The Held family of Adair County knows that flexibility is the key to succeeding in today’s farm economy.
“I hate the fact the family farm is disappearing,” says Dan Held. “We were once just a diary farm but we’ve had to branch out into the beef market to try to find a way to make a living without having to go to town and get a job. It would kill me if I had to do that, I don’t want it.”
Dan helps run the Held family farm, Laurel Ridge Farms, located just outside of Columbia off of Burkesville Road. Dan works alongside his father, Bruce who owns the farm, his brother and former Marine Brian, and his wife, Brandy.
The Held family got their start in the farming business back in 1975 where the original Laurel Ridge Farms, a dairy farm, was founded in Dover Plains, NY by Dan’s parents Bruce and Joanne Held.
The family moved to Adair County in 1992 and built roots to expand their dairy business, but the fluctuating milk market took a turn for the worse over the past few years and the Held family realized they had to get more out of their farm to stay profitable.
“We started selling our beef for two reasons,” says Brandy. “First, we had so many people personally asking us if they could buy our meat out of our personal freezer and second, the instability of the milk market made selling our beef a necessity. Once we realized we had a customer base, we started doing everything we could to get certifications to sell our beef products.”
Laurel Ridge Farms received their retail sales permit and Kentucky Proud Certification in the spring of 2017 and they’ve put in a lot of work to start selling their products every weekend at the Farmers’ Market on the Square.
“We are so happy to be able to deliver a product that was raised and loved here in Adair County,” says Brandy. “We love our cattle, our pigs, and our lambs and we take pride in providing a locally raised, great tasting, affordable product. Our prices are competitive with larger grocery and retail chains.”
Currently, Laurel Ridge Farms boasts hundreds of diary and beef cows, and more than 30 hogs. Bruce Held raises all of the lambs on the farm, but the family also has four novelty Herefords that they keep as pets.
Dan says that about 95 percent of his beef cattle are Angus and they have a few Herefords as well. Since the spring of 2017, Laurel Ridge has processed about seven or eight of their beef cattle and they’ve been doing well selling their meats at the Farmers’ Market, through Facebook, and by word of mouth.
“We have had several repeat customers and those who have tried our beef and other products say they love it,” says Dan. “Our stew meat, roasts, and our ground beef are our shining stars but everything is excellent quality and I would compare our roast up against Wagyu beef. It has great marbling.”
Dan says he raises the beef cattle on a mixed diet that includes pasture grazing, grain feeding, and some other secrets that they do during the finishing process to ensure a quality product with excellent taste.
“This has just always been the lifestyle,” says Dan. “It’s like dropping a seed in the ground and watching it grow. There’s a lot of pride and a lot to be learned from doing things from scratch.”
Laurel Ridge Farms is truly a family business that takes a group effort from multiple people to keep things running from day to day. Brandy and Dan’s children Paige, Bohdy, and Triston have all helped on the farm at one point or another and their two-year-old granddaughter Rylee, is learning the ropes.
Brandy and Dan’s nieces and nephews, Hunter, Walter, Daniel, Gabriella, and Lilah also help and enjoy to fruits of their family farm.
Brandy says she wouldn’t want to live any other way.
“How can you walk out here and do this everyday and not know that God has blessed us all,” says Brandy. “I say it all the time that the farm is my sanctuary and I love all of our babies and everything about the farm.”
If you would like to purchase beef, pork, or lamb products from Laurel Ridge Farms, you can visit them every Saturday during the Farmers’ Market on the Square, you can also send them a message on their Facebook page, or you can call them at 270-459-1384.
“We hope to really grow this and to attract business from all over,” says Dan. “We love being on the farm and we appreciate all of the support from our customers.”
By Adam Capps