Episode 19

Ron Simmons – Chasing Greatness – Niche Pork Production

In this episode, we are visiting pork producer, Ron Simmons, with Master Blend Family Farms. When many people think of North Carolina and pork production, companies like Smithfield Foods comes to mind,. But in Kenansville, NC Ron and his crew take vertical integration in a different direction. They are 100% pasture-based and market all of their own pork products via restaurants like the famous “The Pitt” in Raleigh to their own storefront at the farm. Learn more about how Ron is chasing greatness and making a pasture-based system thrive in the heart of the mega-producers.

Hello there.  This is Dr. Casey Bradley and you’re listening to the Real P3 Podcast, a podcast dedicated to the real pork producers around the world.  I hope you enjoy.

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Hi everyone.  We’re going to be visiting with Ron Simmons with Master Blend Farms from North Carolina.  I’m really excited to discuss the unique things he does with his pasture-based system and how he markets his pork through his customers.  So, stay tuned and I hope you enjoy.

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[00:39]

Casey: Well, hello Ron, how are you today?

Ron: Miss Casey, how you doin’? What’s goin’ on?

C: It’s another Monday, right?  Another week, another dollar.

R: Yes, yes.

C: Would you mind introducing yourself and telling our audience a little bit about you and your operation?

R: Sure. So, my name is Ronald Simmons.  I’m the owner and the founder of Master Blend Family Farms, certified all-natural hog operation, located here in Kenansville, North Carolina.  What was the other question? [laughter]

C: Just a little bit about your operation. how many sows are you running?  All-natural. What does that mean to be certified?

R: So being certified all-natural, basically we try to not ever use anti-biotics.  We try to be responsible if we ever encounter that situation. Then we also implement pasture rotation so that’s always making sure THAT we minimize the impact that we make on the ecosystem and trying to minimize the carbon footprint.  At this time, we have about 110-115 production sows.  A lot of them are purebred, then we also have the females that we have crossbred, trying to create a great combination for superior meat quality.  Trying to [02:00] create an awesome combination of the marbling so that you get a unique flavor when it comes to the product that we render in our value-added products.

C: Well, you have a really unique operation. Genetics wise, if I remember right, you use Shipley Genetics that you get some of your base from?  That’s an Ohio breeder, that’s a family that’s been involved in the pork industry for a long time in purebreds.  So, shout out to Shipley farms and that family.  Keep on doin’ what you’re doin’.

R: Yes, ma’am.

C: We were just talking about weather.  It’s spring. What are some of the struggles you have with weather in the spring in North Carolina with a pasture-based system?

R: I was about to touch on it earlier.  So, with all of this rain that we’re having, we always try to make sure that #1 we implement a great ground cover system, so that we’re not always dealing with the issues of soil erosion.  The other idea that we utilize is making sure that as the seasons begin to transition, so from winter to spring to summer, always having the right vegetation on the ground so that we have a strong root system, the pastures stay green, and whenever we shift the herd from one pasture to the next, they always have something on it to actually keep them entertained or offer some type of nutrition value to their diet on top of the all-natural feeds that we render, too.  So right now, we’re kind of at the mercy of the weather due to the abundance of rain that we’re having. But at the same time, we’re making it work, keeping plenty of bedding in there for the pigs, for the piglets, making sure the moms are comfortable, those kind of things.

C: So, for a minute there you sounded more like a cattle producer than a pork producer. I love the fact of this agronomy, so talk about what are some of the different cover crops that you have in the pastures for your sows.

R: [04:00] So in the winter and early spring, we try to carry annual rye. We like for, so like in pen for instance, right now the vegetation is about waist-deep.  We have a sow, about 4 years old, in that pen, she’s about 450-500lbs.  We have her in that pasture, and what she’s able to do #1 is, before the piglets are born, we have hay and straw in there, but she also pulls some of that green and she beds down with it.  It also gives her something to graze on to add to her actual diet other than just the actual feed that we render.  So right now, in there is annual rye, but we’re also getting some of the pastures planted with some high heat tolerance vegetation, like clover, and we also try to offer wild oats and turnips in those pastures.  [05:00] Toward the summer, we’ll start transitioning to a brown-top millet, which would actually give another nutritional benefit to the actual diets of the sows and piglets. Ultimately, with those combinations, we’re always able to keep some green pasture out there for the sows to graze on. We just make sure we monitor how long, or the duration of time, that they’re on that pasture before we transition them to a new one.  Then we try to over-sow it with something so that in between seasons, one grass or one plant may not be as tolerant to the heat and more tolerant to the cold, so we always have that balance to where we can keep it looking plush and nice and at the same time, make sure more animals are able to benefit from it.

C: So, from your sow-feed intake, obviously pasture-foraging is a natural habit for these sows.  How much extra feed are you giving them on a daily basis, for a gestating sow?

R: With our gestation sows right now, we’ll run somewhere around what’s equivalent to 7 scoops.  We go by scoop so we can pay attention to food consumption.  The scoops equal up to about a pound.   With gestating sows, we go up to about 7lbs of feed daily.  What we do to try to make it work for them is we’ll feed twice a day.  So, we’ll feed early morning around 7:00 and then we’ll feed around 3:00 in the evening, so that way they’re still getting feed throughout the day.  They’re not dealing with a stressful environment. As the piglets begin to develop, we’ll go as far as pulling them off the pasture that contains the majority of the herd and start putting them into areas where they can be sociable with other sows that are about to farrow.

C: So, you kind of intermingle.  What happens to pigs after weaning?  Are they intermingled in that herd or do they go off to their own pastures?

R: So, with the babies, we deal with a little more of the extremes when it comes to the environment.  We don’t follow the same procedures that the larger integrators do when it comes to weaning piglets.  We stick with a system where the piglets stay on the mom from 6-8 weeks depending on their growth rate, how they’re handling stress, as far as the castration method. Then, after they’re weaned from the mom, we’ll put them out on the pasture by themselves. That way during that time, we’re able to identify the females from the males because of the ear-notching system we have in place through animal welfare standards.  Then we also pay attention to the consumption on the pig starter.  With the pig starter, it has a little more nutrient calorie content, so it allows them to transition and they don’t fall behind like the average pig might. Then we also look at other options as far as other fats, natural fats we can add to the feed.  There’s soybean [08:00] oil; we can add that into the feed, mix it in; that helps the pigs be able to handle the stress as they get off the mom and they can also bulk up a little bit.

C: Soybean oil was my number one oil to go to for a nursery pig.  I love it.

R: Yes, ma’am.  With that you start looking at how your gilts out of that litter are developing, and one of the unique ideas we implemented for 2020-2021 has been that we get an opportunity to look at the gilts we want to keep and over the time that they develop you get a firm confirmation on if you still want to keep those animals or not. Some of the animals may have a stronger immune system than others, and those are some of the characteristics that we implement when actually adding to the herd.

C: Being pasture-based and trying not to use a lot of antibiotics and stuff.  How do you mitigate parasites and disease?

R: We’re currently using a product for the external parasites called uh – I don’t even remember the name – it starts with an L and it has a strong odor to it.  What we’ve been doing is, once the piglets are weaned, we go ahead and mist their bedding and inside their actual hut that they have.  Then we try to spray the individual animals, but make sure that we don’t get it in their face or in their eyes, so that it doesn’t stress them out or cause any damage.  Then as far as the internal parasites, what we like to utilize is a pelletized wormer.  In the past we used this product called Wyzine, which is a liquid wormer that we were adding to the water in the troughs, but what we quickly realized was that it was a lot simpler to feed larger groups of pigs if we were actually putting the wormer into their feed whenever we fill up the feeder.  So, with us doing that, we’re able to get the external parasites out.  We have a practice where we use the wormer [10:00] for about 3 days.  We try to accommodate all the pigs in that litter as we’re worming them out.  Then, once we go through the period of worming them out for 3-5 days, we transition them to another pen.  With us doing that, any of the parasites that were extracted or extruded, they go onto the ground or into the ground and die; the pigs have a healthier ground to graze on so they’re not re-ingesting the same parasites or the problems we were just getting rid of.  It just works better for us as far as our flow chart and our systems for the farm.

C: Ron, you remind me of all that goes into raising pasture pork.  How many people do you have managing this system for you?

R: Right now, we currently have about 12 employees. With the 12 employees’ dynamics, all of them are super-duper awesome. The piece that we look at is that they’re able to wear multiple hats. What I’m cautious of is always trying to make sure I carry a good percentage of the load of responsibility so that way they don’t get burned out, and understand. When it comes to myself, I don’t look at what I do as a job. It’s more-so fun.  I always joke with my mom…

C: Oh, you’re having fun!

R: Yeah, I have the coolest job in the world! And she’s like, “It’s not a job when you’re having fun.”  One of my mentors has always told me, “Ron, at the moment that it no longer becomes fun, you need to be developing an exit strategy.” With that being the case, I’m having the time of my life.  I’ve got an awesome team.  We’re able to make it work.  They have downtime when it’s necessary, or when they need it.  And I just do what I do, you know, and live like a rockstar. [laughter]

C: I kinda always noticed that, growing up on a hog farm, everybody had a variety of tasks.  I think maybe, not saying we didn’t have an employee turnover, but it was a lot more enjoyable because you weren’t doing the same thing every day.  I think as I look at modern-day systems, I think repetitive work sometimes gets the best of us.  Like you said, it’s fun, and that’s kind of why I wanted to bring you on the show, because you do something very unique to promote your product.  Talk about… you’re not just raising pigs.  You’re raising a product and marketing a product.  Talk to it on the meat side and how that all works for you.

R: So, the way that it works, with all of the awesome customers that we have, large and small, I always look at it with the business mind-set of not only rendering a responsible, value-added product, but also rendering my time and rendering my resources so that we’re all as a unit able to benefit from what we do.  The cool thing about the customers that we have now, we have gotten to the point we have some distribution companies that work with us, and we still have private-owned companies that work with us.  But I always try to shout out all of the locations that render our products, either cooked or for resale. At the end of the day, it’s not cool for just my circle to be able to benefit from it, but I want everybody to be able to benefit from it.  As far as what we do and how we do it, then we all at the end of the day get to enjoy what it is that Master Blend Family Farms does.  So, one of them that I’ll shout out today is Under the Oak Café. Under the Oak Café out of Smithville, North Carolina, they’ve always had a passion for rendering a premium quality product of any magnitude from their farms or from their network and their team.  When it comes to them actually catering and showcasing the products that they render, they in turn render an awesome experience to their customer base.  So what ends up happening is that all of the customers associated with his circle end up dealing indirectly with our circle or the Master Blend team, because we’re all sharing in our responsibilities to render premium product, minimizing the carbon footprint, enjoying ourselves, having fun, and at the end of the day, we sleep well at night, we eat good and then we still have those cool practices where we, you know, work out from time to time or just working out on the farm for me.

I just feel that I always want to be responsible when it comes to an advocate in agriculture, making sure that I’m, number 1, leading by example.  It’s easy for individuals to say “do as I say, not as I do,” but it makes it a little better whenever I can say, “ok, watch what I do and let’s mimick that” versus trying to get all of the other stuff that people don’t necessarily know.  At the end of the day, I try to knock it out of the park so that my clients know that I’m on their team.  I welcome them to our team.  At the same time, we have a phenomenal booming network.

C: So, you’re creating win-win situations. [15:00] Ultimately, you’re connecting with the consumer on a regular basis.

R: Yes, ma’am.  The business model from ….

C: You make me have to go to the gym more often with all of the good food you show.

[laughter]

R: I wanted to share about one of my coolest colleagues. He pointed out a cool attribute about Master Blend that we were reaching the point of being integrated vertically.  At the time, I didn’t really understand what he meant, but as we continued to expand, I started realizing there were so many different components that made up this large, colossal, larger than life company Master Blend.  Then, the other cool part was being able to see consumers that visit our farm or our store and they’d say, “Wow, so all of this energy comes from this little space?” And I’m like you know, I look at things and I’m like well, you gotta understand where you want to be your destiny is all psychological.  So, at the moment that you decide where you wanna be and who you want your circle to be, you also have to take on the idea that your circle will change.  If you’re gonna be better at your craft, your circle will change.  It will get tighter. That’s required in order to improve.  Ultimately, when you lead by example and you try to make such a large impact from a small space, everybody will begin to notice you over time.  Then at the end of the day, you’ve got something to be proud of.  Hard work does pay off.  At this point, I think of my team, my mom, my dad, my wife, the kids.  Whereas before it used to be cheesy, now I think everybody’s actually proud of the MB Nation.  We’re looking forward to the next opportunities that we have coming down the pipeline.

C: Let’s talk about the future Master Blend.  I love your story.  I love what you’re doing.  How do we grow it?  How do we make… or is it copying you?  Are you an architype, old time producer that we all need to be copying?

R: First and foremost, I’ll say, it’s a blessing – #1 – to be where we are today.  My wife and I were just reflecting last week, we now render products to 24 different outlets, different customers, when it comes to my largest scale accounts.  With that being said, you know, she always looks at me and she’s like, so what’s the next move?  And I say, how about we double the herd?  How about we look at the possibility of exploring franchising, when it comes to the end consumer and offering that retail space, where now the customers can come in and [18:00] get hot food, you know our products, they can still also purchase whatever they may want to use for consumption at their own home later on… expanding looking at the idea of a brand Master Blend Global for our distribution chain.  Then also exploring the idea with apparel, so would a Master Blend shirt be cool?  Or a Master Blend cap be cool?  You know, I think with the idea of critiquing the business model on the farm, because that’s the nucleus, but then also diversifying the brand and saying, “Ok, so now our customers can go to the website, which is officially my business card anyway,” but they go to the website and it’s an awesome representation of the products that we bring to the table.  Now it’s not where I actually have to depict every single product we offer, but customers can see that our product catalog has nearly doubled over the past year.  The other part is trying to possibly get younger individuals inspired with agriculture and getting them to understand, ok, so yeah, it’s going to be hard work and it takes dedication and it takes sacrifice, but you really have something wholesome to be proud of at the end of the day.  Those are the things that constantly bounce through my mind as I’m looking at the next move, you know.  I’m trying to be more so of a brand ambassador and trying to be more of a public speaker and going to the different schools and speaking to the students.  I’m holding virtual events where the kids can actually see this is where he works in and this is what he does and this is what’s required.  I think if we can get more youth involved and more youth motivated, I think at the end of the day, it wouldn’t just be Master Blend Family Farms or Master Blend Heritage Farms; it becomes Master Blend Global and we have farms scattered throughout the east coast.  I’m very optimistic, a big dreamer.  At the same time, my crew always reminds me to be realistic. [20:00]

C: You have inspired me.  You may have a Master Blend farm up here in Arkansas/Missouri area someday.  May have to do it a little different than you. [laughter]

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We would like to take this break to thank our sponsors, The Sunswine Group, Nutrasign, Swine Nutrition Management, and Pig Progress. Without their support, this adventure would not be possible.  Now back to our appisode.

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[20:34]

C: I really love that idea, and we’ve had a lot of conversations in the past.  I see the industry going either this very large-scale, very affordable protein, and then I see producers like you really rocking it and being successful.  What are some things that need to happen in our distribution channels, the industry today, to make it successful for people like you to maybe make it not so hard?  What’s lacking in either the education system, policy…?

R: I think that the system that we currently have in place needs to take a shift and be revamped a little bit and become a little more modern.  The business models of the 80s and the 90s, in the business model that’s thriving today.  I think that if you start looking at the federal regulations and legislations that are in place, and you start revamping it, and you actually have some of the individuals that are at the desk actually come out here to the farms and really get an idea of what’s going on, instead of sitting at the desk and forming an idea, I think then they’ll really begin to have an industry that will work for modern times and can actually help stimulate the economy on a larger scale of impact.  But it’s going to take people, these administrators, literally wanting to lace up the boots, put down the suits, and come onto the farm for a little bit and really see what we’ve got going on.

C: Awesome, so how do we do that?

R: So, I’ve recently learned, I did a zoom call last week with Congressman Vilsak; the initial thing that us farmers need to do, farmers across every generation, every platform.  The first thing we need to do is literally sit down and listen to these calls and these conversations, take time to really understand what’s going on, what’s at stake and what opportunities are out there and then take the initiative to actually go a step further and say, “ok, well, let’s find someone that can actually help me comprehend that regulation that’s in place,” because the biggest issue that I found with the federal regulations is actually comprehending some of the terminology that it’s associated with.  Instead of talking from the office perspective, talk from the good ol’ country folk perspective. Talk from the city-folk perspective.  Then the other thing is taking the chance to put the individuals in place that already comprehend from the ground level what’s being said so that they can actually, in turn, render that conversation to the next person that’s on a lower level, so that they understand. Ok, so I can get a premium or competitive price for the commodities that I produce in my garden, or for the sweet corn that I produce in my garden, or for the eggs that I get from my chicken coop.  Because you know, basically what’s happening right now is you have your small farmers who can’t scale up because they don’t have the resources, but then they can’t find the buyers for their commodities because they’re too small.  There has to be an area where you can produce the commodity, you have a buyer, the buyer understands it’s just going to be seasonal, but then there’s resources available for you to be able to scale up so you can add a shelf-life to your commodity.  Then you can have enough on hand to cover that 1-2 buyers year-round.  Then you’ll be able to grow enough that you’ll be able to find more buyers.  It’s going to take a little bit of compromise on everybody.  It can’t just be black or white or the regulations put in concrete.  It’s going to have to be a little bit of compromise for everybody.  So, a small producer obviously can’t render what an individual with 2,000 cows can do, right?  But if he’s able to produce… I don’t think like everybody else, so I’m not going to try to render steaks if I specialize in cattle production, I’m going to just give you a premium 80-60 blend of some good hamburger, but I can give you all the hamburger you want!  With that being the case, I’m showing that I can be sustainable, because I figured out what commodity I can render that will help me cash-flow from one week to the next, one month to the next.  Then the next thing is now I can tap into the resources so I can build up my herd large enough so now we can entertain the idea of rendering new-york-strips.

C: So ultimately, we need different market systems to help the smaller producers again.  The old USDA insurance policies and subsidies and things like that are not helping the small producer anymore.  It’s only for the larger producer, if I hear you correctly.

R: Yeah, like I said, the system needs to be revamped, it needs to be revisited, and you definitely need to have the individuals in place that can communicate between the small person and the one that’s actually at the desk making the laws.

C: [26:00] We’re talking to that person who can do that right now.  You understand business, and you understand production.

R: Well, I’m gonna toot my horn, but I look at it and I’m like, ok, so, the individual at the desk he’s wearing a nice pair of Stacy Adams sneakers or shoes, cause I’m a Stacy Adams fan, and I’m not gonna wear my Stacy Adams on the farm if I’m at the desk every day.  But I need to talk to the guy at the farm, what type of boots do you wear?  Ok, lemme get a pair of boots so I can visit your farm, so we can actually talk about the trials and tribulations that you deal with every day.  And let me welcome you to walk the floor at the senate, at the house, let’s go out here, I’m bringing 3-4 farmers out here and I just want you guys to listen to what they have to say.  Then let’s put that in place, etch that in stone, because that’s the messenger, that’s the one doing the work.  That’s the one stimulating the economy, when we look at economics for a second, we know quickly that the driving force for the economy is the small businessman.  Why do we have policies in place that cripple the small businessman?  We need to do everything in our power to keep him lifted up.  To keep him grinding, motivated, strong, so we can constantly look at stimulating this economy and not talk about the diversity conversation of a deficit.  Instead of talking about the deficit, let’s talk about the solutions, put them in place.  It’s much better to actually say we’re going to try this because this small guy said so.  It may or may not work, but the data we collected off of it is worth more than the conversation of still entertaining the deficit.  Let’s make change.  Let’s roll.

C: I love it.  We’ve went from real pork to pork bellies to the pork fat of the government… in this short amount of time.  You’re so passionate.  I love it.  You’re obviously an inspiration.  If people want to get ahold of you, they want to work with you, they want to help you scale, or they want to be you.  How do they reach you, Ron?

[laughter]

R: Check us out, subscribe to any of our platforms.  I try to embed so much knowledge within all of the platforms that we utilize hoping that someone – #1, will get inspired, #2, stimulate their curiosity, and #3, ultimately try to mirror what we do. You also have to keep in mind that the approach you are wanting to make, the impact that you’re wanting to make, it will require a whole lot of compromise.  It will require a whole lot of dedication.  It will require a lot of compassion.  If you don’t have those traits and you don’t have those characteristics, you can’t even involve yourself with agriculture on the small scale.  You have to be that person that you’re ok with not being able to always make a lot of money but understand that your time is worth so much more than any amount of money that you can ever acquire from the products and commodities that you produce.  I’ve learned in the past 9 years, I live a pretty awesome life now, but the value that I’ve put on it is the time that I get now with my family, with my loved ones, with my team.  That interaction right there, it doesn’t matter how much money we make, we always live comfortably.  Once upon a time, we were wondering what the meal was going to be, possibly bologna sandwiches, but it’s to the point now, I’ve been blessed, I can put my kids through school.  I can bless them simply by what I do day to day, but I’ve learned the value of time. My workweek now consists of 4 days.  It used to be 7 days when I was in the hustle and bustle of everyday job.  But you also understand with me working 3-4 days that those 3-4 days is grind, grind, grind.  No days off.  We’re getting it, you know what I’m saying?  We don’t take the short-cut.  We get it done the right way, so that we get the right results. I’ve learned with the mentors that I have that a lot of times it takes ten years to become an overnight success.  The individuals that want to reach it they need to realize that that’s what’s going to be required if you want to reach me.  You’ve gotta know that you’ve gotta pay your dues to the system and to this industry that you’re wanting to step into.  If you’re not about that, just stick to the day job.  You gotta be built for what it is that you want.  My mom used to tell me, “Ron, when you pray, you be careful what you ask for.”  That’s one of the most serious things that I take to heart now.  You work at something and you have the faith and you have the ambition and you don’t see the results in your time, but you understand when the blessings begin to fall and when they happen, it’s going to be the cup running over, so it’s going to be way more than you ever expected, so you gotta be built for that even though you don’t see it right now.

C: Farmer’s life.  Seasons of life.

R: We love it.

C: Great inspiration.  Great concepts around how to balance pasture-based systems.  I talk to a lot of people all over the world, and I think you hit on a really good point form the swine production standpoint, having that cover crop, having good sound pastures and soils to make it work, making sure you’re rotating because of the parasites, I totally agree with some of that.  Definitely.  That’s some great advice of how you can inspire and grow and become a brand like Master Blend Farms.  Before we go, I’m gonna let you turn the table. Is there anything you want to ask me?

R: Casey, I wanna be honest.  I wanna say this.  The very first time I saw you appearing on LinkedIn.  Then I started seeing you appear on Twitter.  I was moved by your presence.  I’ve always admired as I began to gain knowledge about what your passion was and who you are and what you represent, I’ve always wanted to ask, how do you do it? Man, are you fueled by coffee?  What is your secret?  How do you do what you do and make such a large impact?

C: Well, A, I think I was born with it.  It was a gift that was given to me from birth.  I’m a Christian, right or wrong for the audience, and God fuels me.  Lately, when things got rough, I had this mindset I always wanted to do this business.  My coach said it’s going to take something big to make you do it, to jump.  I always had this passion of helping people, helping producers, helping the world, and got blinded in corporate America.  I got blinded by that safe paycheck. As I tell DSM, I love a lot of people there and I love a lot of stuff, but the best thing that ever happened to me was them firing me and downsizing my team.  That was God telling me this is the path I want to put you on.  So, I just ask Him every day to give me the strength, give me the passion, show your love through me.  How can I help people?  As you said, you better be prepared for what you pray for, I agree with your mother there.  The cup is overrunning with people reaching out to me and no matter the dollars in my bank account, that’s not going to stop me, right?

R: Yes, ma’am.

C: I’ve found, as you said, the circle changes.  My circle has really changed.  I’ve found out who really truly believes in me, who helps support me.  I have some really great friends that are supporting me, great companies supporting me.  But the circle and the people have changed in my life, and you do have to realize that when you go from a job to a passion, it’s not a job anymore, it’s a passion, but it’s real.  You have to work hard.  It’s not like I’m sitting here drinking pina coladas on the beach or anything.  I may not be on the farm every day like I was.  It’s hard work on the farm, running your own business, getting your passion project up and going is work!  I’ve never given up on my dreams, and I just keep going.  I think one of the things you like about me is I’m at a level that I can be a little unfiltered.  I’m not working for a company anymore, so that blessing that I don’t have to toe the company’s line anymore, it’s my line. Yet at the same time, you’re building your brand still, I’m building my brand, you have to be cautious of that brand no matter what.  You’ve gotta represent yourself.  The producers who want to feed the world, you’re calling me from Nigeria, Ghana, the US, Denmark, Canada.  Anything’s possible, but you have to work hard and you have to have the right mindset that it’s gonna happen.  You have to figure that out, right?  That’s not the question I thought you were gonna ask me, but… [laughter]

R: I’ve always wondered, I was like man, how does she do it.  Because like I said, you would appear here, boom, and then you would appear here, boom, and I was like wow! You just kept rocking it and your momentum just kept building and gaining.

C: I still have a little team that helps me.  I need to grow the little team to be a bigger team, and we can do more is the goal.  But as you said, there’s limitation sin every process, right, as you grow, even for you. There’s no options for me – I’ve not been in business long enough, so no small business loans or all those great things the government had, there’s nothing there to support me.  If I do buy a farm, which I’m looking into, there are some USDA loans for women and minorities, so hopefully if I get to that scale and opportunity with the right situation, when I get my research farm that I want dearly, that I’ll have that loan to use, but there’s nobody teaching you how to go out and be your own business, right?  So, there’s two approaches – you really have a solid business plan, all the equity and then you jump, but maybe you’ve missed your window to be successful because you didn’t take the risk.  Or you’re kinda like me and just jump and try things and see where it gets you and what works and what doesn’t.  I didn’t go to business school, but I’m probably glad I didn’t go to business school because the analytical mind would be like what you’re doing is crazy, Casey, you can’t do it. Then I wouldn’t be so happy!  If something doesn’t work, I can say, ok!  I think it’s the same with you, you want to expand and grow bigger, and we’ve had that conversation of how do we do that.  I think it takes the right partners, like you said, the right distribution, the right people and maybe it’s not you physically owning 1,000 sows to grow your brand, but maybe it’s the brand growing through other people.

R: Yes, ma’am.

C: No matter what, guys out there listening…  Copy Ron.  Copy me.  Reach out for advice.  We’re here to help.  We don’t believe in competition, I don’t think.  We believe in everybody growing and being the best they can.

R: Absolutely.  I do wanna say to all those listening.  Whenever you engage in anything you decide to pursue, don’t just show up.  Show out.

C: That’s great words to end this. Thank you so much, Ron, have a blessed week.

R: Yes, ma’am.  You, too.

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