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Meat processing plant gets funds

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By Melissa Blankenship

By Melissa Blankenship

publisher@hclocal.com

What began as a wish list item for local livestock producers has just surpassed a major hurdle on its way to becoming a reality.

On Friday, Trackside Butcher Shoppe, a proposed regional multi-species meat processing facility that will be located in Campbellsburg, received the initial level of funding needed to begin construction.

The 6,500 square foot facility will process beef, pork, lamb, goats, chickens and rabbits, as well as deer. The current estimated cost of turnkey construction for the project, which includes a retail storefront, is right under $1 million.

Co-owners Chris Wright and John Edwards applied for Kentucky Agricultural Development Funds (KADF) totaling $386,000. As of Friday, the project had been awarded $210,000 comprised of state and several county board allocations. In light of this year’s dramatic reduction in funds available through KADF, the accomplishment is nothing short of remarkable to the owners.

“The state said they’d be surprised if we could raise $100,000 from the counties,” Edwards said. “To make it to this point where we are talking about breaking ground is really exciting.”

Funds through the KADF are grants that Wright and Edwards will not have to pay back. Additionally, the state will provide zero interest loans to pull their working total up to $500,000. The co-owners will have to secure the remaining $500,000 on their own.

The idea for a meat processing plant in this area began several years ago, but no real actions had been taken to move the project forward until last October when an exhaustive feasibility study was conducted by the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development. That study established what a steering committee had been trying to prove – that there was significant interest and need for such a facility in this area. To date, livestock producers in Henry County were forced to drive at least 90 minutes to the nearest processing facility.

“That was a key component of the steering committee, identifying the wants and needs of anyone who wanted to direct-market meat here,” said Steve Moore, Henry County Agricultural Extension Agent. “A one-and-a-half hour drive is detrimental to the animal and greatly contributes to the producer’s expense and time commitment. The survey showed that more people who are not currently direct-marketing are interested, but that something had kept them from getting in the game.”

Moore said that more often than not, the “something” that deterred potential meat producers was logisitics. Having a USDA-certified facility in the region will not only facilitate the process for existing producers, but also encourage new producers to try their hand at marketing local meat.

“The cost of processing won’t be any cheaper, but transportation is key here. This will make producers more competitive in the market,” Moore said. “Plus, it will make it easier for people who want to raise their own meat to process animals for their own consumption.

“Henry County is a great place to raise good quality livestock,” Moore added. “This should give more people the chance to put their own meat on their plates.”

Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent views the processing facility as an economic boon to the county, for three specific reasons.

“This will help local farmers by saving gas and time and opening up new markets for them. It creates a handful of new jobs in our county, and it brings people into Henry County to spend money,” Brent said. “There is a huge market for quality locally-raised meat.”

Brent added the project is the result of a coordinated team effort between elected officials, farmers, consumers and Agricultural Development Boards in several counties.

“It really feels good for the team,” Brent said. “An employee that has worked with the Governor’s Office for Agricultural Policy for 14 years told me that this was the most community support he’s ever seen for this kind of project. Now that’s something to be proud of.”

Wright and Edwards, who expect to break ground in August and open in January 2015, said they are overwhelmed by the support they have received.

“I don’t know how we’ll be able to thank everybody who’s supported this. It’s been unbelievable.” Edwards said. “Henry County really set the standard and gave us real momentum going to other counties.”

Henry County’s Agricultural Development Board awarded the project $50,000. Boards in Shelby, Oldham and Trimble counties collectively allocated $55,000. Monies might also be forthcoming from Owen and Jefferson counties. The Henry County Fiscal Court is selling 2.9 acres of the industrial park in Campbellsburg to the owners for $12,500 and preparing the land for its first tenants by running water lines and dripping electric service to the pump station at the back of the property at no cost. United Citizens Bank will be the lending agent to round out funding on the facility.

“Chris and I are pretty down-to-earth guys and we will never forget the amount of work that people have put into this,” Edwards said. “Finding a way to thank everybody will be a hard row to hoe.”