In July of this year I was contracted by Heifer International to help them assess the impact of one of their grants. The grant was to help a local North Carolina farmer start up a butcher shop in Lansing, NC. Lansing is officially listed as a town, but could more accurately be described as a village. Its population has never quite reached 300 and currently sits at around 160, having lost 44% of its population since 1960. While it still has its fair bit of mountain charm, there just hasn’t been enough happening in Lansing in recent years to keep residents sticking around. The grant from Heifer and the opening of the butcher shop has been instrumental in helping them achieve a sustainable economic recovery, though the effects may not be seen instantly.
How much, after all, can one tiny shop really do to change a community? The answer, in this case, is a little bit of everything.
As you can see from the “By the Numbers” summary above, Lansing and its county have been struggling in several ways in the last few decades. The trends in the last 20 years have been the consolidation of farms into larger and larger properties but fewer and fewer hands and, despite relative stability in local resident-owned businesses for the first 15 of those years, a drastic decrease in that category in the last 5 years. The median household income in Lansing is low, the unemployment rate is high, and the percent of residents below the poverty line is even higher.
“The Butcher Shoppe is saving Lansing. It was going down the tubes and Ann has saved it.” —Lyn Soder, Mathomhouse Farm
Ann Rose, the owner of Rose Mountain Butcher Shoppe, is bucking this trend. Many studies have shown the benefits of purchasing from and supporting locally-owned businesses. Small entrepreneurs create more job growth than large firms, small locally-owned firms help increase per capita incomes (while large, non-local firms have the opposite effect), and buying from local retailers can help keep about 3 times more money stimulating the local economy than national chains (whether you’re in Maine or 10 other cities across the country). I’m not sure if Ann Rose has seen these studies, but she doesn’t need any extra motivation. She already lives it and experiences it firsthand.
I analyzed her purchasing data, surveyed and interviewed her suppliers, and concluded this: by sourcing 99% locally from high-quality producers, Rose Mountain Butcher Shoppe turned a $25,000 grant into $24,649.46 in purchases, $41,094.76 in economic impact and $17,749.04 in value-added for the regional economy in its first 4.5 months of operation. Furthermore, she has 2 local restaurants buying her products and adding value to them, is empowering female farmers at a rate 38.2% higher than the Ashe county average (in % of female farm operators), and has been able to hire a few part-time and contract workers as well. The shop has also been a huge boon to farmers while farmers markets are closed during the winter, a benefit cited by many survey respondents and interviewees.
In addition to these financial impacts, the shop is having perhaps a greater impact on the community in other ways. From the report:
Survey respondents also cited countless non-monetary benefits of the butcher shoppe. Among these benefits are education, animal welfare, environmental sustainability, nutrition, and female empowerment. In fact, these impacts align closely with Heifer International’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development..
If you aren’t familiar with Heifer International or its 12 Cornerstones, I encourage you to check out their website and the cornerstones here. They are:
- Passing on the Gift
- Sharing and Caring
- Sustainability & Self-Reliance
- Improved Animal Management
- Nutrition & Income
- Gender & Family Focus
- Genuine Need & Justice
- Improving the Environment
- Full Participation
- Training & Education
These are great standards for any organization to live up to, and both Rose Mountain Butcher Shoppe and Heifer International succeed in doing so. In fact, if you’re still in need of a last-minute Christmas gift for someone, I recommend either a purchase from Heifer’s Charitable Gift Catalog in a friend or family member’s name or a trip down to your favorite locally-owned retail shop. Both would serve as great gifts and opportunities to give back to others, whether they be in our local community or internationally.
If you’ve already finished your holiday gift shopping, maybe you can take some of your hard earned free time to sit back and peruse the rest of the contents of my report on Rose Mountain Butcher Shoppe. It is available for download here.
You can also check out the Rose Mountain Butcher Shoppe website here.