Jim Steffen and his family own farms near Massena, Iowa and Bennington, Nebraska. Their Iowa farm has been in pasture for over 50 years. Their long time neighbors run 100 or so cow-calf pairs on this farm. Their Bennington farm is leased for organic hay and grain production. However, high unit operating costs, changing weather patterns and soil erosion require a transition to permanent pasture with limited grain production.
Clearly, the long-term environmental outlook for pasture-based agriculture is good when compared to conventional corn-bean rotations with confinement feeding.
With consumer demand on the rise for non-GMO grass-fed meat and dairy products, sustainable farmers in the Missouri Valley need millions in new risk capital for marketing, production and processing. Raising these funds is particularly challenging in the sparsely populated Plains States where conventional production methods dominate the food system and local food markets are undeveloped.
To meet this challenge, Jim organized Raised Free to work with experienced investors along with organic, natural and conventional farmers and local landowners. Their goal is to develop large and efficient sustainable food systems supported by farmer-controlled food brands that can compete with imported organic and other high-value foods.
Jim’s business partner is Jeff Durski. Jeff holds an MBA from Indiana University and possesses over 30 years marketing and communications experience. He has held senior positions at both advertising agencies and Fortune 100 companies.
Jeff has experience growing some of the best-known brands in the US including Cracker Jack, Butterball turkey and Equal sweetener. The communication campaigns he created have won national recognition (e.g., American Medical Association, Best of Category, Best of Show, Microflex Medical, 1998) but more importantly generated incremental brand sales and profits. His new product experience includes successful launches for RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Owens Corning Fiberglass, Microflex Medical, Borden, Inc. and others.