The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Beef Cattle Farmer

Beef Cattle Farmer

From the Farmer's Tractor

June 29, 2008

Glenn Brunkow, 37, runs the Brush Creek Cattle Company in Northeast Kansas. The fifth generation family farm runs about 150 cows. Brunkow has been farming and ranching all his life.
 
How did you get into beef cattle farming?
 
Some kids grow up wanting to be a fireman or a baseball player. I have always wanted to be a cattleman. I bought my first cow when I was 14 and my wife Jennifer and I moved back 12 years ago to farm and ranch with my parents.
 
How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years?
 
We have put a lot more emphasis on genetic traits that translate into a better eating experience for consumers. We are also much more aware of the prairie ecosystem and work to preserve our tallgrass prairie while maximizing our ranch's production.
 
How will beef cattle farming evolve in the next five years?
 
We will move to an identity preserved product. Each animal will be identified at the ranch of origin and will maintain that identity through the production chain. I think we will continue to develop cattle that will produce a leaner, even healthier product and maintain the flavor and juiciness consumers demand.
 
What is your greatest challenge as a beef cattle farmer?
 
Ranching is such a capital-intensive business and the cost of fuel and other inputs are adding to that. As a new rancher, it is hard to maintain the capital reserve needed to get through a production year. We are also receiving pressure from development and that makes acquiring more land nearly impossible.
 
How does a farmer know what a retailer will want a year from now?
 
We need to keep the lines of communication open and find out what the customer wants. We also need to be able to respond to that demand.
 
What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm?
 
We have learned so much about maintaining the prairie ecosystem we utilize on our ranch. I think we are much more aware of the environment around us. We try to maintain the native grasses in a healthy state; we also try to control the weeds and brush that invade our pastures.
 
Do you sell any of your products locally, and if so, what is the process?
 
We have not but I truly think that is the wave of the future. I think consumers want to have a relationship with the farmers and ranchers that produce their food. I also think it would help us to sell our beef locally and have that close relationship with our customers. I think this will happen more and more as the price of transportation skyrockets and locally grown food becomes a more attractive option.
 
What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person?
 
They find out we are businessmen and women. Since agriculture has grown to the point that it is much more than production, you need to be in tune with the latest technology, and this surprises them. They are also surprised to find out we are just like they are, chasing our kids around to ballgames and activities.