Bryce Riemer always loved his family’s historic farmhouse in
Brodhead, Wis., but he didn’t see a future in farming. While he was
working as a guidance counselor and his wife, Jen, was working as a
track coach in Crystal Lake, Ill., they bought a quarter of beef
from his father that changed everything. Eight years ago, they moved
back to Wisconsin, and today they’re the third generation to run a
full-time, regenerative farm with their three daughters: Elli, 13,
Kalena, 11, and Caroline, 5. They also make monthly runs to two
neighborhood drop-offs to deliver their eggs, chicken, beef, pork
and lamb directly to customers in Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay. Bryce
and Jen took time off from delivering their meats to talk with MKE
Tell us how you
Jen: Bryce really had dreams of living in our house,
but he didn’t want to grow crops and sell cattle at a livestock
auction. But then we learned we could farm in a different way – that
we could take care of the land and we could direct market to
customers. We decided to move back and actually farm and make a go
How did that
Jen: We got a quarter of beef, and we split it with
some friends. They loved it, and a couple of other people loved it,
and we just started selling halves and quarters. Pretty soon, half
the school was buying, and we didn’t even live at the farm yet. We
realized we have the kind of personalities where we could sell
directly to people. Then, we read books and went to the MOSES
Organic (Farming) Conference, and there, we realized there were
actually people raising things in a sustainable way and direct
marketing to their customers.
What would you
like people to know about your farm?
Bryce: The most important thing is we want people to
know that our animals are treated humanely and with respect, and our
products are high quality. They taste good. Those are the two things
people are most concerned about. We also want people to know that we
are farming because we care about the land. We want to protect the
soil, and we want people to know that we strive every day to raise
our animals in a way that not only respects them, but that also
enhances the soil, the ecosystem our farm is a part of, and that we
want to provide healthy protein to people.
Jen: Our cattle are 100 percent grass-finished.
There’s a big difference between grass-fed and grass-finished. All
cattle are grass-fed at some point, but the vast majority is
finished on grains. What people need to look for is 100 percent
grass-fed or grass-finished because that means they’ve never had
grain in their lives.
What about winter?
Jen: In winter we do feed hay and store some forages,
but we have a hayfield now, and our future goal is to stockpile
grazing where you let some of your pasture grow, and you don’t let
your cattle graze it during the growing season. Then, it freezes,
and it’s basically hay standing in the ground, and they can still go
and eat that through December. After that, then you take hay bales
out. Cattle are really hardy. They have a shelter, but they choose
to be outside most of winter unless it’s really nasty.
Bryce: We are not certified organic, and we’ve gone
back and forth about getting certified, but that would add extra
costs that we’d have to pass on to our customers. We have an
open-door policy, and we feel that by selling directly to our
customers it’s less necessary. We aim to be regenerative, which is a
step beyond organic. Our goal is to regenerate the soil to have
healthier pastures and healthier animals. That way we are doing the
best thing for our land and for our customers.
Tell us about
your direct marketing.
Bryce: We want to partner directly with people so
they can have a relationship with the farmers who are producing
their food. They can ask questions, learn. We want to be able to get
to know our customers. We’re excited to be able to go directly to
our customers. We don’t have to depend on farmers markets or on the
You have two
sites in the Milwaukee area right now, but you’re looking for more
hosts. What does that entail?
Jen: Being a host site is super low commitment – it’s
basically just letting us show up once a month and use your driveway
for a half hour every six weeks. People preorder their meats and
eggs on our website, then come pick up at the site. Hosts get 10
percent off every order. People can sign up on our website,
We’d love to have more sites in Milwaukee and Waukesha. A Meat and
Greet is where we meet potential customers, and they get to try our
customers visit your farm?
Jen: We love
having visitors, and the Soil Sisters Weekend, (which is) the first
weekend in August, is a great time for people to come out and tour
the farm. There are a wide range of events, dinners and workshops.