Family Farm in MN with a Dilemma

This blog post has been sitting in drafts for days. I am not sure how I want to say it or what I really want to say. All I keep repeating for the past few weeks is the same phrase over and over, “I don’t know.”

When will you have steaks in stock? “I don’t know”

When will we be able to get a half a pig? “I don’t know”

When will you have more eggs? “I don’t know”

How many pigs will you be butchering in 2021? “I don’t know”

That last question was posed to us by our butcher late last week. He had been getting calls to reserve pork butcher slots in early 2021 and wanted to make sure his regular customers (like us) were on the calendar first.

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How do we plan for 2021?

These past two months have been CRAZY, INSANE, BUSY, and EXHAUSTING. We have had nonstop phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE that people are looking to our farm to provide them food during this pandemic, but this pace is not normal for us. We have steadily grown our business for the past 20 years and then all of a sudden we had a 300% increase in sales. A beef steer takes two years from birth to butcher size. A pig takes about seven or eight months. A chicken takes eight weeks, but we only raise them in the warmer months.

We have strict standards on how we raise our animals.

Our beef are raised along side our organic milk cows. They get pasture in the summer and hay in the winter. No hormones ever. Our pigs are raised in a large hoop barn bedded with straw where they get to run and play. The are fed local NonGMO grains. Our chickens are raised out on pasture, pecking at worms and scratching the dirt. They are also fed local NonGMO feed too.

Our beef is what it is, but we are doing more pork and chicken.

Even if we bred every one of our milk cows to beef bulls this spring, their offspring wouldn’t be ready for another two and three quarters years. We did buy extra baby pigs this spring and are raising them under our standards. They will be ready in the fall and winter. As for chickens we ordered our first batch of meat birds a WHOLE month earlier than normal. Luckily, we have had a mild spring and we were able to get them out on pasture the last week of April.

Organic, Grass fed cows on pasture. Zweber Farms, Elko, MN

Who will butcher these animals?

Another thing we need to consider is who will butcher these animals? We work with small, local butchers. These places aren’t slaughtering thousands of animals a day. Our pork butcher, Odenthal Meats, only does 30 pigs a day. Luckily, we have a great relationship with our butchers. Lorenz Meats in Cannon Falls, who butcher our beef, has been able to get more of our animals in and done quicker. Odenthals has given us more pork dates. Our two chicken butcher places have slots for us through late fall.

But what about next year?

That is the question that Randy at Odenthal Meats posed to us. What about it? We have no idea! Will all these new customers stick with us? Will they realize how delicious our meat is? Will they want to make sure to keep their freezers stocked? Will they continue to support small, local farmers once Walmart has fully stocked shelves?

I don’t know.

This has always been the dilemma for small, direct to customer farms like ours. We don’t have contracts to raise a couple of thousand animals, ship them to a large packing plant and let someone else deal with the marketing and customers. And of course, we don’t want that lifestyle. That doesn’t work for our family or farm.

So here I sit in front of the computer, asking you to hang in there with us as we navigate this new reality. We are trying our hardest to make sure our loyal customers are still served and at the same time having enough product to serve new customers. I have been trying to keep our product list up to date: http://zweberfarms.com/current-prices/

free ranging hens via zweberfarms.com

Thank you!

We are so thankful for customers like you that support our family farm. Hopefully, more people will join with us now that they have discovered the difference in farm direct meats.

As always, if you have any questions about our products, please call us at 952-461-3428 or email us at info@zweberfarms.com

Cheers!

~Emily

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