Argyle, MB farmer says his website is his golden egg

Posted on October 1, 2012 by Harry Siemens

Harry Siemens - His website, he calls it his golden egg, says government inspected and processed pork, humane society certified, Canadian quality assurance certified, non medicated feed, processed by a family-run plant, custom orders welcomed, free delivery depending on location, and delivered on time. On a delivery of two and half pigs, cut and wrapped, mostly in roasts to a church for this year’s fall supper replacing turkey, Ian Smith of Argyle took a few minutes to discuss how he makes $1.25 a pound for his pork, not the 50 cents that others are getting. The customer pays $1.80 a pound because it costs him 55 cents a pound for the process to get it into the hands of his customers. “Had them cut up to the way they want them, into roasts mostly, it will be their main item instead of turkey for 300 people,” says Smith proudly.
That is how he delivers about 200 plus pigs annually raised on his quarter section of land he bought from his parents back in 1993 to about 300 plus customers. A family-owned and run processing plant in St. Laurent does the killing, cutting, smoking and wrapping just as the customer wants it. “Well, by selling directly to the public is the one that makes it so much better for me,” he says. “But the higher feed costs do kick in on me because last year I never put in a crop, and had to buy all my grain because i was flooded out. This year with the drought and all that, I only got half the crop and have about six months of feed right now.” However, he just raised his price of pork by ten cents a pound and has not had anyone refuse it.
“I’m at a $1.25 a pound I receive in my pocket not 50 cents but at $1.25 for the dressed weight of a carcass weighing from 180 to 200 pounds a pig,” says Smith. . Of the 250 to 300 pigs he will sell this year, about 80 percent will go to private sales.
“What I can’t sell privately and what I don’t have orders for at the present time, you can’t hold pigs back forever like you can with cattle, Interlake Packers at St. Laurent buys them and pays me whatever the price is that week,” he says. His parents bought the quarter section of land in 1953, sold it to him in 1993. Smith says his parents never worked off the farm and raised three boys off that quarter section and basically animal-wise units it hasn’t changed at all, same number of pigs, cattle, horses, and chickens. “I live by myself and do all the work by myself and when the BSE hit in 1993, I heard a beef producer talking about selling his beef online so if a beef farmer can do it why not a pork farmer,” says Smith. “That is how it started for me selling online, then the Winnipeg Humane Society certified me and it snowballed from there.” He keeps records of every person he sells to, the cuts and quantity, and he’s at page 654 right now. Clients include anyone from doctors to lawyers to somebody on welfare, anybody, everybody, and everyone gets the same treatment and all pay the same. “Often, two or three families will get together and buy half a pig and split it between them anybody and everybody,” he says.
His golden egg is the website, but admits word of mouth helps a lot too.
Smith retails at Crampton’s Market at Waverly and Bishop Grandin in Winnipeg, supplies the Soup Kitchen and Agape Table in Winnipeg, but the rest is through online sales and word of mouth. “I feed my own barley, buy corn, soymeal, and the premix, but make up my own ration using the mill my dad bought in 1972,” he adds.