When Beth DeSalvo quit her job at Petit Jean Meats in 2012 and began working on her family’s cattle ranch full time, she soon realized that she needed to go whole hog (whole cow?) in promoting the operation.
Her departure from the “corporate world” left the family with no other income source but cattle and hay, so making sure that folks knew about Big D Ranch – the place her husband’s family has called home for five generations – was going to become a part-time job in itself. (That’s in addition to the other tasks, such as keeping the books and helping out in whatever other ways she’s needed.)
A busy mom of two, she knew that if she wanted to help sustain the family’s income, she would have to take time out of all the things that go into cattle ranching and be available to educate people, show them around and talk up the virtues of locally grown, pastured beef, and of farming and ranching in general.
With all the nitty-gritty of running a cattle ranch, how does she have time for the “marketing and promotion” part of the job?
“You make time,” she said at the recent Farm2Home event at Moss Mountain Farm west of Little Rock. It’s just what local ranchers and growers have to do to raise awareness of their products. No Sam Elliott voice-overs or James Garner promos – she and her family just get out there and talk to people face to face.
And they do a great job: I stood at her table at Farm2Home, chatted with Beth and her daughter, 9-year-old-Isabella, and got a taste of what beef is supposed to taste like.
As Isabella speared a piece of grilled beef on a toothpick for me, Beth and I talked, and the conversation was as delicious as the beef.
When you engage with someone who is as passionate as Beth is about her “job,” you lose track of time. This matriarch of the 2012 Arkansas Farm Family of the Year (which also includes Phillip’s dad, Tony) takes her role so seriously that she travels from the ranch in Center Ridge, Ark., to farmers markets and events such as Farm2Home as an evangelist for the virtues of buying locally grown, healthful foods.
“I believe by buying local you are commending your local farmers and ranchers on what they do every day,” she said in answer to my follow-up questions after Farm2Home. “Farmers and ranchers work hard to provide food for consumers, and it is very rewarding to be able share that with our neighbors.”
I asked Beth why she wanted to participate in Farm2Home.
I think it is very important to get out to tell our story. I feel that consumers want to know where their food comes from, and we the farmers and ranchers want the consumers to feel safe about what we provide for their families. The best way to do that is let people know what you are doing and how you do it.”
It’s so important to the DeSalvos that they take their beef outside the local area on weekends to sell and promote. Look for them at the Conway Farmers Market at the Antioch Baptist Church and at the Argenta Farmers Market in downtown North Little Rock. (The Argenta market is where I used to do my “shop local” socializing when Bruce and I lived in North Little Rock. I miss it!)
As Phillip and Beth raise the sixth generation at Big D, they support Ben (age 11) and Isabella’s participation in the Nemo Vista Pioneers 4-H Club, and Beth says the family is “very active” at the county fair. That’s evident by the photos she emailed me (I didn’t use them all). Phillip and Beth are active members in the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and no doubt their children are future members of those organizations.
Both kiddos know how to win prizes at the county fair. Take a look:
Arkansas is fortunate to have folks like Tony, Phillip and Beth DeSalvo, who are raising their young’uns to know the value of hard work and the importance of supporting your neighbors as they work hard, too. They’re the ones who feed us, my friends. Or at least they should be.
As often as you can, buy local. You’ll be helping your neighbors and yourself. (And try some beef from the DeSalvos. It’s “The Better Beef to Eat!”)
All right, one last picture. This image makes me think of a photo in one of the Pioneer Woman’s cookbooks. I bet Beth DeSalvo swoons every time she looks at this picture of her man and her boy walking hand-in-hand on their family’s land.
Ladies, wouldn’t you?
Big D Ranch
173 Miller Ln.
Center Ridge, AR 72027 (northern Conway County)
(501) 208-6120 (Beth’s cell)
Facebook: Big D Ranch or Beth Rohlman DeSalvo
Stay tuned for Part 4 next Friday. Meanwhile, I’d like to publish a healthful recipe for Monday’s post. Suggestions?