Three protein vendors represent changes in ranching business
In 2014, Rangelands magazine published a report evaluating 90 years of census data and predicting that the average age of American ranchers will be 60 years old by 2050. However, when you visit the Westchase District Farmers Market to buy meat, don’t expect to encounter any grizzled, Stetson-wearing cowboys with spurs and bandanas. The three protein vendors at the market represent a new breed of ranchers who burst preconceived notions of typical farmers.
Patrick Bierschwale was a professional mixed martial arts fighter coaching Brazillian jiu jitsu and kickboxing when he decided to become a rancher. “I was eating a lot of bison and people were always asking me where they could get some, so I decided to start selling it,” he said. Today, Bierschwale owns Katerra Exotics (katerraexotics.com), specializing in pasture-raised bison and other grass-fed meats.
Operating from a base of about 100 acres in Katy, Texas, Bierschwale also works with ranches in Bryan, Chappell Hill and Waller. “We raise bison, cows, goats, lamb and wild boar as well as chickens and turkeys,” he said. “We process about two bison a month, one cow, one goat, one sheep and five to ten hogs, which adds up to several thousand pounds of meat. My biggest problem is not having enough animals to meet my customer demand.”
Bierschwale said that while he enjoys meeting customers at the farmers market, his favorite part of his business is working with the animals themselves,” “I have five kids, including a two-year-old climbing up on me all the time, so time spent feeding and hauling the animals feels like a relaxing lifestyle,” he said, laughing.
Hibiscus Hill Farm & Ranch
As an immigration attorney, Ellie Trinh spent a lot of time on the road and was frequently away from her two young children. Concerned about their eczema and milk allergies, she started buying them goat milk, later purchasing raw milk at local farms. “We tasted milk at about every dairy farm within a two-hour radius of Houston, trying to find the best,” she said. That search led Trinh and her husband, Grant Wilson, to purchase a 14-acre farm in Tomball and become dairy farmers overnight. “We moved from a high-rise to a trailer next to the milking barn,” she added.
Milking goats and Jersey cows, Trinh and her family eventually sold their farm to merge with the 160-acre Hibiscus Hill Farm & Ranch in Waller, Texas (hibiscushillfarm.com). “They had been processing our meat for years, and we felt the owners’ values matched our own,” Trinh said. Hibiscus Hill sells 100 percent pasture-raised, grass-fed beef, lamb, pork, chicken, bison and goats. A trained scientist, Trinh also developed a line of live probiotic skin care products for eczema, acne and dermatitis, offered at the farmers market and online at skinprobiotics.net.
“I try to educate my customers because I believe trust is built when they become more knowledgeable,” she said. “I love what I do now and best of all, I get to be with my kids more now. And, because we’ve cleaned up our diet, we don’t get sick.”
Frydek Heritage Farm
Three years ago, Chris Lowe was working as a construction administrator for an architectural firm in Austin when he and Julie, his wife, decided to purchase her grandparents’ 23-acre farm in Sealy, Texas. “Several years ago, we both read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and started buying all our produce and meat from local farms,” Chris said. “We’d always talked about having land and while we started out as homesteaders, we decided to do something with the farm.”
Having no prior farming experience, the Lowes attended county-sponsored seminars, took classes through Texas A&M, became involved with the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and toured other farms to learn best practices. Now they own and operate Frydek Heritage Farm (frydekheritagefarm.com), raising Gulf Coast native lamb, heritage breed hogs and about 150 chickens. “We sell shoulder roasts, sausage, pork chops, and bacon, as well as both free-range chicken and duck eggs,” Chris said.
Using rotational grazing techniques, the Lowes strive to keep their pastures healthy. “We like to think we produce healthy, wholesome food that’s raised with a conscience,” Julie said. “We’re looking forward to bringing more products to the market, so if you live or work in the area, come see us on Thursdays. Whether you’re on a Keto, Whole30, no sugar or Paleo diet, we have you covered.”