Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving

KW Farms
Bothe making his way to the big city

San Luis Valley, Colorado
Thanksgiving Day, 2014

            After much deliberation Bothe made his big move to Denver in October.  He went with his partner, Lares Feliciano, and his thirty house plants, and they found an apartment in an old mansion just off Colfax, within walking distance to museums and music venues and all kinds of food.  Except for a brief time in Boulder, our son’s only city living experience has been in Alamosa, which with 8,000 people doesn’t exactly qualify as a city.  He’s amazed at having so much available so close.
            Zen Rose and her mom are just up the road in Northglenn, which is the main reason for Bothe’s move, to be closer to his daughter.  They are all having Thanksgiving together today - the  icon of modern family life - parents, their respective partners, and ten year old girl who is beaming to have them all surrounding her.  When I was ten I only knew one kid whose parents were divorced and it was so embarrassing for her, she constructed a story that her father had died.  I love the possibilities of families now.  And we are grateful they are all working together to make Zen Rose’s life rich and happy. 
            Still, we miss Bothe every day, his company and his help on the farm and in our meat business.  In his absence, Renee Mackey has stepped in to help us.  She’s as close to being a member of our family as you get.  We’ve known Renee since the late 1990’s, when she was newly graduated from Colorado College and came to work as a volunteer at La Puente Shelter.  In the ensuing years she has become a leader in our community, and an inspiration.   She is married to Chris Mackey and they have three bright, talented, lively kids.
Renee Mackey filling meat orders
            Renee is pitching in on various parts of our business.  Emails from Kretsinger Beef will from time to time come from Renee Mackey.  It’s still us.  Hopefully, she’ll share some recipes and slices of her cooking wisdom on our website.  She’s a remarkable cook, and knowledgeable about nutrition.  In her days at La Puente, when word got out Renee was cooking lunch in the soup kitchen, there was a line out the door of the dining room.  Everybody loves her food.  She is a nourishing, nurturing person.
            Having Renee step in has been fairly seamless, largely because she has been a customer since we began selling meat.   She understands our values and the importance of the relationship with our customers.
            On a recent delivery up north, John was hosted by Peggy and Kevin and their girls in Denver.  When it was all done, he hated to leave.  “I was having such a good time,” he said.  “They made me feel so welcome and they are just very interesting people.  I love hearing about their life.”
            In contrast, the Whole Foods parking lot in Boulder was very crowded and customers had trouble finding John.  It isn’t always this way, but on this Saturday before Thanksgiving, the parking lot was crammed and by the time everybody found John it was time to get to the next delivery.   His biggest regret was that he didn’t get to visit with everybody, hearing what they’re doing, what they’re thinking about and reading, what they’re eating.            
            “After all we’ve put into this - we and the animals - it’s great to hear from our people that what we do matters to them,” John said.  “Besides that, it’s a long day delivering and that’s what gets me home - thinking about our customers.  They’re so engaging and smart and caring.” 
            We are so very grateful for our customers. 
            And so, I hate writing the rest of this letter.  It is like the telegram delivery man during WWII, whose messages began:  We regret to inform you...
            Price increase.  We’ve been fighting it for some time.  There are always ups and downs in cattle prices, but the last two years there have been drastic increases.  Prolonged severe drought in Texas and across the western states has caused producers to liquidate their herds, resulting in escalating cattle prices. And even though we are not commodity producers, our pricing does parallel to some extent. 
            We buy weaned calves from cow-calf producers who are also members of Sweet Grass, our cooperative of pasture-based livestock producers.  We all adhere to the same production protocols to ensure high quality, health, and humane treatment of the animals. The long and short of it is that our production partners can just as easily take their animals to the sale barn as sell to us.   The sale barn means an almost certain route to the feed lot, which we all want to avoid, but if we’re not matching the sale barn price, it’s hard for a cow-calf producer to sell to us.  We are forced to at least match it. 
             The last price increase we made to our customers was in 2012.  The next year the cost of weaned calves went up 29%.  We were willing to absorb that increase and not pass it on to our customers by doing everything we could to minimize costs while maximizing quality and availability, making our operation more efficient.
            The cost of the calves we are buying this fall is up 41% from one year ago.  There is no way we can absorb this increase without putting our operation in jeopardy.   So, we are raising prices.  Not 41%, but, we are raising prices.  The best way to hold prices steady in this crazy market is to increase orders at each delivery stop.  So pass it on, if you will.   Send our web address, as well as your opinions about what you buy from us to your friends and neighbors.  That is how we have built our business, by word of mouth, the most powerful and trustworthy avenue that completely bypasses corporate marketing. 
            The new pricing will take place December 15, 2014.  Orders placed on our website before then for the December 20 and January 10 deliveries can get in on the old prices. (See schedule below.)
            The price of Salazar pork will remain the same great price for truly wonderful pork.  Lucas’ charcuterie business is thriving and he’s still raising hogs, harvesting again in summer, 2015. 
            We still have a limited supply of Elena’s delectable lamb, also a good deal.  The great news is that she is ramping up her sheep production and looking into adding poultry.  Elena and Lucas represent fifth or sixth (I’ve lost count) generations of farmers of their families here in the San Luis Valley. With their enlightened way, they are showing us through all this Apocalyptic-feeling shift, demonstrating how small scale pasture-based livestock production in connection with cropping is the hope for the future, the correct path to take, especially in the inter-mountain west.  
            We are so grateful for them.  We are so grateful for our customers, Sweet Grass partners, our kind, sweet, generous animals.
            We are just grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Throw in some kraut!

Much love,
Trudi Kretsinger