By Phil Vogelzang
Kevin Short of Short’s Family Farm in Chimacum doesn’t mind being short. In fact he doesn’t mind it in the least. He just think’s it’s ironic. Ironic because he took the name from his step-dad, Roger Short. And people think he got his…. ahem…… lack of stature from Roger. Only he didn’t. See Kevin’s real last name is Goatz, which he got from his real dad, Phil Goatz, who was tall. Phil and his mom, Sandy were married and lived in Las Vegas where Kevin was born. But at the age of 2, his mom and dad split up and Sandy moved with her little boy to Chimacum to start a new life at the Short Family Farm with Roger. Kevin started kindergarten at Chimacum School but kept his real name Goatz. At least until the 3rd grade when all his classmates started to snicker and make fun of his name. So he figured, why not change it to Short? No jokes, easy to remember. What’s not to like? Only Kevin didn’t anticipate not getting any taller than the 5’5″ he currently stands. So sure enough the classmates had something more to tease him about. Which is……fine with Kevin.
He remembers well Chimacum’s first and only swimming pool, built by his grandfather Norris in the 1960s right on the farm. Called the Trident pool, it was 20′ x 50′, ten feet deep with a diving board. The water was heated by a boiler fired by slash wood they got from Roger’s brother Jerry who worked at a local mill. Open to the public, his mom Sandy taught private lessons there for more than 20 years to many generations of Chimacum School students. It was a family effort with Sandy doing most of the teaching, organizing and supervising. Kevin, of course got to use the pool in the off hours. It wasn’t too bad, doing chores on the farm all day and going for a nice soak afterwards. In the summer they would get the water pretty hot so it was as much a hot tub as a pool. All the hot water would rise to the surface. Kevin figured out you could get a nice cool dunk by diving directly into the deep end where it was much colder, then coming up to warm up in the warmer surface water. Not bad for a farm kid.
After graduating from CHS and attending the Air Academy in Vancouver WA, Kevin has worked a number of jobs including lifeguard, farmhand, short order cook, water safety instructor, and most recently managing the retail end of the Shorts Family Farm beef cattle business. Currently, his step-dad Roger manages the working end of the cattle and hay business, his stepbrother Bill manages the Magical Soil business and does the transporting of the animals, and Sandy does the books and volunteers at East Jefferson Fire and Rescue. Santos Escalera is the livestock manager and Jose Santiago is the mechanic. Kevin’s major challenge is to manage the beef inventory in the oversize custom built freezer on the farm. Customers include the Sweet Laurette’s Bistro, Ajax Cafe, Owl Spirit Cafe, Quilcene School District, Sweet Lue, Snug Harbor Cafe, and On Common Grounds. Keeping the supply and demand matched precisely is not easy as more and more people are waking up to the many health benefits of open pastured, locally produced grass fed beef.
The Family Business:
Short’s Family Farm currently consists of about 300 acres in Center Valley. They have been raising grass fed beef cattle on it since 2003 when the family switched from dairy to beef production. They now have about 100 Angus beef cows and around 80 calves and yearlings. Roger has a broad range of pastures available with lush untrammeled fescues and clover to move the animals to and from throughout the year. He manages special pastures for finishing 60-90 days before harvest to boost nutritional value, flavor, marbling and tenderness. They do not feed any grain, antibiotics, growth hormones or steroids. If an occasional animal needs an antibiotic, it is identified and not marketed through their normal program. Wormers and pesticides for flies and lice are seldom used.
Because the soils are mostly peat in their section of frequently flooded West Chimacum Creek, they must keep their cattle in a large confinement area in the winter to protect water quality and salmon habitat and to reduce field pugging. Their grass and clover hay and silage are fed at these times.
When the Shorts decided to move away from selling their beef on the commodity market to direct sales, they were confronted with a problem: where to have their animals humanely slaughtered and butchered. One of the biggest obstacles for any beef producer in getting their product to the retail market with USDA certification. Ever since Upton Sinclair wrote about the deplorable conditions in the Chicago meatpacking industry in “The Jungle”, the law in this country has been to federally inspect every single animal being slaughtered. From live animal to “cut and wrapped”, the USDA is required to observe and sign off on the health of each animal going to slaughter. Most people are not aware of the fact that there are no such USDA inspected plants in Jefferson county. In fact, there are none on the Olympic Peninsula. There are a few so-called “custom exempt” operations like Farmer George in Port Orchard and Sunrise Meats in Port Angeles, but these can process privately owned live animals for purely private consumption. The meat cannot be sold or re-sold in the retail market. This includes restaurants, caterers or any sale to the public.
There are such USDA plants in western Washington, but after seeing them in action and researching it extensively, Roger Short decided it was worth the extra effort to take his animals to Malco’s Buxton Meats in Sandy OR where the animals are very well cared for and slaughtered humanely. This is the reason the USDA “bug” label on the meat processed there is on the Short beef for sale at the Chimacum Corner Farmstand. Roger feels strongly the 200 mile drive to this facility is worth it. The company is clean, well organzed and they age and cut the beef to Rogers exact specifications.
Does Kevin mind being a “Short”? Does he ever regret not staying with his dad’s “Goatz” moniker? Not at all he says. It’s become the inside family joke that everyone seems to enjoy.