WILMINGTON — Within a 60-mile radius there are two family farms, not affiliated with one another, which carry the same name and both of which operate USDA Meat Processing Plants.
One is Adams Farm in Wilmington, owned by Christopher "Kip" Adams. The other is Adams Farm owned by Beverly Mundell, her son Richard Adams, and her daughter, Noreen Heath, located in Athol, Mass.
The name Adams Farm has recently made national news and both businesses are feeling the impact.
It is unfortunate, when one business receives negative national attention; both receive the impact of such; due to the confusion of the name and close proximity. This is such the case in the recent outbreak of E.coli, where seven people became ill and five of which were hospitalized in late September. Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence has concluded that beef products produced by Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, Mass., was the likely source of this outbreak, as indicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"When people hear a name in the news, they are just going to think of the most familiar place or people they know because people are continually bombarded with news media," said Kip Adams, of the Wilmington Adams Farm. "It's easy to miss the details, and so I've been getting lots of calls from scared customers wondering if they can continue to do business with us and I have to reassure them that we continue to operate our facility under strict safety practices and that our Adams Farm has not shipped any contaminated meat."
Kip Adams is the fifth generation on his 100-acre family farm, which raises all-natural Angus beef, sheep, goats, pigs, emus, turkeys, chickens and rabbits and has been known for years in the agritourism industry for unique and fun activities such as an interactive petting farm, tractor-drawn wagon rides through the maple sugar grove, fishing from a fully stocked trout pond, sleigh rides in winter to a log cabin in the woods, horseback trail rides and even paintball.
Adams opened a 1,824-square-foot meat processing facility in 2013 due to the decline of family farms and slaughterhouses he has witnessed in his lifetime. He felt if farmers could get their livestock to a meat processing plant nearby, it would give them a reason to stay in business or maybe get back into it.
"Profits are lost in transportation, and I want to see agriculture grow and prosper here in Vermont again," said Adams, "as well as have control over the end results of my animals. I want to know where my food comes from, so I produce healthy food. That's my goal. My farm is now a full circle of life farm, which I take great pride in. The all-natural meats are available in our farm store and many nearby restaurants are also featuring our meats."
The 128-acre Adams Farm in Athol, Mass., has been retailing and custom processing meat since 1946. In 2006, the Massachusetts facility was decimated by fire. The Mundell & Adams family rebuilt and enlarged their operation to 13,800 square feet, which is triple the size of their original plant. For 70-plus years they have been processing meat with an impeccable reputation. Increasing the size of building and capacity of the business, the family prides itself on taking the time to learn new ways of operating to provide the best service possible while maintaining a healthy business.
And now with seven people, ages 1 to 74 having been stricken with a harmful strain of E.coli, and the Center of Disease Control and Prevention tracing it back to the Athol plant, the Adams Farm of Massachusetts has voluntarily recalled certain lots of meats processed from June 27 to Sept. 4 at their facility in order to prevent the possibility of others getting sick.
Since the mass media coverage of the bacteria outbreak and the name and the location of its starting point was made public, it has become a concern to the Adams Farm of Wilmington, as well. Though they are certainly sad for the Athol farm, their prayers are for the well-being of those inflicted.
Kip Adams continues to assure the public that full attention to detail on the processing of all carcasses and meats at their facility are of the highest priority to ensure public safety.
"Understanding the dangers of microbes and bacteria are the key to producing quality meats," Adams said. "We focus on cleanliness, taking our time and being thorough. Maintaining a staff that is as passionate about healthy food as I am is another way to ensure our standard of quality and safety. And the best way to combat public fear is to help them understand what it is they are afraid of."
E.coli is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines of all animals, including humans; therefore most of the time E.coli is harmless. However, there are certain strains that can make a person sick. One of the most dangerous strains of E.coli is 0157:H7, and a person can get it from undercooked ground meat, vegetables, fruits, unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses and juices. Though it can be contracted from consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, ultimately an animal is the source, whether it is wild or domestic. This means that animal waste has somehow contaminated a crop.
Children and adults with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to getting very sick from the E.coli bacteria. Symptoms of E.coli 0157:H7 poisoning are fatigue, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. Severe illness can include bloody diarrhea and in extreme cases the organs can shut down and cause death. There is no known antibiotic for E.coli and in most cases of people getting sick from the bacteria, they will fully recover in five to 10 days with proper bed rest and hydration.
There are proper precautions to prevent an E.coli infection such as washing all fruits and vegetables; cooking meat thoroughly and using a meat thermometer, getting the temperature to 160 degrees. Buying local and knowing where your food comes from is a good choice for many reasons and look for inspection seals on the label. In order for a farm/farmer to sell their meat to the public in the state of Vermont, it must be either Vermont State Inspected or USDA Inspected at the time of processing. Vermont State Inspected meats can only be sold within the state of Vermont, while USDA inspected meats are certified to be sold anywhere in the United States.
In order to be a Vermont or USDA Certified Meat Processing Facility a strict set of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points must be created by the plant and accepted. The HACCP Plan is all about processing meat from a live animal all the way to the packaged finished product and identifying and documenting every possible hazardous problem that could ever happen and having a solution and procedure for every type of hazardous situation. If an animal is to be processed for re-sale a government employed inspector is on site to ensure that each animal is free of disease and that the HACCP plans are being implemented at all times.
The Vermont state regulations for processing meat for re-sale are even stricter than those of the USDA. The state of Vermont goes above and beyond to ensure Vermont products continue to maintain the highest quality of standards and safety in order to maintain the prestigious Vermont Standard of Quality it is known for worldwide.
The Adams Farm of Wilmington started out in 2013 as a Vermont State Inspection Meat Processing Facility, but due to the number of chefs in New York and Massachusetts wanting their meats and other farmers on the bordering states of southern Vermont wanting to have their animals custom processed, Adams Farm became a USDA certified plant in June of 2016. Through the transition of being Vermont State Inspected to USDA, Adams Farm of Wilmington kept its same strict HACCP Plan and they continue to follow the Vermont standards of going above and beyond.
Every animal at the Wilmington facility goes under meticulous inspection for fecal matter, milk and any other foreign matter, which can contaminate the meat. For example, if an animal is lactating and any of her milk was to get on the carcass, that area has to be trimmed away; rinsing the meat could just spread the contamination. A meat processing plant also must adhere to federally mandated quarterly testing. And at the beginning of each June, the plant must submit meat samples for 13 consecutive weeks to test for E.coli and other bacteria to ensure the safety of product and monitor consistency of quality and safety of the plant. Testing results can take up to a week and the Adams Farm Wilmington facility will hold the meat until results come back as a way of public health, safety and not having to do a recall. In the event a test sample was to come back positive for E.coli, mandatory adjustments would have to be identified and made to the HACCP plan or the plant could be shut down.
Kip Adams is grateful his facility is still small.
"We process one animal at a time and that carcass has our full attention. A bigger plant is processing several at a time and there's so much going on; things can be missed or over-looked and that's where mistakes are made. The Adams Farm of Athol has a great reputation and has been processing meat for over 50 years and this appears to be their first major mistake; that's quite a track record, so no doubt they will figure out how the mistake was made and hopefully correct whatever faulty procedure may have occurred."
Quality all-natural meats from the Adams Farm of Wilmington can be purchased directly from an on-site farm store open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or featured on the menus of many local restaurants such as Cask and Kiln in Wilmington. Duos Restaurant and T.J. Buckley's in Brattleboro, Windham Hill Inn, Williamsville Eatery, The Garden Café in Londonderry, and Roots Restaurant in Rutland.
For more information call 802-464-3762 or visit www.adamsfamilyfarm.com.
Jill Adams is Kip Adams' sister.