JANESVILLE—Janesville-based farmer Rick Scully found his career through an epiphany in 2011 while communing with nature during a hunting trip in 2011. Since then, the small business owner has worked tirelessly to promote sustainable agriculture on his small cattle farm.
Scully, 39, founded Poor Richard’s Farm in 2015. That came four years after he realized his purpose in the fall of 2011, having spent years working office jobs.
“I was in my stand and the sun came up that morning and I was in awe of just how beautiful the landscape that surrounded me was,” Scully said. “I climbed down and began walking around and I didn’t care about hunting at that point. Then I had an epiphany and I mean this in the truest sense of the word because it felt like the idea was placed within me from outside my body. I needed to be a farmer. My mind was made up instantly without hesitation or second-thoughts.”
Scully produces a variety of beef sticks made from 100% grass-fed beef and has taken steps to slowly grow his business in the area.
“Creating this company will become my legacy and I think it’s important to be mindful of your place in history as it’s being written,” Scully said. “This farm is the best contribution that I could have offered my family and community. It’s the full expression of my creativity and talents.”
Through his business, Scully sells directly to customers without wholesale retailers while also raising beef and selling it by hanging weight in whole, half or quarter cows to compliment the beef stick snack enterprise.
While small, Scully says his early use of e-commerce tools and an easy-to-navigate website has allowed business to grow steadily over the years.
“We needed to come up with a value added product that was shelf stable. Beef sticks or beef jerky was the obvious solution, it’s expensive to make because of the extra processing cost, but it’s easy to store and easy to ship,” Scully said.
Scully works to raise between 12 and 24 cattle at a time, finally transitioning to full-time work on the farm in April of 2021, something he said was “a dream come true.”
Year-over-year, the farm’s revenue continues to grow, he added.
The farm owned by Scully was first established in 1859 and the barn on the property was built in the 1870s and the homestead on the land was built in 1893. That tradition matters to Scully.
“Their hardships and triumphs are written on the land, how they carved an existence from raw, unforgiving wilderness just blows my mind,” Scully said.
Scully’s approach to sustainable grass-fed cattle raising starts with intensive rotational grazing that allows his herd to have fresh paddocks to graze daily that consistently introduces the cattle to nutrient dense forages while giving grazed sections of land time to recover.
“This accomplishes several important goals, the most important of which is the humane treatment of our cattle,” Scully stressed. “
As the grazed land regenerates, the farm’s grass pastures pull carbon from the atmosphere and help offset methane released by the cattle. Scully also does not till soil on the land to allow grass root structures to grow deep to prevent erosion while also avoiding planting herbicides or pesticides.
“Ecologically, a well managed pasture is very similar to one of Wisconsin’s native prairies. So while our cattle play the role of the buffalo who once roamed here, our farm is also able to host migratory birds and countless other native insects and animals, some of which are even endangered species,” Scully said.
Scully, who has a booth at the Beloit Farmers’ Market, said the event is a “great resource” for small businesses like his.
“It generates a significant amount of revenue for our farm,” Scully said. “It gives me the opportunity to meet new customers, and gives me a space where repeat customers can come find me. Every weekend thousands of people walk by our stand creating brand awareness. I can engage with people about our product and farming practices in person which forges a pretty special customer relationship that would be hard to duplicate in any other venue.”