Where’s the Beef

Know Your Farmer in Siskiyou County…

The tagline on the Siskiyou County Cattlewomen’s website is “Top Beef from the Top of the State.” And if you ask a few of the beef producers in the area, they can tell you why many people consider it some of the best in California – and beyond. “The mountains, the access to water, the rich feed and the region’s elevation contribute to superior beef. If the cattle are happy and living a life where they’re able to grow and finish at their natural pace, it makes for tender beef,” says Patricia Jenner Laustalot, a managing partner of Jenner Family Beef who represents the sixth generation of the Jenner family cow-calf operation in Scott Valley.

Photo courtesy of Regina Hanna

A fellow local rancher, Kristina Walker of StarWalker Organic Farms that just received its Regenerative Organic Certification, agrees. “We firmly believe that the welfare of our cows directly impacts the quality of beef they produce. Stress-free, happy cows living in a natural and enriching environment yield meat that is not only healthier, but also superior in taste. Having ample space to roam, natural grazing and gentle handling ensures that. This philosophy is at the heart of our operation, resulting in beef that our customers can feel good about on multiple levels – ethically, nutritionally and gastronomically.”  

According to 2021 figures, Siskiyou County raised about 4 percent of the total beef cattle population in the state of California. Beef also remains one of the most important commodities in Siskiyou County, supporting many local businesses. Traditionally, most of it is sold through video markets or auction yards to be sent off to national distributors. And while its quality has always been well-regarded by industry insiders, there’s also been a shift in recent years with many ranchers taking up direct-to-consumer sales models to introduce Siskiyou beef to a whole new generation of customers.

“Direct sales are pivotal to our operation, fostering a transparent and trustful relationship between us and our customers,” Walker says. “It empowers consumers to know where and how their food is produced, bridging the gap between the farm and the dinner table.” Laustalot notes the trend has exploded even more so since the pandemic. “People want to know what they’re putting in their body. They like knowing their farmer, their rancher and where their food is coming from. There is a growing number of suppliers and producers in this niche market, but I think it’s great because there’s room enough for everybody to participate.”

Photo courtesy of Gail Jenner

While direct-to-consumer sales have successfully opened up a new customer base and revenue stream for many local ranches, the direct-to-consumer model has also meant having to master marketing beyond just raising good beef. Just ask Regina Hanna, who is married to one of the brothers of the multi-generational Hanna Brothers Ranch, and who has since started her own direct-to-consumer operation called Crown H Cattle. While she relies on the existing ranch infrastructure to raise her own heritage breed herd of Belted Galloway (aka “Oreo Cows”), the historic challenge for just anyone to do this is not lost on her. “Farmers and ranchers have sometimes been the worst at promoting themselves and their practices. They’re incredibly busy and they don’t like to talk about themselves or the amazing things that they do. But there’s so much goodness here. Half the battle is figuring out how we get that information out.”

For all of these producers, they’ve taken on what amounts to another full-time job just managing customer engagement and subscriptions. Walker notes, “We have our website and social media platforms, where we share updates, stories and insights into our daily farm operations. We also welcome emails with questions and participate in local farmers’ markets and events so we have those opportunities for direct interaction to get to know our customers and what’s important to them.” 

At the end of the day, perhaps the best thing about Siskiyou beef is not just where it comes from or the family pride that goes into raising it, but what happens when it’s finally served as nourishment. Hanna notes, “Food is a common denominator, especially good food. I mean, it’s really hard to be mad at someone when you’re sharing a meal with them. I always think of the Hanna Brothers. They’re a very tight-knit family who work together all the time, and they have their share of yelling and hard times. But when they sit down for a meal, the rest falls away. So, not only does buying directly from a rancher help sustain a family and the local economy, but I like to think of our product as a great and healthy way to bring people to the table and enjoy some really good beef.”•

StarWalker Organic Farms •
Jenner Family Beef •
Crown H Cattle Company •
All three producers offer a variety of shipping, subscription and delivery options.

About Megan Peterson

Megan Peterson is a freelance storyteller who loves her family, her pets, and Northern California. Her favorite part of writing is finding flow, and she always relishes a touching human story. Aside from Enjoy, she’s typically busy writing and producing for television, having created more than 220 hours of on-air content on networks ranging from National Geographic to Netflix.

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