Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who is Central Grazing Company?
A: Founded in 2015 by Jacqueline Smith, Central Grazing Company is a regenerative food and fiber company. They are committed to regenerative farming methods that allow them to help balance our planet’s carbon cycle and provide peaceful, calm and natural lives to their flocks. They also support regional supply chains, a living wage to their workers and they pay a fair price to their farmers. They are dedicated to creating zero waste products and keeping every step of their production, from farming to manufacturing, transparent. Central Grazing Company ensures that they create food and fiber products to have a positive impact on our soil and our social and economic health.
Q: What is your motivation for creating Central Grazing Company?
A: After graduating from the University of Missouri with a Studio Art Degree Jacqueline Smith joined the Peace Corp as an Agricultural Volunteer, where she found my passion for farming. In 2007, she co-founded a small sheep dairy, which grew to be one of the best-known sheep dairies in the Midwest, selling farm-to-table cheeses nationally. Now Jacqueline runs Central Grazing Company in eastern Kansas and manages her own farm with rotational sheep grazing. The vision for all her business ventures includes three goals: to protect the natural prairie ecosystem, to develop a regional supply chain, and to balance the carbon cycle with regenerative farming.
Q: What is Animal Welfare Approved?
A: CGC works closely with Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) by A Greener World to achieve our high animal welfare goals. This certification is the highest animal welfare standard available and our leather is among the first to be certified. The AWA program is a USDA-approved, third-party certifier who audits, certifies and supports independent farmers committed to raising their animals according to the highest animal welfare standards. This certification communicates to the discerning consumer that our leather comes from humanely raised lambs that live on pastures, socially and naturally, their whole lives.
Q: Who are your producers? What is the relationship between CGC and your farmers?
A: Our producers are all small and independent AWA certified family farmer in the Midwest. Part of creating a regenerative business is making sure that we are contributing to the health of our local economy. We know that the more money that goes back into our farmers’ hands, the better for their land, animals, family and community. We offer fair prices and profit sharing to our farmers as strong economic incentives to adhere to strict AWA and ecological standards. We are committed to making sure that our farmers receive a high price for the lamb they produce. In addition, we have created a revenue-sharing program that pays farmers for achieving high animal welfare and ecological standards.
Q: I’ve heard of ‘regenerative’ farming practices but I’m not sure I know what it means. What is it?
A: Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and strengthens ecosystems. Regenerative agriculture aims to reverse global climate change by capturing atmospheric carbon through increased photosynthesis.
We take the principles of regenerative agriculture and apply it to our business model. We believe that the characteristics of a truly ‘regenerative’ agricultural business include the following:
Q: Why is shopping for regenerative products important?
A: The choices we make to feed and clothe ourselves have the largest day-to-day impact on our environment. Environmental and animal welfare concerns have begun to influence purchasing decisions and, in the process, have sparked a consumer-led movement to buy local and regenerative food. This movement has sent a strong economic and environmental message. It is beginning to change the face of large grocery retailers who now compete with regenerative brands for a market share.
When given an option, savvy consumers choose regeneratively grown products over sustainable and conventionally grown products because they understand the value and the impact they are making. These consumers understand they have the power to create a net positive impact on our soil, social and economic health -- while still making the right health-based decisions for their family, themselves and the earth. We are proud to help drive this change forward through a regenerative business model that is traceable and climate-benefitting.
Q: In looking at your website, I saw that you sell lamb meat as well. When did you start that side of your business?
A: In 2015, Central Grazing Company sold our first package of ground lamb to one local natural grocery store. Now, Central Grazing Company sells AWA lamb products to the natural food wholesale, retail and foodservice markets through direct distribution and by partnering with other small businesses. We produce 18 different meat products from lambs raised on nineteen small, family-owned AWA farms. Our lamb is sold at major retailers nationally, on Amazon and on our own website: www.centralgrazingcompany.com.
Q: Why fashion?
A: It was a natural move for Central Grazing Company to begin producing leather from our flock. Our goal for Central Grazing Company is to manufacture products that use the whole lamb to eliminate waste that ends up at the landfill. Before we started processing our lamb leather, all of our lambskins ended up in landfill. This had a huge environmental impact and a loss of profit opportunity. Central Grazing Company’s responsibility to the animal, the land and our economy led us to develop a line of heirloom handbags and small leather goods.
Q: What products are available and/or will be available to purchase?
A: We have created line of handbags and small leather goods. Our first collection consists of a ‘hobo-style’ bag called the MEG, a bifold wallet, a cardholder and a keychain.
Q: Why are regenerative farming methods so important?
A: Everything we do has an origin that begins with soil. We know that creating a truly regenerative business starts by regenerating our grasslands. So, how does it all work? By properly managing our flocks to mimic the predator/prey relationship in which prairie ecosystems evolved, farmers control how long their sheep are in one place and how long until they return. This allows our grasses to grow long root systems that feed our soil so that we can be more resilient in times of drought, famine and flood. Our regenerated prairies will also mitigate climate change by capturing atmospheric carbon and putting it back into the soil.
Q: What do you mean by ‘climate-benefitting’?
A: Soil is paramount to our planet’s health, yet it is often overlooked as a viable and inexpensive way to sequester atmospheric carbon. Agricultural impacts on our soil may be the most critical and underreported measure of our planet’s sustainability. Regenerative agricultural practices that create a net sink for atmospheric carbon are possible, however, the lack of a fair marketplace is often a deterrent for many farmers to grow regeneratively.
We are creating a program that directly connects consumers to regenerative agricultural products through bypassing commodity markets. This soil-based marketplace gives our farmers an avenue to compete with commodity markets while filling a marketplace hole for consumers seeking climate-benefiting products.
We are developing a methodology for annual soil and farm audits, strengthening our regenerative farmer education program, creating a database for collecting our baseline and annual testing results and to creating comprehensive research that studies how implementing regenerative grazing practices improves native prairie ecosystem diversity and increases plant biomass leading to a greater increase of soil organic matter (SOM) while maximizing photosynthesis and carbon sequestration.
Because of our strong commitment to supporting farmers who grow regenerative products, our consumers can feel confident that the products they purchase from us actually work to build vital soil organic matter.
Q: Where do you process your lambskins? Why is this important?
A: Our lambskins are vegetable tanned in small batches in the US by a small family-owned tannery using old world artisan techniques and chestnut extracts. Vegetable tanning gives the leather a distinctly supple feel and each skin will keep its own characteristics that will slightly change from bag to bag.
Our bags are dyed natural, earthy colors using a technique called aniline dying. Aniline leather is dyed with soluble dyes that do not cover up the surface of the skin. This allows the leather to retain its natural grain, freckles and scars. Handcrafted aniline leather is one of the most precious finishing styles. These natural imperfections of the leather make our bags beautiful and unique. Each bag will truly be one-of-a-kind. We put a thin protective wax coating on the leather to protect it from damage.
Once tanned, the skins are cut into patterns and stitched into our heirloom handbags. Our handbags have organic cotton liners with very minimal hardware. Our bags and leather goods are then assembled in a small family-owned factory in the US.
Q. What do you mean by ‘traceable’?
A: In addition to our consumable products, our leather line is also a closed-loop production process. Currently, tracing leather to its origin is nearly impossible because of the lack of transparency in the global textile industry. Where once leather was a very localized market, now consumers are left searching for ethically raised leather in a global market.
Because of our closed-loop process, we can trace our food and leather all the way back to the farm and ultimately connecting our customers to the soil.
Q: Where will your products be sold?
A: Our handbags and leather goods will be sold to a specialty niche market through our website and to small boutiques. Our food line is sold nationally through natural grocers retailers, on our meat website and through Amazon.
Q: What part of your regenerative business relates to the economy?
A: We understand that our bottom line serves as a guideline for our success, but it’s not what inspires us each and every day. Creating a regenerative business not only applies to our grassland, our animals, and our farmers, but also to the workers who work our fields and manufacture our products. We purchase from regional farmers and US factories to help shrink the wage gap. Further, all of our own workers earn a living wage, even our part-time employees.
Q: What can I do to help?
A: Ethical leather is changing the clothing industry. By purchasing, gifting, supporting or promoting CGC’s full range of leather pieces, you, too, can help grow the climate-benefiting fashion revolution.