It’s a culinary treat and mainstay known to Caribbean, African, Asian cultures for centuries… and one that Vermonters are about to discover. It’s a sumptuous meat, rich in flavor, a great source of protein, lower in fat, sodium and cholesterol than most beef, pork, and poultry.
“It’s chevon,” says Shirley Richardson, founder and CEO of Danville-based of goat meat purveyor Vermont Chevon. “Goats are the animal. Chevon is the meat,” she explains.
Shirley launched Vermont Chevon in 2011, helping supply the greater Boston area’s demand for chevon. While chevon is the most widely-consumed red meat worldwide, many Vermonters have yet to try it.
“When I sample Vermont Chevon at markets and co-ops, people taste it and tell me it’s delicious. When I tell them it’s goat, they’re really surprised,” she says.
“Everyone loves goat’s milk and cheese (known as chevre),” she states. “What they don’t realize is that once the female goats are past their peak milk-producing years, and male goats have served their purpose, farms have no use for them. They’re considered waste.”
These “cull goats,” no longer useful on-farm, are eliminated and discarded. “All of that food and nutrition gone to waste,” Shirley laments. “I want to help feed this country.”
Additional perks of choosing chevon include its low environmental impact, “because goats are browsers and not grazers. They forage on shrubs and weeds. They don’t pull up grasses from the roots like cows,” Shirley notes.
Vermont Chevon sources cull goats from Vermont goat’s milk and cheese producers. They’re processed at a Royalton facility and distributed to wholesalers and other outlets.
Shirley frequently hears from chevon fans that her product is better tasting and of higher quality than other chevon currently available.
“Anywhere in the U.S. where you find chevon, it almost exclusively comes from Australia,” Shirley tells. “But the way they harvest there is problematic. They use helicopters to round up feral goats. There’s no quality control. Some animals may be too old, or some too young, to provide good meat. Some may even be diseased,” she adds. She also points out that the thousands of miles that chevon travels from Australia makes for a sizeable and damaging carbon footprint.
Australia’s exportation owes partly to the fact that the U.S. chevon market is under-developed. “An industry doesn’t exist in this country for production of chevon,” Shirley explains. “There’s just no infrastructure for it – yet.”
Which is why she connected with the Loan Fund.
“I saw an unmet demand, and the Loan Fund got that,” she says, recalling an initial meeting to discuss financing through the SPROUT program, a deferred payment, lower-interest loan program specifically designed for start-up and early stage food and farms enterprises.
Following advice from the Loan Fund’s Business Resource Center, which assists borrowers with strategies, resources and more, Shirley has continued building her support network including an advisory board, and forging connections to boost her business expansion plan. Now, with her website up and running, she’s developing a brochure and experiencing upticks in sales. She plans on hiring a farm-to-harvest coordinator in the near future. With more marketing clout, she’s been able to attract a new distributor to take sales in new directions, literally.
“These opportunities would not have been available to me through a regular bank,” Shirley adds. “The Loan Fund is different, because it’s structured to provide opportunities for a small, early-stage business like mine. To have all of this – financing, coaching, business development – and at low- or no interest with the SPROUT program. It’s just outstanding.”
Find more information on where to buy and how to cook and enjoy Vermont Chevon at vermontchevon.com
Financing was also provided to:
Kettle Song Farm, Worcester
A 65-acre organic vegetable farm, Kettle Song originally came to the Loan Fund for help financing new equipment in 2015. Last year, one of their greenhouses was damaged in a wind storm, negatively affecting their harvest. Kettle Song again approached the Loan Fund for financing, via the SPROUT deferred payment loan program, to repair the damaged greenhouse, and to purchase a new one. Thanks to these resources, Kettle Song expects an all-time-high crop yield this year. https://www.facebook.com/pg/KettleSongFarm/about/
Sweet Pickins Farm, Putney
Sweet Pickins Farm produces duck eggs and meat, chicken eggs and produce. Their SPROUT loan will cover seasonal costs and help them construct additional duck housing to increase capacity and egg yield.
Since 1987, the Vermont Community Loan Fund has loaned almost $105 million to local businesses, affordable housing developers and community-based organizations that has created or preserved 6,100 jobs; built or rehabilitated 4,000 affordable homes; created or preserved quality care for over 4,000 children and their families; and supported community organizations providing vital services to hundreds of thousands of Vermonters.