Direct Marketing

I’m tired of being the sacrificial lamb for billionaires in New York and Washington, D.C.

Thirty cents of every dollar paid for beef cattle depends on exports. We effectively shut down our largest export market.

More farmers and ranchers are going bankrupt this year than have thrown in the towel since the 1980’s when interest rates hovered around 25 percent.

Our politicians worry about national security. The most important aspect of national security is feeding our citizens. That’s hard when we don’t raise our own food anymore. Just ask Greece.

I’ve been tired of being the sacrificial lamb for a long time, though, more than 20 years.

So I started direct marketing beef and lamb. The other day, the Marias River Livestock Association asked me to share what I do and how I do it.

I started with a crop failure.

I had a heifer who was not pregnant. If I hauled her to the auction alone, I knew I would get far less than market price. Buyers just naturally think something must be wrong with a bovine that was sent to market alone.

I looked at that heifer. I had not given her any hormones or fed any grain, just grass and hay.

So I asked the meat manager at a natural food store if he needed any natural, grass-fed beef. Turns out, he did. Suddenly, I was in the grass-fed beef business.

That began a steep learning curve of finding a processor who actually does what I need, following laws to keep customers safe and finding customers.

Mostly, I learned to change my mindset.

Instead of looking around to see what I had, I learned to look around to see what people needed.

They didn’t need four fat hooves on the ground. They needed steaks in airtight frozen packages.

All I had to do was get those hooves killed, cut and wrapped, then get them to the customer.

And I found out that people want to hear about how I did that. I spend a lot of time educating customers about how I run the ranch. I’m glad to because more people need to know.

I spend a lot of time visiting with processors, too. Finding a good processor is like finding a good lawyer or doctor. It’s a word-of-mouth crapshoot. I use two processors, both for about eight years now. We depend on one another.

I know I shouldn’t take beef to them during July, August or September when county and state fairs are in full swing. They are busy and, just like me when I’m busy, they might make a mistake. We avoid mistakes if we can.

I finally figured out that the inspectors from the department of livestock and health department are on my team, too. I quit resenting their rules because I don’t want to inadvertently make someone sick and lose the whole ranch. I know my meat depot inspector will find something wrong every time – that’s his job after all – so I am sure to leave the floor dirty. My meat isn’t going to hit the floor anyway and that way, we’re both happy.

For a long time, I resisted taking credit cards and having a web site. Sales doubled when I kicked and screamed all the way into the 21st century.

Mostly, I learned to listen to the people who want good meat. I learn from their various perspectives about everything from allergies to nutrition to recipes. When they ask me how to cook a roast, I give them the single no-fail method that keeps my kids alive.

After all, we’re all in this together.

Lisa Schmidt