Introducing Bolender Family Farms, 3rd generation
Adam & Aubrey Bolender established their own farm in 2008 - by established I mean that they raised their first crop of soybeans together and combined Adam's cows with Aubrey's. In working together, they had a successful first harvest and their cows got along okay, so they decided it'd be alright to go ahead and get married in August of 2009...
Okay, that's not exactly how it went, but it is true that we both had a love of farming in our blood that stemmed from growing up on our families' farms. It's also true that we started our own farming operation in 2008 - with the help of our parents and a small operating loan from a lender willing to take a risk on two kids that only had some cows, a truck and a four wheeler to use as collateral.
We farmed 100 acres and had 12 black Angus cows. We purchased our home farm and Adam also purchased an additional 26 Holstein cows to milk with his family on their dairy farm. I was working off the farm as a fifth grade school teacher. We worked really hard to grow and improve Adam's family farm. We'd started raising freezer beef, as well as adding wheat and straw to our operation. We watched the dairy side of the farm suffer from high input costs and low returns, so we slowly built our beef cow/calf operation in the process.
In 2010, we were named Ohio Farm Bureau's "Outstanding Young Farmers." I watch this video with a chuckle - we were SO green. The award came as much surprise to us, because we were just getting started, and the award heavily measured the growth of your operation - but it sent us to the National Farm Bureau Annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia and it opened our eyes to the importance of Farm Bureau and the importance of telling your farm story in order to educate consumers. This eventually led to our first farm-to-table endeavor at the Anderson Township Farmer's Market where I worked every Saturday that summer selling our freezer beef and sharing our story with customers. This was during the start a major "food awareness overhaul" in our country, when people became more interested in the story behind what they ate. It was also when the documentary "Food, Inc." came out, so there were a lot of consumer questions to be answered. As a self-proclaimed AGvocate, I knew our customers needed some reassurance about the "how's" and the "why's" on the farm.
>Insert getting pregnant with high-risk twins, being hospitalized, having the girls, giving one back to God, and raising a preemie< Becoming parents was a bit tumultuous for us, but with God, family & friends, we made it. Life stopped our direct-marketing plans for a moment, but we were doing what we were called to at that exact moment - for me that was keeping our teeny-tiny human safe from harms way. We basically smelled like hand sanitizer for the first year of her life.
I had resigned from teaching full time in 2013 to come home to farm and raise our daughter. That was an adjustment financially, but I used my new job as an opportunity to find new ways to profit from the farm.
In 2015, Bolender's Dairy Farm sold the last 60 milk cows to a 500+ head dairy in southern Kentucky. We officially had more Angus cows on the farm than Holstein (milk cows) and the milk prices we were getting couldn't pay the bills. It was the end of a chapter, but it gave us more time to focus on our grain operation and the beef cattle. At that time, we were calving about 70 beef calves a year, holding a few back for freezer beef and selling the rest of the weaned calves at the stockyards - never to know where they ended up. I never liked doing this and the profits weren't really enough to be able to live on. We also added another tiny human to raise in 2015 - Emery Kate was born [in the hospital] during wheat harvest.
Our marketing strategy changed in 2016 as we helped found Buckeye Valley Beef Cooperative. We knew that we were already raising our cattle the way consumers were asking - no hormones, antibiotics or steroids; pasture-raised & finished on Non-GMO corn - so why not sell the cattle ourselves instead selling them into a feedlot full of cattle fed without those standards?? We got back into direct marketing, but with the intent to reach more people and new customers. The idea behind the cooperative was to work together to have a supply of beef that would make it available for customers whenever they called us. Most individual farms have beef ready to sell once a year. We have it ready at least twice per month. We also established strict growing standards that put our product above any of our competitors. To read more about those, click here.
We love to tell our story and love to develop relationships with those who buy our beef. It's more than a job - it's a passion - and we want to share that with everyone. Another passion of ours is to help more area cattlemen and women to direct market their beef. We can shorten the food chain together and reap the benefits on both sides.
As members of Buckeye Valley Beef, we have been able to consider raising cattle as a profit we can rely on to help keep the farm going.
In 2017, we brought our last little one into the world. Three kids rocks the boat a little, but we wouldn't want it either way. The co-op office is based at our home, so the kids have become accustomed to when the co-op phone rings you can't ask mommy for anything OR argue about anything. Sometimes I pretend I'm on the phone just to enjoy the silence … KIDDING, but it's a thought. As any farm parents would, we'd love to see our kids become the next generation on the farm - but even if they don't, I know for sure that they'll have a work ethic and sense of endurance that will help them be successful in wherever they want to go in life.
If you've read this entire blog - thank you and bless your heart. I'm a bit long-winded. All jokes aside, I hope this gives you even more insight into who we are and what we are working to do. Stay tuned for the Hamilton's blog in the coming weeks!