Modern farming is full of a lot of buzzwords. Things like organic, free range, grass fed, sustainable, and others make it impossible sometimes to tell what really matters. Especially if your goal is to just eat a really good pork chop. Farm Girl Meats owner Katie Short’s journey to produce the best tasting meat led her to a place where animals are allowed to do what they do naturally.
“In a farm so much of your time is spent focusing on feed, fermenting grains, and taking care of things the animals do naturally very well by themselves,” Short says. “Even worse you are having to move feed in from some farm that is removed from the actual animal you are feeding. I really wanted to bring the feed and the animal together and let them do what is natural to them.”
Farm Girl Meats, located in Perry County, focuses strongly on this type of sustainability. Short says it is more about creating and managing the ecosystem for the animals to thrive than it is about managing the animals themselves. The pigs, chickens, and cows on the farm are left to forage mostly for their own food in an environment setup to help them succeed.
The well thought out system could lead you to mistakenly believe Short grew up in farming, instead it is just the opposite.
“From a very young age I wanted to be a farmer. I was extremely interested in science, animals, and where our food comes from,” Short tells us. “The only problem was I grew up in the middle of a city in California. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and get my hands dirty on a farm, unfortunately my parents couldn’t wait for me to get a good liberal arts degree.”
Short decided to follow her parents wishes and went to college in New York to study photography, but the desire to farm became overwhelming.
“I finally moved back to California, saved up some money, and moved myself to Arkansas,” Short continues. “I found a volunteer opportunity at the Heifer Ranch and figured they would house and feed me until I figured out how to make this whole thing work.”
Short quickly found that her natural approach to farming was not something strongly practiced across the state. The opportunity to bring a relatively new idea was appealing, but even more appealing was the ability to experiment and develop it more.
Along the west coast, where short is originally from, the type of farming she was implementing was widely utilized and often the established principles left little room to innovate and remain competitive. Thanks to affordable land prices and little competition short has been able to develop ideas while connecting back with like minded people in other areas.
The result is a farm where the animals may likely live better than the humans, which has a huge impact on the overall quality of the meat produced.
“I feel a responsibility for the lives of the animals I am responsible for. I want to give my animals a chance to live in a way that they want to live,” Short explains. “I look at a pig for example and they have all these skills, instincts and abilities. I can design the way of raising the animals to match what is natural for them. I look at how I harness that for maximum meat quality. I want to eat the best food, and thankfully those go very well together.”
Short says the appreciation of the meat quality from the local food community, especially the restaurants she works with, has been welcoming. “The chefs we work with play a very critical role in raising awareness with food trends, we are glad they are starting to focus on our type of farming,” Short says.
The growth and appreciation of Farm Girl’s meats has quickly led to expansion of the farm. They recently purchased a new farm and are in the process of developing it to maximize the sustainability and quality for the animals.
In doing so Short decided to take an uncommon approach and use crowd funding through a Kickstarter campaign to fund the expansion. The campaign just recently passed the goal with still a few days remaining.
“We could have gone out and got a loan, but I loved the community aspect of doing a crowd sourcing program,” Short says. “We are leveraging our campaign to raise awareness for some of our food partners like Loblolly Creamery and kBird. We are giving thoughtful rewards that reflect our brand and allow people to experience what we have.”
Farm Girl Meats are available in several restaurants such as Root Cafe, South on Main, kBird, and Hillcrest Artisan Meats. For individual sales Farm Girl is partnering with Weal & Woe Farm to set up at Hillcrest Farmer’s Market. They have a monthly farm share that will give select cuts of meat produced to customers, or you can order individual products directly from their website.
The Kickstarter campaign ends early Saturday morning and allows you to receive things like cuts of meat, a dinner at kBird, or even naming some of the Farm Girl animals.