Where’s the beef? It’s still in nearby Brasstown

Brasstown - The cows are curious at Ridgefield Farm. When a visitor approaches, they perk up their heads and cautiously run toward them.

A sign in Murphy at the intersection of U.S. 64 West and Hiawassee Street made some curious about the future of those cows. The sign advertised the farm store for Brasstown Beef at Ridgefield Farm, and is simply that – an advertisement, owner Steve Whitmire said. He has no plans to build a new farm store in Murphy.

“The farm store is on site, right where the world headquarters is,” Whitmire said.

The store has two purposes – it lets people see his cattle throughout the year, and it gives him an outlet to serve local residents.

Ridgefield Farm was started in the 1950s by Whitmire’s parents, E.J. and Genevieve Whitmire. He started Brasstown Beef in 2007 as an idea to keep the farm in the family. After all, farming has been the family business since the late 1700s.

For about two years, he tested methods, then started selling beef to his first commercial customer, Corner Kitchen in Asheville. Before the coronavirus shut down restaurants, his business was about 90 percent hospitality or restaurants and 10 percent retail.

“Then we hit a brick wall,” Whitmire said.

Their retail customers – grocery stores like Ingles – quintupled their buying of 1 pound of ground beef. But after a couple of weeks, the ordering stopped, and he had to cut the amount he harvested in half. Soon, packaging houses closed.

“There was no way to get animals harvested,” Whitmire said. “The animals were raised and ready to harvest. We almost couldn’t give them away.”

He did have to make some cut backs like many businesses. However, the cattle still needed to be cared for under the standards he’s known for.

Meanwhile, his farm store sales at both the Brasstown and Franklin locations have gone up three or four times. His e-commerce sales have grown about 20 percent each month.

“We’d love for it to stabilize,” Whitmire said, adding his goal had been for commercial, retail and store sales to be even. “It’s heading in that direction.”

Source: Cherokee Scout  Written by Samantha Sinclair.
Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout.