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The Engler Entrepreneurship program offers the next generation a path back to the family farm.

Elizabeth Hodges, Staff Writer

April 7, 2023

3 Min Read
Amber Staab with cattle
FINDING HER PLACE: Amber Staab is carving out her own niche on the family farm in Ord, Neb. The budding entrepreneur started a direct-marketing beef business while attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photos courtesy of Amber Staab

To capture more of the dollar when producing beef, the Staab family knew that they had to make a change on the marketing side of their business. Amber Staab, a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, went right to work putting together a business model with her brother to start direct-marketing beef.

“Growing up, we sold our beef to the packer,” Staab says. “We would always lose more money than we would make.”

Coming into college, she had an idea of skipping the meatpacker and going straight to customers to capture more profit. “I also wanted to start closing the gap between consumers and producers,” Staab says. “A lot of my customers come from the Lincoln and Omaha area and don’t know how their steak gets on their plate.”

With the help of the UNL Engler Entrepreneurship program, Staab started to see a future where she could do just that. As a way to improve agricultural literacy, add more revenue to the beef operation and return to the family farm, she created County 47 Beef.

Business growth takes time

In the Engler 101 class, Staab was told to just start and that she would learn along the way. That is exactly what she did.

With the help of Engler Entrepreneurship, she found the right resources to jump-start this new business venture. In December 2020, she was on the lookout for her first customer.

Between posting on Facebook groups to word-of-mouth marketing, Staab became discouraged. No one showed interest in buying her family’s beef.

Fast forward four months, and she still had no customers. “I sent out one last post on Facebook thinking that if I didn’t get any response to this then I am going to quit,” Staab says. “Later that day, I had someone call me wanting a quarter of beef.”

Sticking to the plan

For now, Staab considers County 47 Beef as a side business while she is in college. After graduation, she wants to make this more of a full-time position. She plans to expand County 47 Beef by offering subscription boxes.

“I have a lot of customers that reach out and say they just want some steaks or some hamburger,” Staab says. “I want to be able to offer that, but it is much easier to have four customers per beef with boxes rather than about 20 with single-product orders.”

Staab’s advice for anyone looking to direct-market beef is to know your basics with USDA regulations and keep that in mind when you choose who processes your beef. She also passes down the same advice that got her business off the ground — to just get started.

“And don’t get discouraged if it takes four months to sell your first beef,” she adds, “because that might happen.”

To learn more, you can find County 47 Beef on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Read more about:

BeefNext Generation

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Hodges

Staff Writer, Farm Progress

Growing up on a third-generation purebred Berkshire hog operation, Elizabeth Hodges of Julian, Neb., credits her farm background as showing her what it takes to be involved in the ag industry. She began her journalism career while in high school, reporting on producer progress for the Midwest Messenger newspaper.

While a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she became a Husker Harvest Days intern at Nebraska Farmer in 2022. The next year, she was hired full time as a staff writer for Farm Progress. She plans to graduate in 2024 with a double major in ag and environmental sciences communications, as well as animal science.

Being on the 2022 Meat Judging team at UNL led her to be on the 2023 Livestock Judging team, where she saw all aspects of the livestock industry. She is also in Block and Bridle and has held different leadership positions within the club.

Hodges’ father, Michael, raises hogs, and her mother, Christy, is an ag education teacher and FFA advisor at Johnson County Central. Hodges is the oldest sibling of four.

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