Connecting with Consumers - Interview with Emily Matzke

Connecting with Consumers - Interview with Emily Matzke

Emily and her boyfriend raise between 50-75 calves on auto feeders at one time depending on the time of the year. About ¾ of the calves are Holstein bull calves and ¼ of the calves are Holstein Wagyu crosses that are sourced from local dairy farms. In addition to cattle, they raise cash crops and have a grain facility.


Emily's Background

We raise calves on my boyfriend’s family farm. They are 7th generation farmers.  Growing up my Grandparents owned a dairy farm, but when my grandfather passed away when I was in 3rd grade, they sold the cows and rented out the farm.

With that I kind of lost my connection to agriculture. With being involved in 4-H and FFA I kind of got brought back into agriculture. I ended up going to school at the University of Madison to study animal science and agriculture journalism. Originally, I wanted to be a vet, but that didn’t work out for me, and I followed the ag business track to complete my animal science degree.

While I was in college I worked at the Sassy Cow Creamery. I worked in the store, but I also gave farm tours and that is where I discovered my love of agritourism, and having something that can connect agriculture to the local community.

I worked at the Wisconsin Dairy Checkoff for about 2 years after graduating college. At the time I was getting more involved with the farm. Because of my love of agritourism I wanted to do something more on our farm that would help connect us to the local community. I came up with the idea to sell our beef locally. At the time I brought up the idea we were just selling quarters and halves to family and friends. I wanted us to pursue more of a focus on selling beef in smaller quantities.

I also started to host events on the farm. I put together a yoga event with a local yoga studio and hosted farm camps as well. 


Yoga on the Farm

The night that we did the yoga event was the most perfect ever. It was a warm evening with a beautiful sunset at the end of our yoga flow. We were right next to the pasture of replacement heifers that we custom raise. We were behind some trees, and it felt so secluded. The heifers became very curious about what we were doing and came right up to the side of the fence where we were at.  Everyone loved the close-up experience with the heifers.  We are going to host another yoga event this coming year.


Lately we have a group of very rambunctious calves. I really enjoy just watching calves be calves. Just to be able to witness the beauty of nature, and watch the calves play with each other.

Another thing that is very rewarding is when I have a calf that isn’t doing well, I take the time and energy to help get better. Them feeling better and getting stronger is also really rewarding. 


Calf Raising Challenges

Sometimes we struggle when calves we pick up don’t seem to want to thrive. As a farm, there will always be some layer of sickness that you have to deal with. It’s all about what we can do to make sure that our calves are set up for success as much as possible, especially where we are sourcing them from another farm.

When we pick them up, we give them our vaccine protocol that we work with our veterinarian on. We also add things to the milk that help with their immune function. As they go into the group pen, we keep them separated by age, so they don’t pass sickness on to younger animals.


Auto Feeder Barn

If other farmers are looking to build an auto feeder barn, we suggest putting your barn upwind of older animals. We slightly regret our placement of the barn. We now understand wind direction and natural airflow better and wish we had put it on the other side of our farm. As it is now all the air flows from the older animals down to the calf barn. The calf barn is also next to the driveway and dust from passing vehicles causes issues in the summer when the curtains are down.  Hindsight 20:20 we should have put it somewhere else.

Last summer we put fans in that are angled out and we adjust the curtains on the side closest to the road which helps, but you can still tell a difference in health in those calves housed on the side of the barn closest to the road.  


Social Media

My social media message is that farmers are friends. We are normal kind people, and you can ask us questions too. I also like to share some of my personal interests like cooking and fitness. I want them to connect with me as a normal person. I like to do my makeup and get dressed up, but also, I farm. I want to use all that to help consumers understand that as farmers we are here to produce food for everyone in a safe and healthy way.

Show casing agriculture as beautiful, but also the honest parts of how we raise the food you eat. Bridging the gap between producers and consumers and doing it in a way people can relate.

I share about our direct-to-consumer beef business a lot to our FB audience, and the health benefits of eating beef and why beef is good for you. I also like to share about what the different cuts of meat are and how you can cook them.


Other Avenues

If you are interested in diving into other business avenues like hosting farm tours or other events on your farm, there are resources out there to help you get started. I started out selling beef and hosting farm events because I got inspiration from other farmers, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. It is definitely worth doing it if you have the interest!


Thank you, Emily, for sharing about your beef production business, and how you connect your farm to your local community!  If you would like to hear more from Emily, you can purchase beef from her website and visit her social media pages!





Written by: Mariah Gull, M.S.

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