by Jo Barnes –
Many years ago, living on the Saanich Peninsula required people to draw their sustenance directly from the land upon which they lived. While most of us today rely on grocery stores, markets, or at best tend to backyard gardens, there are still those in our community for whom living off the land is a way of life.
A critical part of farming is getting the product to market, and one local farming enterprise is not only working hard to bring fresh locally raised product to its customers but helping other Island farms do likewise.
“I wanted to make it a lot easier for people to get that farm fresh meat and make it more attainable,” shares Justin Berryman, owner of Berryman Brothers Meat Ltd.
The family farm, off Dooley Road in Central Saanich, has changed over the years: the old barn has been converted into what is now a state of the art meat processing facility. Coolers and freezers have been installed, and there’s a new retail storefront being built onsite.
Raising livestock, farming and contributing to community are cornerstones to the lifestyle in which Justin has been raised.
“I’m from a family of 11 kids. The farm started as a hobby farm. We bred for a bit, showed the animals, went to all the local fairs, and were heavily involved in the 4H program,” says Justin.
When growing up, like his brothers and sisters, Justin did his part around the farm. Animals were tended; it was a means of providing for a large family. After many years, the focus turned more towards processing, butchering and smoking meats.
“We actually started our service for local farmers who were looking for ways to take their animals and butcher them up for their customers,” says Justin.
Justin has continued to build close working relationships with local farmers providing them with meat cutting services. Some farmers are aging with no successors to help them; many just need help with accessing sales.
“Maybe they can’t connect with the local consumer. It’s very easy for me to go to a farm and check out their livestock, see how they’re raising them, assuring it’s the best of quality and then buy it from them.”
For Justin, it’s all about offering a product that is flavourful, fresh, nutritious and above all local.
“People want to eat more locally. Growth hormones and mistreating animals are the biggest concerns. They want to know more about the food they’re eating,” he says.
It’s hard work but efforts are paying dividends. The staff number 12, including Justin’s brother Gregory, sausage kitchen and smoke house manager for the facility; and Justin’s father who is in charge of the hogs at the farm.
“My dad, he raises them. That’s transportation, feeding, care and cleaning. Everything is tied to the welfare of these animals. We want to make sure the animals are happy, healthy and clean.”
What began as wholesale orders to grocery stores and restaurants is now expanding to individual sales. Visits to farmers markets, social media activity, a new website platform, and good old-fashioned word of mouth have resulted in increased interest. Customers can choose from a menu including beef, pork, sausages, cured meats, chicken and turkey. There are pre-made boxed selections that provide many meals or more individual options. The onsite shop currently being built will provide a personal shopping experience.
“For me, my product is about family and the connection between consumer and local farmer. My main goal is to connect those people and make it readily available to everybody.”
Supporting farmers who raise their livestock with integrity, knowing where your product comes from, and helping your local economy – three things that any thoughtful shopper would crave.