Thinking about Becoming Official

I have started to investigate what it would mean to get serious about lamb sales. The first thing is: licenses. It appears to me that to market my lamb in New York, beyond selling to friends, I will need at least one license, and possibly several. My internet friend Jessika, in Maine, who sells pork, has helped tremendously as I’ve struggled to grasp the legalities. She tells me she has one state meat license for retail sales, one for wholesale sales, and one as a mobile vendor for farmer’s markets. (This doesn’t even touch all the licenses she needs for her milk and milk products.) All states are different in their requirements.

I spent an hour on the telephone yesterday with a nice gentleman in the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. It was discouraging. He told me that if I bring meat home to store it in a freezer for later sale, instead of driving it directly from the slaughterhouse to a retail store, I would need a “warehouse” license. Even if my “warehouse” is a pair of chest freezers. A warehouse license is $400.

I explained to him that in my little operation (selling fewer than a dozen lambs a year) that would eat all my profits. He said cheerfully, “But you could have a thousand cows in your freezers with that same license.”  The fact that I don’t have a thousand cows didn’t seem to matter.

I will have to study the laws further. I’ve printed out a 150-page guide from the Cornell Small Farms website for bedtime reading. After just a quick glance at the densely printed pages I can see this booklet may solve my insomnia problem.

Meanwhile I will also need official USDA labels. To have a label, I will need a farm logo.

A logo! This is a little more fun to think about.

I’ve seen beautiful logos and labels. I really admire Jessika’s milk and pork labels. She had her artist’s rendition of her logo printed by Grower’s Discount Labels, which has a nice gallery to browse. Jessika’s milk and pork labels are variations on the same theme. The milk features a Jersey cow, rather than a pig.

I also admire the logo of Alan Zuschlag’s Touchstone Farm in Virginia. Alan is one of the top breeders of Clun Forest sheep in the country. You can see I like the old-fashioned look.

Someday I will get an artist to design a logo for me. It would be silly to invest in it now, when I’m selling on such a tiny scale. It would be better to spend any money I can possibly scrape up on more fencing, more lime, or a tractor.

But because I’m taking some of my lamb to an event, this morning I threw together a quick postcard-size label.

I am not artistic. This effort was literally cut and pasted on my kitchen counter (on a scrap of red oaktag; I don’t have a color printer). As you can see, in my haste it ended up slightly crooked.

I know my eventual logo will have to be very different, will need to more prominently feature the farm name, and any label will have to provide a lot more information. Not to mention, will need not to be drawn with a Sharpie marker! But for now it will have to do.


6 Responses to Thinking about Becoming Official

  1. Elaine Murphy says:

    I think it would be a great idea for you to sell your lamb. That could fund the equipment you need to make it a bit easier for you.
    I love the name for your labels, take a picture of your prettiest lamb and download it to your computer, then you could print it out.

  2. Claire says:

    Can you do direct sales, i.e. sell lambs by the whole or half, you get paid a $ per hanging weight and they pay the butcher their part of the processing?

  3. Marsha says:

    Nice label! We are still struggling with finding a name for our farm.

  4. The photo idea is a good one, and you can also take one of your farm photos and use the color book or cartoon options to make your photo into “artwork.” Not real artwork for sure, but your farm is your work of art, and cartooned photo would do in a pinch.

    Here in Oregon we can either sell by hanging weight with no license, or if we want to sell by the cut, we have to have a state and federal license and the meat has to be slaughtered at a USDA facility. Fortunately in Oregon there are still small USDA facilities, the one we use is family run by a husband and wife with several employees. It’s nice and not a horrific place.

    Your label looks great BTW!

  5. Tricia says:

    oh just typical of an Ag & Mkt state employee, they can’t read!
    YOU NEED NO LICENSE TO SELL YOUR LAMB IN NYS!!!! I know b/c we do it.
    To sell by the cut/pound (legally) your meat has to be processed at a USDA inspected processor(butcher). You don’t have to have a label. If you do label it has to printed and applied by the processor- not that easy to find one that will do that- time and money is the main issue.
    You are not a warehouse, you are not a store, you can sell from the farm, and at markets with no label. I think you might need labels to sell at stores and co-ops.
    You need to call Cornell Small farms program and get a copy of the guidelines from them- in plain talk not the NYS legal jargon. I think you can even download it from their website. If you have no luck there, let me know and I’ll get you a copy and find who you can talk to that actually knows the regs (and not a state employee!!!)

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