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Burk Ridge Farms: Grown here, for here

Jun 4th, 2015 | Category: Community

Mobile slaughter unit available; processing facility coming in 2016

by Becca Schwarz Cole

Burke Ridge Farms, of Custer, launched a mobile slaughter unit last year and plans to follow up with an on-site processing facility in 2016 – a project that would complete their full-circle goal of starting, raising, and harvesting meat on-farm.

Head Butcher Travis Stockstill mans the booth at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market, offering fresh cut-to-order beef and pork. COURTESY PHOTO

Head Butcher Travis Stockstill mans the booth at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market, offering fresh cut-to-order beef and pork. COURTESY PHOTO

Owned and operated by Whatcom County residents Michael and Devin Koenen, with the support of Devin’s parents, Vern and Joann Dykstra, the 150-acre farm currently offers grass-fed/finished beef and pasture-raised pork – both fresh and frozen cuts, as well as wholes and halves. They are expanding with poultry and eggs this season, while also undergoing the organic certification process.

What started out as a means of getting healthy food – Vern, a former dairyman, started raising grass-fed beef on his property over 10 years ago – has become a full business.

“It’s very important to know where your food comes from. We can tell a buyer first hand of every aspect of an animal from birth to what we fed it to how we processed it,” Michael Koenen said. “It means we care for the animals and make sure they have the best of everything while in our care… every need is taken care of and we know because we did it.”

The Koenens financed a 36-foot long mobile unit – custom built by TriVan in Ferndale – now based at their farm in Custer. Koenen, who said the USDA slaughter options are limited in the area, feels the truck will add another source for local farmers, and one that comes directly to the farm.

“A mobile truck is the most humane way to slaughter animals. We are unwilling to ship our beef off to another facility to be butchered,” Koenen said. “So we need it, our neighbors need it and this county needs it.”

Head butcher Travis Stockstill and Burge Ridge Farms co-owner Michael Koenen during the butchering process inside the mobile truck (above), near the farm’s barn. PHOTO BY BECCA SCHWARZ COLE

Head butcher Travis Stockstill and Burge Ridge Farms co-owner Michael Koenen during the butchering process inside the mobile truck (above), near the farm’s barn. PHOTO BY BECCA SCHWARZ COLE

The unit is available for slaughter services to farmers and homegrowers in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and Island counties, Koenen said, and they are open to traveling to San Juan County as well. The truck includes a slaughter area and separate hanging space, and allows for cows, sheep and pigs to be handled.

In addition to the slaughter unit, the Koenens want to process the carcasses on site, and are planning a separate 7,000 square foot building on their property. (Currently, the carcasses are trucked to the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative in Bow for processing, as scheduling allows. The cuts are then taken back to the farm.)

The family hopes to have the facility approved and running in 2016, making way for on-farm processing, aging, smoking, cut-and-wrap, retail, and other needs.

“We are putting together as professional a service with the best people in place that we can. Farmers in our county and surrounding counties need access to good USDA slaughter and processing and we plan to give it to them.”

Currently, the farm’s beef and pork products are available at the Green Barn in Lynden and Terra Organica in Bellingham. Burk Ridge recently joined the Mount Vernon Farmers Market and is selling there each Saturday.

“We’re looking into other farmers markets as well,” Koenen said, noting they plan to be at the Bellingham Farmers Market in the fall.

Michael Koenen moves pork from the unit for Jones Family Farms, of Lopez Island. PHOTO BY BECCA SCHWARZ COLE

Michael Koenen moves pork from the unit for Jones Family Farms, of Lopez Island. PHOTO BY BECCA SCHWARZ COLE

As for poultry, they have started with 300 meat birds (Freedom Rangers) and 500 layers (Black Australorp) for eggs this summer.

“We will be staggering our butchering on our meat birds to be able to accommodate fresh and frozen,” Koenen said.

As the farm goes through the organic certification process, he said not much is changing. “We operate organically so it is an easy switch for us and most of our farm is already certified organic.”

He added, “An organic certification is a quick and easy way for a customer to know we are a healthy minded farm. There is a standard there that people trust and are asking for that label on products they buy so we intend to fill that need.”

Koenen, who does some of the butchering when available (he is a punter for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers team and gone several months of the year), hired a Head Butcher, Travis Stockstill, to handle the work.

Stockstill is experienced in butchering and the meat industry, and joined the farm in March. He also helps with the farm phone and organizing the farm’s booth at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market (joined in May), among other things. His fiancé is also well-versed with meat, and will be joining Burk Ridge Farms.

“We are committed on two fronts: food is so much fun and brings people together. We aim to make the best products possible, with the best ingredients, the most love and an affordable price tag,” Koenen said. “We think we have accomplished this and can’t wait for people to try the difference. We also aim to allow other farmers a chance to supply their customers with products they put love, time and money into as well.”

Vern Dykstra, who started raising grass-fed beef over 10 years ago, checks on the cattle, and visits with a young calf. COURTESY PHOTO

Vern Dykstra, who started raising grass-fed beef over 10 years ago, checks on the cattle, and visits with a young calf. COURTESY PHOTO

Koenen added, “Whatcom County only produces 3 or 4 percent of the meat that is eaten in our county. That number needs to be much higher. There are some good farmers in this community and they need a great way to get their product to market!”

For more information

Burk Ridge Farms products are available at The Green Barn in Lynden, Terra Organica in Bellingham, through on-farm sales, and at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market. They anticipate attending the Bellingham Farmers Market in the fall. Ciao Thyme also serves the farm’s products.

Burk Ridge Farms is located at 1594 W. Badger Road in Custer and can be reached at (360) 746-5592. For more information, visit www.burkridgefarms.com, or follow their Facebook page.

 

Published in the June 2015 issue of Grow Northwest

The kids help with the poultry chores. COURTESY PHOTO

The kids help with the poultry chores. COURTESY PHOTO

 

Michael Koenen and children check on the cattle.

Michael Koenen and children check on the cattle.

2 Comments to “Burk Ridge Farms: Grown here, for here”

  1. Emily D. says:

    LOOK AT THAT BOOTH SETUP! I am headed to the Mount Vernon Farmers Market for some meat! Thanks for sharing this great information.

  2. Shelly Morrison says:

    It’s like going to a local butcher shop at a local farmers market. I like this.

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