PRAIRIE GROVE -- Ogden Ranch in Prairie Grove was already moving toward selling its own beef directly to customers, but when the covid-19 pandemic started last year, it "lit a fire," to meet that customer need, according to Nathan Ogden, owner of Ogden Ranch.
"When covid hit, everyone needed beef," Ogden said. "I was waiting for an excuse to do it and it took off."
His wife, Tracy Ogden, is overseeing the USDA direct beef sales operation. She said the farm has sold quarter beef, half beef or whole beef for years but didn't advertise. Then last March, the Ogdens were bombarded by people calling because beef was not available in the stores.
Ogden called the farm's processing plant, B and R Processing in Winslow, and he booked five cows per month as ongoing appointments. That is what has kept him in business, Ogden said, because many people are having to wait months to get their livestock processed.
"We have five spots held monthly until we tell him not to," Ogden said.
Now they sell online, by word of mouth and through social media. Customers pick up at the farm's walk-in freezer or customers can pick up at the processor's business.
Last fall, Tracy opened up their walk-in freezer for one day, and customers were able to show up and purchase what they wanted. She said she plans to do that again on May 8.
Everything the Ogdens sell comes from their farm. Cows are grass fed and then finished out with grain.
"We take a lot of pride in taking care of our cattle," Nathan Ogden said.
The Ogdens and their two daughters, Oaklie, 9, and Huntlea, 8, were named the 2020 Washington County Farm Family of the Year. The ranch has more than 1,000 acres in Washington and Madison counties and about 400 mamas, Ogden said.
In a normal year, the Washington County Extension Office sponsors a media day for the Farm Family of the Year. Judges will tour all the county farms to determine a district winner and then from the district winners, a state Farm Family of the Year is named.
Because of covid-19, Ogden Ranch was not able to have a media tour or a personal tour from the judges.
According to a report about Ogden Ranch for the Farm Family of the Year award, the ranch markets and sells registered Angus, Sim-Angus and Black Baldy bulls. Most of the farm's commercial calves go to the sale barn at 500 pounds.
The farm's goals include:
• Be good stewards with what God has blessed us with and become a blessing to others.
• Grow the farm to table beef sales to continue to offer prime and choice bulk and individual cuts to a growing customer base.
The ranch also has an American Bucking Bull Inc., herd with the goal to raise professional bull riding quality bucking stock. The goal for involvement in professional bull riding is to use the platform as a ministry to spread the word of God.
"Having a good bucking bull or two keeps that door open," Ogden said in his report about the ranch.
While the pandemic affected events that usually happen around the Farm Family of the Year program, Ogden did not let the pandemic affect another event that usually happens in Northwest Arkansas.
When Springdale canceled its Rodeo of the Ozarks last summer because of coronavirus concerns, Ogden and Pick-it Construction, which he also owns, stepped in and decided to host a two-day Professional Bull Riders Touring Pro Division called "Buckin' at the Ranch."
The two-day event was held at the ranch and included bull riding, live music and food.
Nathan Ogden grew up on his parent's farm in Hogeye. Tracy grew up on a farm in the Huntsville area.
"Working cattle and riding calves were days that ranked right up there with Christmas morning," Ogden wrote in his Farm Family report. "We learned work ethic, responsibility and life by working with our mom and dad growing up. The skills and lessons you can learn on a farm are endless and dad made sure we learned."
Their children have chores on the farm, such as feeding the bottle-fed calves and taking care of the barn cats.
Oaklea is now getting involved in the Junior Futurity program, which is for children ages 9 to 17 to learn how to train bulls to buck. Huntlea is looking forward to when she is old enough to participate.
Nathan Ogden said he continues to farm because he "loves the life and the lifestyle." His prayer, he said, is that his daughters will be able to take over the reins with beef as a true commodity.
His daughters also are witnessing firsthand the ranch's evolution into the USDA retail beef market.
"Our nation is facing a huge food supply problem and we are trying to make the most of it and do our part by providing quality beef while Americans are embracing the value of the Farm to Table business model," Ogden said.