CAMPBELL HILL, Ill. — Grass-fed beef may be a trendy and healthy local food option today, but grass-fed cattle always has been a Dierks Farms priority.

“Times have changed. People are wanting different things out of their food. There’s a market for grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef. That’s where we were at and didn’t know it,” explained Larry Dierks.

He, his wife, Pam, and his son, Latham, shared information about their farm with a group of teachers visiting the farm during a recent Southern Illinois Summer Ag Institute trip.

Larry’s wife, Pam, added that the family had been selling their beef “the traditional way” until she learned about the local food movement’s interest in grass-fed meat a few years ago.

That’s when the family had a serious talk among themselves about their futures and the farm. The result was refocused marketing as a farm specializing in grass-fed beef, Pam said.

Here’s what else to know about Dierks Farms:

Since 1881 — Dierks Farms has been raising cattle in Jackson County since 1881. The farm comes through Larry’s side of the family and was founded by Larry’s great grandfather.

Family operation — While Larry’s mother continues to live in the original farmhouse, there currently are three generations working on the farm. They also still have the trunk that Larry’s great grandparents used to migrate from Germany.

Direct to consumer sales — For now, most of their beef is sold by the cut — not weight — at various farmers markets including those in Carbondale, O’Fallon and Tower Grove in St. Louis and The Boulevard in Clayton, Missouri.

More retail offerings — The Dierks have a growing list of southern Illinois retailers who carry their products and are updating the list on their website often.

Target market demographic — Admittedly, a younger customer who is specifically looking for grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef is their most predominant buyer.

Larry pointed that the St. Louis-area farmers markets tend to cater to “a younger alternative population with interest in knowing origins of their food. They want to know everything. They’ve gotten to know us and our product, and they’re comfortable paying a premium.”

Long-term sustainability practices — The farm was founded on grass-fed and grass-finished beef, which has reaped generations worth of environmental benefits to their pastures. They do rotate the herds between fields and ensure nutritive grasses are abundant.

More information — Find their website at dierksfarms.com, on Facebook at Dierks Farms Grass Fed Beef or call them at 618-426-3386.

Karen Binder can be reached at 618-534-0614 or kbinder@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Binder.

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