The HVADC Cultivator
Farm and Food Funding Accelerator Participant:
Many great farmers get their start in a 4-H program. But how many marriages do?
Fourth-generation beef farmer Jason Kading was raised on a beef farm and even bought his first cow in the late 90s, at age 12 years old. That year, Jason met Heather Horton in the Dutchess County’s 4-H “Here Comes the Beef” club. As preteens with common interests in agriculture, they developed a close friendship. By 2003, Heather and Jason became the leaders of their former 4-H club, and began dating shortly after.
Kading continued to grow his herd of Black Angus throughout his teens, also showing goats and pigs in 4-H with his sister, Sarah, but taking his cattle with him to whichever farm he worked. After high school in 2004, Jason and Heather started JSK Cattle Company, and later got married. JSK Cattle Company in Millbrook raises all natural beef, pork, chicken, turkey and eggs-- hormone and antibiotic free. For many years, the couple’s overall efforts was on breeding stock and raising a small group for beef.
Heather explained that in 2015 they changed their focus to raise 100% grass fed beef and pasture raised/corn fed beef, as well as educating their community about buying direct from the farmer, later adding pasture raised pork, chicken, turkey and eggs. Today, JSK Cattle Company has 100-150 Black Angus cows, and employs a marketing tag line of “From Our Pastures to Your Plate.” The Kadings sell through their farm store, online with farm store pick up or at various pick up locations throughout Dutchess and Ulster counties.
One significant sticking point in the 21rst Century cattle-raising world is “market difficulties,” said Heather, and feed prices. Heather explained they don’t have enough land to make their own feed-- they do non-GMO corn silage-- however someone has to plant and harvest it. Butchering fees are another daunting cost of their business, she added, because there is no “bulk” discount for butchering.
Heather and Jason enrolled in HVADC’s Farm and Food Funding Accelerator (FFFA) with the intention of cultivating agri-tourism on their farm and expanding their farm store to foster more connection with the community by adding a bathroom, kitchen and a pavilion area.
“Definitely one of my goals to get more organized in so far as marketing and business plan, and the steps to get there,” said Heather. The couple worked with HVADC’s consultant Brian Zweig of Business Opportunities Management Consulting, and HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson on the business plan. “They push you to think outside the box,” said Heather. “I feel like when I am done with the FFFA program I will be comfortable doing a pitch for our funding.”
Heather cited a full gamut of benefits she has gleaned from their participation with FFFA. “It has really opened my eyes to all the different funding sources out there, and how hard it is to get some of it,” said Heather. “One of our classes was on these different grants out there, it blew me away. I have learned from a business coach and marketing coach; I’m getting a lot of questions answered and coming up with more questions based on what others are going through. I am networking with other farm and food businesses – learning about other sources of funding, rather than going to the bank, like investors, crowd funding, all different options.”
“JSK Cattle Company has been working with us to add more ‘community use’ space to their farm,” said HVADC’s Johnson. “Taking such a thorough and organized approach by creating a business plan and identifying financing option will benefit not only JSK, but their customers and the community at large, as JSK will become an even greater community asset.”
For more information about FFFA, please visit https://www.hvadc.org/farm-food-funding-accelerator.
Photo Source: JSK Farm