VASF Helps Producer Grow Business
Dakota Harvest Lamb Has Waiting List
It all started with a grassy pasture.
“I had a pasture that I was tired of mowing,” said Bob Corio, owner of Dakota Harvest Farm near Jefferson. “At the time, I was a grain-only farm, so I studied the various livestock options and hair sheep seemed like a good way to take care of my mowing problem.”
So eight years ago, Corio bought 10 bred ewes. Six years ago, he decided to give direct marketing a try.
Today, his farm processes about 300 ewes per year – and struggles to keep up with demand. There is a waiting list for Dakota Harvest Farm’s product filled with requests from restaurants, consumers and natural food stores.
Corio’s sheep are Certified American Grass-fed, which means that the sheep are fed only grass from birth to the dinner plate. Dorper sheep – a breed specially raised for meat quality, tenderness and taste – are raised exclusively. Dorper sheep have hair, which eliminates the lanolin found naturally on wool-bearing animals and interferes with taste.
“I wanted something that set my lamb operation apart from other so-called grass-fed operations,” Corio said.
In addition to selling various cuts of meat, Dakota Harvest Farm has found a way to add value to its sheep – with specialty products. The farm’s brats, pepper sticks, summer sausage and bacon are all 100 percent lamb.
When Corio decided to take on this venture, he did it with the help of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s (GOED) Value-Added Ag Subfund.
“Using the subfund helped us to identify the profitability of adding value-added products to our line of grass-fed lamb,” said Corio. “The loan program was easy to use and the staff at the GOED was very helpful.”
Being located in South Dakota was also an advantage, according to Corio.
“South Dakota is looked as rural state, and our products are based on ag production. So people expect wholesome, natural food from South Dakota. Plus, part of our name reflects our South Dakota roots - Dakota Harvest Farm.”