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Steers at a Chester County induction center for a new program at Karns Foods (photo submitted)

In bid to secure supply, grocery buys cattle

For centuries, farmers planted seeds and fed animals – and then hoped they would find a market when their produce and livestock were ready to sell.
  • Agribusiness entrepreneur Larisa Miller has been pitching a different model – and she found her first taker in Karns Foods, the Cumberland County-based grocery store chain.
  • Under the model, Karns is buying beef cattle that will be housed at farms across Central Pennsylvania and managed by Miller’s company, Keystone Farm Future
  • The goal is to put Karns in control of its own supply chain for beef at a time when the supply chain is far from assured, Miller said.
  • “The strongest place for any business to be is to control your own supply chain,” said Miller, a former state agriculture official who developed the idea for the Karns Beef Program based on what she has seen around the world as a consultant.

How does it work: Karns buys steers and sends them through an induction center in Honey Brook, Chester County.
  • After their initial introduction, the steers are spread among 15 farms in Chester, Cumberland, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon and Perry counties.
  • Keystone Farm Future works with the farmers to manage and monitor the cattle, ensuring they are fed and raised to meet the standards set by Karns.
  • Keystone Farm also has secured processing capacity.
  • The program is starting with 600 steers, said Andrea Karns, vice president of sales and marketing at Karns, who sees the program as a bonus for existing Karns shoppers and a potential attraction for new customers interested in locally raised beef.
  • “We do have local beef now,” she said. “But this is a way for us to ensure that … our beef coming in every day is local.”
  • The first products under the program -- 100% Angus Choice and Prime Beef -- are expected to become available in May.
  • Karns operates 10 stores in Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry and York counties

How did it start: Karns, Miller and others unveiled the program last week at a ceremony at the induction center in Honey Brook.
  • But the groundwork began about a year ago when Miller first contacted executives at Karns.
  • “Right away, I knew it was something that we as a company had to explore,” Andrea Karns said.

What’s next: Other grocers could adopt the model, Miller said. And it could be applied to other food products, as well as other industries.
  • “There will undoubtedly be others that will be interested in this model across the U.S.,” said Miller, who grew up on a farm in Lebanon County.
  • Farmers are interested, she added, because the program eliminates some of their biggest financial risks.
  • For now, though, she is focused on making sure the inaugural program unfolds effectively for Karns.

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Quick takes

WHO'S ADDING SHAREHOLDERS: Saxton & Stump. The Lancaster-based law firm named four partners as equity shareholders effective Jan. 1, bringing its total shareholder group to 34. The new equity shareholders are:
  • Kathy Pape, an attorney and former water company executive who joined the law firm a year ago.
  • Jeffrey Bright, a real estate and construction attorney who founded a law firm that merged into Saxton & Stump in 2019.
  • Louis Fiorilla, a banking and financial services attorney who joined Saxton & Stump in 2020.
  • Beth Palmer, an attorney in Saxton & Stump's office in Charleston, South Carolina, which was added in June.

WHO'S BUYING: The York Water Co. The York-based utility said yesterday it closed on a purchase of the wastewater system in West Manheim Township, which is south of Hanover in York County. The acquisition adds nearly 1,900 wastewater customers for York Water, which has been expanding its wastewater business. The $11.9 million purchase price includes the township's wastewater collection system, as well as pumping stations, related real estate and a truck, according to a York Water spokesperson.
  • West Manheim's wastewater is treated at a plant in neighboring Penn Township.
  • York Water bought West Manheim's water system in 2008 and has provided sewer billing support since 2014.

The background: York Water now provides wastewater collection and treatment services in eight municipalities in York, Franklin and Adams counties.
  • The company serves more than 200,000 water customers in 51 municipalities in York, Franklin, and Adams.

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Compiled and written by Joel Berg

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