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Roberto Alonzo grew up in Argentina working in his father’s butchery, but he never wanted to be a butcher— he wanted to be a professional soccer player. But his fate seems to have been sealed during those early years. Upon moving to the States, Alonzo served as both butcher and meat manager in various area shops including Butcher Boy, Market Basket, and Hannaford. “That was my career; that was my life,” says the clearly hard-working Alonzo.

“Then I started getting sick,” he explains. So serious were his health issues, he believed he was dying. After two years spent trying to determine the root of his problems, which ultimately turned out to be celiac disease (on top of diabetes), Alonzo began scrutinizing his diet. “I started researching what I eat to understand what really is in [things].” He learned a lot about gluten and how to avoid it. “We started eating organic, but it was too expensive, so we decided to buy a farm.” In the end, however, it wasn’t a farm they settled on. It was a butcher shop: Eva’s Farm Organic Butcher Shop. “We’re like a farmers’ market,” says Alonzo, “a new kind of farmers’ market.”

Alonzo and his wife, Barriann, run the old-fashioned butchery whose mission it is “to connect families to the possibility of achieving a healthy diet with local products.” They work in partnership with Millbrook Fields Farm and Blood Farm, among others, and offer premium products from local farmers who have raised their animals either on a primarily grass-based diet or in an organic manner. These animals are never treated with antibiotics or hormones, or fed animal by-products, which results in healthy meat and milk. Alonzo sources his beef from 125-year-old Adams Farm in Athol, where animals are held in pens designed by Dr. Temple Grandin, the world’s foremost authority on the humane handling of animals. He receives one whole cow every week. “Our grass-fed beef has never been processed or frozen,” he says.

In addition to fresh meats, shelves are lined with prepared foods, local cheeses, meat rubs, condiments, sandwiches, and deli products. Store-made sausages and all-natural bacon (as well as sugarless bacon), beef, poultry, pork, bison, buffalo, lamb, goat, and venison are all on offer.

In their effort to connect farmers, food, and families, the Alonzos host weekly events in their shop. People sit at an enormous butcher block table to sample all sorts of cuts of meat and to hear speakers share information about the food industry and nutrition. Recently, Diana Rodgers, author of The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook, came to one of their eat-and-greet mixers. Kendra from Merrimack Valley Wellness Center used the space to celebrate the end of a 30-day healthy eating challenge. And on more than one occasion, holistic health coach Jody Hawkins from Full Circle Counseling has spoken about the health benefits of grass-fed meats. “Whenever she speaks,” says Alonzo, “I learn something new.”

One of the many things they have come to understand is that sustainability is the bottom line. “People understand ‘organic,’ but it is really about sustainability,” says Barriann. It’s also about transparency, which, she says, “is the fastest way to earn trust.” The windowed cooler where the meat is hung and cut for everyone to see has proven very popular, despite early warnings that it was not a good idea. But Alonzo spent so many years cooped up in window- less rooms that he wanted something else entirely.

Something else entirely—that describes Eva’s Farm Organic Butcher Shop in a nutshell.