By Molly Sauvain, CISA Intern
Published in CISA’s December 2010 Enewsletter.
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Diemand Farm’s story starts way back in 1936, when Al Diemand purchased 125 acres in Wendell. Back then, small family farms dotted the country in great number, now; they have dwindled to a pinprick of a statistic. Diemand Farm, which has expanded over the years to 175 acres, pays homage to this legacy. The farm store, a hub of good smells and warmth on this cold day, is decorated with photographs of family young and old, and a plaque high on the wall tells Al’s story.
Anne, one of Al and wife Elsie’s twelve children, runs the farm now with her sister Faith and their brother Peter. In addition to the farm store, which offers frozen meals and meats, baked goods, coffee, soups and hot egg sandwiches, Diemand Farm raises chickens for eggs and meat, and turkeys. Their operation is larger than most in the area, with around 12,000 layers, 1,600 meat birds and 4,000 turkeys a year – but they have no trouble finding customers.
Anne credits their longstanding presence in the community, as well as work CISA has done to promote local, for their loyal customer base. “There is this shift going on, people realizing how far food has to travel, people becoming concerned with what their food has in it. They’re thinking about quality,” she notes. The books, movies, even the Slow Food movement – “it’s all helping our business.” Most people are willing to pay the slightly higher prices for eggs or meat because they know the money is going straight back into the farm, Anne says. “We’re always doing improvements and new projects, always innovating and changing based on customer demand.”
Although they’ve had chickens since Al bought his first flock of twenty five chicks, turkeys are a fairly recent addition to the farm. “We started raising turkeys in 1989 after looking for a way to increase our income. We thought we could fill a need for fresh, local turkey,” explains Anne. What started as a flock of 500 birds is now around 4,000 each season. They’re free-range, meaning exactly what it sounds – ample pasture space. Each Thanksgiving, these birds grace the tables of many Valley residents.
Diemand Farm is unusual in this region because they have a slaughtering facility on-farm. Built in the mid-1980’s, this two room building allows them to process their birds to their own high standards. The pace in many slaughtering facilities is set by machine – the birds are attached to a fast-moving line after the initial kill to be eviscerated and inspected. Anne explains why Diemand doesn’t follow this method: “It’s too fast. You can’t keep up and you can’t do a quality job. We do it without a machine because we are committed to doing the best job.” Inspectors from the federal, state and local level make annual trips to the farm, but Anne says that most inspections are smooth. “They’re there to help us,” she notes.
Anne recognizes the need for additional slaughter facilities for other farmers. She’d like to build another slaughtering facility on their land that other farms could use to process their birds. “It is so needed in this state,” she explains, “I get calls from people all the time with 10 or 20 birds they want to slaughter.” Regulatory requirements prevent the Diemands from using their existing facility to slaughter birds grown elsewhere, and Anne notes that building a new facility and a new business to meet the needs of other farmers would be challenging. “I have the dream and the knowledge, but not the energy. I feel like something could happen in this area, but we need to get the community involved.”