Building Bacon

From Miami, Florida to Emporia is almost 900 miles. But the metaphorical distance James Faison traveled is much longer than the geographical distance. As a corporate lawyer with degrees from Harvard and U.Va., he never imagined that he’d end up making bacon just about an hour from where he grew up.

Faison comes from a long line of Virginia farmers. When his grandparents died and left him and his siblings the family farm, the process of shedding his former life was a gradual one, he says. “I loved where I was living [in South Beach], but I had an obligation to my grandparents to get the farm in order. And when you take a step away, you never know where it might lead.”

It lead him back to where he grew up and ignited a passion for Virginia farms. “I wanted to work with as many farmers as possible who do sustainable agriculture,” says Faison. He started Milton’s Local, named after his grandfather, in 2012, and began to sell source-identified beef and pork. That means his products are local, antibiotic-, hormone- and steroid-free and every cut provided to the buyers has the originating farm’s name on it.

The wholesale side of the company sells to about 46 different restaurants, including Rappahannock, Amuse and Kitchen on Cary, among others, plus D.C.-area locations as well.

This past summer, Faison began producing bacon and sausage under a private label. The bacon is thick-cut and meaty, with a luscious smokiness after the eight hours it spends over smoldering hickory. He works with family farms in Pennsylvania certified by the American Humane Society.

The company receives 4,000 pounds of pork bellies at a time to transform into bacon, and Faison says although he’s working to increase the inventory in Virginia, it isn’t there yet.

His next challenge? “I make bacon and my wife doesn’t eat meat,” he says. Bets are on for how long she can last.

You can pick up a package of Milton’s Local at Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market, Stella’s Market, Union Market, Farm-to-Family, Dominion Harvest and soon, Southern Season.

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