Nate Brownlee teamed up with specialists at Indiana University to conduct a feasibility study on creating a small-scale butcher shop capable of serving producers who focus on direct sales in their area of Indiana.

"I grew up on this farm and had no desire to be a farmer,” Liz Brownlee says of the 250- acre property near Crothersville, Ind., where her parents spent 15 years raising beef cattle, corn, soybeans, and other crops. They got out of farming during the 1980s farm crisis and instead began renting out their land.

Eventually, that feeling changed for Brownlee and for her husband Nate, as they came to see farming as the ideal way to combine a passion for food with an ethic of environmental stewardship. After spending five years working on farms in the Northeast, the Brownlees came home in 2013 and started Nightfall Farm on the family property, where they raise hogs, turkeys, chickens, and sheep using rotational grazing practices to sustain the land. They sell meat and eggs through a 50-share CSA, at farmers’ markets, and directly to area chefs.

Recently, the Brownlees identified access to quality, small-scale meat processing as a barrier to meeting their farming goals. So in 2018, they teamed up with Indiana University specialists and another livestock farm in the area to tackle the issue. Supported by a SARE grant, they conducted a feasibility study on creating a small-scale butcher shop capable of serving producers who focus on direct sales.

"This SARE project has been incredibly useful," said Liz Brownlee. "Our feasibility study confirmed that there is a true need for a farmer-focused butcher shop(s) and that a version of this business could be economically viable. Thanks to our SARE project, we have a floor plan, an equipment list, a cash flow analysis, a business plan, an understanding of regulatory requirements, and contacts nationwide. We also learned what questions to ask, and how a group might need to learn together and process together if they are considering opening a butcher shop."

Their next major task is to decide who wants to open it, and how. They are now considering things like zoning approval and potential grants and loans.

Still, their ambitions go beyond their pastures. “We’re trying to be useful to our community here in Indiana,” says Liz Brownlee. That’s why they intend to compile and share the business planning documents from their feasibility study: to serve as a resource for other farmers who have a similar need. In addition, the Brownlees are founding members and officers of the Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition, a state chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition.

View Related SARE Grant:

Topics: Livestock, Livestock Products
Related Locations: Indiana, North Central