A few years ago, Ashley Recknor started noticing an uptick in peoples’ interest in locally grown food and was inspired to contribute to the scene with her family’s premium-quality beef.
Along with her husband, sister and parents, Recknor launched Purple Ribbon Beef in 2016. They started small by selling beef sticks at the Ames Farmer’s Market.
“Then it’s just grown and evolved over time from there,” Recknor says.
Purple Ribbon Beef runs 140 cows on the family farm and sells beef direct to consumers at local farmers markets, on its website and even in some restaurants across Iowa.
One thing that helps her family set the business apart, according to Recknor, is that it’s 100% family-owned and operated.
“We can tell you everything about the beef, from the day it was born until it hits your plate,” she says.
Over the years, Purple Ribbon Beef has gained a following. So, when customers in the Clarion area expressed interest in having easier access to the beef, the business responded. The business was growing, and keeping the meat in freezers at the farm wasn’t ideal anymore, anyway.
Recknor and her family found a solution to these needs by opening a storefront for Purple Ribbon Beef right in Clarion. Today, Purple Ribbon General Store not only offers its own beef, but products from other Iowa businesses as well, including cheese from WW Homestead Dairy, salsas from DeMoss Pumpkin Farm and seasonings from Saltlickers. The general store also sells one-of-a-kind vintage home décor items.
Recknor says the Purple Ribbon General Store only provides products that she or someone else in the family loves.
“We really don’t carry anything unless we’ve tried it,” she explains, adding that she sources products mostly by networking.
“A lot of the partnerships have come from the different farmers markets we’re in or just knowing who has something and really liking it and wanting to support them as well,” Recknor says. “I feel there’s a huge benefit anytime you’re supporting small businesses, and we as a small business support other small businesses.”
She points out that doing so helps the local economy. For example, her family doesn’t grow corn feed for their cattle, so they work with the local co-op, which in turn helps that industry.
“I think one of the things that’s great about it is that it’s Iowa helping Iowa, but it also helps us grow and be sustainable as a smaller ag community,” Recknor says.
For Recknor, there are two things she especially loves about running Purple Ribbon Beef. The first is the opportunity to talk to customers at farmers markets or in the general store. Secondly, she enjoys educating customers on products and how to best cook beef.
This holiday season, Purple Ribbon General Store also launched custom and pre-made gift boxes, filled with goodies like meats, cheeses and honey.
“One of my love languages is gift giving,” Recknor says, so creating the boxes was extra special for her.
In the future, Recknor and her family have big plans for the business.
One immediate goal is to open a meat vending machine outside of the general store, so even if they’re not open, people can get their frozen meat.
One of their long-term goals is to expand more into agritourism by doing things like hosting dinners on the family farm.
No matter how Purple Ribbon Beef and Purple Ribbon General Store expand, though, the focus will always be on providing high-quality beef to Iowa and supporting other small businesses.”