Local foods: Harrison Farm
How often do you think about where your food comes from? Not just which country or which state, but who makes it? In the spirit of Local Matters' Local Foods Week, running through Friday, Oct. 7, we tracked down some of the people here in Central Ohio who are making the food you eat.
Whether they're raising goats, milking sheep, hand-picking vegetables or making marinara sauce from scratch, they've all made it their mission to make food for the masses.
According to the Quran, for meat to be deemed halal, or permissible to eat under Islamic law, it must be slaughtered by an adult male Muslim who first offers up a short prayer.
That's not something done at most slaughterhouses.
So the fact that Katherine Harrison can promise certified halal meat from goats raised on her Franklin County farm is something special.
Harrison, who is 34, grew up on this 440-acre farm just outside Canal Winchester, in the same farmhouse where she now lives with her 94-year-old grandmother. As a young girl, Harrison never had aspirations about raising goats.
"When I was six, I didn't think, 'I'm going to be a butcher someday,'" Harrison said.
She left the farm to go to college in Virginia, declaring Canal "the most boring place in the world." But she found her way back.
On a 1997 road trip, she was awestruck by the beauty of a field filled with goats. She decided to buy six goats, pile them in the back of her SUV and drive back to Ohio. That was the start of her herd.
Harrison's interest in meat processing was piqued during a five-year stint managing her family's slaughterhouse. "I learned more about taking care of an animal when I understood its insides," she explained.
The slaughterhouse is one of only a few in Ohio that will work with families to provide custom halal processing. Goat meat isn't a staple in most Americans' diets, but it's very popular among emigrant families from places like Somalia, Morocco and Tunisia.
"Virtually every goat I sell is going to a family coming for an animal prepared to their specifications," Harrison explained. A small portion will go to ethnic markets and restaurants, "but everything I raise is consumed here in Columbus."
She'd like to see more people locally eating goat, a flavorful red meat that's so lean it has less fat than skinless chicken - "like little mini T-bone steaks."
Harrison admits she becomes close with these animals, which she raises from birth. Some of the goats are even given names. She currently has 80-some goats at a time, with a goal of amassing a herd of about 500.
"It's the perfect job if you like long hours, difficult conditions and low pay," Harrison said. "But my family worked this land, and it really fits my value system. I'm very comfortable with the circle of life. While the goats are here with me, they have a good existence."
Photos by Jodi Miller