Interview with a Farmer: Windland Flats
In this post I talked about getting grass-fed beef from a local farmer. That farmer is Josh, who is the owner and operator of Windland Flats. His farm in Princeton, MN is home to a herd of Scottish Highland Cattle, Shetland Sheep, laying hens, Quarter Horses and cats. He raises and sells high quality grass-fed beef, and he was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for me. Getting to know your farmer and where you food comes from in an important part of eating real food that is local and raised with care.
How did you start out in the business?
I (Josh - owner and operator) was raised on a small, family Dairy and Beef Farm in Western Wisconsin and have been around cattle my entire life. In fact, I paid for college by raising my own beef cattle. In total, I have raised 12 different types of beef cattle, including popular breeds, which make up the majority of the beef found in the store, such as Angus, Simmental, Limousin and Shorthorn. In college, I also worked in the UW-River Falls Meat Research Lab and was able to study the different cuts and types of beef options available. After attending college and receiving a degree in marketing and a minor in animal science, I took a 10 year break from raising cattle.
When did you start raising grass-fed beef?
We (Josh and Maria) bought our farm, Windland Flats, in 2007. We began raising our Scottish Highland grass fed beef in 2008. Our first beef sale, besides friends and family was in February of 2011.
Why did you chose the Highland breed?
In 2007, we did a lot of research on Scottish Highland Cattle and found that they produce very high quality meat from grass. Scottish Highland cattle were raised in Scotland for centuries on grass, and have never been fully commercialized in the US to eat grain. Therefore, Scottish Highland cattle still produce lean beef from grass and make the best choice for grass fed beef. In addition, the long hair on our Scottish Highland cattle keep them warm in the winter, so they do not produce as much fat to keep themselves warm. This also keeps them very lean.
Why did you decide to do grass-fed beef (as opposed to grain fed)?
Different breeds of cattle have evolved, with the help of humans, to grow differently, based on the diet fed to them. In our case, we have plenty of grass pasture available, which made choosing a breed of cattle that efficiently produce beef on grass pasture an easy choice.
Who is involved in your business? (i.e. other family members?)
The Windland Flats’ family of farms consists of three farms, today. Two farms are in Eastern Minnesota and one farm is located in Western Wisconsin. All farms raise Scottish Highland cattle, strictly on grass only. All farms our family farms, who believe in raising quality, healthy Highland beef.
How many cattle do you process a year?
In the last year, we have processed 15 head of cattle, which fed approximately 60 families in the Twin Cities. This year, at our current demand rate, we will process approximately 30-40 head of cattle between the three farms.
Has the demand for grass fed beef changed since you started?
Yes, the demand for local, quality, lean, flavorful, grass fed beef is growing substantially. This is the main reason why we recently added two more farms to our partnership to meet our growing demands.
Why is grass-fed beef so lean, flavorful, and better for you?
Grass fed beef is lower in fat and cholesterol. It is also higher in iron and protein, when compared to conventional beef (in the grocery store). This is primarily due to the fact that the Scottish Highland grass fed beef is leaner. The beef is also more flavorful because there is more red meat and less water and fat. In addition, Scottish Highland cattle grow more slowly, allowing the meat to mature more slowly as well.
What are some of the benefits of buying direct from you as a farmer?
Today, too many people do not know where there food comes from. By purchasing directly from farmers, like Windland Flats, consumers can learn about how their beef is raised. In addition, when you buy direct from farmers, you are helping support local farmers, allowing them to be sustainable for years to come. This also helps the local economy, reduces your carbon footprint and helps reward local farmers for sustainable agriculture practices.
Thanks, Josh! I was very excited to learn more about Windland Flats, and it makes me proud to support a local farmer who sells delicious grass-fed meat!
How about you? Have you thought about buying local meat or do you already buy local meat?