Stillman Quality Meats dedicated to fresh farmed meats
Kate Stillman’s agricultural roots go back four generations raising cattle, dairy, fruits and vegetables. Stillman’s boots followed the family path at age 9 when she began helping with sales at farmers’ markets.
“I grew up like a real, genuine Massachusetts farmer,” Stillman says. “We ate pork from pigs that my grandfather raised and smoked. We had our own beef, our own eggs and chicken. Growing small food was a way of life and that’s what we did. I took it all for granted growing up.
Stillman expected to take over the family greenhouse business, which grew high-end gardening equipment and cut flowers.
“I knew I had always wanted to do farming,” she says. As a young woman representing her family’s farm in the markets, she paid close attention to market offerings.
At the time, protein was in short supply in the markets, and Stillman recognized that his family’s farm in Hardwick was in the unique position of being able to offer a full range of vegetables and proteins to customers. Stillman recalled, “There was only one other person doing it, so there was huge demand, so I just agreed.”
This vision of providing a complete meal set Stillman on a different path. She forged her own path by creating a vertically integrated farm model that starts with raising young animals and moves through delivering fresh meat for customers’ plates.
“Growing food on a small scale on the farm was our way of life. You ate good meat,” she said.
At the start of their butchery business, terms such as “grass-raised” or “cage-free” were new buzzwords for animal husbandry and the artisanal butchery that the Stillman family had practiced since the late 1800s to feed his own family. “I sincerely believe in this model,” she says. This belief spoke to her community, and they supported her. “It took off faster than I thought it would,” Stillman says.
The Stillman Quality Meats team consists of 6-10 people, including family members.
“Animals don’t take away a hurricane, or they get up at night and have babies. It’s 24/7,” she laughs. “We have never caught up with the pandemic when it comes to staffing. The way I handled the situation is that we upgraded technology and equipment as much as possible to keep up with demand.
Butchering is Stillman’s biggest labor demand, so since the pandemic, she’s bought an extra grinder and slicer; on the animal side, Stillman has automated as much as possible with automatic feeders and drinkers. One person can do the job of two people using these tools.
In her dual roles of boss and farmer, Stillman offers tools and technology to support her highly skilled team members. “Technology isn’t meant to replace labor — it’s to respect and save the labor you have,” Stillman says.
In his farm newsletters, Stillman signs off as “Farm-her Kate”. She is attentive to women’s contributions to agriculture, including butchery. Stillman’s grandmother and great-aunt ran their farms. “The tractor was the cool male thing that got all the attention,” she laughs.
“Women have always played an important role in agriculture, and they do a damn good job in agriculture, and what has really changed the situation is that we have a tool – the mobile phone – that allows us to lets get our personal stories out there,” Stillman says, talking about the most significant changes in agriculture. “It can be a tough undertaking with a lot of courage and no glory – literally.”
Although female in a male-dominated field, the biggest challenge was starting at 27 and employing people twice her age.
Over 14 years, Stillman has grown in his role and his business. “You have to be a boss in this industry. Producing food is serious business because there is a lot at stake. In cutting meat, there are a lot of regulations and paperwork. It’s a high stress level.
Stillman is grateful to have a team that allowed her to get started and learn it as a young woman. “It was a good experience and I learned a lot,” she says.
Reaching customers accustomed to shopping at grocery stores posed a challenge for Stillman.
“Most farmed meats…look and taste different. It’s expensive because you pay the actual cost of the product,” she says.
“You need to find special customers who are willing to come to your farm, believe in your product and try it. In the end, this meat is of higher quality and it tastes better. This is the starting point of all of this. »
Education was key. “It wasn’t easy learning how to make delicious sausages or learning how to cut fresh steaks, market them and offer them to people. That’s probably the biggest win,” she says.
“People like the taste and the flavors. It’s important to me because I really want to deliver the goods to people,” she says.
For a taste of Stillman quality meats, come to CISA’s Local Loves Local event on Thursday, September 8 at the Four Star Farms Brewery in Northfield from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Stillman burgers, local corn and beer local will be under pressure. Online tickets at buylocalfood.org/LLL.
To purchase Stillman Quality Meats, customers can order from their website for pickup at their farm at 3674 Greenwich Road in Hardwick or opt for home delivery. Orders are packaged in a cardboard box with insulation using dry ice and ice packs for two day ground shipping.
In October, Stillman Quality Meats is planning a full-service butcher shop, where customers can tour the farm, purchase fresh meats and request custom cuts of meat from the professionals. Watch their website for more details: www.stillmanqualitymeats.com
Lisa Goodrich is the communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about local farms, what’s in season and where to find it, visit buylocalfood.org/find-it-locally.