Grass-fed cattle, pasture-raised chicken and hogs are a hit with urban consumers

Farm life in his blood: Brian Findeisen pauses his daily farm duties to travel to Houston to sell his products at the Westchase District Farmers Market. His family has been farming in Texas since 1881.

Farmer Brian Findeisen is sick of the rain. If the heavy spring rains have left your back yard overly wet and your SUV dirty inside and out, consider this: Findeisen got his 4-wheel drive truck stuck in the mud at his Austin County ranch and had to take extra special care of his week-old chicks so they don’t drown. His ranch has received about an inch of rain every day for weeks. Every rancher needs rain, but for Erbe Ranch, this is excessive.

Erbe Ranch has been in Findeisen’s family since 1881. Brian’s father still operates a big section of the land, while Brian has about 150 acres of pasture. There are two springs on the property and Brian aims to manage the land responsibly for the next generation – his two sons. Brian has 55 head of cattle, six breeding hogs, more than 150 young pigs, 150 laying hens and 200 broilers (meat birds.)

“My father has divided the land between me and my sister,” said Findeisen. “He’ll keep working his share until he can’t anymore, just like my grandfather before him.”

Selling in the city

Hoofing it: Findeisen’s ranch has weathered everything from deep freezes to brief traffic stops due to unexpected cattle crossings.

Findeisen makes the 120-mile round trip from the ranch to the Westchase District Farmers Market each week…or as often as he can. The caveat is because sometimes farm life – or dad life – prohibits him from selling his products at the market. “Broilers don’t like the water,” said Findeisen. “So when we get this much rain, it’s all hands on deck taking care of the piglets and the broilers.” Findeisen has also missed markets to do chores for his dad, who recently underwent surgery, or to see his 15-year-old son Carter play baseball.

Each week, Findeisen gains new fans of Erbe Ranch’s grass-fed beef. “It’s richer and leaner, with no fat to drain off,” said Findeisen. “Once people try it, they like it. We always hear feedback about how different the ground beef tastes. Same with the steaks.”

The pasture-raised pork from Erbe Ranch is from Red Wattle hogs, a rare breed that is known for its meat quality. “Pork from the grocery store is very pale, but our pork is dark red, much like beef, and it’s marbled. You can taste the difference,” said Findeisen. All of the animals are slaughtered at a USDA-certified organic slaughterhouse in Lexington, TX.

In addition to selling Erbe Ranch beef, pork, chicken and eggs at the farmers market, Findeisen brings a curated list of products from other area vendors with him, including shrimp from Lil’ Emma’s Seafood, goat cheese from Dapper Goat Dairy and fresh sauces and pastas from Della Casa Pasta. The partnership was created out of Erbe Ranch Mercantile, the Findeisen family’s farm store in Columbus.

“I travel to a lot of markets, so I know who the legitimate vendors are,” said Findeisen. “We selected certain ones to add to our product offerings at the store. When COVID hit, many of them were having a hard time staffing their various markets, so we started bringing their products to the Westchase District market for them.”

Real world education

The store is managed by Nicole Findeisen, Brian’s wife, who also homeschools their two sons. In addition to Carter, there is 10-year-old Daniel. Brian refers to it as “farm schooling” because the boys put in their hours with their books doing their formal education, then they go out on the farm to put those skills to work in real life.

“If we build a fence, we’ll measure the distance and figure out how many posts we need,” said Findeisen. “Or if we’re going to plant seed, we calculate the area of the pasture and determine how much seed to buy.” The boys develop personal skills and sales acumen at farmers markets. Young Carter has been working the Fulshear market by himself for more than three years, according to Findeisen.

“Every day is a new adventure,” said Findeisen. Now if he could just make it stop raining.