After building their business selling naturally grown certified, animal welfare approved beef, pork and lamb to online consumers, corporate clients and the nation’s servicemen and women, fifth generation farmers Kevin and Cherie Schenker are re-focusing on their hometown.
Slated to open around May 15, Schenker Family Farms’ newly built store is hard to miss in McCune, Kansas, a town that hasn’t had an outlet for fresh meat and produce in many years.
“This area of Kansas is typically classified as a food desert,” Cherie said. “People in our area need a place to access fresh meats and produce, and we hope to provide that for them.”
For Cherie, the role of town grocer runs in the family, as her great-grandfather was one of the town’s original mercantile owners in the early 1900s. Made possible in part by a USDA grant, the Schenker’s new red building will serve as both a local food outlet and a headquarters for their already thriving online business.
“We have been loading and unloading 18 wheelers by hand at our house,” Cherie said. “The store will provide us a better shipping facility, along with a professional production kitchen and a way to separate work from our home.”
Collaborations with Door to Door Organics, a home-delivered meal company and corporate connections through Community Supported Agriculture boxes offered by companies like Hallmark and Garmin, have allowed Schenker Family Farms to have a profound impact on families traditionally unconnected with agriculture.
“We don’t raise anything we wouldn’t be willing to eat ourselves and our customers can rest assured knowing that,” Cherie said. “We are willing to work on anything our customers are asking for, which has led us to figuring out challenging products like bacon preserved without added nitrates and raw lard without preservatives.”
Producing efficient meat products that taste great without conventional methods can be challenging, but the Schenker family achieves their customer’s demands with careful management and an emphasis on genetics.
“We typically cut our own hay and mob graze the cattle on stockpiled forage through the winter,” Kevin said. “When we purchased our 300-plus acre property the pastures needed a lot of renovating, and we have selected our legumes and grasses to make the most of the land without using herbicides or fertilizer.”
While the Schenker family doesn’t discriminate based on cow color, they do cull their 100-cow herd heavily based on disposition, grazing ability and ribeye area.
“We use genomic EPDs to select for maternal and carcass traits in our bulls and cull our cow herd heavily to keep our genetics strong,” Kevin said. “When we do choose to retire or cull cows they are made into our value-added meats rather than sold at market.”
Bull calves from Schenker family farms are normally processed between 800 and 900 pounds and later dry-aged. Beef retail cuts are the largest portion of the Schenker Family Farms brand, with pork and lamb retail cuts, value-added products and other specialty items also available. While the Schenkers set out to raise quality animals when they purchased their farm in 2008, their unique marketing opportunity didn’t arise until a few months later.
“After we first purchased the place we were attempting to sell a quarter of beef from one of our animals on Craigslist,” Cherie said. “I wasn’t as tech savvy at the time and accidently listed it in California rather than Kansas.
“When the calls came in and we had willing buyers, we looked into shipping the beef to California and we still have customers there to this day.”
From renovating pastures to contracting with other local farmers and ranchers to fill excess orders, every aspect of Schenker Family farms revolves around love for southeast Kansas. The opportunity to give back to the area, as well as create jobs and remain true to their business’ humble beginnings is a Schenker family priority. £