|By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
HAMILTON, Ohio — It’s a whole new world, Tony Schaefer said. In a transition from dairy farming, Tony and his wife Ruth Ann, his mom and dad, Bill and Jean Schaeffer, are direct marketing all natural Angus beef to consumers.
Sixth generation Butler County farmers, the family sold their dairy herd last October. Now they have 300 head of Angus and Angus cross cattle, brood cows to babies. They recently bought sheep.
To introduce their new business, they, along with friend and consultant Nick Forrest, hosted a food presentation.
“We’re doing a presentation to help promote not only beef and lamb but also family farming,” Jean said (Bill was back on the farm baling hay). “We’re trying to emphasize the importance of quality meats and quality products straight from the farm. That’s our goal.”
The cattle are hormone and antibiotic free. They are fed grain and hay raised on the farm. No genetically modified crops are used.
Said Tony, “We’re trying to develop a product that people want and we want to deal directly with the consumer.
“We want to eliminate the middle man. We want to do it naturally. We’re tired of conventional farming and we want to go back to the old way.”
For the food presentation Jean, Ruth Ann and Kathy Forrest prepared and served ground beef appetizers, Swiss steak, beef stew, and beef/lamb kabobs. Guests begged for recipes and Schaefers had copies on hand.
While food was served, Nick Forrest, who works in the food industry, talked about the differences in freshness and taste between farm fresh and “store bought” meat and emphasized food safety.
In a taste test, the majority of the guests agreed that they could tell the difference in grilled steaks from the farm and from the grocery. They preferred the farm fresh steak. Yet the transition from dairy to producers of farm fresh steaks has been a challenge.
“When you’re milking cows you get told what you’re going to get paid and when you’re going to get paid,” Tony said. “We had several hundred dollars taken out of our check to pay somebody to market our product. Now we’ve got to do it ourselves. The transition has been sensitive.”
The Schaefers are currently selling beef at the Talawanda and West Chester Farmers Markets.
They take a freezer truck with a variety of meat cuts, Ruth Ann said.
“Sales are getting better every week,” she said.
“We’ve had a good reception from the public, they really like it. We have our display set up (the family also markets a variety of seasoning and gravy mixes). People come and we talk to them and let them know what we’ve got and go from there. Some people buy one pack of hamburger and we’re hoping they come back next week and get more.”
Customers can also buy direct from the farm.
“If somebody’s having a party and they want to come get patties or steaks, whatever they want for their gathering, they can call ahead and we’ll have it ready and weighed out for them,” Ruth Ann said.
“We’ve just got to prove our product,” Tony said. “Word of mouth is going to do it.”
For Jean, it all comes back to promoting family farming and her hope that Ruth Ann and Tony’s four children will have the option to stay on the farm, if they so choose.
For information call Tony and Ruth Ann at 513-726-5307 or Bill and Jean at 513-726-6156.
This farm news was published in the June 14, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.