Have you ever started out on a trip but ended up somewhere completely unexpected? I can honestly say that we just did! If you’d asked me 7 years ago what I would be doing today never would you have heard me say “Well, my long-term vision for my life is to run a meat business.” And yet, here we are!
Seven years ago I set aside a 15 year teaching career to stay home with our children. The master plan for me was nothing more than homeschooling our son, who was going to start kindergarten, and to be available for our special needs daughter and her appointments until she was able to start school. We had our original pigs from which all of our current herd came, a few steers we were feeding and our 30 head sheep flock that raised 4H lambs, along with our chickens. We had always had livestock, but our vision of what we wanted to be “when we grow up” was continually in flux.
Fast forward a couple of years and we started selling our eggs through a local market in Gardner. The owner talked with us about raising meat chickens for him to retail and we gave it a go. Soon afterwards, the market went out of business. The closing led us to ask a question that would redirect our farm: What if we sold our meat? Thus the beginning of Prairie Center Meats in 2015.
The Gardner Farmers Market opened up, allowing us the perfect opportunity to get our great meat products into the hands of the public. Facebook pages and websites were developed. Research on retail meat sales and specific breeds and their traits continued as we worked to develop our business. Then it seemed like it was time for a huge step - opening an on-farm store. More research was done to find the perfect building. It was delivered and we started to work finishing the interior. Insulation was in and we started on wall boards - and then life took us in a different direction yet again and the store was on pause.
And there it sat. We continued to sell meat at markets and through our website but we couldn’t seem to get any shop traction. And then, in the midst of this year’s crazy COVID-19 quarantine, the timing worked out and all the pieces fell into place. As we worked through this project, we grew increasingly thankful for the delays. We realized the beauty of those of have specialized skills and know that not only did our shop benefit from their efforts, but that the years of waiting had better defined our business and our goals, leading to a shop that is exactly what we wanted.
And while it’s not finished completely, we have a vision of what we want to offer to our customers as we continue to work. We have a dream of a working farm and a “general store” environment where our customers can come see all aspects of the farm - livestock, gardens, orchard - and how each part works together, then pick up not only meat but also produce, herbs and spices then return home to make a farm-fresh meal. We want to share the very best of our farm life with you. Because despite all of the twists and turns our journey may have, we really are living our dream - a dream we never knew we had.