All-natural products, Meadow Maid Foods utilizes face-to-face communication to sell their products
Yoder – Mike and Cindy Ridenour and their daughter Mary, owners of Meadow Maid Foods, have diversified their operation by managing it as a non-certified organic operation. They raise 100 percent grass fed beef and heirloom vegetables that are open pollinated and never see pesticides or herbicides.
They also try to save as much of their own vegetable seeds, with the exception of potatoes.
“We’ve never taken the time to become organically certified primarily because we market all of our products directly to the consumers,” explained Mike. “Since we have those face-to-face personal relationships with our customers we never saw any benefit to becoming organically certified.”
He added, “Also, to become organically certified, it is a lot more expensive, and we’d have to raise our prices.”
The Ridenours refuse to apply any pesticides or herbicides to their produce, even if the National Organic Program (NOP) approves them.
For insect control, they utilize beneficial insects and natural insect repellants, such as sunflowers, bachelor’s buttons and chamomile.
“A lot of insecticides that are approved for organic use are really hard on insect larvae, which is not good for the beneficial insects that we use,” commented Ridenour.
“Our weed eradication program here is that my wife is really good with a hoe, and unfortunately, so am I,” he stated. “We work diligently at maintaining habitat for the beneficial insects.”
Some of the beneficial insects they use are five different species of ladybugs and Minute Pirate Bugs. Ridenour mentions his beneficial bugs are quite effective against Colorado potato beetle larvae and eggs, aphids, cabbage loopers and various other insects.
Along with marketing their produce locally, the Ridenours also attend farmers’ markets in Cheyenne and in Fort Collins, Colo. during the summer.
“We attend two farmers’ markets a week in the summer, one in Cheyenne on Tuesday afternoons out by the mall and one on Saturday mornings in Fort Collins off of Drake Road,” explained Ridenour.
“Farmers’ markets are really nice because our vegetables are bright and colorful. When people come up to purchase some, we have a chance to talk to them about our beef and try to get them to try it,” commented Ridenour. “That’s why we take cuts of our beef to all of the markets.”
The Ridenours also like to use farmers’ markets as a convenient pickup location for their community supported agriculture (CSA) customers and to give them an advertising venue for their beef.
“Customers of our CSA program pay upfront, and we deliver vegetables to them all throughout the season,” explained Ridenour. “Farmers’ markets give us a convenient location to deliver the product to our customers, and we also do a delivery for the CSA in Torrington.”
He continued, “We’ve had a lot of customers who started buying our vegetables, and then they become what we call a full-scale customer when they start buying our beef, as well.”
Grass fed cattle
“We started out primarily with Herefords from the Lamplighter line out of Oklahoma,” he said. “I really liked the cattle, but the cattle did not like Wyoming. There’s a big difference between Oklahoma and Wyoming, and it’s called winter.”
The Ridenours then began incorporating Black Angus into their herd with a little Shorthorn influence the past few years.
“Shorthorns are supposed to be good for grass fed beef,” noted Ridenour. “I haven’t had a chance to eat one yet, so we’ll find out.”
All of the cattle are raised on grass pastures and slaughtered between 24 to 30 months of age. The Ridenours take their cattle to Steving Meat Processing in Kersey, Colo.
“The reason we have our beef processed in Colorado is because we have to have a USDA-inspected facility since we sell across state lines, and we don’t have a USDA-inspected facility in Wyoming yet,” he explained.
“We sell whole, half and quarter beef carcasses to people,” Ridenour mentioned. “Also, about 25 percent of everything we slaughter every year is packaged into different cuts, and we sell them at farmers’ markets throughout the year.”
“The average steak that hits the grocery store travels about 1,500 miles. Our cattle only have one big day where they go on a trip of about 130 miles, and that’s it,” described Ridenour. “It makes a big difference.”
Meadow Maid Foods was one of the premiered tour stops for the 12th Annual Diversified Ag Tour that took place June 24 in Goshen County. The Wyoming Business Council and Wyoming Women in Ag hosted the tour.
This year was the 12th Annual Diversified Ag Tour, and it was held in Goshen County on June 24. Wyoming Women in Ag and the Wyoming Business Council hosted the tour. Other contributing supporters of the tour were the Goshen County Chamber of Commerce and Goshen County Economic Development.
The tour began at the University of Wyoming Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) in Lingle where attendees learned about high tunnel production and other research projects the center is working on.
The next stop on the tour was Ellis’ Harvest Home in Lingle, and participants learned about their operation selling produce in the summer and having a corn maze, pumpkin patch and other festivities they have at their farm during the fall.
Lunch was served at Table Mountain Vineyards in Huntley, and people were able to partake in wine tasting and learn about vineyards and winemaking.
The last stop of the tour was at Meadow Maid Foods in Yoder.