While Burns Lake has been attempting to diversify the economy beyond its reliance on the forest products industry, a local cattle producer says there’s currently a high demand for local produce.
According to Priestly Meats owner Derek Feldmann, that’s because local residents tend to value ethical farming and the ethical treatment of animals.
“In factory farming, there’s no real checks and balances,” he said. “What my customers are telling me is that they pretty much lost faith in the food industry and they would like to buy something from someone they know and trust.”
“Local producers give people an opportunity to buy something from a trusted source,” he added.
At Priestly Meats, animals are fed local hay, and grains are grown without the use of hormones, steroids or antibiotics. Feldmann said he has been encouraging his customers to visit his family farm, which is located on top of Priestly Hill, to see how their cattle are raised.
Although cattle production and agriculture might not always be as profitable as logging, Feldmann they can lead producers to a richer life.
“Making big money isn’t the most important thing in the world; maybe how you live is more important, how you deal with others is more important,” he said. “It’s a great way of life; you can be so much richer than a bank account.”
“If you’re able to market it, and raise it ethically, it’s an awesome industry,” he added.
According to Feldmann, a key aspect of his family business is investing in personal relationships with customers.
“People are just wanting it so much, that relationship with the farmer,” he said. “The neat thing about this is that my customers have become my friends; my customers appreciate what I’m doing and they are happy to see my business growing.”
“Having that relationship is awesome,” he added.
Feldmann has been selling produce in the Burns Lake area for several years by personally delivering large orders. As a way of expanding the business, since February Feldmann has brought the “Priestly Meats truck” to Burns Lake every few weeks to sell smaller cuts of meat. He said this has been a great way to promote the business while improving relationships with current customers.
Although Feldmann has had a request to sell his produce in Houston, he said it’s too soon to further expand his customer base.
“I don’t want to grow it fast because I want to make sure it’s sustainable,” he explained. “I don’t want to get to the point where I need more, more and more.”
“The common view of businesses is that if you’re not growing, you’re dying, and that’s crazy,” he continued. “Why not just make a living rather than trying to get rich?”
For now, Feldmann said he’s happy just where he is.
“Everything is local and I’m dealing with friends, what else can a person ask for?”