Ohio students, farmers hear from Whole Foods shoppers

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CINCINNATI — Last month, members of the Ohio Valley FFA Chapter and several Ohio cattle farmers flipped burgers, sampled Flat Iron steaks and interacted with customers to promote their all-natural, locally grown beef at the Whole Foods Market in Rookwood Commons.

“Having people at Whole Foods Market to talk with consumers at the meat case and show them the beef we actually produced provided a great learning experience — for both consumers and for our students,” said Ohio Valley FFA Adviser Corbett Phipps.

Phipps and students G. Paul Lewis, Emily McAdams, Ashley Clark, Emily Free, Kyle Carkeek and representatives from Ohio Signature Beef, United Producers Inc. and the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association showcased their locally-raised beef products.

Eye-opening

“The event at Whole Foods Market was an eye-opening experience for the students,” Phipps said.

“They met people who were genuinely interested in learning where their beef comes from, and the students learned about the concept of supply and demand, as customers were willing to pay a premium for the all-natural beef that the students produced.”

Ohio Signature Beef

With the help of Logan Edenfield, facility manager at United Producers Inc. in Hillsboro, the FFA chapter began marketing their finished cattle through the Ohio Signature Beef program several years ago.

The program requires that each animal is raised via an all-natural process (free of antibiotics and hormones), grades USDA Choice or Prime and spends 150 days of its life in Ohio.

Through an alliance with Ohio Signature Beef and Whole Foods Market, Edenfield coordinated a load of 40 cattle, 10 of which were raised by the Ohio Valley FFA members. The remaining cattle were raised by farmers in Fairfield, Clermont and Brown counties.

The resulting beef products were those featured and sold at the Whole Foods Market event.

“Connecting consumers with the farmers who grow their food is an invaluable opportunity,” said Edenfield. “Anytime we can put a face on our industry and teach people about what we do, it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Student farm. The Ohio Valley FFA has had a student-operated 100-acre farm since 1978 and has been raising cattle for about 12 years. Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center students get hands-on experience raising livestock from choosing sires to mixing feed rations and ultimately deciding when the cattle are ready for harvest.

“We will continue to raise all-natural beef unless something else pops up in the market,” said Phipps. “As long as we can keep consumers happy, we will keep doing what we have been.”

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