Herds & Harvest: cultivating success for farmers & ranchers

Mike Holcomb (center) Wolf Pack Meat's manager
Mike Holcomb (center) Wolf Pack Meat's manager

As the owner of GirlFarm (aka Grow for Me Sustainable Farm) north of Reno and a long-time proponent of the farm-to-fork experience, Wendy Baroli laments the fact that few people know where their food comes from. She offers an experiential opportunity for people to participate in the production of their own food through her Grow for Me Heritage Meat Program, which allows participants to come and work at her farm.

Baroli also believes people should know what happens to food in between the farm and the table.

"As a producer, I think it's very important that the public knows how their food is processed," she says.

She believes the meat-processing certification programs that now are offered at Wolf Pack Meats in Reno go a long way in promoting the understanding of food production.

"The classes allow the beginning farmer or rancher to learn about processing and meat cuts. They need good skills," she says.

A cooperative effort between governmental and educational institutions, the certification classes are part of the University of Nevada’s Herds & Harvest Program.

"It's an extension outreach program for the community," explains Ron Pardini, associate director of the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station. "It attracts a variety of people. This will enable the small producer to do the whole process at home. Also, somebody just might want to know about the process."

The program consists of harvesting classes, which provide hands-on training in slaughter and storage, as well as processing classes, which offer specialized training in the accuracy of cutting, knife handling, portion control, merchandising, and the utilization of carcass products. All classes emphasize food safety and sanitation guidelines.

With food poisoning cases on the rise, according to a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more attention is being paid to proper food handling by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Although Nevada has more than 20 meat-processing centers, only Wolf Pack Meats, with its comprehensive service, meets the highest USDA standards from slaughter through processing.

"Wolf Pack Meats is the gold standard in the state," Pardini says.

by Roseann Keegan