Summer brings warm nights, hot grills, and icy slices of watermelon. On the Sandmeyer’s third generation farm in northern Minnesota, the family strives to raise high quality meats that are sure to steal the show at your next barbeque. We talked with farmer Shawn to learn about life on the ranch and his thoughts on bringing up the third generation of farmers.
Founded in 1912, RKJ Ranch recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary. The family-owned farm started as a dairy, but transitioned to beef production in the 1950s. Since then, the farm has continued to grow. However, not everyone at RKJ grew up on the farm. Shawn married into farm life in the 1994 when he proposed to Jodi, the farmer’s daughter. Despite his background in law enforcement, and not farming, he took to farm life like a duck to water, and is heavily involved in daily operation. “I’ve learned from scratch," Shawn stated, “I enjoy it, it’s a great way of life. You get to work the land and raise the animals and experience all of that, and see where everything comes from."
Shawn also noted challenges of farming in today’s world. Population growth has begun to put pressure on farmers as cities continue to grow and farm land is bought up. This puts stress on neighbor relations, distorts the price of farmland, and causes farmers like Shawn to worry. In addition, Shawn works hard to communicate clearly with his customers. He appreciates the accessibility of the internet, but is often frustrated with the ideas that many people walk away with. At the end of the day, Shawn welcomes customers to come to him with questions first, before venturing too far down a rabbit hole of internet claims.
Regardless of these obstacles, Shawn loves his work. He talked about his appreciation for farm life saying, “The enjoyment of the beef industry is that we know that we can raise something from a calf, on our own, naturally, watch it all summer, turn around and sell it knowing that it’s a young healthy animal and I can take it and feed it through the winter and put it on your table. I enjoy that I can put good quality on your table. I take pride in that.” This farm pride translates into the next generation, as Jodi and Shawn’s eight-year-old daughter begins to take an interest in the family business. Shawn sees value in raising a child on the farm, such as the chance to learn hard work ethic and gain an intimate view of the local food system. Someday, the family hopes to pass their land stewardship onto their daughter, who will carry on the family tradition.
RKJ meat is locally produced without the use of added hormones or antibiotics. Calves are raised start to finish on the farm, and the family relies on a local butcher for their meat processing needs. The family offers both grass-fed and corn-fed beef.
Interested in buying meat directly from RKJ Ranch? Grass-fed & corn-fed beef sold by the whole, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 & variety bags. Hamburger is available year-round. Call to order at (218) 766-2589, or schedule a visit to the farm. Delivery available to Brainerd, Alexandria, St. Cloud, Duluth, and the Twin Cities for bulk orders. Stock up for your summer grill outs today!