Without steady profits, the vast majority of small and medium-income ranchers and cow-calf producers will go out business without passing their land on to young operators (USDA 2017, Farm Size and Financial Risks). Just as disturbing, Iowa State University reports that row crop producers (corn and soybeans) are competing directly with cow-calf farmers who depend on affordable pasture (ISU Beef Producer Profile, page 5).

This means that young farmers and ranchers will continue to leave agriculture, or stay on as hired hands. They will not retire as landowners, and they will never earn enough as sustainable producers (organic, regenerative, etc.) make measurable improvements in our nation’s soil health, wildlife habitat and food quality.

We need new income at the farm and ranch levels. To increase profits among established cow-calf operations (those who now own land, livestock and equipment), I am organizing Raised Free as a producer-owned organic brand of grassfed beef. Pasture-raised pork and poultry will be added in the future.

This link summarizes our cooperative business model. Page two of this website summarize the need for producer-controlled retail Marketing Cooperatives, page three outlines the Role of Local Investors, and page four describe Raised Free Services.


The ideas offered on this website start with my late father, Bob Steffen. Dad was the farm manager for Father Flanagan at Boys Town for thirty years and a leader in developing commercial-scale organic and Biodynamic farming methods in the Midwest. He introduced me to many holistic thinkers, including E.F. Shumacher, Wendell Berry and Alan Savory.

My own interests are in attracting qualified investors to farmer-controlled food brands tied to pasture-based food systems that are big enough to supply upscale grocery stores in near-by cities. Woody Tasch and his Slow Money Movement and Michael Shuman, the author of Local Dollars, Local Sense, have much to say about financing sustainable food systems.

Our challenge now is to find the economies of scale that lie between “to small to make money” and the realities of the established food system – all without ignoring the real needs of land, labor, capital and management.

Please contact me:

Jim Steffen

Note: The photo on this page is a courtesy of the Boys Town Hall of History.

Posted 1-30-17, Revised 04-19-2019

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