Ten years ago the Nakato brothers were struggling to find quality meat for their restaurant. As third generation restauranteurs, Shin and Ted had exacting ideas on what kind of meat they wanted to serve to their customers. When they were unable to source it, they took matters into their own hands, launched Pono Farm and began raising livestock outside of Bend.
Pono’s commitment to quality begins with the type of animals they raise. Berkshire and Red Wattle heritage porcine graze the ranch with Angus and Wagyu beef. Pono produces meat that is free-ranging and grass-fed. Their meat contains no steroids, hormones or antibiotics. Market customers have come to expect these standards and this quality is born from Pono’s philosophy of a ranching cycle – Animals graze, manure is composted, as compost heats up, thermal energy kills weeds and insect eggs. When the compost is applied back to the land it improves the soil, which in turn makes for better grasses, pastures and crops for the animals, which in turns makes for healthier animals. Chickens root for insects, goats eat weeds (well goats will eat almost anything, but that’s what makes them good weeders). The circuit is so complete – that even the working dogs at Pono eat raw meat produced on the farm.
Pono’s Jamii Barackman adds, “It is difficult to do it the right way and make it work. For the small farms like ours, there is more to it than feeding and taking care of the animals, everything is a challenge in this kind of atmosphere. We just hope for more changes to make it easier for the next farmer coming up in this challenging corporate environment”
In the era of corporate livestock, you can try and compete in a losing game with the big boys or you can think entrepreneurially and create your own markets. To that end, Ted, Shin and Pono launched a butchering and kitchen facility in 2011 – opening day was a benefit for Japan’s Tsunami Relief fund. This year, Pono is joining Portland Farmers Market at PSU on Saturdays.
True to their full circle philosophy, Pono is offering their meats in bulk packaging. Along with sausages and select cuts of meat, customers can place bulk orders for pick-up the Market the following week. They offer whole or half a hog options, which according to Jamii, features the best pricing on smoked bacon.
‘Taste the difference’, might be a bit of cliche, but you can see the difference in the product and yeah, it tastes really good too. You can meet the ranchers from Pono, place orders, and try their product when the PSU Market kicks off March 17th. at 8:30 am.