Waupaca dairy farm expands business after market demand changes

Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 6:02 PM CST
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WAUPACA, Wis. (WBAY) - Demand for dairy production dropped this year due to the pandemic. One Waupaca family-owned dairy farm is trying something new to overcome those challenges.

Brooks Farms in Waupaca has been around since 1855. It has 1,500 acres of farming land and 600 dairy cows.

But the pandemic plummeted demand for its main product.

“Back in the Spring of 2020 we were hit with a crisis where the demand for milk dropped with restaurants closing and schools closing,” said Zoey Nelson.

So the farm’s sixth-generation sisters, Nelson and Sydney Brooks, had to get creative -- opening the door to new opportunities in order to survive.

“It’s always been a dream of ours to start a beef business here on our dairy farm and with this year’s pandemic it kind of propelled us into launching our dream,” said Brooks.

Brooks Farms Beef officially launched in September this year using their dairy cows to produce locally-sourced meat products they can market directly to their customers.

“This is whole-cow beef. This isn’t just the trimmings that go into ground beef; this is whole-cow, so it is all the cuts, all the roasts that go into this product. It’s super lean, super flavorful‚ and we like to say it’s aged to perfection,” said Nelson, “because this is a dairy animal that has been productive her entire lifetime, not just at the end of her lifetime, and that’s really unique that the dairy cow is able to do that more than any other animal here in the agriculture industry.”

“More than 20 percent of beef sold in the United States is dairy beef, so we wanted to do our part not only in our community but go beyond that as well and share what diary beef is, why it’s important, and why it’s a dual purpose food system,” said Brooks. “So that’s kind of our whole full-circle or full life-circle motto that we wanted to share with the community and beyond.”

The new business is also building new partnerships. The Niemuth Steak and Chop Shop in Waupaca processes the meat. Plus, if someone doesn’t want to order directly through the farm, people can also find their beef products at Nelson’s Shell in Waupaca.

The sisters have also started another new venture, partnering with an area creamery to start producing aged cheddar cheese with the excess product they had this year. That will be ready to sell in spring.

“Truly we are a people business, both in the team that works here and the people in the community that we work with,” said Nelson. “Being able to foster those relationships and be able to build a strong foundation to build a product, that’s a team effort.”

They say they’ve been learning a lot from their customers on the consumer end of things.

“They want to know where they’re food is coming from, they want to know how it was raised, who raised it - and that’s a story that we’re able to share with our customers because we have raised that animal since she was born here on our farm and have raised her up throughout her entire productive life,” said Nelson.

“It’s been great. The local community, they’ve been giving us a lot of awesome feedback that we can improve,” said Brooks. “But also they keep coming back and saying how great our beef is here at our farm. That gives us inspiration to continue what we’re doing.”

The sisters hope these new products will ensure the legacy of Brooks Farms continues.

“I think that demand for local food is only going to increase in the next five to ten years, and I think this is a solid base for future generations to start on to have a product that they can sell,” said Nelson.

Brooks Farms Beef products can be viewed at its website.

During winter months, customers can order by emailing and scheduling a pick up time at the farm - or they can visit Nelson’s Shell at 1104 Churchill St, Waupaca, WI 54981.

The farm’s storefront for in-person shopping will open again in April.

To keep up with the latest changes at Brooks Farms Beef and its current holiday package offerings, head to its Facebook page.

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