Last of Thundering Hooves goes on block

The mobile slaughterhouse is one of the major items at the auction.

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WALLA WALLA -- Meat processing and farm equipment that helped build the former Thundering Hooves organic farm operation will be offered on the auction block this weekend in an attempt to help settle the business's debts.

A trailer, truck, tractor and the custom designed and built mobile slaughterhouse -- known as an abattoir -- are among the offerings at a major farm equipment sale to be led Saturday by Macon Brothers Auctioneers.

Possibly as valuable as the 53-foot mobile abattoir will be the paperwork that accompanies it, said Joel Huesby, co-owner of the former family farming operation that shuttered earlier this year amid financial problems. Huesby, who studied, developed and designed the meat processing trailer to include a kill room, carcass room and office, said he will also offer hard copies of all the original food safety, sanitation and operating documentation that goes with the federal requirements of running the facility.

The paperwork took Huesby, a pioneer of the locavore movement, 21/2 years to complete and basically serves as a teaching tool for operating a federal processing establishment, he said.

"It ought to be worth something," he said this week.

The auction takes place 9:30 a.m. Saturday at 10702 Stateline Road in Touchet.

The sale of the equipment is a grand finale of sorts for Thundering Hooves, which had built a reputation at the forefront of the sustainable farming and ranching movement.

Since its closure last March, at least two new meat processing operations have emerged. Blue Valley Meats is a grass-fed beef and dairy product operation that also specializes in free-range poultry and seasonal lamb and seafood. Its ownership group is comprised in part with former partners in Thundering Hooves. Its butcher shop is at 1162 W. Pine St.

Additionally, Dayton-based Tucannon Meats has opened its Walla Walla butcher shop at 2021 Isaacs Ave., the former retail shop for Thundering Hooves.

Huesby said he is by no means done with organic farming. He continues to operate on the Touchet land that was home to Thundering Hooves and has been able to purchase needed equipment outright since that operation's closure.

"We just pulled up our boots and learned to live with nothing and find creative ways to get things done," he said.

He grew organic barley this year that was shipped to a dairy in Hermiston. He also partnered with an Othello company that purchased his organic pumpkins and butternut squash. The gourds will be used to make a puree for a California food processor making organic pumpkin pies.

Huesby said he still sees livestock in his farming future, but he's not certain when that will happen. He continues to consult with others on sustainable farming practices.

"I just look at the future full of opportunity, and I'm going to capitalize on it," he said. "I'm going to help others do it, too, and I'm going to help others avoid the mistakes I've made."

He believes the abattoir will be a worthwhile investment for someone else interested in meat processing. In roughly two and a half years, 6,436 head of cattle were processed there. The unit cost about $100,000 to build, but he doesn't necessarily expect it to sell for that price. It may be a more affordable option, however, than a brick-and-mortar operation at a rate of $150 to $200 per square foot.

"I think there should be a decent bidding demand for it," he said.


If you go

The meat processing and farm equipment auction led by Macon Brothers Auctioneers includes items from the Thundering Hooves LLC bankruptcy case, as well as equipment from K Farms Inc., Lane Century Farm and more. Inspection will be 1-4:30 p.m. Friday and on Saturday's auction day starting at 8 a.m. The auction begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. For more details, visit maconbrosauction.com.

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