November 30, 2022

Young farmer turns dream of a meat business into on-farm store

HINCKLEY, Ill. — Customers shopping at the Family Farm Meats store will find a wide variety of products and the farmer at the counter ready to answer questions about their meat purchase.

Jenny Flint opened Family Farm Meats in July 2014 on her family farm just north of Hinckley with significant help from her family.

“I wanted a part-time job where I could work from home because I didn’t want to put my kids in day care,” Flint said.

“My parents had moved to Maple Park and they were trying to sell our family farm,” she said. “I was working at a hog farm and I wanted to buy our family farm, so I did.”

Customers can purchase individual cuts of beef and pork at the store.

“I sell quarters, halves or whole beef and halves or whole hogs,” Flint said. “I raise the cattle and hogs, I have chickens here for eggs and an Amish family helps me with the chicken I sell.”

Flint added lamb to the store this year.

“We bought four lambs total, and my son, Owen, bought one, which was a neat experience for him,” she said. “He took money out of his piggy bank to buy the lamb.”

Owen, who is 8 years old, kept track of the feed costs.

“He weighed out each piece of meat and the meat packages had his name on them,” his mom explained. “He really liked it, so I have dates booked in March for our next round of lambs and this time Owen is buying all of them.”

Flint’s animals are processed at Eickman’s Processing Company in Seward.

“When I first started, I sat in Tom Eickman’s office and told him what I wanted to do,” she said. “He helped me with prices and he gives me ideas where to go with my business in the future.”

Demand for Family Farm Meats has grown into a full-time business for Flint.

“I’m more expensive than the grocery store, but I have to stay reasonable where people can afford our products,” she noted.

“But once people try a package of ground beef, steak or pork chops, they come back and tell me, ‘Wow, it was such a difference,’” she said. “Then they are willing to pay more for the quality and the meat sells itself.”

At first, Flint sold meat from about 15 head of cattle and 25 to 30 hogs.

“I just booked for 2023, 70 head of cattle and 155 hogs,” she reported.

“I’m booking animals that aren’t even born yet, so it’s taken me a few years to master that to make sure I booked enough dates,” she said. “Eickman’s work with me and they are a really good family-owned business.”

Flint feeds about 40 head of cattle and groups of 20 to 30 hogs on her Hinckley farm.

“My parents have a cow-calf herd and now they’re in the process of selling the cows,” she said. “They’re going to start feeding cattle for me because the business is too big to feed all the cattle here.”

Support from her parents, Flint said, has been vital to her business.

“Banks aren’t willing to give a lot of money to young kids, but my parents backed me big time,” she stressed.

“My dad runs a trucking company and hauls livestock, but over the past five years he’s gone through tremendous knee issues so he couldn’t drive anymore,” she said. “But God had a plan for us, because dad has guys to drive for him and now he is transitioning over to farming and raising cattle.”

Her parents, Ron and Rhonda Flint, built a new cattle shed for feeding cattle.

“They are expanding as much as I have,” Flint said. “This meat store is my dream, but they backed me from the beginning and we are growing together.”

New customers find the meat store, through Facebook or the company website.

“I didn’t just want this to be, ‘We raise the meat, so come and buy it,’” Flint said. “I want you see all the work that goes into it.”

Flint spends a lot of time posting information about her farm and store on her Facebook page.

“You get to see us chopping silage, feeding the cattle, scraping manure and planting corn,” she said. “So many people say they didn’t realize all these things that we do and I want people to see how a steak gets on their plate.”

Sharing her farming story has been rewarding for Flint.

“People are so appreciative of my family,” she said. “It’s not just me, it’s my boyfriend Jared, my kids and my parents, which customers get to see through Facebook.”

Customers also help Flint with new ideas for her store, like the request for cottage bacon.

“Cottage bacon is from the shoulder instead of the belly and it’s a meatier bacon,” she said. “It is something a customer mentioned to me and now I carry it regularly.”

Another item that was requested by a customer is beef bacon.

“Bacon and ribeyes are the two things I cannot keep up with, but I have amazing customers,” Flint said. “If I’m out, they get something else, so I’m thankful they are understanding.”

Flint remodeled her store last March, but she is continuing to make improvements to her business.

“I just landed a walk-in freezer, so we’re going to expand the store so I can attach the freezer,” she said.

The new freezer will provide easier loadout for customers buying larger amounts of meat.

“I can also start doing more bundles with the added space,” Flint said. “Bundles have a variety of cuts that come pre-boxed at a discounted price, and when I offer them online, they sell in like a minute.”

Continuing to expand her business is important for Flint to provide opportunities for her kids, Owen and Jillian.

“That’s my goal, for the kids to take over this business,” she said. “One of Owen’s favorite things is to check people out and the customers are so patient and good to the kids.”

“I knew starting this business was going to be a neat thing to do, but I never dreamt it would be as cool as it is now,” she admitted. “I’ve built relationships with customers that I would never have met if I didn’t open this store.”

Family Farm Meats is located at 16061 McGirr Road, Hinckley. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

For more information about Family Farm Meats LLC, go to www.familyfarmmeatsllc.com, or call 815-651-5555.

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor