THE STORY OF WHISNANT FAMILY GRASS FARM
Grassfed products have enormous health benefits. Higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, higher in CLA, higher in Vitamin E, higher in beta-carotene, lower in calories grass fed beef is one of the healthiest protein sources on the planet. Though these health benefits can be measured by science they alone do not represent the true product. Grass fed is as much a process as it is a product. It is a sustainable management philosophy that benefits not only the product but also the animal, the producer and the environment. Grass fed beef as a product is the tip of an underlying mountain of strength and integrity rooted in family farms that put their hearts and hands into what they produce. Each farm has its own unique story and history; I would like to share part of ours with you.
We are the Whisnant Family, who own and operate a family farm located in the rolling hills of the southern Ozarks near Doniphan, Missouri.
My husband, Mark, and I have been married since 1979 and have six children; Jack, Pete, Cody, Trent, Logan and Katie Grace. We are all involved in the raising, production, processing and marketing of our grass fed cattle.
I am a veterinarian, graduating from the University Of Tennessee College Of Veterinary Medicine in 1981. I have a B.S. in Animal Science from UT. Upon leaving private practice I now work full time with our farm, its beef production and quality control issues at the processing plant.
Mark has a B.A. in Business from Memphis University. He has over 30 years experience in agricultural marketing and farming.
As a veterinarian I have always been intensely interested in the production process and along with Mark have worked to put together a natural production model that allows us to raise and finish cattle entirely on forage diets.
We live in a very rural county where there is no industry and jobs are not plentiful. Over the years we have witnessed the continual disappearance of our community's most precious resource. I am referring to the loss of our children who are forced to leave the farm in search of opportunity in education and jobs. Most of these kids never return to live in our community. Knowing many of them personally we are aware that oft times their greatest desire is to return to the farms where they grew up. Yet, in the era of industrialized consolidated mega farms it is difficult on a small farm to support one family much less extended families. Family farms are rapidly disappearing from the American culture.
It was always our dream and passion that somehow we could make our farm profitable enough to allow any of our children who had the desire the ability to return to the farm and make a living. A farm is one of the best possible living classrooms. It is a great place to learn lessons of character, responsibility and respect. This land on which we work and live is our touchstone. That place in the whole world where we feel the greatest joy, sense of worth, wonder, peace, renewal and relationship - to our family, our God, our land and our communities. It is priceless. Currently, we have been blessed to see our three oldest sons return to the farm.
This all became possible when an acquaintance that had been to our farm on a Christian retreat a few years earlier called and wanted to buy a cow. The fact that she lived in Atlanta was no more unusual to us than the knowledge that she was a long time vegan. Developing some deficiency problems associated with being a vegan for 14 years her doctor had recommended that she return to being an omnivore and consume meat. True to her nature she researched the subject and came up with the decision that if she were to eat meat it had to be grass fed.
From that first cow, American Grass Fed Beef was born as BJ (the former vegan) who may have had no knowledge of cows or farming was a computer whiz. At the time we did not have a local market for our beef and were forced to use traditional marketing channels. At that same time grass fed beef was difficult to locate. In a collaboration of our skills we launched the website www.americangrassfedbeef.com and began to ship our beef to customers all over the country. In the late 1990's our farm entered the computer age.
We practice a sustainable grassfed management protocol in producing our livestock. To us, it simply makes the best sense. We care about our animals and the land on which they graze is our home.
Having home schooled for 13 years we have always tried to teach our kids that life is a never ending learning process. Most important is the skill of how to learn rather than the mere facts of rote memory. Problem solving requires creative thinking while not losing sight of real parameters; that is farm life. New learning curves became dramatic as we stepped into the field of direct marketing and shipping our grassfed beef.
We faced many challenges in the beginning and still face a great many today as a small family farm we do not enjoy the economy of size offered factory farms. Insulated Box 101, The Science of Coolants (when you are 2 hours from the closest dry ice), Frozen Shipping (from our isolated farm to say New York City), Shopping Carts for Dummies, Customer Service, Meat Processing and Packaging to name a few of the courses at Grassfed U.
For years we shipped directly from the farm. In the summer of 2009 we moved shipping to the processing plant in order to have a greater shipping range. In 2013, we moved part of our shipping to a frozen shipent facility because our processing plant was at capacity and we could expedite delivery.
We enjoy our customers who come to us at the farm and pick up their beef. It is fun showing people the farm and the animals, from the 5 star chef who chooses to support local farmers to families on a country outing. I refer to what we do as relationship marketing. It involves building a long term relationship with our customers. Over the years, we have come to know many of our customers by first name as well as many of their stories and how they came to support the grass fed message.
Marketing directly to our customers with a niche product has breathed new life into our family farm and we have a passion about encouraging other family farms to do the same. It provides a way to survive in the world of integrated behemoth farming enterprises.
American Grass Fed Beef today raises and finishes our cattle plus we have been able to bring in neighboring family farms and to allow this dream to spread. At our farm, known as Rain Crow Ranch, we employ family and farming neighbors.
Our family has complete control over all our animals from birth to harvest and the table. We purchased, in 2005,
Fruitland American Meat
where we have harvested and processed our meat for years. This now gives us control of processing as well as production. Pete, our son, directly manages this plant which employs 50. Upon purchase of the plant we moved immediately to become
certified Animal Welfare Approved. This offers third party verification of our processing practices.
Mark Whisnant &
Dr. Patricia Whisnant
Grass Farmers & Veterinarian