New ad campaign promotes Whidbey cattle

More Whidbey-produced beef is staying on the island. A new advertising campaign is under way to promote where residents can buy natural, pasture-raised beef that is produced on Whidbey Island. The Goose Community Grocer, which is located on Highway 525 in Bayview, startted selling beef produced under a new brand on Saturday, kicking off the campaign.

Steve Seppa

More Whidbey-produced beef is staying on the island.

A new advertising campaign is under way to promote where residents can buy natural, pasture-raised beef that is produced on Whidbey Island.

The Goose Community Grocer, which is located on Highway 525 in Bayview, startted selling beef produced under a new brand on Saturday, kicking off the campaign.

Five Whidbey Island farms are participating in the small marketing effort, which officials say could expand depending on customer demand. It provides another means for Whidbey Island residents to buy locally grown food.

“We’re working with producers to bring fresh meat to the market,” said Maryon Attwood, with the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.

The pasture-raised beef program is part of the new “Whidbey Island Grown” brand, which promotes locally produced food and products. The brand, which was developed with help from NABC, also provides standards producers have to follow, which will also build trust among consumers.

For example, farmers wishing to participate in the pasture-raised beef promotion have to meet a list of requirements that include obtaining organic or naturally grown certifications or require farmers to complete an assessment. Once enough farmers qualified to participate in the promotion, then the campaign moved forward.

“We wanted producers working on standards for the brand first,” Attwood said.

The marketing program could provide new areas for farmers to expand their business.

“I think the whole idea is a good idea,” said Steve Seppa, owner of Tesch- Road Farm near Oak Harbor. He raises cattle on 20-acres near Fort Nugent Road.

Other farmers participating are the Long Family Farm, Sherman Farms, Stevens Family Farm and Bethany Ridge Farm.

Seppa, a retired school teacher who has been farming since 1972, has changed his business over the years. He used to raise Holsteins to supply the dairies that once operated on Whidbey Island. Seppa had to change his focus when the dairy business on Whidbey Island dried up. Currently he sells calves at an auction held in Emerson.

He hopes the marketing program will spark a new niche for his cattle.

One aspect that needed to be resolved was how to process the cattle for market, which is done most cost-effectively through a mobile slaughtering facility.

Attwood said participating farmers were able to join the Island Grown Farmers’ Co-op, which serves farms in San Juan, Island, Skagit and Snohomish counties. It provides slaughtering services to member farms. She said it was difficult to join the co-op because it normally doesn’t have openings for new members.

Seppa said joining the co-op was important because it has a United States Department of Agriculture certified mobile slaughter facility. He said he could have hired a mobile slaughter businesses based out of Stanwood and Mount Vernon. However, those businesses don’t have the USDA certification, which would have prevented him from selling at a retail business.

Because the pasture-raised beef promotion is starting in a single location, only one farm to date has provided cattle for it, Attwood said. So far, four cows have been slaughtered for sale at a South Whidbey grocery store.

She said she is planning to call local restaurants to see if owners would be willing to purchase meat from local growers.

The aim of the Whidbey Island Grown program is to create a food chain that allows food that is grown on Whidbey Island to be sold on Whidbey Island. She hopes that the food will go through a producer, processor, distributer and retailer, all on Whidbey.

The beef is now ready for purchase at The Goose Community Grocer, 14485 Highway 525 in Bayvew. The selection includes everything from prime cuts to ground beef, according to a news release from the Northwest Agriculture Business Center.

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