Leader Blues

Monday, December 14, 2009

TOP STORY >> Buck Stops Here feeds the hungry

Traci Berry, owner of The Buck Stops Here, prepares venison summer sausage. 

By JONATHAN FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

The Buck Stops Here deer-processing shop not only helps to put food on the tables of hunters, but it also ensures that hundreds of Arkansas families won’t go hungry.

The Gravel Ridge business, 15509 Hwy. 107, participates in the Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry program, which gives deer meat to food pantries across the state.

The store provides butchering services for deer, elk and wild hogs.

Owner Traci Berry has had the shop for 16 years and has participated in AHFH for the last eight years.

Every year she donates approximately 3,000 pounds of meat to the program, which works like this: Hunters will come in to the shop and sign a transfer ticket as required by law, and Berry or one of her staff will ask if customers would like to donate a portion to AHFH. If hunters agree to participate, they have to fill out a short form.

Donating meat is free. But it costs about $10 for Berry to prepare the meat, so a donation is appreciated to help cover the cost of labor, she said.

“This all goes locally. Es-pecially in this economy, it’s a great way that people can have a direct impact on families in central Arkansas,” Berry said.

Ronnie Ritter, president of AHFH, says that small business owners like Berry are the backbone of his organization. About 50 meat processors across the state are involved.

“Four ounces is what we consider a serving,” he said. That adds up to about 12,000 meals that The Buck Stops Here donates annually.

Over the years, Berry’s shop may have provided about 96,000 meals to people who need it the most.

“We try to keep everything local,” Ritter said. That means hunters in the area can help local food banks, pantries and other charity groups.

The shop’s most popular item is summer sausage, but it also prepares steaks, jalapeño-cheese sausage, Polish and Italian sausages.

It also offers taxidermy services.

Berry is glad to help families in need. This year she decided she would start a new program to ship her summer sausages to servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s something from home,” she said.

This newest initiative is still in the early planning stages. Berry expects that the program will be ready by next year.

She hopes that it, too, will be successful.

Ritter says that AHFH plans to participate in Berry’s military program.

“I think it’s a good idea that can remind servicemen of home,” he said.

Lonnie’s Meat Market in Cabot and Cabot Meat Market also participate in the AHFH program.

For more about The Buck Stops Here’s services, or how to donate, call 501-834-HUNT (4868).