Tag: beef sticks

Why Some Of Our Cattle Never Get Made Into Beef Sticks

His voice was weak over the phone.   He said that he had purchased 3 heifers from Gene Wiese and wanted them bred to a Wiese bull.  Since I had just purchased three young Wiese bulls, Gene had suggested to him that I might be willing to rent him a bull.  Of course, I would do about anything for Gene Wiese.

What Goes Around…

Gene Wiese's Cow Herd

You see, Gene is an icon in Iowa agriculture.  He has accomplished things in his lifetime that most of us can only dream about.  Driving to his Carroll County farm for the first time, I was amazed to find a 1200 acre oasis of grass, hay, and trees in the heart of Iowa’s corn and bean country.  He along with his son and daughter, David and Helen,  have set the standard for environmentally sustainable agriculture practices while building one of the most successful Hereford breeding stock businesses in the country.

I once commented to Gene “I’ll bet you have seen a lot of changes in this industry over the years”.  Indeed he had, and he told me some details of his journey.

In the 50′s he had a request to send several bulls to South Africa.  He loaded them on a train where they were railed to New Orleans, put on a ship and sailed to South Africa.

In the 70′s the Soviet Union wanted several hundred of his heifers.  He put them on pot belly cattle trucks, trucked to Chicago where they were put on 747′s and flown to Russia.

Since the 90′s he has been shipping several thousand units of semen annually around the world from his Iowa farm via UPS.

And, in the 2000′s he hauled three heifers to an aging bachelor farmer, Olin Hamman,  just south of Corning, Iowa.  Because that is what an icon does!

Olin was the person who called me looking to rent a Wiese bull.  That year I delivered my bull to Olin in late October.

Olin lives alone on the same farm and in the same house where he grew up.  It is a rough farm.  Like Olin, small patches of row crop live between rolling hills of hay and pasture.  His house is modest but neat with a small barn behind.  This is where he asked me to unload the bull.  As I backed my trailer up to the gate, I could see in my side-view mirror the white faces of three curious heifers poking their heads around the side of Olin’s barn.

” I don’t know what I would have done without these girls around here this year”, Olin told me as if we had been friends from childhood. “You see my dog, Murphy, died last New Year’s Eve and it has been pretty lonely around here since then.  These girls have given me reason to get out in the morning… how much do I owe you?” Olin said, quickly changing the subject.

Since Olin fed the bull all winter and his neighbors (Fred and Beth Berggren) returned the bull the next spring, no money changed hands.  When Olin called last fall to again make arrangements for the bull, I learned of the crippling health issues that he had been struggling with the past year.  “The new calves did just fine, but, I’m not gettin’ around so well”.

…Comes Around

Several months had passed when Kenny Hamman, Olin’s nephew, called to say that Olin was taken to a nursing home in Red Oak and could Fred and Beth bring the bull back?  Upon learning that the three heifers also needed to go, we settled upon a price and the “girls” were put on Fred and Beth’s trailer with the bull.

Lottie, Grace, and Cinderella at Timber Ridge

Last week, Beth backed the trailer up to my barn gate.  When Fred stepped around to the rear to let the girls out, he said, “We’ve gotten kinda attached to these girls since chore’in for Olin.  Now that first one is Grace, the little one is Cinderella, and Lottie is the big one.”

In the perfect world, Olin will recover, buy back the “girls”, and Fred and Beth will pick up all four next fall.  But until then, these girls will give me “reason to get out in the morning”… and for that, Olin, I’ll owe you.  Besides, I think that is what Gene would call sustainable agriculture.

The Jennie Effect… you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

1.21.12 is a date that I was awakened to the power of creative marketing.  Here is how it went down, and it started with a magazine article.

The Journey

I’ve heard that gamblers can request to be put on a list that would bar them from entering a casino.  If there was such a list for Farm Show Magazine, I would put myself on it.  This candy store of on-farm inventions has often led me down the path of “wishful thinking” when I should have been sticking to my daily ”task at hand”.

But when I read an article  in the magazine about a pig farmer in NE Iowa by the name of Carl Blake, I began my journey to an event (which I’ll describe in a bit) that awakened me to the power of creative marketing.

Carl raises a rare breed of pig called Swabian Hall.  The meat from his pigs recently won a prestigious culinary award and is rapidly gaining national attention. When I read the article on Carl’s pigs, I began to ponder linking up with Carl to help with an idea.

My idea builds on the knowledge that pigs are much more efficient at retaining omega-3s in their tissue than cattle. If I could include flax-fed pork in our products, they would contain higher omega-3s, and our flax-fed beef would provide high levels ruminic and vaccenic acids (CLA’s).  If I could put these two ingredients together, we’d have a flax-fed beef/pork “miracle” snack stick product.

With my mission of creating a new product in mind, I  contacted Carl and thought “this could be a marriage made only in Iowa!” (or is this heaven?).

Carl and I agreed to meet at a Des Moines event a couple of Saturdays ago where Carl was to roast one of his amazing hogs.  When a 9″ snow storm halted Carl in his tracks, he asked if I would sub my beef for his pork at the event.  I agreed and was treated to one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

The Event

When local tomato growing phenom, Jennie Smith , decided to go to grad school in New Zealand, she asked a few of her foodie friends (around 150) to help her get there.

Jennie Smith of Butcher Crick Farms

Undoubtedly the most charismatic person I have ever met, Jennie managed to skillfully pull-off this unique fundraiser that included an auction of donated gifts, three local restaurants serving gourmet dishes, two wineries handing out samples, music by Dustin Smith, and one star-struck cattle farmer (me) serving smoked rib-eye.  The event was held in a really cool facility owned by Kirk Blunk Architecture in East Village.

Jennie’s Seed the Farm event was not only inspiring but marketing genius.  The lesson of the evening for me was that in a successful event, there is always more than one beneficiary.   From networking to socializing to the joy of helping out a friend, Jennie made sure that we were all rewarded by the experience.   Just watching Jennie “hold court” during the live auction was worth the price of admission!  I left the event wondering if I had done enough for the “cause”.

The Rub

The take-away is that I  will never again look at marketing a product,  an event, or myself quite the same.  Hopefully some of the “Jennie Effect” will rub off on Timber Ridge as we launch our new beef/pork miracle stick.  As Carl would say, “stay tuned, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”