Real People. Stihl People.

Rural Missouri Magazine
Thinking
outside the farm

Kent Deimeke delivers farm products
direct to customers

by Jeff Joiner

Kent Deimeke mans several barbeque grills to cook bratwurst for meals he caters to for a large Fulton company. Nearly everything that Family Farm Foods sells is produced on the Deimeke farm.

Unlike most backyard chefs who grill on weekends, Kent Deimeke cooks on Mondays — and not just a few bratwurst for friends and family. Surrounded by several gas barbeque grills setup on his driveway, Kent grills dozens of brats to feed employees of a company in nearby Fulton. So begins another work week for Kent, a modern breed of Missouri farmer and entrepreneur who, along with his wife, Lori, is redefining how people in central Missouri buy food.

A traditional livestock producer and grain farmer who grew up on a family farm near Martinsburg in Audrain County, Kent realized he was working too hard for too little return.
“I just wasn’t making ends meet selling calves in town,” Kent says. “I’ve been farming and in the cattle business all my life but I just wasn’t happy with the farm’s cash flow.”

Callaway County farmer Kent Deimeke, not satisfied with traditional ways to market his cattle, began having his beef processed locally and sells it directly to customers. He also caters meals and sells a line of packaged meals, spices and even baked goods. His goal is to sell only products made on his farm.

Kent began to think of ways to make more income from his sweat and toil. That was five years ago and today his company, Family Farm Foods, sells meat, vegetables, eggs and chickens, caters meals for companies and community events, offers tours of the Deimeke farm for groups and even features a bed and breakfast inn for guests.

And it all began with looking for a way to sell things produced on the farm directly to people.

“Some people we know had asked about buying meat directly from us so we started trying to sell sides of beef,” says Kent, who now lives and farms near Shamrock in Callaway County. “We quickly realized that most people couldn’t afford $700 for a side of beef but maybe they could afford a hundred dollars worth.”

Kent and his wife bought a trailer, installed a freezer in it and began selling cuts of meat at farmers’ markets in Jefferson City and Columbia. At first they were met with skepticism.

“I remember when we would pull up with a trailer full of frozen meat and other farmers selling fruit and vegetables would look at us like, ‘Who are the new guys in town?’ At first we didn’t sell a lot, but we handed out a lot of brochures and samples of our beef sticks and jerky and slowly people started buying and coming back to buy more. They would tell us ours was the best bratwurst they’d ever had or our T-bone steaks were so good. We soon had a regular clientele.”

Kent and his daughter Gabriel visit with customers in Mexico while taking their orders. He says his personal approach to selling his products, as well as the quality of his food, has made his Family Farms Food a success.

Three years ago Kent starting doing something unheard of for a small farmer. He began delivering meat to his customers’ doorsteps. At first it was just in the winter months when the farmers’ markets were closed, but soon Kent was making deliveries all over central Missouri year around. He became so busy that last year he stopped visiting the farmers’ market circuit and now delivers most of his meat, traveling three days a week to Mexico, Columbia, Jefferson City and as far away as St. Charles. While on his travels he also keeps more than 40 convenient stores stocked with his own beef sticks and jerky, all made from cattle raised on his farm.

Kent sells summer sausage, ground beef, stew meat, ribs and just about every cut of steak imaginable as well as his own line of meat seasonings and spices. He also sells frozen ready-made meals like spaghetti and chili. This year he added frozen pizzas to his menu. “We’re selling the fire out of our pizzas,” says Kent.

And when Kent’s not delivering meat he’s likely catering a local event. On a recent weekend he served several hundred people at a nearby rodeo. “I can feed 600, 700 people at one time,” the Callaway Electric Cooperative member says.

Kent and his daughter Gabriel deliver meat and eggs to a business in Mexico. A few of Kent’s regular business customers have even bought freezers for employees to keep their meat in.

Farmily Farm Foods’ best selling catered meal is roast beef and gravy, salad, green beans, homemade bread and pecan pie, all grown, produced or baked on the Deimeke farm. He’s catered weddings, family reunions, motorcycle rallies and other events.

When the Deimekes built a new 7,000-square-foot house on the farm last year they included space for a small store as well as a commercial kitchen. The home also houses offices for Lori’s crop insurance business as well as their bed and breakfast inn.

Not satisfied with having just meat and pork processed and packaged, Kent continues to look for ways to wring a profit out of the farm. He raises chickens and sells fresh eggs and fryers. He sells fresh tomatoes, already packaged, to area grocery stores and grows several acres of sweet corn.

Kent says his family’s success has come from hard work, a willingness to take risks and offering the best products he can produce.

“In the meat business you have to gain people’s trust. I want people to come out to farm and see our operation, see how I raise my cattle.”

Deimeke spends several days a week delivering his products to customers from Columbia to St. Charles. The family’s farm house is also a bed and breakfast inn and they offer hay rides and tours of their operation.

Kent says consumers today are more concerned than ever with where and how their food is produced. Along with two full-time farm hands, he raises cattle without using any medicines, growth hormones or other chemicals and he also produces all his own corn, hay and silage. Nearly every input that goes into his cattle he produces himself and the results are high quality meat.

The results have been a steady increase in loyal customers and a growing reputation, says Kent. He does not advertise, but instead relies on the word of mouth to spread the news.

“If you’ve got something that tastes good and people know what they’re eating and where it’s coming from, they’ll pay a premium,” Kent says.

Family Farm Foods is located between Auxvasse and Montgomery City in Callaway County. For more information call the Deimekes at (573) 386-5368 or visit their Web site at www.familyfarmfoods.com.

Rural Missouri magazine - November 2014
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