Minnesota’s first halal certified farm produces fresh fare and substantial connections
It all started with six goats, 10 chickens and a bucket of asparagus. According to Tiffany Farrier, that’s the origin of her Southwest Minnesota farm, Kandi Acres. A Las Vegas native turned Minnesotan, Farrier moved to the town of Hawick in 2018, looking for something new.
“I guess you can say we started as a hobby farm. The intention in moving out here was just to have space and get some peace and quiet. I definitely did not do that,” Farrier says with a laugh. “Here we are, four years later, with 500 goats!”
After launching into raising goats, in early 2020 Tiffany attended a University of Minnesota Extension workshop related to hobby farming. There, Farrier says she was introduced to the world of halal. She learned that nearly all halal goat meat in Minnesota comes frozen from Australia or New Zealand. With few Minnesota livestock producers engaging in the halal meat market, Farrier was intrigued.
“I thought it was very culturally cool. I saw it as a good opportunity for me to sell my goats and an avenue to build a bridge between communities. Plus, I wanted to be involved in something that somebody else was saying that was really hard to do. That’s the kind of person I am.”
Farrier set out exploring Minnesota’s halal market and building connections with Muslim community members, with the hope of selling goats to local retailers, particularly Somali grocers. But when COVID-19 hit, efforts stalled.
“All communications were off. Everything was dead in the water. But a couple months later, some guy came up on my property and he introduced himself as Justice Walker.”
Current Planning and Development Director for the city of Willmar, Justice Walker approached Kandi Acres in spring 2020 to learn more about the farm. Walker serves as an Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) board member, and the pair soon realized there were more exchanges to be had. Walker helped connect Farrier with local halal grocers and others involved in halal meat production and to approach the Southwest RSDP with the idea of funding a case study.
University Extension Educator, Ryan Pesch, recalls, “When we did that assessment, we learned that there's a bunch of people in this state who would prefer to have locally sourced halal meat. That was really just a market assessment, but with Tiffany, we knew it could be an example of someone entering that market.”
In October 2021 Kandi Acres began marketing halal goat meat direct to halal stores. With support from the Southwest RSDP, Farrier worked with the partnership to document her work, in hopes of sharing her experience entering the halal market with other farmers.
“Nobody's ever collected data like this in Minnesota,” says Farrier. “We knew this would be helpful to every farmer out there, including myself, to figure out what kind of environment this is for local farmers interested in selling halal meat.”
Through this work, Kandi Acres became the first halal certified farm in the state of Minnesota, allowing the farm to sell to three Muslim-owned grocery stores. Farrier spent significant time not only arranging sales with store owners but also getting to know them personally, which took additional time as she connected with people from different cultures and people who spoke different languages. Throughout the process, Farrier and her family grew close to the community they were working alongside.
“We began hosting new friends at our family events and attending their family events; our connections started coming out and doing things on the farm. There was a very close relationship built among our family in this culture. It was very cool, it was like seeing bridges be built and walls come down.”
“The primary thing that we learned from it is about how somebody who didn't do halal before and didn't market to stores before, entered the market,” says Pesch. “This case study is basically Tiffany’s experience and what it took to connect with the community that's not her own…Halal is built on trusting relationships, and it takes time to build trust between halal customers, retailers, and goat producers.”
Processing in a competitive market
Processing is a key factor in the success of marketing halal meat due to its effect on price and logistics. For relatively small animals like goats, the cost of processing is a significant part of the end product’s price per pound. Even modest shifts in processing costs per goat greatly impact the final price. The requirements of halal slaughter, such as having a Muslim slaughterman and the logistics of processing animals consistently and in a timely manner, can be a challenge.
Despite the early success, during the course of the study, Kandi Acres' ability to produce affordable halal goat meat for grocers was challenged. In July of 2022, Kandi Acres Farms halted halal meat sales to local grocers due to inflating halal meat processing costs.
“It was kind of a huge let down,” recalls Farrier.
While the project has come to an end, both Farrier and Pesch both see the end result as a success.
“We learned that having a rock solid and quality processor is a primary need in this situation, in terms of doing it correctly, but also in terms of pricing,” says Pesch. “But we also learned that halal meat is a growing opportunity for livestock producers in Minnesota,”
“I believe it is a very competitive market. But I believe this is something feasible and doable,” says Farrier. “Where I stand is, I’m still Kandi Acres, and I'm still going to be all halal, and I’m still going to do this work. Just how I go about doing that might look different in the coming months. At the end of the day, It's all about relationships. I can walk away from this work tomorrow but the relationships will stay.”
Learn more about halal in Minnesota
Check out Halal in Minnesota: Goat meat marketing case study.
This case study illuminates the relationships, challenges, and insight gained as all parties worked together to build a supply chain beneficial to the farmers, processors, retailers and consumers.
Emily Haeg Nguyen works as a statewide sustainability storyteller with the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) and Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs).
Banner photo credit: Kandi Acres Farm.
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