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Producing Excellence

Fohn Bendele

Hondo, TX

Grassfield Beef

Products: Grass-fed beef

Size of Operation: 100 head

In Business Since: 1983

Farm Credit Partner: Capital Farm Credit

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1978

Americans’ growing interest in where their food comes from and an increased demand for naturally raised products has given one multi-generational farm family an opportunity to satisfy consumer preferences while increasing their own success.

Fohn and Eric Bendele have raised cattle on their Texas ranch for 30 years, following a family tradition that goes back generations. About five years ago, though, they changed how they raised their animals, switching to a grass-fed approach that lets the cows graze on the pasture, supplemented as needed with cut grass. “Because the cattle are outside and moving around, grass-fed beef actually has healthy Omega 3 fats, similar to olive or fish oil,” says Fohn.

These health benefits, combined with consumer interest in natural and sustainable agriculture, created a market that Fohn is now supplying, selling his products through San Antonio restaurants and local farmers’ markets. “One restaurant features us on their menu, along with other farmers they buy from,” Fohn says. “This adds value for them because people want to support local farmers and are willing to pay more for those products.” Fohn says it’s a win-win-win: the consumers get the products they want, the restaurants attract more customers, and the growers earn a better price. With grass-fed beef, that premium is 50% - 100% over conventional beef. This price is balanced, though, by the fact that it takes significantly longer to raise grass-fed cattle compared to cattle in feedlots.

Despite the increased profit margin their new approach is garnering, the Bendeles each continue to maintain an off-farm business: Fohn is an investment advisor and insurance broker, and Eric and father Kenneth are tax accountants. “We’d love to purchase more land and grow our farms,” says Fohn. “But we’re not interested in getting so big that we’d have to have someone else operate the farm for us. That would take all the fun out of it.”

Some recent fun the Bendeles enjoyed has actually become a national topic of conversation: they were the family featured in the two-minute long SuperBowl commercial from Dodge that honored America’s farmers and ranchers. Even more fun, they were as surprised as everyone else when they saw it – although a photographer had spent half a day with them on their farm, they weren’t told how the photos would be used. “It put a lump in our throats,” Fohn says. “Not just because it was our own pictures, but because it was so heartfelt and because it showed that there are still many farm families who really work hard to grow our food.”

Fohn attributes much of the success he and his family have enjoyed to the support they received from Capital Farm Credit, which has financed land purchases, equipment and improvements such as irrigation systems. “They’re the reason why we were able to farm to this day,” he says. “Thank goodness for Farm Credit.”

Download a PDF version of this story here.