“There’s an appetite by consumers to have local food that they know is healthy, know where it comes from, so it’s just a convergence of the right time and the right place for this.”
For decades, in Whatcom County and across the state, there have been increasingly fewer places for farmers and ranchers to have their animals processed, whether for personal consumption or to sell to markets. Meat processing facilities have consolidated so much that farmers and ranchers must wait months, sometimes over a year, and travel long distances to have their animals harvested.
This has been a big barrier to the ideal that is shared across the political spectrum to increase the amount of food we grow and consume locally.
Bob Lodder is the founder and president of Everson-based company Friesla. Like their motto indicates, “restoring local meat processing,” he hopes to alleviate the pressure and bring back local processing through the development of his USDA-approved movable processing equipment. Whole mobile processing units have been in production locally since 2005, Lodder saw a need for complete on-site systems to handle everything from butchering to processing to storing.
“The beauty of these units,” Lodder said, “is that they allow a farmer or rancher in an area to do all their own processing.” He noted that there is less stress to the animals by not transporting them long distances and jobs stay local. Freisla systems also allow for complete traceability, so consumers know exactly where their food is coming from.
Exposed further during the pandemic was this vulnerability of our food systems. Large meat processing facilities couldn’t operate at capacity. Some were shut down for extended periods of time. Farmers and ranchers had nowhere to go with their animals. “We wanted to come up with something that was sustainable, that didn’t have to be a really large scale operation, it could be the right size for the market,” Lodder explained.
This urgent need for an all-in-one solution put Friesla on the fast track. With an original target date for January 2021, Lodder worked closely with TriVan Truck Body to develop a good product that could be implemented quickly, and they are now building systems for clients in a number of states, including one that they hope to begin using locally this fall.
Flexible, moveable, it’s equipment, not a facility. Approved by USDA and most jurisdictions and counties allow their equipment to be used.
We should be putting a priority on local food and producing/processing close to home, whether personal level of our purchasing decisions or government level and their decisions on local food and producing food close to home, which has been underscored so strongly by the pandemic. “There’s an appetite by consumers to have local food that they know is healthy, know where it comes from,” said Lodder, “So it’s just a convergence of the right time and the right place for this.”