YF&R profile: Shannon & Kelly Douglass
YF&R connection helps ‘night-and-weekend’ farmers
As young ranchers who didn’t inherit an already-established family farm, Shannon and Kelly Douglass are paving their own way.
He grew up on a dairy that is no longer in business. She didn’t come from a farming background at all, but grew to love agriculture through 4-H and FFA.
Today, they run a small-scale cattle operation in Glenn County, and being small, they said they knew they needed to develop a niche market to grow their business. They considered the usual avenues: attending farmers markets, going organic and raising grass-fed beef.
One day, a comment from a friend sparked an idea—and eventually inspired the couple to begin marketing their beef directly to customers.
Shannon and Kelly Douglass run a small-scale cattle operation in Glenn County and say their involvement in YF&R helps them find ways to balance their cattle business with their full-time jobs. The couple market their beef directly to customers in Northern California.
The discussion was about grass-fed beef. Shannon Douglass said she heard mixed opinions when discussing the specialty meat that has become a growing trend in some food circles.
“We were at my friend’s house and her husband said, ‘I don’t know why you think grass-fed is so good. All I want is to buy some local beef that’s grain-fed,’” she said. “I was like, ‘Really? But it’s not grass-fed; it’s not organic.’ We didn’t even think people would be OK with something that’s just locally produced. We thought, OK, I guess we can try it.”
She said the direct-marketing approach makes sense for their operation, because they already have the beef cattle, plus easy access to corn feed and a local meat processing facility. This allows them to sell their product as truly local.
They have a Web site, at www.douglassranch.com, but most of their business still comes from word of mouth. Two years into their venture, they now sell to customers from Chico to Sacramento to the Bay Area. And because they make all the deliveries themselves, it allows their customers to meet them and know where their food comes from.
“I feel it’s a great area where I can add some value, because I like talking to people and I like visiting people and telling them what we’re doing,” Shannon said.
The couple agree that while their cattle business has worked out well so far, balancing their full-time, off-farm jobs with their ranching life has not been easy. Kelly works for a local cattle company, while Shannon coordinates a pest control advisors outreach program.
Shannon Douglass speaks at the 2009 California Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting.
“I guess we’re more of a night-and-weekend farmer,” Kelly said.
With his background in dairy and love of Holsteins, Kelly said he would eventually like to also raise replacement heifers, which actually got him started in ranching.
“We’re making it work,” he said. “We definitely intend to be diverse. I don’t want to have all my eggs in one basket.”
One of their biggest challenges as up-and-coming farmers is finding ground to raise their cattle. They lease all their land, seven separate properties in the Orland area. Their goal is to grow their business and become full-time farmers someday—and to have a bigger ranch to run all their cattle.
“I love when we do YF&R events and we’re surrounded by other young people with similar challenges that are all from different backgrounds,” Shannon said. “I think it’s really valuable because if you were doing this and you didn’t know a whole lot of other people that were doing it, you could feel like you’re really alone.”