Wyoming Family Realizes Dream in Profitable Organic Grass Fed Beef Ranch
April 8, 2013 | Trish Popovitch
“Our idea is that sustainable is renewable and so we’re in the solar business because basically the ranch is a big solar panel that we use to harvest sunshine and turn into grass that we turn into beef. We also want to make farming attractive to the next generation because if the next generation isn’t attracted to it then it isn’t sustainable.”-Keith Lankister, Bar Double L Beef
Wendi Lankister met her husband Keith while studying ranch management in college. Keith Lankister was studying to be a farrier. The couple found they shared a desire to start their own sustainable cattle ranch. After twelve years of working on ranches around the west gaining valuable insight into the processes of raising livestock, the Lankisters settled just outside Glenrock, Wyoming with their three daughters. Today, the Bar Double L Beef ranch is a profitable adventure in homeschooling, healthy living and grass fed certified organic cattle.
As is the case of many state or municipality owned ranches and range land, the 7,800-acre former Duncan Ranch was leased using a request for proposals system. Interested parties had to submit a business model that showed how they would utilize the land year round. Keith and Wendi came out on top, wining the bid. They began the Bar Double L Beef cattle company on the Duncan Ranch five years ago.
The farm’s grass fed certified organic beef is sold locally using a modified CSA model and at the local farmer’s market. Unlike many small producers, the Lankisters were certified organic with ease. Location was vital. “Generally, range lands are not treated with anything so we didn’t have to build a 25 foot buffer all around the edge of the perimeter,” explains Wendi. “We have adjoining land owner use agreements with all our of neighbors. If they had to do some kind of a treatment that was not permissible under organic standards all the way up to the fence, they need to let us know. We can help them be organic or we can block the section that comes into contact with the non organic treatment.”
A good relationship with the local weed and pest folks ensures that the Bar Double L Beef herd remain on non contaminated land at all times. “It’s our responsibility to keep an open line of communication with them,” shares Keith. “We have a document signed with weed and pest and they know what we’re trying to do.” The Lankisters use a system of grazing rotation to ensure that the animals are constantly feeding on fresh non treated grass. Working in tandem with the local ecosystem, the Lankisters manage to maintain a healthy herd.
“We work really hard not to fight against the natural processes or mother nature, if you will,” shares Wendi. “We calve in June instead of March because that’s when the deer and elk have their young in this area. That in itself helps to decrease the amount of sickness that we have.”
“We let the cows do the work for us,” continues Keith. “It really comes down to range management. We try to manage it so that the cows are doing the fertilizing for us. We are able to build organic matter which helps the soil fertility. Its all part of a management scheme that really involves working with nature.”
In the vein of many sustainable farming operations, the Lankisters operate side businesses to boost their coffers and teach their children how to be successful farmers. Members of the local 4H society, the Lankister girls run their own chicken business selling eggs to neighbors and friends. They are completely in charge of the business, keep the accounts, connect with customers and care for the birds without assistance from their parents. Including their children in the sustainable agriculture business is integral to the Lankisters’ way of life.
“We always say we do this because its a great place to raise kids,” shares Keith. “The kids have a lot of liberty but they also have a lot of responsibility. They help out on the ranch and we want to foster a love of the land and livestock. They each get a heifer when they turn seven and they each get their own horse when they turn ten so that they can take an active role in what we’re doing.”
“They feel ownership in what’s going on,” continues Wendi. “Because we also home-school they are around all the time. They hear all of the business conversations so they are going to grow up knowing the challenges of the business. They are constantly being exposed to non-conventional thinking as far as what a traditional ranching operation would do compared to what we’re trying to do. Whether they go on to ranch or whether they go into any other business, they ought to come out of this with the ability to think outside the box.”
Wendi Lankister manages a side business, “Mary Ann’s Beans.” Using locally sourced beans and non GMO spices, they create a range of dips and soups for local resale. For those who may not eat a lot of beef, Mary Ann’s Beans offers a natural alternative that’s always a hit at the local farmer’s market. Good relationships with other vendors means that Mary Ann’s Beans appear in stores in Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma.
Maintaining an organic operation on Wyoming ranch land is a dream come true for Keith and Wendi Lankister. In an area where conventional range management abounds, the business model of Bar Double L Beef offers a viable alternative, bringing organic produce to rural families and showing how a sustainable lifestyle benefits present and future generations.
Bar Double L Beef
Mary Ann’s Beans
Reminiscences of a Ranch Wife
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