Loudon farm gets USDA grant for beef, pork burger blend

Last modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Carole Soule and Bruce Dawson of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon have created a burger they say has the ideal mix of flavor and fat.

Now, with the help of a $127,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they are ready to spread the word.

“Everybody confuses fat and flavor,” Bruce Dawson said yesterday. “We are looking at another way to get the fat and flavor in there in a different way.”

Soule and Dawson have partnered with local farms to create a blend of 55 percent grass-fed beef from Miles Smith with 45 percent pasture-raised pork. The new blend builds on the traditional grass-fed beef the farm said wasn’t as juicy or flavorful as the current version.

“This is a way to have it be healthy and still juicy,” said Dawson.

The idea behind “the burger that squeals with flavor” was one of 247 farm projects nationwide that received a portion of $25 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grants announced yesterday. The grants are aimed at turning agriculture commodities into value-added products, and Miles Smith Farm plans to use the money to produce, distribute and promote the beef and pork burgers. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen were in Loudon yesterday to celebrate the grant.

Sales of agriculture products contributed nearly more than $184 million to the state’s economy in 2012, according to the USDA.

“The local and regional food movement is no longer a movement. It is an integral part of American agriculture,” said Vilsack. “We tried to figure out ways we could provide help and assistance.”

The farm has already started making the beef and pork burgers, but marketing has proved difficult with no sales staff and no marketing budget. While not all of the beef is raised on-site, the farm purchases only cattle and antibiotic-free pork from local farms to fill the demand for locally raised meats. The grant, which requires matching money from the farm, will go toward advertisements and brochures, along with production.

“It helps us leverage our own dollars,” Soule said before yesterday’s press conference.

The USDA estimates that as a result of the grant, Miles Smith Farm will see an increase in revenue as a result of 10 new retail outlets carrying their products.

“As a local farm, we don’t have the resources to reach out and tell people what we have, so we have this great product and no way to spread the word,” said Soule. “This has given us a great opportunity to do that.”

This year’s award marks the third time the farm has received USDA grant money for business development assistance and marketing opportunities. Two years ago, they used grant money to expand the market for their beef trimmings by selling packages of seasoned, all-beef sausages to grocers in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. Before that, the farm received a grant for economic planning that included a feasibility study of making and marketing meatballs.

Between 2009 and 2013, New Hampshire received $441,000 in Value-Added Producer Grants, which help agricultural producers generate new products with their goods, create and expand marketing opportunities and increase income.

“These help small farmers get out to the public what’s going on at a farm, and the kind of efforts that are under way, and the products and the foods that are produced,” said Shaheen, who worked on the updated 2014 Farm Bill in Congress.

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com or on Twitter@iainwilsoncm.)