Kemper Farm markets farm-fresh pork, eggs, chickens and beef
About six years ago, Josh Kemper told his wife Chantel he had an idea.
“He just said, ‘Hey, let’s go get some pigs.’ So we got three pigs, two females and Howard the boar,” Chantel recalled. “He just wanted some pork.”
Today, the Kempers have expanded well beyond the original trio of pigs.
“We got to where we really enjoyed raising pigs,” Chantel said. “We expanded, got more pigs, started selling some weaned pigs, and then started looking into USDA-inspected pork.”
The Kempers have now been offering retail pork cuts for four years through farmers markets and off-the-farm sales under their Kemper Farm label.
“That first year, we sold one pig,” Chantel recalled. “This year, we are on our way to selling a whole hog every month, in addition to our normal pig sales. We have 30 pigs scheduled this year for processing, that includes the retail cuts and the whole hogs.”
During the “season,” the Kempers can be found at farmers markets in Buffalo, Hermitage, Fair Grove and at Metro Eats in Springfield, Mo., which opened this year.
“The very first time I went to a farmers market, I just sold jellies and I would sell five jars. I thought it was a nice hobby that I could make a little money off of,” Chantel said. “Getting into the meat business was not part of the original plans.”
The Kemper Farm swine operation is primarily made up of Red Waddle and Duroc genetics. They have begun to introduce some Yorkshire genetics.
“We’ve discovered those grow really, really fast,” Chantel said. “My customers also comment that the cuts are much larger. We really like the cross and our customers do too. A lot of the people who buy piglets from us have noticed how much bigger they are when they come to pick up pigs at 6 weeks of age.”
Seven sows are currently in the farrowing cycle, and the family has about 30 pigs in total of various ages. All of the animals in the pork program are born and raised on the farm.
The swineherd is fed a ration consisting of corn and soybean meal, which is bought locally in bulk.
“This is the way our grandparents raised pork,” Chantel said. “We want everyone to have the chance to have farm-fresh, good-tasting pork without a lot of additives, yet not have to pay a ridiculous price.”
Pigs are processed at about 250 pounds, which produces a lean, yet meaty animal. Pork is processed at Kountry Meats in Cabool, Mo.
“They make really good brats,” Chantel said of Kountry Meats. “Those are really hot for us, and so are our smoked and cured ham steaks. People look at them and just say ‘Wow’ because they are huge. Also, our bacon is pretty much gone the first day we get back with a pig.”
The Kempers are believers in quality in, quality out.
“We make sure they are taken care of,” Chantel said, adding that animals not used in the meat program are vaccinated, and all animals are dewormed. “We want to keep our pigs as natural as possible. One of the biggest things we have run into is trying to keep them with clean water. Pigs like to get into the waters and take a bath, so we installed nipples on the outside of a barrel so they have fresh, clean water all of the time. They do have their little ‘lakes’ out there that we fill up in hot summer, but they have clean water at all times.”
The barrel waters can also be equipped with a heater, which keeps clean water flowing even in the coldest of temperatures.
Sows pig twice a year, depending on the condition of the individual sow. If a sow is not holding condition well after weaning, she will be allowed to skip a cycle.
This year is also the first time they are breeding for year-round litters.
“We want to keep our pork out there because if you run out, customers will get it somewhere else,” Chantel said. “We have good customers who keep coming back for pigs and pork.”
Pork rinds are another big seller for Kemper Farms, which offers 20 flavors of the crispy treat. The family purchases the rinds from a restaurant distributor, then they fry, flavor and bag them.
There is also a poultry side of production at Kemper Farms.
“We have had chickens since we moved to our first house almost nine years,” Chantel explained. “We just liked the chickens because they were easy to keep, plus it’s just so nice to wake up in the morning and have fresh eggs.”
Kemper Farms has about 40 to 50 layers, primarily Cinnamon Queens. Layers are kept on the farm throughout their lifetime, with new hens added each year. Eggs are sold at farmers markets, but whole, processed chicken must be picked up at the farm this year.
Meat birds, which are Cornish-crosses, arrive at the farm at just one day of age. Within six to eight weeks, they are ready for processing. Typically, Kemper Farm only raises 100 meat birds a year, but Chantel said they are planning for two flocks this year.
The family has also recently added farm-fresh beef to their offerings.
“Next year, we plan to have even more. Everyone has been excited about the beef,” Chantel explained. “They are Limousin steers, so they grade at a premium. We still, however, want to make it affordable for people to get that beef. I think as soon as the beef gets here, it will be gone.”
Cattle in the beef program are grass-raised with a limited amount of grain offered in the last few months prior to processing.
“It is really tender,” Chantel said, adding there is a possibility of adding mixed meat bundles in the future.
Going to farmers markets may have started as a way for Chantel to sell her homemade jellies and jams, but it has grown into a thriving farm-to-plate operation.
The goal is now for the Kemper family to make a living solely from farm income.
Chantel said the movement toward locally-sourced foods has been on the upswing, especially with the introduction of lab-created meat, increased exports to China in 2020 and COVID-19.
“I think more people are concerned about what they are putting into their bodies, and there doesn’t seem to be that many people who show up at farmers markets who offer meat, and a lot of them who do sell meat show up for a while, then they are gone,” Chantel explained. “We’re in because we love doing it, and we love the animals.”
The older Kemper children, Adam (7), Christina (8), help out on the farm and are homeschooled. Younger sons Daniel (2) and Benjamin (9 months) are still a little young for chores. Joshua will soon change his over-the-road-trucker job to one with more local routes, allowing him to spend more time on the farm.
“We want our farm to be able to support our family, and we want to do something for the community once we are through building up,” Chantel said. “We also want to provide high-quality food that people can enjoy.”