RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
You may have heard about local food co-ops, if you don't actually belong to one. For a few hundred bucks you buy a share in nearby farm and all summer and into the fall you pick up a bag of fresh vegetables once a week.
As NPR's Chris Arnold reports, some farms are taking the idea beyond greens. They're signing up customers for regular deliveries of local naturally raised meat.
CHRIS ARNOLD: There's a bit of a different vibe on delivery day when you are in a meat farm share because instead of bundles of fresh veggies, customers are eagerly peering in a 10 or 20 pound bags full of frozen animal parts.
Mr. AIDAN DAVIN (Farmer): But you actually are going to get a ham in here. On the bottom of the...
Unidentified Woman: Can I see?
Mr. DAVIN: It's a...
Unidentified Woman: Oh, look. Spare ribs. Wow.
Mr. DAVIN: Picnic ham.
Unidentified Woman: I'm so excited.
ARNOLD: On a recent Sunday afternoon in Boston, Aidan Davin has driven a refrigerated van in from his farm to hand out the monthly allotment of lamb, beef, pork and chicken. Customer Lara Tavarez is the manager at an education non-profit who has signed up for the farm share and she is clearly a meat enthusiast.
Ms. LARA TAVAREZ (Co-op Customer): And we got a pork roast. It was like transcendent. It was absolutely amazing, and we got a second one.
ARNOLD: Another one of Davin's customer who is a culinary student says she thinks many Americans who've been eating the regular bland grocery store stuff have forgotten what real meat raised on a family farm tastes like. And Tavarez says beyond flavor...
Ms. TAVAREZ: What feels different from going to the grocery store - the idea that you know the farmer, and you know where your meat comes from - is just profoundly reassuring on so many levels. I mean, I think in terms of health and knowing how the animals are treated and, you know, from an environmental perspective and, you know, that's an idea that's been getting a lot to play with, you know, "The Omnivores Dilemma" and all the books that have come out lately.
ARNOLD: Davin's customers are pretty well educated and well read and many talk about the book, "The Omnivores Dilemma," which in part aims to pull the curtain back on factory farming - the hormones, antibiotics, animals living in their own filth and dense feed lots. Customers who joined this farm share say they've decided to opt out of America's Faustian bargain for cheap meat.
(Soundbite of pig)
ARNOLD: A couple of hours outside Boston, Aidan Davin's pigs are digging around and lounging and in roomy pens under some big apple and pine trees. The farm is just about as picturesque as you could hope for. There's a 180-year-old farmhouse with a big old wooden barn...
(Soundbite of sheep)
ARNOLD: The sheep and their lambs come running eagerly over to Davin when he calls them. He's walking near their rock-strewn pasture with his wife and business partner, Kate Stillman. They call it Stillman's Farm.
Mr. DAVIN: Come on. Come, come. Well, the seem to like you. Well, if you feed them, they like you. It's pretty simple.
ARNOLD: Most of these animals will, of course, be slaughtered in coming months, but Davin clearly likes them. He says they all have different personalities. On his rounds through the pig pens he scratches the pig's backs and bellies, and the animals eat well. Sometimes the pigs feast on extra melons and strawberries from Kate's father's nearby vegetable farm. Kate Stillman says the farm is so far not seeking organic certification; instead they are marketing their meat as conscientiously raised and local.
Ms. KATE STILLMAN (Farmer): So I always tell people that local is the new organic.
ARNOLD: Advocates of eating local think it's better not to burn fossil fuels, shipping food - organic or not - all over the world. Farmers say they can grow animals and vegetables for taste and not for their ability to be shipped or packaged. And the farmers hope to earn a better living selling locally. Kate Stillman's finding out that a lot of people are willing to pay the $7 a pound for the monthly bag of mixed meats.
Ms. STILLMAN: The response has been unbelievable. I mean people have just been so excited, really enthusiastic. The e-mails are just really hysterical. I've had people tell me, you know, we've made their lives better, which it makes you smile. It makes you feel good.
ARNOLD: The couple says they're struggling to keep up with the demand. Stillman's farm is selling more than twice as many farm shares this year as last.
Chris Arnold, NPR News, Boston.