Despite growing up in Philadelphia with a father who was a butcher, Andy Smith was never quite sure he wanted to get into the meat business. In the 1960s, he was a sax player for rock and blues bands, but tired of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and city living, he moved to Maine in 1971 as part of the back-to-the-land movement. He farmed, he cut logs, he drove oxen. He didn’t make a lot of money.
In 1980 he decided to get back to his roots. Why not build a smokehouse? Why not try smoking meat?
“You know the saying, ‘If you build it, they will come?’ Well, for some reason, we had a lot of business. People found us, and I began smoking for other folks,” said Smith, who has now run Smith’s Log Smokehouse in Monroe for more than three decades.
Smith’s Log Smokehouse has been around for awhile, but until fairly recently, most people only knew them for one thing: their beef jerky — from the Blackstrap Jerk, made with blackstrap molasses, to Cowboy Jerk, made with peppered beef. The jerky is available all over the state, at convenience stores and in natural foods outlets, and makes a dandy on-the-go snack or small gift for the meat lover in your life.
But Smith’s — located on acres of pristine backwoods in Waldo County — does a whole lot more than jerky. There’s the array of summer sausage, kielbasa, dried salamis, pepperoni, sopressata and chorizo that they sell by the pound at farmers markets year-round. There’s the bacon, nitrate-free and miles from the mass-produced stuff you buy at the store. Ham and smoked birds, too, and let’s not forget their smoked salmon, a melt-in-your-mouth splurge for a fancy dinner party.
For a while, though, jerky was Smith’s biggest seller. When the Smokehouse burned down in the early 1990s, Smith and his family — including his wife, Libby, the bookkeeper and bacon slicer — decided to diversify the business. That’s when the farmers markets became popular and their products became available in more stores, such as Bangor Wine & Cheese Company, for whom Smith’s smokes a bleu cheese dubbed “Nella Blue.” Their reach has increased well beyond Maine, too — as their website proudly states, their lightly smoked salami is served at Walt Disney World. When they were featured on a 2004 episode of the Food Network’s “Food Finds” they could barely keep up with the demand for ham.
The boom in farmers markets and increasing awareness of local foods has only helped Smith’s, which sources meat from a wide array of local farms, including their neighbors at White’s Farm in Winterport.
“We do 10 times the business we used to do at farmers markets,” said Smith. “Some are so well attended, you can hardly move down through the tents. People are much more aware of local food. They’re very skeptical of commercial processing. They get to know where their food is produced and who is producing it, and not only that, they get to talk with the person who is producing it, and get to know them and their methods.”
In the winter, Smith’s Smokehouse products are available at the Brunswick Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays, and the Orono Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to noon, the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. It’s also available online at logsmokehouse.net.