Tag: syndicated content

Timber Ridge to Fuel North Wapiti Iditarod Musher

Flickr user Arthur Chapman

Some of the most rewarding aspects of our business are the personal relationships we have been able to build with our customers. We participate in the Des Moines Downtown Farmer’s Market every summer and have gained some new customers that we now consider friends. From these relationships, amazing opportunities have grown.

One regular farmer’s market customer, Shelly Lewis, told us that she was taking a trip to Canada to spend some time with her friend, Karen Ramstead, as Karen trained for the Iditarod – the world-famous sled dog race in Alaska. We sent some of our regular and mustard beef sticks along with a couple bags of our beef stick “Bits and Pieces” for Shelly to share with Karen. Shelly reported that Karen “LOVED” the beef sticks and asked if we would be interested in being her beef stick sponsor for the Iditarod. We were flattered and excited for the opportunity!

Karen is the owner/manager of North Wapiti Kennels in Alberta, Canada where she breeds, raises, and trains purebred Siberian Huskies for long distance racing. Karen has been competing in the 1000-mile Iditarod since 2000, with her first finish coming in 2001. She was the first Canadian woman to complete the race and one of the few teams that races with purebred Siberian Huskies.

This month Karen is heading up to Alaska to start preparing for the 2014 race that starts March 1. Part of the last stretch of training includes preparing the “drop bags” of supplies for the race that will be delivered to checkpoints along the trail. Each bag will include beef sticks and “bits and pieces” from Timber Ridge. Our beef sticks are a great fit for the race because they don’t require refrigeration, are all-natural, and pack a heavy dose of protein in each serving. The sticks are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which supply essential nutrients.

Look for Timber Ridge beef to play a key role in fueling Karen during the Iditarod.
We will be sharing Karen’s progress both on our Facebook page and here on the blog. You can also keep up with Karen through the North Wapiti Kennels Facebook page, her North Wapiti Kennels blog, or enjoy the humorous Facebook page of her “Wayward Iditarod GPS” device as Karen and her team travel along the trail.

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: beef, beef jerky, beef stick, cattle, cows, dog sledding, family farm, huskies, Iditarod, jerky, local farmer, musher, sled dogs, sledding, sledding dogs, sponsor, Timber Ridge, Timber Ridge Cattle Co

Iowa Food Cooperative

Some people argue that it is too difficult to buy local products.  It is rare that everything you need is together in the same place and trips to many different stores may be required.  Local products are also limited by season – certain products, especially produce, are only available during specific times of the year.  In the end it’s just easiest to purchase what’s available, regardless of whether it came from a different state or country.

Iowa Food Cooperative
is a unique way to purchase local products on a regular basis and allows you to shop from the comfort of your own home. Launched in 2008, the IFC has grown to 650 member-owners, more than 100 of which are producers.  Members can shop online, choosing from almost 1000 products.  Twice a month, members can pick up what they’ve purchased from one of four metro area locations.  Sales over the last two years have exceeded $150,000, 90% of which goes directly to local farmers and producers.  100% of the products sold in the IFC are locally grown and produced.  We have been proud members of the IFC for over a year now and have loved the products that have been available to us.


The cost of joining the IFC is $50 with a $10 fee annually after that.  In a recent price check of 28 products against Whole Foods
, it was found that the IFC prices were 22% lower.  Whole Foods aims for 20% of their products to be locally grown or produced (as opposed to 100% at the IFC).  All money spent at the IFC stays in Iowa.  We asked IFC General Manager Gary Huber what buying local means to him;

“Buying local means knowing the people and farms who raise our food – who they are, what they do, where they live, what they value – and caring for them in ways that affect lives for the better, both theirs and ours.”




A Sad Farewell to Iowa Farm Families

We learned this week that the existence of a fellow producer and local CSA, Small Potatoes Farm, is being threatened by the proposed building of a 5000 head hog confinement operation within 1 to 2 miles of their farm by Brelsford Pork. As Small Potatoes Farm owner Rick Hartmann puts it:

Iowa both leads the nation in hog production and contaminated water. We have some of the worst levels of bacteria, nitrogen, and phosphorous pollution. Between 1992 and 2004, there were more than 450 manure spills from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in Iowa. These spills have killed millions of fish and have jeopardized public health by contaminating surface and ground drinking water. There is also ample evidence of the destructive social and economic impacts on rural communities and family farms from CAFOs.

Pigs in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)

I don’t know much about Brelsford Pork other than they build large hog confinements and the owner does not live on the facility. Brelsford Pork may be the exception to the commonly held perception of corporate farms. Maybe they are good stewards of the land and are able to control odor. Maybe they build a 10000 head facility and fill it half full to reduce crowding. Maybe they provide cheap food to people who otherwise would go hungry. I don’t know much about Belsford or their practices.

What I do know is that corporate farms exist because they take advantage of economies of scale and, it seems to me, are driven by a passion for profits. Environmental stewardship is too often treated as merely a cost of production. Most local producers like Small Potatoes, on the other hand, appear to be driven by a passion for environmental stewardship where profits, unfortunately, are a cost of production.

In the livestock business economies of scale are generally achieved by spreading costs over larger and larger livestock outputs (i.e. more animals units produced per square foot/man hours/month). Accomplishing these increased outputs can sometimes lead to negative environmental impacts like the ones described by Rick. And sometimes accomplishing these increased outputs can lead to another type of environmental impact… the loss of local producers!

We also learned a few days ago that a fellow local producer, Iowa Farm Families, is closing it’s doors. Iowa Farm Families produces phenomenal hormone free, gluten free, and antibiotic free pork products.

We are a small group of Iowa farm families determined to remain independent pork producers. We are dedicated to producing the best pork you can buy. The owners of our company have combined their talents to naturally select animals that consistently have ideal meat PH values and instramuscular fat levels. The result is pork that is consistently tender, with more internal marbling and moisture than commodity pork.

Little piggies on a family farm.

According to a spokesperson, Iowa Farm Families’ can no longer compete in today’s economy. Once supported by 47 pork producing farm families, Iowa Farm Families now struggles to provide its quality pork product from 4 pork producing farm families. Is it coincidence that the downward trend of Iowa pork producing farm families is inversely proportional to the increasing trend of CAFO’s?

Just as we must all do our part to preserve fragile environment, we must all do our part to keep our fragial local farms alive. Do your part by supporting our markets and cooperatives that offer local products.

For more information on the Small Potatoes Farm “Call to Action” initiative, contact farmer Stacy Hartmann at 515-677-2438. As for Iowa Farm Families, we may be too late. But next time you have the opportunity to buy quality local pork… don’t complain about the price!

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!”