After fears that the Summit County Beef program would fade away, a lone bid by the non-profit's Program Director has securely transitioned the brand into the private sector.
Tom Richardson, the current Program Director for Summit County Beef, purchased the non-profit and will be expanding the business, which focuses on beef from local ranchers and is primarily grass-fed. Richardson has been running the non-profit for the last year and is excited for the opportunity of expanding the brand.
"We took [Summit County Beef] to a much different place in that year," Richardson said. "We're hoping we can continue with the success that we've had."
Summit County Beef was formed in the spring of 2010 when the county realized there was a growing interest in the community for locally-raised, sustainable beef. Because of the growth of the brand, the county this year had to open the non-profit to private buyers in order to keep it going.
Summit County Assistant Manager Anita Lewis, who was one of the founders of Summit County Beef, said she is very excited that the brand will continue.
"Tom has a year of experience working with the program. He knows what he's buying he knows the weaknesses and he knows the strengths," Lewis said. "He has made contact with different restaurants and has continued to sell to residents."
Lewis said that Richardson was hired by Uinta Headwaters last year to proceed with Summit County Beef, during which time he maintained communication with local ranchers and tried to expand the program.
"Primarily in the past we have been grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic-free. We will probably continue that but we will add to it other types of products that local ranchers have," Richardson said.
Grass-fed Angus beef will be a top priority, Richardson says, and with the new markets and price points he is set to open up, he believes the business will be able to build off of its earlier success. He added that although many support the idea of locally-raised beef, many still see Summit Beef's product as pricey.
"The perception is that our product is higher-priced. When you attach a premium [for the rancher], it results in a fairly high price for our product," Richardson said. "There is a resurgence in people buying local, and we're sensitive to what locals want."
Richardson also owns the Park City Local Card marketing program, which allows businesses to enroll and send out 'e-blasts' to hundreds of residents. He says that shifting Summit County Beef from a non-profit to a for-profit could "present challenges" but adds that "there's always a certain amount of risk."
Richardson plans to collaborate with two local entrepreneurs to open a butcher shop either in Park City or Kimball Junction that will feature the brand's products. He says they are still looking at potential sites.
Summit County Beef is getting ready to launch a fall harvest and Richardson says they are in the process of preparing to sell full, half and quarter cows.
"I think there's a lot of growth opportunity. I obviously want to see it grow," Richardson said. "I want it to be a product that when people sit down at their dinner table at night they know that they're eating Summit County beef."
"I'm just pleased that someone put in a bid and I hope it goes on into perpetuity," Lewis said. "We like supporting local. We like supporting the ranchers and having a sustainable program."
Richardson encourages any residents who want more information or who are interested in purchasing from Summit County Beef to visit summitcountybeef.org.