HOMR – The Home Meat Rabbit Project
We are submitting an application this week for a LASA grant (Local Agriculture and Seafood Act) that will enable us to expand our Silver Fox meat rabbit rotational grazing program with interested families around South County. The RI Dept of Environmental Management in partnership with several private foundations is making $200,000 available for sustainable agricultural project development.
Rabbit is a lean, delicious, low-cholesterol meat widely enjoyed throughout Europe but underserved here in USA where suburbanization, decline of small family farms and the commensurate rise of intensive livestock production has separated us from the tradition of seeing warm-blooded food grown close to home. Many people are only familiar with companion animals within their sphere of personal experience.
Many people struggle with the notion of killing something cute but are content to eat faceless industrially raised meat from chemically-supported confined feeding facilities as long as they “didn’t see it alive”. We intend to change that model and restore the dignity of life to the meat experience of interested families here in South County.
In fact, we have done so already. Our effort to service the market demand for our Silver Fox rabbits and grow our rotational grazing operation is continuously challenged by limitations of the pasture resources at our home farm location. As a result, we have explored outsourcing solutions to this problem. We farmed out pasture pens and litters of “grow-out” kits to 6 different “contract grazing” families and a charter school in 2013 who moved their pen onto fresh grass daily and supplemented with collected browse, weeds, rose clippings and apple branches.
The Home Meat Rabbit Project will enable New England Grass Fed to expand our existing satellite production program and engage more local families in the rewarding process of raising their own food through a supervised 10-12 week grazing commitment. We will provide approved participants with rabbits, mobile pasture pen, support and an on-line platform to share their experience of growing out a litter of weaned heritage breed kits to market weight for us in exchange for a dressed carcass in payment.
We will use this grant to build 12 more A-frame mobile grazing pens, expand our outreach & create an online community – a sort of “virtual 4-H Club” – that encourages our “contract ranchers” to share the challenges and successes of their home farming exercise and learn from each other in a “positive peer pressure” environment.
The children learn the value of raising meat with respect and taking the gift in gratitude. Several families have decided to keep their pen and make this a permanent arrangement, cycling litters through their property. Several families have taken their payment alive and are producing litters for us in a source herd relationship. We have enjoyed building rich ongoing relationships with these folks and look forward to helping more families discover the joys of participating in a productive agricultural community.
Respecting the Protein, PMB