From farm to burger shack

This year, the winner of Iowa’s Best Burger Contest has cooked up a special partnership with a local farm family.

Jefferson County Farm Bureau President Sara Adrian and her husband, Tony, raise all the beef that’s served in Fairfield’s new Cider House restaurant, which opened in December 2014.

It’s the first time that the Adrians have direct-marketed their beef to a restaurant. Tony says his family has enjoyed getting to know their customers better and supporting a locally owned restaurant.

“There is a big learning curve,” Tony said. “I know how to raise a cow. I know how to take care of it. But I didn’t know how many loads and how many hamburgers they were going to need in a day. Hopefully through this, it will be a good experience to learn the diversification on different levels.”

Both Tony and Sara grew up in the Fairfield area. Tony started raising cattle in high school for 4-H and FFA. Over the years, he grew his herd to about 50 cows today, mostly black Angus and a few crossbreeds. The family also raises hogs and grows corn and soybeans.

The Adrians have always sold some of their beef to family and friends, including to Clint Stephenson, one of Tony’s grade-school classmates.

Stephenson moved back to Iowa after working as a tennis instructor in California. He bought an orchard near Fairfield and often hosts outdoor barbecues for friends, serving hard cider made from his own apples and the Adrians’ beef burgers.

The grill-outs were such a hit that Stephenson and three of his friends — Hopi James, Annalisa Thompson and Cole Fishback — decided to open their own “burger shack” in downtown Fairfield. Stephenson asked the Adrians if they could supply the beef for the new restaurant.

The Adrians send their cattle to Bud’s Custom Meats in Riverside for processing. The burgers are an 85 percent lean mix. All the beef — including the prime steak and roast cuts — are ground up into the burger patties, which boosts the flavor and quality.

The Cider House is located just a couple miles from Maharishi University, a college where most students are practicing vegetarians. Yet that hasn’t stopped guests from lining up outside the tiny restaurant for the all-beef burgers.

“We had a comment on Facebook from one of our customers. He said this beef is good enough for even a vegan to love,” says Hopi James, one of the four friends who co-own the Cider House. “We have some customers who have been long-time vegetarians and didn’t eat meat for years, but now they come in a couple times a week to get the burger.

“So that speaks a lot, I think. People know it’s local and know that it’s good quality. And a lot of people know the Adrians, and they are a wonderful family. We are so excited to get to serve their meat. We really get to tell people where it comes from, and I think it shines through in the flavor and the quality of it,” she adds.

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