Last weekend members of our Farm Beginnings® class toured three entrepreneurial farms in Johnson and Pawnee Counties. The first farm visited was TD Niche Pork near Elk Creek in Johnson County , NE in southeast Nebraska. TD Niche Pork is owned and operated by Travis Dunekacke. In 2009 he started selling his pork to a local restaurant in Omaha and the rest is history. Travis buys young heritage breeds of pigs that weigh 60 to 80 pounds off of farms in Kansas and Missouri. He feeds them to around 275 pounds and then sells the whole pigs to local restaurants in Omaha, Lincoln and to the Lied Lodge in Nebraska City. The primary breed he grows and feeds is Berkshire, although there are a number of chefs that only want the Red Waddle breed. He also has raised some other breeds such as: Tamworth, Mule Foot and Hereford, yes Hereford pigs. Travis raises his pigs in modest facilities on dirt lots. He rotates pens around his property and allows some pens to sit empty and be planted to sorghum sudan grass that is grazed by cattle during the summer months. Travis sells over 300 head of hogs each year. While most go to restaurants, some of the Berkshires are sold to Japan with a marketing group he works with in the area. You can also find Travis at T D Niche Pork on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/travis.dunekacke.
Our second stop on the tour was at Pawnee Pride Meats, which is owned and operated by Paul Rohrbaugh and his wife Cyndie, with help from their sons. The farm is located in the rolling hills in Pawnee County near Steinauer, NE. Paul and his family have been direct marketing meat for over 20 years. They focus on grass-fed beef and pastured poultry. Paul markets some of his meat through a meat CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where customers are committed to pay for 6 bundles of 20 pounds of meat over a period of a year. He has also sold meat on their website at: http://pawneepride.com/index.shtml , at farmers markets in Lincoln and Omaha and by word of mouth.
Paul has been utilizing rotational grazing for several years, more recently developing the mob grazing concept where he puts larger numbers of cattle on pasture for a short period of time and then moving them to different pastures. Now he moves his cattle every one or two days. When cattle are ready to butcher, he hauls them to a USDA inspected processing plant. Pastured poultry has also been a significant part of their operation for several years. Broilers are housed on pasture in the portable chicken tractors that are moved daily on the pastures that have previously been grazed by cattle. The broilers are fed a locally produced natural grain diet and provide all the fertilizer the grass needs from their manure. Paul has his own State inspected chicken processing facility on his farm. Many times he is able to purchase good used equipment in the area that has saved him thousands of dollars. He has a good pickup and trailer to move cattle and haul them to the processing plant market and a van to deliver meat to his customers. Paul’s willingness to share his experiences and successes with others has made Pawnee Pride Meats a favorite visit for a number of area tours.
The final stop of the day was at Stone Ridge Farm, south of Tecumseh 3 miles and just off of Highway 50. Stone Ridge Farm is owned and operated by Bruce and Christy Lade and their family. The Lades have been selling Christmas Trees at Stone Ridge Farm for a number of years, but just this year is expanding their operation to include a greenhouse and the building of a barn that will eventually be used as a place for people to sell their locally made or produced items or food. It will also be a location where families can rent the barn for parties or special events. There are a number of locally grown vegetables, flowers and plants that are being sold out of the greenhouse this year. The Lades are also selling a number of varieties of trees and garden seeds.
The drought was very hard on the Christmas trees last year. They continue to have faith and have planted a number of new trees again this spring. Stone Ridge Farm is a family operation, with family members helping out whenever they can. They have done most of the work on the barn and greenhouse, using only professionally licensed contractors when required. It was interesting to hear about all of the requirements that the Lades must complete as they move forward on this project. You can find out about Stone Ridge Farm at their website at: http://www.stoneridgefarmnebraska.com/.