Cowboy Hats and City Streets: building a grass-fed business.
Let me start by sharing a little about us, Desert Mountain Grass-fed Beef. There are about twenty ranch families that are producing a superior quality Akaushi (if you don’t know what this is, go back and read last week’s post) grass-fed beef. We grow cows, we tend the land, water, and our animals with the utmost care, and then develop and sustain meaningful relationships with our retail partners and our customers. Oh, and one more thing, we really care. I mean, truly, deeply, meaningfully about what we do and how we do it as ranchers.
Here’s the thing, we typically make a scene when we travel. We don’t mean to, but it happens. We, (as in the Desert Mountain Grass-fed family of ranchers) gather several times a year to build this beautiful thing called a cooperative. Picture approximately four dozen folks, adorning their town clothes. Think clean wranglers, boots, and cowboy hats (e.g. no grease stains, rips, inches of mud or other unmentionables on boots) making their way into the grand Marquee Hotel in downtown Seattle, Washington. Literally a herd of ranchers.
Why Seattle? Well, let me tell you. Seattle is home to Metropolitan Markets [Metropolitan Market] if you haven’t been yet, go! They are amazing. The company, founded on a culture of curiosity and respect for quality, is one of our retail partners. We believe in good partnerships and since we are a rancher owned cooperative, we don’t have deep pockets for advertising. Instead of big marketing campaigns, we cook meat in the stores. Mmmm.
“How about a bite of delicious grass-fed akaushi Ribeye, from the guy who grew it, ma’am?” That’s the typical one liner used to reach out to customers as they walk through the stores and try to figure out who that tall, dark, handsome man in the cowboy hat is. That’s all it takes. The conversation begins and soon we are all giggling like old friends and they know where our ranch is, and are usually asking a lot of questions. We love this. Questions are the best!
This face to face conversation between consumers and producers is exceptional. We have the opportunity to ask consumers what matters to them, and work on developing strategies to meet those needs. The customers get to learn more about our lives, the way the cattle are raised, our families, and the regenerative practices that we utilize to be mindful caretakers of our precious resources. The real gift is in meeting new friends, helping bridge a gap in understanding and share our stories respectively.
Desert Mountain Grass-fed beef is already available in stores, has a website, and heck, we’ve even got a blog! Just because we have those things in place, don’t think for one minute that we have it all together. We are building something special here, and that takes time and something I like to refer to as the collective brain. Desert Mountain Grass-fed Beef is a consensus driven group. That means if someone isn’t comfortable with an idea, we don’t move forward.
Every. Voice. Counts. I am new at this consensus thing and while my type A, get things done in the right order mind has been challenged, I love the process. My new favorite quote, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” – African Proverb (according to Google). I am learning this quote sure is true.
The store demos are just one facet of this big city meeting. For roughly two days, we hunkered down in a hip little Irish Pub, gathered in a circle of chairs and discuss opportunities, challenges, and even talk about our feelings. Sounds kind of wishy washy, right? Actually, these types of conversations actually force you to use a different part of your brain. Interesting stuff, a bunch of rough and tumble, cowboys and ranchers talking about feelings. The end result? More ideas, more communication, renewed sense of purpose and excitement. Our collective vision becomes something that changes us profoundly.
Don’t think that all we do is hold hands and sing Kumbaya. We are developing the most ethical, economical, and regenerative models for producing our grass-fed beef. We strive to break the mold when it comes to partnerships with farmers, retailers, customers, and each other. In a nutshell, if you have a room full of people who are able to fix a 1972 tractor with nothing but a leatherman, some baling wire, and a little ingenuity (full on MacGyver style), you have a room full of problem solvers, fixers. While kinks arise, we take them on, in our own way, and find solutions. We are all excited to be moving forward in stores and sharing our unique model of serving up the finest grass-fed Akaushi to the masses.