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Sustainable Agriculture

Marketing Meat to Culturally Diverse Families and Communities

To expand sales of their lamb and goat meat, Larry Jacoby and Judy Moses built new connections with the growing populations of Mexican and Somali immigrants in western Wisconsin. Their efforts—advertising in multiple languages, promoting visits to their 140-acre farm in Downing, WI, and attending customer weddings, among them—have resulted in a substantial increase in annual sales.

“We like working with a variety of people, it fits our interests intellectually,” said Judy Moses, who, with husband Jacoby, received a SARE farmer/rancher grant to explore new ways to promote to culturally diverse customers. “Once you get into their network, you're in. When we have goats for sale, the word spreads quickly and customers come.”

Now, they sell almost all of their goats and about 40 percent of their lambs to ethnic customers at premium prices. In busy periods during the Muslim month of Ramadan, Christmas and New Year's holidays, monthly sales of adult goats, kids, and 80-pound lambs surge. In 2005, they sold more than 500 live goats and lambs during the holidays at an average of $100 each.

Moses and Jacoby learned a lot over the 2 years of their grant project about how to reach new customers, many of whom speak limited English, come to the farm at all hours, and want to slaughter their animals according to religious customs.

Moses' co-worker at her off-farm job, a Somali native, sparked the project by suggesting that local Somalis, many of whom work at a Barron, WI, turkey processing plant, craved fresh goat meat. While Moses and Jacoby tried ads in ethnic magazines, established a multi-lingual website and posted information on bulletin boards and tourist information centers, the word-of-mouth method brought the most customers. A friend who worked at the processing plant encouraged some of her Somali co-workers to visit Moses' and Jacoby's Shepherd Song Farm, where they raise a bout 400 goats and 300 lambs annually on pasture.

In keeping with tradition, the Somalis wanted halal slaughtering practices involving a Muslim imam. Moses found a State-inspected processor 14 miles away willing to slaughter goats in the preferred manner with the local imam present to supervise. Moses and Jacoby adapted in other ways, too, growing accustomed to unannounced visits from families, some of whom liked to pick up animals in the midst of the winter holidays. Many of those visitors bought 10 to 20 goats at one time. They even bartered occasionally, with Jacoby swapping lamb for a new pair of leather boots imported from Mexico, among other items. Customer relations soared.

“Mexican and Somali families have sought us out,” Moses said. “These families purchase something more than food—a memory of their heritage while strengthening family bonds.”

 

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