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Local ranch offers meat by subscription

Bacon, jokes Krista Vegter, really is a “gateway drug.”

That’s her testimonial as a long-time vegetarian who didn’t think she was getting enough nourishing fats from coconut, avocados, nuts and seeds. But finding “clean” yet affordable meats was a point of frustration, even when Vegter worked at Whole Foods.

“We couldn’t find a consistent, reliable source of chicken that we could afford,” says Vegter, 39.

So she and partner Sonia Consani, 29, decided to raise their own pigs and chickens. After two years as ranchers at their off-the-grid Ashland property, the pair are offering sustainably and humanely produced pork products and whole chickens to a growing Southern Oregon clientele. Known as Uproot, theirs is one of the latest options for locally produced meats, often on pasture, available for sale at local farmers markets, at area ranches, through websites and by the subscription model known as community-supported agriculture.

“They can kind of alter and customize,” says Vegter of the several types of CSA “shares” available for purchase.

“We process regularly,” says Vegter. “Rather than holding frozen meat, people are receiving the freshest quality.”

The freshest feed, milled daily, nourishes Uproot’s heritage-breed hogs. The custom blend contains certified organic kelp and Rogue Creamery whey, Oregon-grown camelina and high-protein peas, local sunflower seeds and red walnuts, many of which are procured directly from the region’s growers. Because some of the feed sources are not certified organic, Uproot is still considering organic certification but is more inclined toward humanely raised certification and building customer relationships, says Vegter.

Several area physicians, citing higher levels of Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, essentially “prescribe” Uproot meats to patients, says Vegter. Although Uproot has been a vendor only since May at Tuesday and Saturday farmers markets in Ashland and Friday evenings in Talent, it enjoys a strong following from adherents to ketogenic and Paleo diets, and the meat “flies off the shelf,” says Vegter. Among their most popular products are pork chops and belly, as well as maple-sage, Andouille and kielbasa sausages, inspired by Consani’s years as a chef.

“The pork is going fast,” says Vegter.

Home to about 30 swine at a time on nearly 28 acres, Uproot can accommodate about 35 more CSA members. Prices range from $950 for 100 pounds of chicken with 40 pounds of pork to $200 for 20 pounds of pork roasts. Retail prices at farmers markets are $8 per pound for pork and $7 per pound for chicken. For more information about how to sign up, see www.uprootashland.com, email uprootashland@gmail.com or call 408-504-9869.

The CSA model for meat has been offered locally for more than a decade, complementing Southern Oregon’s strong demand — among households with a large freezer — for whole animals purchased directly from ranchers and custom-butchered.

Whole lambs and chickens raised at Historic Hanley Farm in Central Point can be purchased to benefit families working through the child-welfare system toward stability. High-quality meat is the latest yield of Family Nurturing Center’s Food & Farm Program, which also grows produce and distributes other groceries from ACCESS. While program participants are prioritized as recipients, the general public also can take advantage of this resource, says co-manager Doug Lofdahl.

“By buying this food, it supports change in the community,” he says, explaining that the program’s families improve their health and nutrition while benefiting from a connection to farming and caring for animals.

Chickens cost $5 per pound and can be purchased on the farm. Lamb prices vary, but Lofdahl says he expects to cull six animals from the herd in a couple of months. Orders for whole, half and quarter animals can be placed by emailing farmandfood@rvfnc.org. Sales help to offset the program’s expenses.

“We feel good about the way this is done,” says Lofdahl. “The meat tastes so good.”

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune A hog enjoys some fresh water at Uproot, a CSA farm in Ashland.