Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Shivers.
Hi Sara, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
When we went on our honeymoon, we dreamed up this idea of selling my family’s beef directly to consumers, but we knew it would be a ways down the road since we were both working in the Dallas area at the time. Three years later, right after our first daughter was born, we had the opportunity to move back to Kansas and for Sara to work with her father on the family farm. In 2018, we launched our business, selling beef directly to consumers through our website. The first year we struggled to find customers and questioned whether this business would work.
During that same time, Sara’s cousin had decided to open a brewery in Kansas City. We started selling our beef to City Barrel Brewing and learned the ropes on selling wholesale to restaurants. Over the next year, we grew our wholesale business, working with over two dozen restaurants in Kansas City, Lawrence, and Wichita. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, all of our restaurants closed (some temporarily, some permanently). Luckily we were able to pivot our business to individual consumers who were having a hard time finding meat in the grocery store that spring. Through the rest of 2020, we were able to grow our retail sales to individual clients, including a subscription box. As restaurants started to open up in the summer, we slowly filled their needs they adjusted to new consumer demands.
This year we have been able to add lamb, chicken, eggs, and honey for our customers. With new products and a growing demand for local products, we are growing as fast as we can to keep up with demand.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Getting started When we started the retail side of our farm, Salt Creek Farm, we focused on selling bundles and individual cuts directly to the consumer. It was challenging and business was slow. There’s a lot of logistics in the meat business, from ensuring animals are ready for processing to booking those processing dates months in advance to storage and shipping and delivery. After six or so months, we slowly pivoted to focusing on wholesale restaurant customers that would be regular, steady buyers that we could plan for. In contrast, consumer purchasing can go up and down and it can be very hard to predict. Once we had a few restaurants, we were able to butcher more regularly and have more cuts on hand to also promote our retail business. Doing retail only, everyone wants to buy steak and steak is only around 12% of each animal.
In early 2020, our wholesale restaurant business was going well and growing. In March, covid restrictions closed many of our restaurants and the vast majority of our business dropped off. It was a stressful time. We decided to pivot back to focusing on retail and started selling out as quickly as we could list out available products on our website. However, pre-pandemic, we would book a butchering date with our local meat processor around three months out. The food shortages led more people to book dates and it became very difficult to get our animals in to be processed, with us eventually booking our dates over a year out, leaving little to no flexibility in our ability to grow.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
We’re known for, and most proud of, our high-quality Black Angus, dry-aged pastured beef products. All of our animals are born and raised right here on our farm in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Our goal is to raise happy and healthy cattle. All of our beef is dry-aged for two weeks to amplify the flavor – something you won’t find in grocery store beef.
Seeing the demand for local products, we added pastured lamb, chicken, eggs, and raw honey. Keeping with the high-quality nature of our original beef. Our focus on animal welfare and commitment to keeping the land as healthy as possible sets us apart the majority of products on the market.
Any big plans?
We plan to continue growing our wholesale business in the Kansas City area and expand into surrounding metropolitan areas, as well as grow our subscription and retail sales. Today, we have beef available year-round. We’re working to make our seasonal products, like lamb and chicken, available year-round to our customers and continue to grow our egg and honey production to meet demand.
- Email: info@TheSaltCreekFarm.com
- Website: www.TheSaltCreekFarm.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/thesaltcreekfarm
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheSaltCreekFarm
Only photo of me in pasture with cows: Grace Knepp, GMK Photography