Food business grows on relationships with customers and community
It’s summer and Mendy Sellman is ready to fire up the grill and enjoy the beef, pork and chicken she and her family raise on their Crawford County farm. When asked to come up with her favorite recipe for grilled meats, Mendy is at a loss. “It’s best just the way it is,” she said, “without a lot of fuss.” She said they work hard raising an outstanding product and by the time it’s processed and grill-ready it’s as good as it could possibly be with little need for embellishment.
Mendy’s ancestors have been farming this land since 1830. Today, as the sixth generation of homesteaders, her family is raising and marketing their meats to an ever-growing list of customers. Her husband, Russ, returned to the farm full-time last year to manage the daily operation with the help of their son Jesse, 18. Daughter Emely, 22, is the bookkeeper and helps with the field work and Elaina, 13, is responsible for feeding the bucket calves (bull calves that are bucket fed milk) and chickens and helps at farmers markets where their product is sold.
Mendy describes their farm as a “fluid” operation with feeder animals arriving all the time. “In the middle of summer we can have 100 broad breasted white turkey peeps, chicks come in every month and we’re always raising young livestock,” she said. “The animals are our priority—doesn’t matter what the weather is or how we feel, their health and safety is our constant focus.”
Rus-Men Farms spans 1,200 acres, the majority of which is rented out from neighboring landowners for growing grain. Ten acres is reserved pasture for their Holstein herd, a breed commonly used as a high production dairy animal yet, as Mendy pointed out, with many good beef cattle qualities.
“They are docile and easy to handle which is a good trait for all involved in caring for them,” she said. At 13 months, they are sent for processing, earlier than the industry standard but “we find that at this point the breed is more tender and flavorful than other breeds.”
The pigs are mixed breeds fed a soy, corn and mineral ration, high in proteins for rapid growth. “We get them at 50 pounds and it takes about six months to finish them between 240 and 280 pounds,” said Mendy.
Red Bro, a French heritage breed, are used for meat chickens and pasture-raised in protective portable pens. Although they take longer to reach their finish weight, Mendy prefers the breed because they utilize grass better, have a better flavor and fewer health problems.
Mendy is open with her customers about the meat they buy from Rus-Men Farms; favoring natural methods, she reminds them that nothing is injected with brine solutions—a process sometimes used to enhance flavor and texture. “That’s pretty typical when you buy meat direct from the farm,” she said. “It needs to be handled differently and requires a more watchful eye so it doesn’t overcook.”
The Sellmans started selling their meats 12 years ago by word-of-mouth, and the business has taken off and keeps this farm family on its toes. “Our customers make us stay educated about our product and farming and we continually make sure we are moving toward satisfying our customers’ food preferences,” said Mendy. “We think that for every set of taste buds out there, you can find a farmer working to make sure they are satisfied.
Rusty and Mendy Sellman
710 Iberia Road | Galion
Keeping it Local, Keeping it Sustainable
The Sellmans narrow the focus of doing business locally by looking within their county lines first to buy feed and seed, hardware, equipment and building materials. “The majority of our butchering is done close to us,” she added. Beef and pork are processed at Links Country Meat in Crestline and the chicken is processed at Pleasant Valley Poultry in Baltic. “We think it’s our responsibility to seek out local businesses first to keep the economy strong in our area.” They also try to do things sustainably and sensibly and operate on a “pay as they go” philosophy, “only doing what we can afford.” The family embraces the practices of recycling and upcycling, the process of converting useless products into something new and practical. Chicken coops and portable pens are made from reclaimed wood from old hog panels and materials that were going to scrap. The most prized upcycled project is what Mendy calls “Office Coop,” an old office trailer from Russ’ former employer that has a new purpose on their farm.