In addition to fun, good food and the opportunity to see friends new and old alike, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) Young Farmer Conference can be the spark that launches a whole new business.
That was the case for Jordan and Brittney Groves of Adair County, who founded Groves Beef Company, selling beef direct to consumers, after attending a session at a previous conference.
“We sat in on the Skyview Farms presentation at the 2020 Young Farmer conference about direct meat sales,” Jordan Groves said. “That really kickstarted us to do it ourselves.”
It has created a valuable income stream and allowed the couple to diversify their operation.
“I think that event really did help us get going on our little business,” Jordan said. “We got some good out of the first conference we attended, and glad to be back this year.”
The Groves joined hundreds of their peers last week at the 2022 IFBF Young Farmer Conference at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. The Groves are the fifth generation in the family's row crop and cow-calf operation that they manage with Brittney’s father and brother.
Beef sales add diversity
Kyle and Abby Payne of Davis County have also found success selling processed beef direct to consumers.
The Paynes are part of a sixth-generation cow-calf, feeder cattle and row crop operation, working with Kyle’s parents and brother.
“Starting the direct sales business really helped us diversify, bring a little extra income to the farm,” Kyle said.
In addition to selling online and in person to customers in their community, the Paynes provide steaks and ground chuck to restaurants in their area.
Both Kyle and Abby are able to work full time on the farm now, which they love.
“I love his parents, his brother and obviously I love working with Kyle every day,” Abby said. “We tackle everything together, and it’s been great. It’s wonderful.”
Finding their own way
While the Groves and the Paynes joined existing operations, the road to the farm for Donnie and Emma Conway of Monroe County was a little less evident starting out.
They sell feeder cattle, provide custom feeding services and grow row crops.
“The idea when we started was I didn’t think you could borrow money for the cows and the ground both; it just doesn’t work,” Donnie said.
With that in mind, they rented about 500 acres of pasture from a local family who was transiting out of cattle and started buying open heifers each spring, selling enough bred cattle to cover the operating note and building their herd debt free.
“It’s really, really working out well for us,” Donnie said.
Neither Emma nor Donnie grew up on a farm. Both came into the business after college. Emma is an animal nutritionist with Great Plains Livestock Consulting, while Donnie works full time on the farm and hauls propane 20 to 25 hours a week during the winter.
“I feel so driven to do something on my own and try to do things a little bit different,” Donnie said. “I didn’t do well in a factory. I tried that and it wasn’t for me.”
“He really likes to experiment,” Emma said. “Explore different ways to make money, different ways to do the farm work.”
The Conways credit their experiences with Farm Bureau and the Young Farmer Conference for a lot of the inspiration to keep going.
“This is our big networking opportunity for the year,” Emma said. “You get to see people you met three or four years ago, brainstorm new ideas and share what’s working on their farms.”