Until then, he had considered a future career in research. But the narrow scope of his summer work and a visceral aversion to statistics gave Munford a new orientation. After graduation, he reloaded his sheep, hitched up his trailer, and returned to the Mississippi farmland near the Big Black River that has been in his family for three generations.
Back home, Munford expanded his flock. His goal was to devise a more competitive and ecologically sustainable method of free-range sheep — and cattle — husbandry. The long-term question was how to raise a large number of animals in a way that helped the land. The short-term question was how to quickly fund the young operation. He answered the second question first: sell meat to restaurants.
Munford opened Two Run Farm
and started processing and selling meat wholesale to local restaurants. In the four-and-a-half years since, direct sales have grown rapidly, last year reaching $1 million. The Times-Picayune covered Two Run’s
work in 2013 and the company now supplies some of the finest restaurants in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, including celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s flagship Emeril’s.
But while the meat processing business grew, Munford’s farming operation declined. The side project conceived as a temporary source of startup revenue took root as the central operation. Developing a reliable source of high-quality meat to match the demand was more important, Munford realized. Two Run expanded partnerships with other small Mississippi farmers who hold similar values. And about a year ago, when 175 acres of clover failed to reseed, Munford closed his sheep operation entirely, sold his ewes to a business partner, and bought a slaughterhouse and processing plant. This was a liberating moment, freeing them from contracts with other slaughterhouses
“Today, we’ve got our feet underneath us,” Munford said. The company’s core service of conditioning animals for slaughter, butchering them, and delivering them to restaurants is flourishing. Two Run has a well-established brand and employs eight people. And though Munford holds the company’s principles of local and humane husbandry sacrosanct — “I’m not changing the model,” he said — he sees room for growth without compromise.