Meating in the Middle: Crofter Market to connect ranchers, consumers |

Meating in the Middle: Crofter Market to connect ranchers, consumers

The website Crofter Market plans to become a trade portal connecting consumers to local meat and other grown products. Their site, an “Amazon for meat,” will benefit ranchers and small meat shops like Powder River Pack in Terry, Mont., in facilitating more local commerce. Tamara Choat | Tri-State Livestock News
Shawn Fluss packages ground beef bags.

Unlike the on-demand world we live in, where drones deliver AirPods to your doorstep or dogfood arrives the next day at the push of a button – the process of buying meat can seem antiquated. 

Most meat consumers are faced with two options: purchase at the grocery store, or initiate a complicated process of buying local – involving social media leads, word of mouth, large quantities, or often long lead times.

Bobby Clayson, an entrepreneur and software engineer from Salem, Utah, witnessed first-hand this inefficient process when pandemic waves wiped out beef supplies on store shelves. A self-proclaimed “enthusiastic carnivore,” he thought there had to be a better way to get local meat to local consumers. So he is building Crofter Market – an online portal connecting meat producers and consumers. “It can be described as an online farmers market, or ‘Amazon for food,’” says Clayson. “It’s designed to connect consumers who want to buy locally with farmers and ranchers, instead of going through a bunch of middlemen.” 

Previously Clayson’s only experience with the beef supply chain was as a consumer. But when he started researching the industry and talking to ranchers, he quickly learned about problems in the beef chain. “I dug in and found out ranchers are really struggling as the middlemen in a brittle supply chain,” he says. “They are at the mercy of the big four processors who are making record meat packing margins, while ranchers are challenged to barely get by.”  

It was obvious to Clayson the solution was to help ranchers sell directly. He took his experience in building online solutions (in 2018 he co-founded a company called TaxBit, which provides tax and accounting ease for cryptocurrency, and built it to a billion dollar company before selling his shares) found partners in the beef production world, and went to work creating Crofter Market. The name is a nod to the old British word for “small farmer.”

“The business platform we are building will connect producers and consumers – we aren’t a reseller, we don’t set prices. We just facilitate technology to bring two sides together.” Products won’t be limited to just meat; anything that is legal to sell directly to consumers in the state will be allowed. Any grower can create an account, set their prices, and facilitate pickup, delivery or shipping,” says Clayson. “We are focusing on ranchers first because we feel like they are struggling the most at this point, but any kind of produce is allowed.”

All beef has to be state or USDA approved, and all accounts must be approved through site managers. The site will employ a rating system and some level of arbitration. “You have to be a good producer, and fulfill obligations, or you won’t be on here long,” says Clayson.

Development on the app began last year, with a team of four people including Clayson, a front end developer, a back end developer, and a user experience designer. Clayson spent the last half of 2022 on market research. A white paper from Utah State University on fresh produce direct market sales served as the baseline for his learning. From there he started doing personal interviews with ranchers and formed the group “Save Our Ranchers” to host listening groups, facilitate ideas, and gather a like-minded network of people to impact change in the meat supply chain. 

The site is currently in development with the goal of a beta launch in April. “We’ll release this to a select group of people – buyers and sellers that we have recruited – to test and work the bugs out, before we deploy it to the public,” says Clayson. 

The initial launch group will be ranchers who are already selling local to consumers, but who may be struggling with overseeing the entire process on their own. “We will let them focus on what they are good at – raising meat, and we will facilitate the sales for them,” Clayson says. At the same time, Clayson has amassed a list of approximately 1,000 dedicated customers from self-sufficiency and “prepper” communities. They are what Clayson calls “activist consumers” – people who are concerned about the country’s food supply and who are dedicated to buying locally. They will have access as test customers in the beta launch. He is hoping for a full public launch by May.

“We plan to get to a point of mass appeal with both producers and customers participating and as we do that, the market area will grow and spread,” says Clayson. “We want to make sure it works in our immediate area first, then we’ll campaign to drive it outward.” Ranchers from Wyoming, Montana, Arizona and Texas have expressed interest in joining the site. Anyone interested in following the progress of Crofter Market or joining can go to to receive notifications and updates.

The majority of the project is self-funded by Clayson, along with the support of friends and family in the area. He has also gained the attention and support of ranchers statewide.

One of those is Carson Jorgensen, a sixth-generation sheep rancher from Mount Pleasant, Utah, and also the chair of his state’s GOP, an elected position where he oversees all elected and non-elected members of the Republican party. When he heard of Clayson’s proposal, he offered to help in any way he could.

Over the past year Jorgenson has joined Clayson at the Save Our Ranchers events where they have discussed with thousands of people the idea of Crofter Market, ESGs – or environmental, social and governance investing, which refers to a set of standards used by socially conscious investors to screen businesses and potential investors, as well as corporate manipulation, market inconsistencies and food security. 

Jorgensen and his family run around 5,000 head of ewes, and move around 15,000-20,000 lambs a year on their place. He is currently researching logistics of getting meat from San Angelo, Texas, where they process their lambs, back to his area to market through the site. “As crazy as it seems, it still makes more sense to bring it back here and sell it direct,” he says. 

The beauty of Crofter Market is it will not be dependent on one farm or ranch. “This is simply creating an avenue for people to sell direct via their platform. It’s very similar to what Amazon has done with consumer goods.” 

Jorgensen says he believes Crofter Market will fill a gap between food growers and local purchasers. “It’s much needed – the idea has been tried in numerous ways, but most of the attempts are from one producer or business on an individual website. The sheer fact is, ranchers really can’t do this for themselves. Most of them are not tech savvy, and most don’t know how to run businesses of this scale.” He says having Clayson – a tech expert with a passion for helping ranchers – is the necessary link. “This seems to be a good conglomerate of people who can and will work together in the areas of their expertise.”