Funding the Butcher Shop

South Field Pigs and Sheep Grazing

As I mentioned in my Sunday post we are building a USDA/State inspected on-farm slaughterhouse and butcher shop – our Big Project. We need approximately $150,000 $210,000 to build and outfit the butcher shop to the point where we can start cutting meat. I spent about another $40K after we opened so call it $250K to date. That is about 10% of what the typical facility costs to build. We have some special efficiencies such that we can build for less because we are:

  • a small tightly focused family farm,
  • just doing one species,
  • an on-farm facility,
  • already own the land,
  • started with an existing foundation,
  • had some construction materials on-hand to begin with and
  • providing all of the labor.

Still, there are costs for concrete, insulation, plumbing pipes, electrical, equipment, etc. It takes many wallets to fund a project like this. Here are some of the ways that we are funding the butcher shop project:

Walter Lecturing the Pigs on Economic Systems

We have been paying out of pocket for expenses to the tune of about $26,000 so far. This works but does slow things down a bit as sometimes we’ve had to delay parts of the project while we find cash to pay for concrete and other materials. The irony is that while we take livestock to hired processors we pay out more than it will cost to build the butcher shop. Catch-22.

Pigs in the Turnip Patch

Sweat Equity:
In any construction project, labor is generally the highest cost. Since our family is doing all of the work this means the labor doesn’t cost us any cash out of pocket, just our time. We also have collected over the years a lot of materials such as insulation I’ve been saving, concrete forms used in our cottage and greenhouse foundation projects and rebar left over from other projects.

Pigs Coming Hither on Upper South Pasture

Business Supplier Extended Terms:
Materials are the next big cost with concrete and insulation being the two biggest costs followed by wood for building more concrete forms, electrical and plumbing. Several local merchants have given us extended terms for materials we are buying from them for construction. A local excavator has offered to do the digging to put our septic system in place with delayed payment. I am talking with two more vendors about this right now. We still need good sources of:

  • PEX plumbing supplies,
  • Floor drains and related plumbing supplies,
  • Electrical supplies like wire and conduit,
  • Wall covering Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP),
  • Wire (stock panels) for roof vault forms,
  • Epoxy for floor sealing,
  • Lairage gates,
  • Refrigeration,

and some other things. When we get to the outfitting stage we’ll need rail, a rail scale, scalder, meat saw and other tools of the trade so lots of opportunities there for working with other businesses. In exchange for extended terms we’re offering free pork plus free processing. As one business owner put it, “Its exciting to see anyone building in this economic climate.” Our project is helping raise our local economy a little bit.

Sow, Boar and Chickens Grazing

CSA Pre-Buys:
Community Supported Agriculture is a way that consumers help farmers with expenses in exchange for a discount on the harvest or first picking. What we’re offering is free processing once we get our butcher shop up and running for customers who order and pay for their pork now. Since the cost to us of the processing is primarily our labor and we do the work ourselves this makes economic sense. It gives customers a great deal while providing us with funds we need now for construction. We already had some CSA Pre-Buys rolling in before I officially announced this back on the butcher shop post. In an upcoming post I’ll announce all the details and make an order form accessible with PayPal – something I’m learning about. I should have the order form up and working tomorrow morning. (This was removed because PayPal may be failing financially. See here. A check is better and avoids PayPal’s excessive fees too.) You can also email us with orders and send a check in the mail:

Sugar Mountain Farm, LLC
252 Riddle Pond Road
West Topsham, VT 05086

Personal Loans:
A local farmer has given us a loan of $6,800 which we have been able to put towards buying materials we need. This was greatly appreciated and gave us cash to purchase concrete. Several people have suggested donations. I have received generous support in the past to for to pay for the web server. We will subsequently pay it forward to help other people in the future in addition to sharing what we are learning on this journey in the hope that other farmers will be able to build their own on-farm facilities. We need many nano-scale butcher shops spread across the country and around the world so that small farmers can get their meat to consumers plates. Another good way is to do a CSA Pre-Share buy and indicate that you would like it donated to a food bank within our delivery range of centeral Vermont.

Kia and Pigs Laugh it Up

Outdoors: 50°F/26°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/55°F

Legal thingy: Our farm is not a charitable organization so donations are not tax deductable and this is not an investment or stock purchase. The CSA Pre-Buy is a purchase of product, not a loan or an investment. If you ever want a refund of your original purchase amount prior to your taking delivery of your pork, just ask and allow 90 days for us to get the money to you – we appreciate the help. In the hopefully never to occur event of litigation regarding this, any disagreement is to be resolved by binding arbitration in Orange county, Vermont under Vermont law with each party responsible for their own expenses and half the arbitration costs. Lets keep everything friendly and personal.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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17 Responses to Funding the Butcher Shop

  1. Anonymous says:

    I just have to say – love what you're doing, and uh… Nice pants. xD

  2. You're on my holiday giving list, along with Heifer and Kiva!

  3. karl says:

    watts radiant springfield, mo, manufactures pex in three colors red, blue green. there is always a transitional slug in the machine when they change color. it is enough for a 200' radiant loop. the owners name is mike chiles. he is very busy but probably could be wooed buy an person of your character. he has offered me experimental product in the past.

  4. PV says:

    I absolutely adore that last pix of the animals together the dog and the pigs. It has so much humor in it!

  5. Karl, thanks for the tip. I will contact Mike.

    Anonymous, that's my hair-suite. Warm in the winter, cool in the summer. :) Just not suitable for foraging in the briar bushes.

    EatsCloseToHome, I am honored to be in such company as the Heifer project and Kiva. The former is something we've done as our annual charity giving.

    PV, that photo was taken by our son Will. It is one of my favorite pictures. The brown pig in the back was named Mark and the white gilt pig in the front was Charliey. Kia the dog is the mother of Lili who is the mother of Katya who is our new puppy.

  6. This is something which deserves it's own post, but to give you the synopsis, I've spent roughly 193 hours working on funding with banks and such over the past year. Banks, VT Eco Dev Corp, Yankee Farm, Rural Dev and the like have not resulted in any loans so far. We've heard everything from your project is too small (they want million dollar projects), to we can't do the work ourselves (they want us to hire everything which would make it a million dollar project, take longer and not get done as well), we own too much land (they want a McMansion on less than 10 acres – we have a tiny cottage in the big woods), we're a working farm (but they would do a hobby farm), they'll only consider two years ago past cash flow… The list goes one. There are a few who we still have applications in with that consider innovative alternative type projects so maybe they'll come through with small loans.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch we can't afford to wait for all the reasons I gave in the butcher shop post- we're making the project happen. So I am pursing other creative funding as well as simply bootstrapping. We've gotten a lot of support from area businesses and customers. People are thrilled about doing it as Community Supported Agriculture. Stores and restaurants are especially excited by this as it means they'll have a steady supply of pastured pork. They are some of the early CSA Pre-Buyers so they can lock in price and availability. If we had a bank loan that would be great because it would make the Big Project happen faster and I would spend more time pouring concrete, plumbing, wiring, etc. We will make it happen. We are making it happen. We'll just grab those bootstraps with the help of some friends!

  7. Bill says:

    I guess I should have expected your answer. Given your very evident ability to plan and to get work done, the only risk I see is the small and very unwelcome eventuality that you or members of your family get seriously hurt or fall ill. But you seem wondrously careful and appear to have good genes as well. And there's some reassurance as well in both your parents being doctors. Hm. Have you directed any bankers to your blog?

  8. At the end of our business plan in the appendix it lists the web site, blot, many articles that have been written about myself and the farm, awards and all of those good things as well as 16 pages of letters of reference from customers, certification for the farm, etc. Unfortunately it does not seem like any of that matters to the lenders. Dealing with them has been a frustrating experience to put it mildly. One might perhaps say it is the economic climate but the reality is it has always been this way for me getting loans – one of the costs of being self-employed. I'm still working on it though and have hope that a combination of bootstrapping, extended business terms, CSA and a loan will come through. A loan would certainly help make it happen faster.

  9. Peter Hendry,in France says:

    Hi love it. Me and the missus have done something similar over here in France but with wooly things that go BAAA.
    When we buy second hand machinery we get "for parts only" put on the receipt so it is 100% discounted against tax instead of 75% first year and 25% next. Every little helps. We're Scottish so "deep pockets and short arms".
    We sell 2 or 3 lambs to a local butcher on a "fixed for the year" price. This gives us a provable income.
    We have a friend who does Roasts for parties etc. He has a trailer barbecue. Now here's the clever bit; The fire is in an old bit of steel tube cut in half in the middle of the trailer and above it is a thick plate of sheet steel which glows red hot and a spit each side. The juices are caught underneath the lambs and are used to baste and to make the gravy. His takes 6 lambs but can do only 2 if needed. When he does 6, he stuffs 2 with potatoes, 2 with veg and 2 with couscous. I'm sure you can come up with variations.
    Is your mouth watering? No need to cut it up and direct to the customer at top price. How much would you pay for that much food from an outside catering firm.
    Best of luck for the future, hope this helps.

  10. This is an answer to Jake's question over on the butcher shop post. I'm answering here because it is really a funding question:

    Hi Jake,

    I saw that article and several others too about the Westminster slaughterhouse getting a $600,000 grant from the state of Vermont as announced by Governor Douglas. The Westminster plant just opened this week. This is a good thing as we need more small butcher shops and local slaughterhouses. I'm glad to see the town of Westminster welcoming them. I hope that they are a big success. That part of the state in particular is under-served.

    We have not gotten any grants. I'm not sure how they managed to get a grant because I was specifically told by the Vermont Dept of Agriculture, the Governor's office and the USDA that there were no grants available for slaughterhouses or butcher shops. I asked in May of 2008, again in the spring of 2009 and again in the fall of 2009.

    We also haven't been able to get commercial loans from banks, a home equity loan (our land is a working farm and too many acres), nor loans from the Vermont Economic Development Corporation (VEDA) or any other organization. They have a myriad of reasons ranging from "we're not loaning for new or expanding businesses" to "you're too small" to "you can't build it yourself" to "Come see us for a loan after you've finished building it and been operating for a while." That rather misses the point.

    Fortunately some local businesses and individuals have been very generous and helpful to the tune of about $29,000 so far in loans. They and customers who did CSA Pre-Buys already are some of the first people in line for pigs when we open the butcher shop. We've also put about $26,000 of our own money into this project so far. Lastly we've gotten some outright donations from a number of individuals. Many thanks to everyone who's helping. Every little bit makes a difference. A cubic-yard of concrete only costs a little over $100. Bit by bit we're getting there.

    There are still opportunities for CSA Pre-Buys and more so contact me if you are interested.

    For more discussion about the butcher shop see:
    CSA Pre-Buys with free processing
    butcher shop.



  11. Sounds delicious, Peter! I love lamb as well as mutton and barley soup. Some of my favorite dishes.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps Walter this is a portent that the banks wont lend to you. I don't know if you believe in signs be it from gods or magical or foresighted but maybe that is what this is. You have enough readers to chip in to fund your project what part you cant do yourself now. I sent you a small donation. It is my charity giving for the year and it is fine that you are not a deductable charity. I give because I believe in your project and in you. I am thankful for all that you share. I just have a homestead but I have learned many times the $50 donation. I love your statement of paying it forward too. That is so like you and so right. We need more nano scale thinking on projects less big mega projects and more of the sharing that you do. Keep it up and keep us all posted on your adventures.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is good to know that someone else talks to their pigs before implementing their plans. Wives will always try to talk you out of it but pigs are a different story.

  14. Dal says:

    Love your project!

  15. Amber says:

    I’m unsure what your next big project is going to be, but have you considered building butcher shops for other small farms? (I ask about future projects, because i wouldnt be able to afford t jntil around 2022). I’m having a hell of a time finding a construction company for this, and i would be very happy to pay you guys for your work! I really want to be able to process pig, chickens, and dexter cows, which i know adds complexity to the design, but it would be a good way to make a large chunk of money at one time to further your own farm.

    • Only jokingly, as in “Next time I would do this or that a little differently…” What I will do at some point is write up a book about how we did it and what we learned so that people like yourself can build their own and learn from our experiences. There is a lot of demand for that. Putting it in book form will help many people.

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