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Since riding the Harley that day back in May 2011, a whole year has passed. Before this article went to print I decided to check in with Pastor Alan Rice and see how things were progressing with The Giving Table project.
"Slower than we hoped," he said. As of late January, two unforeseen bottlenecks had prevented them from making their first sale of beef. One was the need for a new website. The existing website simply couldn't handle the volume of sales they planned to make, and the web company building their new site was slow to deliver.
But perhaps the biggest obstacle to starting The Giving Table was the same challenge faced by beef farmers across the country: the shortage of small-scale local slaughterhouses. Mays Meats, the nearest facility, currently has a three- to four-month wait to get a steer slaughtered, making it difficult for The Giving Table to fill the volume of orders they expect.
"You know, I must have been out at seminary the day they taught us to do all this," Pastor Rice joked. "It's been a tedious process." Despite the challenges, the project is slowly making headway. Given that the bikers of Crossfire are trying to do nothing less than create a regional food system from the ground up, such challenges were to be expected.
Despite his frustration at the bureaucratic bottlenecks, Pastor Rice was quick to list the many successes of the past year. There is a great demand for the kind of local, pastured meat that The Giving Table plans to sell.
Jeffrey Scott, project director for Heifer USA's Appalachia Region, is impressed by Crossfire's efforts.
"They are leading the way in building viable income opportunities for lower income individuals, utilizing sustainable agriculture and the rapidly growing local food movement," he said.
A new greenhouse is complete, and with it Crossfire is poised to supply farmers and consumers in a five-county radius with vegetable seedlings for summer crops. A grant arrived to buy a tractor and cultivator. Pastor Duncan Overrein is eager to take it around the county this spring to till people's gardens for free. A missionary tractor, you might say. And several days before I talked with Pastor Rice, a team of dentists had set up their chairs in Cooler #1 and performed $55,000 worth of free dental care. For the bikers of Crossfire it gave a new meaning to the phrase, "getting your choppers fixed."
I asked Pastor Rice if he was hopeful. "Oh, we're beyond hopeful. We're confident that we're moving ahead."