by Nancy Duffy | photography by Walter P. Calahan
Discover the fresh products your local butcher shops provide.
Any summer gathering is enhanced by the quality of the food, in particular the fresh meat on the grill. Fresh, locally provided or grown meats from Stoney Point Farm Market in Littlestown, The Farmstead Butcher in Gettysburg, Sensenig’s Meats and Catering inHanover, Clay Godfrey Meats in Seven Valleys and Three Sons Meat Market in York provide just what folks need as they gather around the table.
Michelle and Bruce Arndt, co-owners/operators of Stoney Point Farm Market, provide quality beef, pork, and lamb to local residents and beyond.
“It started with my grandfather,” said Michelle. “He was a butcher, my dad was a butcher, and — well — I’m a butcher.” The business is something she has known — and loved — all of her life.
Michelle likens her vocation to being a “meat surgeon,” someone who can take a whole beef “from the rail” to the case. A good butcher knows the animal “intimately, inside and out”: muscle groups, how to cut with or against the grains of the meat, and that sets this local butcher shop apart from the rest.
It takes teamwork to not only maintain the business but to help it grow. Stoney Point Farm is the only USDA-inspected facility in the area and a SQF3 worldwide accredited operation. (SFQ3 is the highest certification offered by the Safe Quality Food Institute). The facility meets and exceeds the six-day-a-week inspection threshold that enables them to provide consistently high-quality meats. Bruce and Michelle have a great team behind them, and that includes their son Evan, and daughter Kristin Chrismer and son-in-law Michael.
Customers know when they walk through the doors of the farm market, the product is local: hogs from York Springs, cattle from Hanover, and sheep and lamb from just down the road in Virginia.
But while customers can be assured the meat is fresh and of the highest quality, they might not always know how to cook it properly.
“We offer tips on what cuts to use for certain meals,” said Michelle. “Sometimes a customer will come in and tell us what dish they envision, and we can suggest the cut.”
Meats are also seasonal. Summertime demands steaks, while wintertime sees more roasts. It’s important to strike a balance in the offerings season to season. And people cannot get from a grocery store what they can find at a butcher shop.
“You just won’t find a bone-in chuck roast at a big store,” said Bruce, “because you need a bigger saw” and an intricacy that requires a real butcher. There are particular ways to cut things, he adds — “very much like a surgeon.”
Stoney Point Farm Market believes in sharing such skills, and it offers classes: not in cooking but in cutting. “It is all about breaking down the beef properly,” said Michelle.
“A money-saving tip,” she added, “is to buy your meat in the off-season.” It is this type of tip that customers value: quality product and quality advice on how to make the most of the beef, pork, or lamb. The such information sharing helps Michelle and Bruce build relationships, with customers and also with other butchers.
“It is not really a competition,” said Bruce, speaking of other local butchers, “but more of a partnership.” For example, Beau Ramsburg of The Farmstead Butcher on the outskirts of Littlestown on Route 97, caters to a different clientele and offers a different experience. “We butcher his hogs here,” said Bruce, “and we work well together.
Like Michelle and Bruce, Ramsburg relies on professional relationships. He’s associated with Rettland Farm, but he also collaborates with local chefs to bring quality meats to the table. Ramsburg has taken the farm concept and has literally brought it to the table. Billed as Gettysburg’s “only all-local craft butcher,” he offers such perks as a First Cut Club and holiday pre-order for such traditional meats as boneless smoked ham and the famous house bacon.
The Penn State-educated farmer was born and raised not far from Rettland Farms and feels fortunate to be “part of the movement where people are interested in food.”
Stoney Point Farm Market also recognizes that interest in food, and the business strives to feed customers’ hunger for knowledge. The market already offers beef jerky, pet treats and catering services in addition to its and day-to-day operations, but the Arndts and the Chrismers still have energy to prepare for the launch of a Frederick, Md., storefront in August.
The newly launched pet division is particularly close to Michelle’s heart as its brand, Spike’s Corner, is named after her toy fox terrier/chihuahua mix.
“He was small but mighty,” Michelle said. The natural treats include smoked bones, dry liver, tendons and raw ground dogfood.
Maintaining a local feel while being a national company requires balance. And Michelle and Bruce Arndt have found that balance. After meeting many years ago at church, this dynamic duo maintains their perspective by keeping their faith at the center.
“It is a business,” said Bruce, “but it can’t be run with just your head. You need heart.” And that’s what makes employees like family. With over 50 employees between the Littlestown store and the Markets at Hanover, Michelle and Bruce know that it is how people are treated that matters.
Ramsburg echoes similar sentiments. “I think all farmers in general have a responsibility for the land that they steward” and know it is only theirs for a while, he said in an “Authentic Adams County” interview produced by Destination Gettysburg. He hopes to instill in children that same respect for the land and respect for animals, and at the same time “give them the tools necessary so that they can continue the work that we have started whenever it is their turn to try make a difference.”