The story of a southern Iowa family raising kids, cows and growing grass where beef lovers can confidently purchase beef directly off the farm. Shanen says, "Sharing our stories of how we are preserving the land is the most important thing we can do."
If you are a regular visitor to the Downtown Farmers’ Market in Des Moines, Iowa and looking for beef, there is a very good possibility that you have met Shanen Ebersole. Shorter in stature than most, but with a heart of gold, Shanen likes to share about her fullblood Maine-Anjou cattle herd and family’s ranch to anyone she meets.
Shanen and her husband, Beau, own and operate Ebersole Cattle Company in Kellerton, Iowa alongside their three children: Adelyda, Jolene, and Wyatt. They sell pasture-raised and grass-fed beef to customers through a variety of avenues including: the Downtown Farmers’ Market in Des Moines, home deliveries, Iowa Food Cooperative, Peace Tree Brewing Co., local restaurants, VegEmail Weekly Market, and their website.
However, it’s not their beef that sells. Arguably, it’s not their operation either. Their story and marketing strategy begins with a face on the Ebersole Cattle Company Facebook page. Usually Shanen’s, but sometimes the kids’. Occasionally, it may be their new chickens or one of the kids’ calves at a show. Other times the cover photo is a half-eaten grass-fed beef burger or the face of the family’s new dog Reyna. Beef is sold after customers can see and hear about the family’s life.
Shanen will also tell you they don’t live on a farm, they live on a ranch. “I don’t get along with tractors, and tractors don’t get along with me,” she says. Overnight success stories are always the dream, but the Ebersole’s “overnight success” ranch story took 22 years. Beau and Shanen had Maine-Anjou cattle when they were first married, and it wasn’t until six years ago that Beau had the opportunity to come home to ranch full-time. Shanen and Beau capitalized on an opportunity to share their story to connect with food consumers.
Several of Shanen’s stories and perspectives stem from her background with horses. Growing up, she showed horses competitively and knew they would always be part of her life. While it’s a personality trait for her, it took some time for others to see wearing a cowboy hat is who she truly is as a person. “I wear my hat everywhere. That’s just me,” Shanen says. She’s not trying to portray an image of the Old West to prove a point or market to the family’s customers. That hat is simply her everyday attire and can sometimes be a conversation piece for those who do not know much about ranching or raising cattle.
Another story often shared by the Ebersole family is one of environmental sustainability. They explain how everything beef producers do, makes beef. When it comes to pasture-raised and grass-fed beef, the Ebersole’s share how cattle help cultivate the soil and create a positive environment for a diversity of plant species to thrive. This creates a favorable environment for preventing soil erosion while creating room for insects and other wildlife to flourish. The Ebersole’s employ a variety of grazing methods to fully utilize available land and balance forages including rich clover and fescue grass. There are many choices when choosing what type of beef to eat, but the Ebersole’s have found a unique choice among many desirable options. Pasture-raised and grass-fed beef is a niche-market, but their customers see added value because of the positive environmental impact the Ebersole family is making when producing their product.
So, it’s not the beef that sells. It’s hearing the Ebersole’s sustainable impact on the environment around them which will offer an opportunity for Adelyda, Jolene, and Wyatt to ranch someday. It’s knowing this family is built upon real people with real animals and real beef. It’s hearing about the difference between pasture-raised and grass-fed beef in a comparison to wine: pasture-raised has a lighter and more delicate taste, and grass-fed has a darker look and richer flavor. The Ebersole Cattle Company Facebook page tells the story of a southern Iowa family raising kids, cows and growing grass where beef lovers can confidently purchase beef directly off the farm; but more importantly, they can shake the hands of the people who raised the beef knowing the cattle were passionately cared for each day.
Shanen says, “Sharing our stories of how we are preserving the land is the most important thing we can do.” The Ebersole family is a testament to connecting people to agriculture and being a voice for the industry.
You can find the Ebersole’s and other families in Iowa who sell beef directly to consumers on our Iowa Local Beef Directory.
Cows are bred and calves are born and raised every year on cow-calf farms and ranches, spending time grazing on grass pastures within sight of their mothers.