My friend Joe Cloud is an eclectic guy. When we were together at Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, he made a living one summer pruning all the trees in the college canyon. Now it’s a site of environmental restoration, but Joe was good with a chainsaw.
After a couple decades as a landscape architect in Seattle, Joe and his wife moved to central Virginia, where Joe’s family has a farm. Nice place, nearby Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm that was featured by Michael Pollan in his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Since the farm was already bought, by his dad, Joe figured he’d do something else. He considered a few things but then ended up buying a family-owned slaughterhouse operation in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in a partnership with Salatin, who was already renting Joe’s family’s land to graze his cattle. Salatin’s getting vertically integrated, though the slaughterhouse isn’t only processing his meat. It's a rare smaller scale facility that already has a USDA inspector on site -- which is crucial for selling meat.
Joe told me all this a couple of weeks ago, when we went out for mussels and Belgium beers here in D.C. with friends from college. Last week, he sent out a press release titled “From Omnivore's Dilemma to Carnivore's Delight:”
Known locally as T&E Meats (as in Tom and Erma), the business will continue serving the community from its current location on Charles Street, where it has operated continuously since 1939.
"T&E has been processing our federal inspected beef and pork for many years and its survival is critical in order for us to serve our restaurants, retail outlets, and individual customers," said Salatin.
Co-owner and general manager Joe Cloud added: "There is enormous pent-up demand among Virginia farmers for processing services that will allow them to sell into high-value local markets, which we hope to capitalize on."
Salatin and Cloud also plan to expand the retail offering to include a variety of locally produced natural and organic meats, including Polyface Farms' unique grass-finished beef and chicken and their acorn-fed pork.
I haven’t yet visited the facility or store, nor have I tried its local specialties -- like a scrapple called pon hoss made with organ meat, of Germanic origin, that Joe is raving about -- but I do hope to get down there soon.
It’s quite a mid-career move for Joe, but if he’s as good with a butcher knife as he was with a chainsaw, I imagine he’ll do alright.
- Samuel Fromartz