Owners of Byron Center Meats launch new business to connect family farms to consumers

Steve and Laura Sytsma are the owners of Byron Center Meats. Since 1946, their family has been working with local farms to process and sell high quality meats.

The Sytsmas had an idea last year. In a world where corporate farms dominate the landscape through their massive distribution channels, high-volume production practices and ubiquitous advertising campaigns, there had to be a better way for family farms who are committed to sustainable agriculture to tell their stories and give customers access to higher quality meats.

Like many entrepreneurs, Steve Sytsma took the natural next step with his idea: He sketched it out on a napkin.  

Armed with a napkin sketch and a belief that there is a better way to raise, process and sell meats, Steve then met with a team from CQL. They began developing a business model and platform that allows consumers to order bundles of custom processed meats while at the same time directly connecting with the farms and farmers where the meat is raised.

Having launched in June, HarvestBox is a stand alone business from Bryon Center Meats, but Laura Sytsma says they use their expertise, reputation and facilities to run the business. "We've been custom processing meat for almost 70 years."

With HarvestBox, she says they created a transparent process for consumers, so they can better understand the many different benefits of supporting local farms. "The meat comes here and is hand processed," she says. "We then hand pack and ship out from our facility."

Sytsma says they are very selective with their partners and only work with farms that follow sustainable and natural practices. Videos and direct communication links are embedded in the site so there is a level of trust created that's similar to the experience at a farmers' market.

Sytsma says that their family has no background creating and operating an online business, but working with the team from CQL they have been able to pull all the components of a web-based business together -- marketing, branding, and ecommerce -- so that they can focus on what they do best: building the relationships with the farms (and farmers) that meet their standards and custom processing the meats.   

Operationally, she says that typically the orders are shipped on a Monday and, depending on the address, are delivered within five days. All the meat bundles are vacuum packed in specially designed boxes with dry ice to ensure that the meats are always frozen upon arrival, no matter the delivery location. Because the meats are sold in bundles, the consumers can expect a variety of cuts with each order, all clearly labeled.  

To learn more HarvestBox, visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

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