By Sheila McCoy, Staff Writer
When Mike Stine of Long Prairie worked as a research physicist for St. Jude’s Medical Center years ago, he helped develop products. In the process, working with the doctors, they discovered the health benefits of certain kinds of foods. Grass-fed beef is one of them.
Stine and his wife, Sue, started StoneBridge Beef in 2005 with a herd of 20 animals.
“Then we just gradually grew from there. Twenty turned into 40, 40 turned into 80,” Stine said.
Today, StoneBridge Beef is home to about 600 animals. Most are Southern Devonshire. Stine prefers them for several reasons.
“I like their growth rate and they’re also healthy and have a nice temperament to work with,” he said. “They are very calm and gentle.”
Stine said Southern Devonshires finish well on grass. In the wintertime bailage is used instead. The animals are not given any corn, soybeans, supplements or any other kind of grain. In addition, no hormones, insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics or synthetic fertilizers are used.
Stine said he and Sue got into the business of grass-fed beef mainly from the perspective of the benefits of the direct sales to people who appreciate its health benefits.
“People want to know where their meat is coming from, so many of my customers have visited the farm,” he said. “They often end up giving references to friends, saying that StoneBridge Beef is the best thing there is.”
In 2009, Stine’s partner, Lester Good, a fellow farmer, joined the business. Besides StoneBridge Beef, Good has his own farm and owns a share in five additional farms, Stine said.
Having grown into one of the largest grass-fed beef business on a singular farm location in Minnesota, the business provides meat to a lot of restaurants, mainly in the Twin Cities. Some of those restaurants are Hell’s Kitchen, Lucia’s Restaurant, DB Searles and Broder’s Pasta Bar.
StoneBridge Beef sells directly to individuals and families, as well to co-ops. Much of it is done through the business website which offers packages in different sizes and rates.
Besides raising beef, Stine mentors young farmers who are just getting started. Since many say they want to learn more about sustainable agriculture (production of food using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health and animal welfare), Stine encourages them to travel with him on deliveries.
“It gives them an idea of where the product goes and gives them an opportunity to speak to chefs and families I’m working with,” he said. “It’s a good way for them to get involved, particularly on the marketing side because a lot of people want to start farming, but they don’t have much of an idea of how to make money out of it.”
Stine said StoneBridge Beef takes a holistic approach.
“It’s connected to the neighborhood, to the soil, to the grasses that we raise and the wildlife,” he said. “The ecology part is important to us, even as far as climate control.”
Stine said that since they keep their fields covered, erosion of the soil is not an issue. Whenever they transition from cropland to grass, the bare land is cover cropped.
“Cover cropping is a good tool for that,” he said.
Prior to opening StoneBridge, Stine and his wife, owned and solely operated a fish farm in Montana.
“We raised about 500,000 rainbow trout every day,” he said.
For about 15 years, he taught high school in Indianapolis, Ind., Kenya, Africa and in Brooklyn Center, primarily physics.