Kassi Glassman wants to put a face to farming. A sixth-generation cattle rancher, Glassman owns and operates a 120-head cattle ranch alongside her husband, Ian. The couple, who met as teens showing cattle, manage 330 acres of land in Ash Grove, Missouri – often while juggling their three children, the youngest of whom is six months old.
Needless to say, life at the ranch moves at a frenzied pace. The Glassmans operate a cow-calf ranch, which means they breed their cattle twice a year, producing calves that are either released back into their herd or sold for beef. The Glassmans also feed customer cattle and sell show heifers. Despite their round-the-clock work, the Glassmans found themselves needing another revenue stream. “It’s incredibly hard to make a living solely in agriculture,” Kassi says. Enter Blue Silo Beef, the family’s direct-to-consumer beef operation. Blue Silo launched in the spring of 2018 at farmers' markets in the surrounding towns of Republic, Aurora and Willard, Missouri. After building a farmers' market following, the Glassmans created an e-commerce presence to reach more customers.
Throughout the process, the Glassmans have remained passionate about producing a quality product. For example, unlike most ranches of their size, the family feeds their own livestock until the animals have reached “finish weight,” at which point they’re ready to be processed. While Blue Silo connects local foodies with an excellent product, the operation also helps Kassi share their story – and, in a way, the stories of cattle ranchers across the country. Kassi runs Blue Silo’s Facebook page, where she paints an intimate portrait of ranch life. “Most cattle in the U.S. comes from family operations,” Kassi says. “Those are our people. We want to be a face for the cattle ranching community.”
What is your favorite ingredient to cook with and why? I am in awe of the versatility of ground beef. People might knock it or associate it with Hamburger Helper, but the more I incorporate it into my family’s meal planning, the more I love it. It’s family-friendly, it’s quick and there are so many options to prepare it. Having our own beef available also allows me to experiment with cuts I wouldn’t have tried otherwise, which is a lot of fun.
Do you have a secret weapon spice? The key to really tasty beef is liberal salt and pepper. Whether you’re making a steak on the grill or you’re just browning ground beef, seasoning is so important. I have a homemade mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder that I keep in a shaker on the stove. I always, always add it when I’m browning beef.
How has the local food scene evolved over the past year? It’s fantastic to think that the culinary world is valuing what the farmer does, what the [agriculture] person produces. It’s fabulous that there’s a passion for locally sourced eating, because it really boosts our local agriculture community and creates awareness about what’s available in our area. In fact, one of the main reasons to launch Blue Silo was to put forth a story of what agriculture is really like. There are a lot of prevailing myths about organic, natural trends on the agriculture side of things, and I wanted to put a face to what a cattle rancher looks like.
If you could tell home cooks one thing, what would it be? In our information age, it's important to get the right information about the food on your table. Instead of trusting a blog post, a talk show commentator or decoding a label in the store, find a local producer. Organic, grass-fed, natural and GMO-free are all buzzwords in the food space right now. To truly know how your food is raised and why, go to the source and talk to the producer. They can dispel myths and provide answers to the real-life whys and hows of raising food.
What is your first farming memory? The cattle ranch that I grew up on in Wyoming was over 20,000 acres. When I was young, I lived on the ranch within a mile and a half of a handful of my cousins and grandparents. We all worked the cattle together – which meant we were on horses a lot of the time. I have a lot of memories of saddling horses, riding out and bringing the cattle in to move them to different pastures. Being with my family, being outside. From a young age, I’ve loved this work. We love the animals, we like working outside and we like being able to model hard work and determination for our kids.
What are your future plans? For now, I want to continue to serve our neighbors. We plan to continue that by expanding our farmers' market presence this coming summer. We also offer shelf-stable snack sticks, which I’m excited to continue expanding – there’s a chance that retail could be in our future. On the restaurant side of things, we’ve worked with [a restaurant client] in the past, and it was a big learning experience. When navigating a restaurant relationship, we need clients to understand that there will be some variation in product when you buy right from the farm. But with the number of cattle we have coming down the pipeline, we could potentially work with food trucks or restaurants in the near future.
Blue Silo Beef is available for Springfield, Missouri-area residents to purchase online at bluesilobeef.com/shop. Individual product delivery can be coordinated upon purchase.